It’s fast and fun, and it can be very profitable if you know what you’re doing – we ask some of the best in the game how to overtake your speeding Zoom poker opponents
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last few months you’ll have noticed the rise of PokerStars’ Zoom poker. Zoom pools players into one big pot at each limit and dunks you into a new free seat each time you fold.
Thanks to the ‘Fast Fold’ button you can fold at almost any point, jumping from hand to hand, until you find a hand you want to play. As a result, although these are essentially straightforward cash games, there are some key differences you will need to take into account to crush the opposition.
Cash games play full ring and six-max from $0.01/$0.02 to $2.50/$5.00 and you can play up to four tables at once, both hold’em and Omaha. Considering you can play four times as many hands as usual that can make for a lot of action. It also means mistakes and edges multiply faster. Make sure you’re the one with the edge, forcing the mistakes…
Adopting to Zoom
The speed of the game comes from the fact players can auto-fold out of turn allowing them to skip to the next hand. The only exception to this is the big blind who must wait until at least a single raise has come in.
The natural assumption is that most players are going to fold the majority of their marginal hands because they can try to skip to a better, nicer, bigger hand immediately after. And on the whole this is true. But whenever there is a tendency there will be players looking to exploit that. If you can exploit both you should be a big winner.
‘Some players are playing tighter because they are able to fast-fold their junk hands and get a new one,’ says Dale ‘Daleroxxu’ Philip. ‘Other players are playing looser because they want to take advantage of the players that are playing tighter. This makes it vitally important to gather and use as much information on your opponents. Without knowing who is a ‘nit’ and who is a ‘lag’ you may as well be playing blindfolded.’
While you can use software such as PokerTracker to do this, you don’t need to spend a lot to get one up on your opponents. You can simply right click on avatars in the hand replayer and make notes on them afterwards. This can be super helpful because although it may initially seem that every hand is being played in a vacuum, they’re not.
‘In regular ring games you will learn a lot about your opponents with each hand and use that information to play better against them in future hands. When playing zoom your opponents and their positions change with each hand, yet you will still play a lot of hands with the same players over a long session. It is therefore even more important to take notes so you can keep track of how each player plays,’ says Philip.
The biggest edge, however, will be from using a HUD. most players won’t bother with this as zoom is a fast and fun game that appeals to recreational players. That’s no reason for you to stop treating it as a major money making opportunity though. ‘Information is power. If you have information and your opponents treat zoom as a game to be played readless then you have a huge edge,’ Phillip adds.
When you’re playing a lot of hands you’re also paying and seeing a lot of blinds. That means there’s a lot of dead money out there for the taking and if you’re not swiping them then someone else is. ‘I definitely think you should be trying to steal with a wider range because many people are probably opening and defending generally stronger ranges, but make sure to give up and don’t get stubborn if you see a lot of resistance,’ says Super High Roller champion Eugene Katchalov.
Opening pots with a wide variety of hands becomes profitable if you’re meeting little resistance, but be aware of value cutting yourself and perhaps be more willing to open hands like 6-8s than Q-8 or K-7 where you may find yourself in marginal top pair spots. Always remember if you’re raising for value or just to take the blinds. The same goes for when you’re three-betting.
Are you raising because you think you’ll get a sufficient number of folds to make the move plus-EV or because you want the action? ‘I think three-betting wider preflop is also a good strategy, especially against late position openers as they will tend to have weaker ranges, but I would be careful against the regulars in these games because they may start to adjust or have specific strategies in place already.
‘Having said that though, players are probably generally less likely to get out of line after you three-bet them and are more likely to move on to the next hand with all but their strongest holdings,’ says Katchalov.
Many of the general assumptions made about folding and opening ranges can be ignored when it comes to the big blind in Zoom poker. If you’re in the big blind you always have to wait until a raise has been put in before you can fold. While it might not be a long wait in the grand scheme of things, once you’ve got into the habit of click-click-clicking to a new hand, the wait can make it more likely that the big blind will play back at you, particularly against cut-off and button raises. But neither does that mean you can four-bet the big blind light any time that they come over the top of your open.
‘You need to stick to your regular game plan. However, you must always be aware of how your rivals play from the big blind. Some will have a very high three-bet frequency, up to 20-25% and some will fold their big blind five of six times. You have to react accordingly,’ says Grzegorz ‘DaWarsaw’ Mikielewicz.
There is the distinct possibility that big blind may defend lighter than they might do at a normal table. That’s just another reason to make frequent c-bets! Once again it all comes down to position.
Despite its differences to ‘normal’ ring games, position is still a vitally important part of the game in Zoom poker. ‘Paying attention to which position your opponents are opening from is probably even more important in Zoom poker in comparison with normal tables as players never have to wait or create an image for themselves and so more respect should probably be given to UTG and early position opens,’ Katchalov adds.
But as we all know, the big pots are won and lost postflop and this is where Zoom has some interesting differences to standard ring games. Preflop ranges are one thing but if players whiff a flop and know that they can quickly and easily go onto another one, particularly when they’re out of position, then they’ll often take that option. This is a world of difference to normal cash games where players will stubbornly cling on with bottom pair or Ace-high.
Continuation-betting against the standard player should certainly be encouraged. ‘I think because of the “fi t-or-fold” approach that some opponents will take towards zoom you can get away with continuation-betting at a higher frequency and for lesser amounts, and still get a high amount of fold equity.
‘The instances where you may normally check back the flop for pot control you may be able to bet instead given an increased immediate fold equity as well as fold equity on future streets,’ says Rohit ‘GodlikeRoy’ Bhasin.
Lex Veldhuis agrees: ‘most people will either give up flops or go deep in a hand. This is also because they can just wait on very clear-cut situations where they make good hands. marginal situations become less interesting to some players. Why make a hard decision if you can just fast forward to an easy one? I c-bet a lot of flops because of this, but at the same time I triple barrel a lot less. Also you can c-bet smaller as you have more fold equity.’ And that’s coming from someone who loves to triple barrel.
Don’t forget the basics
With all this bluffing, there’s a time and a place to put on your cape and make that hero call. The problem with zoom poker is that it’s neither the time nor the place. Due to tighter starting hand requirements and more disciplined postflop play the amount of times that your Ace-high or third pair is good is not going to outweigh the frequency with which you’re simply paying people off. You know how hero calls occasionally work in drunk cash games against your friends? That is not how zoom poker works.
Don’t go tripping yourself up by out-thinking yourself with zoom metagame details. If something holds true in standard six-max then it will pretty much be true in zoom six-max too, the same goes for full ring orOomaha. Don’t go allowing yourself to justify multiple bad calls and shoves based purely on some kind of zoom-induced reasoning. That can get messy and drawn-out.
Stacks can get big and quick so be aware of the stack size dynamics before you get involved in preflop wars. Sometimes you should be flatting with your small pocket pairs, while other times you should look to three-bet. Consider the stack sizes and what you’re trying to achieve. Remember, the basics of the game hold true no matter how many hands or at what speed you’re playing. The variance may move faster but the big pots should, over time, balance out in the favour of the player who consistently and quickly makes the most correct decisions. You need to make sure that player is you.