All poker players can agree that the wait time between folding and drawing the next hand can be excruciating. Imagine mucking your hand preflop, then stare at the table, looking at all the action, hoping that it doesn’t last until the showdown. That’s the issue that Zone Poker is trying to solve.
Zone Poker is a game format that many online poker sites offer to provide their players with better game time. When a player folds, the system sends that player to another table to start another game. Zone Poker allows players to play more hands without increasing the time spent on the table.
This game format has gained so much traction that most online poker sites already offer it to their players. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about it in great detail, together with tips that can help you be more profitable when playing Zone Poker.
Zone Poker in a Nutshell
Zone Poker is a new game format that online poker sites use to reduce their wait time between hands. Different casinos have different names for it, including Jump, Boost, Snap, Blaze, Fast Forward, Zoom, Fast Forward, and Speed Poker.
The idea in all of them is the same: create a massive table where players play against each other in sets.
The most number of players who can play in a cash game is 10, but most are 9-max tables. In Zone Poker, the site can create a pool of as much as 4000 players, playing against each other in “zones.” Whenever a player folds his hand, the system automatically takes him out of the table and assigns him to a new zone to play with new players.
This format creates a very different poker experience that many players prefer. It allows them to simply focus on the games where they get premium hands and really extract value from it. Aside from that, Zone Poker fixes most of the online poker’s weaknesses, making it more advantageous for casual players and heavy grinders.
Why Zone Poker Became Popular
Playing against 10 players in a cash game isn’t ideal for many players because the more players there are, the longer they have to wait for each round. When you fold preflop in a 10-handed game, which most players would do, you’ll have to wait for the game to end. It also includes the time each player needs to make their decisions, and some time extensions when they’re in a tricky situation.
In the early days of online poker, and even until now, players counter this by playing multi-table games. It means that they’re playing 2 up to 16 tables simultaneously, effectively increasing the hands they play per hour. Several years back I used to play 24 Full Ring cash game tables on PokerStars.
The problem is that it spreads your focus too thin that being profitable in all tables becomes more challenging, especially for beginners. In fact, the wins that you had in some tables might not even be enough to offset your losses in others. Aside from that, there are more reasons why Zone Poker became a popular option for heavy grinders.
It Prevents Boredom
Boredom is the first thing that Zone Poker tried to solve when online casinos started offering it.
You get to play more hands, and it’s a lot easier to fold because you know that you can start another game as soon as they get a bad hand.
One of the weaknesses that we love to exploit in poker is when players get bored, and they play even remotely playable hands such as 6To (6-10 offsuit) or 6Js (6-Jack suited). Almost everyone who played online poker is guilty of being bored, and it’s risky when players start to play these hands—it’s only half a step away from tilt!
If you know that you’ll be on a new table as soon as you fold a bad hand, there’s no reason for you to play it. We don’t think anyone would get bored from playing games that don’t have breaks. For many enthusiasts, it’s poker minus the things that they hate about it, a.k.a long waiting times.
It Prevents Information Leak
The use of HUDs (especially by pros) in online games is one of the issues that players face when playing online. The more they play against a HUD user, the harder it’ll be for them to win. HUDs record everything that happens on the table to give its user the upper hand when making decisions.
However, it would take some time before HUDs can collect enough information that the user can use. So if you’re playing against thousands of players, and you always play with a new set of players every time, HUDs become less of a factor that you’d have to consider.
It’s the reason why Zone Poker became a popular choice for many casual players. It allows them to play more games without worrying about leaking information to their opponents. In turn, this game format will make them even more profitable in the long run, especially when you consider the number of games they can play.
It Helps Grinders Make More Money
Heavy grinders, or players playing at the micro stakes table as their primary income, can also take advantage of Zone Poker’s fast-paced gameplay. To be more profitable in cash games, these players only have two options: play more games or risk more money.
For example, if a player wants to make $500 in one day, he needs to decide whether he should spend more time playing or risk more by playing bigger blinds. Zone Poker minimizes their risk without affecting their profitability by allowing them to play more games. It gives them better flexibility in deciding the types of strategies they want to implement.
It Teaches How You Should Really Play
One of the pitfalls of playing online poker is patience. Many players want to play the game, but there’s not that many who have enough patience to wait for hands within their range. It’s one reason why many online players play too loose in any table. They think that they’ve spent so much time playing the game, and still don’t have enough profit to show for it.
When you know that you’ll be on a new table as soon as you fold your hand, you become more rational. Many Zone Poker players say that it’s not as profitable for them because almost every player at the table plays too tight. However, it’s not that far from actual professional games, and it shows you how much players understand the game.
Playing too tight or too aggressive won’t be advantageous for anyone. However, when it’s easy to fold, players suddenly have more reason to be picky with their cards. The more you play this game format, the easier it’ll be for you to exploit other players’ weaknesses and steal the blinds.
Pros of Zone Poker
You can get several advantages from playing Zone Poker, and even more if you’re planning to make the switch from casual games to professional games. Here are some of the pros that you can expect when you choose Zone Poker over other game formats:
- It provides faster gameplay that affects other players’ strategies. Many poker players fall into the category of impatient players. However, if they’re playing Zone Poker, it helps them minimize wait time, making it easier for them to play the hands that are worth playing. They don’t have to worry about playing marginal ranges to offset their losses or counter boredom.
- It leans towards skills more than program usage. Zone Poker eliminates or minimizes the upper hand that HUD users get when playing poker. Since they are playing against different players every time they fold, the data that HUDs collect becomes less useful. In turn, it makes the games more reliant on a player’s skills, making it even more essential to study the game.
- It teaches players how to play tight and protect their stack. One factor that makes players play loose is that folding has a more intolerable effect—they have to wait for the next hand. Zone Poker teaches the player to play tighter and do everything that he can to protect his stack. It’s one of the crucial skills you need to learn to become a more competitive poker player.
- It’s great for players who are trying to build their bankrolls. If you’re only starting your career as a poker player, you may not have enough to support high stakes tables. Micro stakes are the best option for you because it minimizes the risks you’re going to take, but it’s not as rewarding. However, if you can play more hands in a shorter period, you’re not only minimizing the risks that you’re taking but also maximizing your profits.
- You can play with more people in a shorter period. You probably have heard it from professionals several times, but we’ll repeat it—the key to becoming a better player is to play more games than anyone else. However, each of us has a limited time that we can spend playing games. Zone Poker gives you the chance to play more games and gain experience faster than most players.
Cons of Zone Poker
Despite all of these, many players still prefer to play cash games. Some are switching between cash games and Zone Poker throughout their session, but why? Here are some of the cons that you’ll experience if you’re going to play using this game format:
- HUDs become less useful, making it less ideal for many grinders. If you know the proper way of using HUDs, it is possibly the best tool that you can have to improve your games. However, Zone Poker eliminates the advantage of using HUDs. Although using it is still possible, it’s no longer a factor that can have a massive impact on a grinder’s results.
- Every player suddenly plays too tight, so stealing blinds is the best way to make money. Since it’s easy to fold hands, players suddenly shift from being aggressive to playing too tight. Although it’s still possible to win massive pots in Zone Poker, the best way to be profitable in this game format is to steal the blinds. Of course, you still need to be careful and consider the opening ranges that are acceptable for you.
- You need to adjust your strategies to adapt to new player behavior. Winning massive pots from your opponents will always be guesswork because you need to figure out the amount players are willing to play. Finding the right balance with proper bet sizing is a skill you have to master when playing Zone Poker to maximize your income.
- It won’t help you improve your live games in the long run. Zone Poker is okay for players who already have a strong foundation in the game. However, if you’re only starting to learn the fundamentals, playing fast and not honing your patience can be detrimental to your long term progress. It would be best to solidify your foundations through cash games before you start playing hard on Zone Poker.
- Most games are micro-stakes, so it may not be ideal for live game players. Zone Poker will always be a micro-stakes game, which has its pros and cons. However, if you’re a live game player, the amount that you can make from playing this game may not even be enough to get you excited. Players who are playing high-stakes games may not even bother playing Zone Poker because of very low EV (Expected Value).
Zone Poker vs. Cash Games: Which Is Better?
Now that you know what Zone Poker is, the next question you need to answer is if it provides a better gaming experience than normal cash games. There are pros and cons to both game formats, which is evident by the continuous development of fast-fold games. However, to make it easier for you to decide which of these games is more suited for you, here are some of the factors that you need to consider:
The Profitability of Your Sessions
Profitability is one of the critical factors that you need to consider to determine which of these two is a better option. If you’re only starting to build your bankroll, micro-stakes provide you with the safest tables. Sure, you need to play more games to turn a profit, but it also has less risk than high-stakes cash games.
However, if you’ve been playing for quite some time and already have a bankroll, large enough to support bigger blinds, then cash games will be more profitable for you.
The fact that it creates an environment where players are more prone to make mistakes is why many players still prefer cash games over Zone Poker.
Time You Have for Playing Poker
Aside from the money that you want to make, another factor that you have to consider is the available time that you have to play games. If playing poker is your primary income source, then cash games are a better option for you. Although these games take a long time to complete or it takes longer for you to find a free seat on a good table, it still offers better profitability compared to Zone Poker.
Zone Poker is a better option for players aiming for a certain amount but doesn’t have enough time to play cash games. Although it’ll be harder to win massive pots, stealing or re-stealing the blinds at a rapid pace should be enough to offset all your losses.
The Level of Entertainment You’re Getting
There’s no question about the level of entertainment that poker can offer. However, if you want to experience better gameplay without waiting for the next hand, Zone Poker is a better option. It allows you to keep playing without worrying about the time you’ll spend in between rounds.
It’s a massive disadvantage for cash games because it forces players to wait for the next round, which may take several minutes. If you can recall, it’s the main reason why online casinos developed fast-fold poker games on their platforms.
How It Can Affect Your Skills Long Term
In terms of improving your skills as a player, cash games are the clear winner. Every tournament that you’ll play follows the same format you would get in cash games. Simply put, the more cash games you play, the better overall player you become. It allows you to develop the right skills and traits needed to win games.
Zone Poker has a bit of an advantage by allowing you to play more games, but it trains your mind to be impatient. It can be detrimental to your strategies once you start playing live games. Patience is a skill that takes time to develop, and you won’t be able to improve it if you’re focused on playing fast-fold games.
Zone Poker is one of the game formats that poker sites offer. It allows you to play more hands per hour by reducing the waiting time between hands. Many casual players prefer this format because they can focus on playing premium hands and minimize their risk of losing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make Zone Poker the best format you can play because it also comes with some disadvantages. The biggest is that you won’t be able to practice a crucial skill that you need to win cash games and tournaments—patience.