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Home > Strategy > Poker Ecosystems

Poker Strategy - Poker Eco-System

Poker is not about the best players in the world competing to see who the true champion is. After all, there's no money to be made for good players if they are only competing against other good players. Instead, poker mimics the animal kingdom. The predators (good players) seek out their prey (weaker players). If the weaker players don't flee their table in time, their chips will eventually be eaten by the stronger players.

The poker ecosystem is fairly stable, though it is sometimes imbalanced. Some places have too many sharks, while there is an abundance of fish at other poker rooms. A lot of the time this is the result of geography. In some areas, there are not too many poker games, and most of the people playing are really good. Whereas in other areas, such as Vegas, there is a constant infusion of fish to keep the games good.

What is unique about the internet is that geographic barriers do not exist. If there are plenty of fish at a certain poker room, then the sharks should be able to quickly swim over and play there. However, the reality of the situation is that many people stay loyal to a select few online poker rooms, and some poker rooms have much softer games than others.

Obviously, there is a lot to be said about playing at places that you enjoy. However, some people unnecessarily play games that are shark-infested when there are much easier games elsewhere. This is particularly the case with ring games for both Limit Hold'em and No-Limit Hold'em. These games are popular at almost all internet card rooms, especially the low and mid-limits. Unless someone wants to play high limits (higher than $15-$30 or $2-$4 no-limit), there is generally a wide variety of places from which to choose.

Nevertheless, some internet card rooms are much fishier than others. There are several reasons for this. First, some internet card rooms 'protect' the fish more. For example Pacific Poker limits players to playing one game at once. Inexperienced players tend to only play one game at once anyway, but sharks tend to play multiple games at once in order to maximize their win rate. Thus, the one-table rule has the effect of increasing the presence of inexperienced players.

For example, suppose there are 40 players at a card room. Ten are sharks and thirty are inexperienced players. If players are restricted to one table, then there will be a 3:1 fish to shark ratio. If players can play a maximum of three tables, it is very likely that the sharks will play three tables at once while the fish will still play at only one. So under the three-table scenario, there are effectively 30 sharks playing (ten times three tables), while there are still only 30 fish. So the ratio becomes 1:1.

Another situation that can imbalance the ecosystem is if a card room is owned by an online casino. For example, Royal Vegas Poker is owned by The Fortune Lounge Group, a well-established online casino, and CD Poker is owned by Club Dice Casino. These poker rooms have a lot of cross-over traffic of casino players trying out poker. These players do not tend to play as well as people only interested in poker, so these rooms have an added stream of fish.

Advertising is another factor. Some internet card rooms, like Party Poker/Empire Poker, advertise much more than others. Their ads have been on television and various magazines, so the casual players are more attracted to these places.

The strength of the competition at a poker room can also change over time. If a poker room suddenly becomes more popular, the games will probably become softer. In contrast, if a poker room is losing players, it is likely that the players that are leaving are the less-skilled players. Thus, only the sharks would remain.

Understanding the poker ecosystem is important for good game selection. Finding soft games is as important to winning as solid poker skills. If you plan on seriously becoming a strong poker player, then I suggest that you scope out the various poker rooms available to you. Also, monitor the poker rooms you play at to see if you believe the competition is becoming harder or softer. Our site reviews page lists over a dozen internet card rooms, and they include our perceptions on the ease of competition at those poker rooms.