Factors for Choosing a Card Room Part One
Aug 08, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

Seeing a flop today is more convenient than ever before now that you don't have to make the trek to a casino. The wide availability of online poker allows players from all over to play their favorite games whenever they wish. One of the most important choices an online poker player can make is where to play, and when making that decision the size of the card room you choose is probably the biggest factor in determining how your online poker experience will play out. Poker sites can be basically broken down into two types by size: large and small. While there are some rooms that could be classified as "medium" due to their player pools, most of them share traits with the smaller rooms and I'll be including them in the same category.

Ring Game Variety

Small online card rooms usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to the variety of ring games offered. The biggest reason for this is that their limited player pools just can't compete with the larger sites. If Small Site Poker has games at higher limits, for instance, chances are there are only a handful of players bankrolled to play them there and they're probably regulars who know each others' tendencies well. The big sites have a distinct advantage here because so many players play that there are always games going at almost every limit they offer.

In terms of actual game selection - e.g. Hold'em, Omaha, Stud etc. - the bigger sites often win out here as well, for much the same reason. Even if Small Site Poker does offer less popular games like Stud Hi-Lo or Kansas City Lowball, the number of players who are likely to be sitting at those tables is very limited because these days most people want to play hold'em. It's important to be able to choose from different tables when playing any game because table conditions might not be favorable to you, and the small sites just don't allow you to make those sorts of choices.

Where small sites do win in the ring game category, though, is at the low-limit hold'em tables. Hold'em players at 2-4 and below at small sites have the reputation of being some of the worst on the net, especially at those rooms that have sister casino sites. If you don't like to play lots of different poker variations, and you're willing to play in games where more than half the players at the table see every flop, you can make a lot of money very quickly at these sites.


Here's a category where I think small sites have an edge on their larger competition. When it comes to sit-and-go tourneys, there's no real difference between sites of varying size because these tourneys are available around the clock and always start when a certain number of players is reached. But with so many player on the large sites these days, fields in their multi-table tournaments routinely reach the thousands. The rewards for cashing in those tournaments can be quite large, but even the best player's chances of outlasting 3500 opponents are pretty slim due to variance. Smaller sites often have tournament fields under 200-300 players, giving you a better shot at making some money. This is an excellent benefit of playing satellite tournaments for larger events at a small site - one good run of cards could end up with you playing with the pros at a major poker event. Tournaments at smaller sites also don't go on for six or seven hours at a time - another benefit of the smaller fields. That means that you have more time available and can play in two different tournaments in the time it would take to finish a single tourney at a large site.

Smaller sites that offer guaranteed prize pools are a great bet, as the number of players in a given tournament will often fall short of the number required to reach the guarantee. The overlay from falling short increases your profit if you manage to cash, and is a great reward for sticking with a smaller site. If you're a highly skilled player you might want to take a pass on the small fields just for the sheer size of the prize pools at larger sites, but most players will be better off facing only a few hundred opponents in any given tournament.

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