PokerStars Moves to Zoom Format for High-Stakes Cash Games

Date: 2013-12-19
Author: Jason Glatzer

The new year will bring a new look for nosebleed cash games at PokerStars.  During an interview with Sarah Grant at PokerNews, PokerStars' Lee Jones boldly announced that starting on January 1, 2014, all No Limit Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha games $50/$100 and higher will only be available in Zoom format.  PokerStars believes that by changing games to a Zoom format, it moves the game to a less predatory environment.  From a player's perspective, there are several pros and cons.


1. Potentially removes a predatory environment.  Many players utilize table selection software and other methods to determine the fishiest and easiest tables. Zoom has removed the table-selecting element since all players at a certain stake will enter the same pool.  While this is listed as a pro since it benefits most poker players, it is also a con for those who squeeze out extra profit each month utilizing good table selection techniques.

2. More time should be available for players to play poker.  Since players will enter the same pool, there is less time spent figuring out which table might be most profitable and more time playing poker.

3. Potential for more hands per hour.  There are many more hands played in Zoom Poker compared to standard tables.  All outside influences being equal, for profitable players, more hands per hour typically means more efficiency and more profit.


1. Games may not run.  There are many people who may not want to play against random players in a pool.  Since there already isn't a ton of action at these limits, this can potentially have an undesirable effect of these games barely having any action.

2. The predatory environment PokerStars wishes to fix may still exist.  Since there isn't a ton of players playing at the nosebleed levels, it is still easy to look into the Zoom lobby to see who is playing.  If the lobby is full of sharks, players might choose to play another time.  If the player base is large enough, having a few fish play will probably not dictate when other players also decide to get in on the action.

3. Table flow is no longer an element.  When playing on standard tables, game flow is a very important aspect as to how certain hands and situations are approached.  While players will have history with each other in the Zoom format, removing game flow does take away an element of the game.

4. Railing becomes more obsolete.  PokerStars and other sites attract casual players who want to watch the highest stakes of online poker.  Although PokerStars allows observers to watch Zoom tables, at the moment, observers can't choose which Zoom table they are watching if there is a player they wish to follow.  This is a serious blow to many members in the poker community since it is a common discussion topic on many poker forums about why a high-stakes player played a certain hand a certain way.

This change is on a trial basis right now only and PokerStars may go back to the drawing board or refine its approach.  If this approach is successful, I wouldn't be surprised if PokerStars removed standard tables at other limits and replaced them with Zoom tables.

Check out PokerStars today.

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