Fast-fold poker has grown from a unique idea on Full Tilt in 2011, to a poker genre available on just about every major poker site and network. This year alone has seen Party, OnGame, Bodog ( and their US-friendly poker brand Bovada) and now 888 Poker announce their own ‘pooled’ poker games. PokerStars all-conquering Zoom Poker has the biggest share – though they also have the biggest proportion of grinders at the tables.
For players new to these games, fast-fold works by cutting out the time you might spend waiting for your opponents to conclude a hand. Since most people fold 70%+ of hands pre-flop, there is a lot of this ‘dead time’ in any poker game.
This waiting is cut out by dispatching with the notion of tables, and instead creating pools of players at each buy-in level. Whenever you fold a hand (or finish one) you are instantly sent to a new hand with other players from this pool. No more waiting for other’s to decide on their bet sizes. In some games it is possible to choose to watch the hand to the end.
The ‘killer app’ of Fast-fold poker is the ability to fold before it is your turn to act. Others in the hand will not know you have pre-folded until the action reaches you – however rather than waiting for people to act before you fold junk hands, you can start a fresh hand. Getting rid of junk hands instantly is what makes fast-fold poker up to 4 times as fast as a normal table. Add to this the ability to enter each pool multiple times and you have a recipe for an entertaining and intensive poker experience.
Balancing Liquidity And Soft Games
Fast-fold poker is great for grinding. The volume of hands makes this attractive to those small stakes pros who earn a small amount per game each hour over multiple games. When you are choosing a fast-fold game to play, you need to balance the choice of games and size of the pools with the ratio of novice and recreational players to these pro-grinders.
The biggest games are at PokerStars, Full Tilt and iPoker. Stars and Tilt both have huge player bases, though they do attract a lot of grinders. The iPoker Network is made up of big sports-betting brands, who have a common poker back-end which saves them creating their own poker software. With a lot of betting traffic crossing over, these games are noticeably softer than elsewhere. Party Poker’s big brand also means a lot of new and novice players at the tables.
Mid-sized sites can sometimes struggle to build their pools big enough to recombine players without delays. OnGame’s ‘Strobe Poker’ is certainly soft, though you really need to hit the evening peaks to ensure that you get enough action. Bovada combine fast-fold with anonymous tables for their US player base, though again they sometimes struggle to keep the games going outside of peak times.
888 Poker are the latest addition, they recently overtook both Full Tilt and Party Poker to become the 3rd biggest site measured by volume of cash game traffic. I am sure that their ‘Snap Poker’ game will only add to the popularity of their famously soft games.
The US-friendly Merge Network are a glaring omission from the list of sites offering this poker format. Hopefully they will plug this gap as we go into 2014.