Would you like to know the secret to winning at poker?
You play against people who are worse than you are. You find the softest games.
That’s not a sexy answer, I know. It’s the truth, though. Think about it.
Phil Ivey. Daniel Negreanu. Doyle Brunson. They’re all great poker players. They play against each other often.
But while they might sharpen their skills playing against each other, they’re probably not making (much) money. They’re just trading it back and forth, and dealing with lots of variance.
They’d make far more money if they found a table of fish. I’d bet they’d tell you that, too.
Soft games aren’t just for the pros, either. Recreational players should find soft games too, so they actually stand a chance of not losing all their money. And maybe – just maybe – they’ll actually win some.
You can find a soft game anywhere. Even on pro-infested sites. But that would be doing things the hard way.
It’s much easier to find consistently soft games by joining a soft poker site. It’s even easier to find one if you pick one from our list of softest poker sites below.
What do you look for when you want to join a soft poker site? What do the poker sites in our list above have in common?
While every poker room is different, they will usually have one or more of the following traits. We’ll explain each one so you can see why we recommend the sites we do.
An overlay is a term used for a guaranteed tournament where the guarantee wasn’t met from the people who’ve bought in. The poker room then makes up the difference.
For example, say there’s a tournament with a $1,000 guarantee. The buy-in is $100+$10 – only $100 goes to the prize pool.
If 8 people sign up, then there’s only $800 of the $1,000 guarantee. The poker room then has to add the $200 difference.
There’s a couple reasons why this signals a soft poker site (and soft tournament).
Another thing to look for are rooms with rules against poker pros.
The rules vary, but usually they prohibit players from using software like poker heads up displays or hand calculators. The rules might also prevent them from collecting hands or data mining.
It’s not a rule per se, but another thing you might look for are rooms that don’t let players multi-table more than 4-6 tables, don’t let them take notes or tag players for future reference. Or, they don’t use screen names – players are anonymous
Soft poker sites do this to discourage pros from targeting and taking advantage of weaker players. They want to create a warm, friendly and welcoming environment instead.
This isn’t a hard or fast rule, as more and more companies are expanding from single product businesses (poker, casino or sports) to multi-product business that mirror brick and mortar casinos. But there’s still some truth here.
The reason why a poker room with a casino and/or sportsbook is ‘soft’ is because there’s often a lot of people who crossover. Someone will win a lot of money in the casino or sportsbook and then feel like gambling on poker. But these guys are usually amateurs. Get enough of them together and you’ll have yourself an easy poker game.
This, too, isn’t a hard and fast rule. It’s just one indicator I’d use. For example, 888 Poker has a beginner’s only section, but I wouldn’t consider them a soft site. At least not the softest.
But the reason why I think this is a good indicator is because if the site caters to a lot to beginners or recreational players, then there’s a good chance they have rules against pros (like the ones I explained above). It also means there’s lots of beginners congregating in one section, even if only for a little while.
Access to these sections is usually temporary. Which means that after 30 or 60 days these beginners will be populating tables and games everyone has access to.
Another indicator of a soft poker site is how much traffic they have. Poker pros tend to play lots of games. Playing 5, 10, 20 or even 50+ tables at once and 50, 100 or even 200+ games per day is normal for a full time professional.
But to do that the poker site needs to have lots of traffic. Where there’s a lot of traffic you’re sure to find lots of pros. Which means it isn’t a soft site.
Less traffic means less pros.
Less pros means easier games.
These sites tend to be on networks, too, which pool their player base together. One example is BetOnline on the Chico Network. As I write this they have 1700 players online (and not all of them are at real money tables). This is a much softer site/network compared to PokerStars and their 160,000+ players.
A site that’s not big enough to sponsor pro players is a site that’s usually not big enough for any pro to play on regularly aka an easy poker site.
Poker sites that only offer holdem are rare, but they DO exist. Recreational players usually stick to holdem. It’s the most popular game.
You can also apply this thought process to sites that offer a full suite of games, but the majority of their players are seated at holdem tables.
A couple good examples I remember from a few years ago is Carbon and Cake Poker – not surprisingly two sites that were both apart of a network. Both sites offered more than just holdem, but the majority of their player base played holdem. Both were soft sites, relatively speaking.
There shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t find a soft poker site. There are lots of them out there.
But maybe you’d rather play at a site with lots of traffic. Or, maybe a site that has a good reputation, like PokerStars. What do you do then? How do you find an easy game on a not-so-easy site?
Here are a couple suggestions.
There are a few tricks you can use to find an easy tournament.
The best thing to do is tag players. I suggest you tag pros since there are less of them.
If you don’t know who they are – and you have the time and resources – you can run their screen names through Shark Scope.
What you want to look for are indicators that suggest a player knows what they’re doing. That means, above all, lots of profit (and not just from one tournament win, either). But also lots of games played, lots of the same games played and high average buy-in.
If that doesn’t work you can also search for each player on the site. Many rooms let you do this. Just search their name before the game starts to see how many tables they’re on. If they’re playing lots of (high buy-in and/or pro-infested) games, then chances are they’re good.
The more pros you come across, the harder the game is. The harder the game is, the more you should think about avoiding it. Simple stuff.
You can also tag cash game players. You can also look them up on the site. How many tables are they seated at? Look at their stacks – are they topped off or above the max buy-in?
Lots of weak/soft players buy-in for the minimum. They don’t keep their stacks topped off, either. Usually.
You can also look at the stats for each table in the lobby. Most room lobbies will tell you how many players are seated at each table, how many hands are played per hour, how many players are seeing the flop, and so on.
The more hands played, the more flops seen, and more players involved in each hand, the looser the game is. Loose games are usually soft.
A long waiting list is also a sign a game is soft.
Recreational players love action. So it makes sense to find games that encourage players to play lots of hands or make lots of moves.
Fast fold poker’s an easy example. Fold and immediately receive a new hand. With this format you can play 2-3x the number of hands per hour compared to a non-fast fold game.
Another good example – one I know from experience – are knockout / bounty tournaments. In these tournaments every person has a bounty on their head. When you knock a player out of the tournament, you collect their bounty.
But bounties are to recreational players as shiny bait is to fish. It catches their attention. It’s all they want, even if it means making a dumb play. This sort of thinking makes for a soft game. Especially when you consider that these tournaments often have more than 90 players, most of whom think this way.
You can also play low stakes games. It’s not the greatest indicator, though, because even the 10nl cash games and $3 sit and goes can be tough. But it’s a start.
My last thought is to find a game like omaha. Omaha encourages a lot of action because inexperienced players see all the hands they can make with the 4 cards they’re dealt. They want to see a flop to see what kinds of hands they might make. A table full of these players is an easy game for sure.
You should find a soft poker site – or, at the very least a soft game – if you’re interested in making money from poker. If you don’t want to lose all the time.
You can certainly make money from tougher games. Worst case scenario is you’ll improve your skills.
But skills alone don’t pay the bills. Especially if those skills are trumped by the skills of the other players at the table.
Trust us. It’s far easier to make money from a table full of fish. The easiest way to do that is to find and join the softest poker sites.