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Online poker. Come up with your own winning system, fire up a bunch of tables at your favorite site(s), and cash out the money. That’s been the daily routine of thousands of break even to winning players since the mid 2000s, but the degree of difficulty and ever-growing learning curve associated with becoming a profitable online poker player has placed a renewed emphasis on balancing quality with quantity.

A recent PocketFives article authored by the site’s Content Manager Dan Cypra drives home this fact. Rocco “RoccoGe” Palumbo is currently ranked #13 worldwide according to the online poker tournament rankings website. The $3.4 million lifetime online tournament winner actually quoted the 74-year old American musical icon Bob Dylan in the writeup, saying, “The times they are a-changin.”

Indeed. Long gone are the days when a profitable poker player could sleepwalk through the monotony of playing several thousand hands each day without spending time working on his or her skills. Today’s elite online poker players, regardless of whether they play cash games, tournaments or a combination of the two, must constantly find ways to exploit their improving opponents in order to maintain their winrates.

Finding a Balance Between Quality and Quantity

Almost all professional online poker players still mutli-table in 2016. However, those who do so have pretty much without a fault developed a system (along with a preset number of tables) that afford them what they believe is the most profitable long term play style.

Aside from a handful of sickos who are consistently ranked among the best in their respective games and stakes, most pros have arrived at a comfort zone of playing anywhere from 4 to 12 tables at a time when they log-on to a poker site.

So should you, the aspiring professional poker player, consider stacking up a couple dozen tables in hopes of maximizing expectation? Like so many answers to questions related to poker, it depends.

It should go without saying that before you consider multi-tabling online poker games you should have a very clear idea of your long term expectation in the games and stakes you play. If you’re learning and aiming for experience, then there’s probably nothing wrong with opening up four or more micro-stakes tables to increase your adaptation speed, but otherwise you’ll want to make darn sure that you’re a winning player before getting into the quick-click aspect of online poker. Compounding your online poker losses by playing more tables is a one-way ticket to redepositing (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so low stakes experimentation is highly recommended before deciding to mass-table like your favorite online pros.

Assuming you’re a winning, one-tabling online poker player, it is not a bad idea to play several tables using a “trial and error” system to determine what your own specific break-even point is. At some point, every online poker player will reach an amount of tables that takes away his or her profit.

Whether your own breaking point is four tables or four dozen is ultimately an equation for you to figure out, but here is one simplified example to guide you along the way.

If you are a winning player with a 5% Return on Investment (ROI) at a certain buy-in, then you may very well be justified in exchanging that for a lower, 3% rate while playing multiple tables. This of course depends on external factors such as customer loyalty benefits that each poker site offers. However, as the young Italian poker star “RoccoGe” puts it, quality trumps quantity over the long haul. This is because the difference between a solid winning player and a slightly losing one in any given online poker game is difficult to measure.

“Recreational” poker players are no longer dumping three quarters of their stack into a pot just to insta-fold on an unhelpful flop, so poker players distinguish themselves nowadays through independent thinking. There is a science linked to calculating chip stack and hand equity of any random poker situation (which most regular online poker players are at least vaguely familiar with), so winning consistently comes down to outplaying “decent” opponents.

If a professional poker player is not prepared to adjust on a daily or weekly basis, he or she will soon find that increased volume does not necessarily result in a positive outcome. The quality has to come first, then the quantity can help build your bankroll off of your base poker skills.

By his own admission, Palumbo — who won a WSOP bracelet for $464,000 in 2012 — plans to “limit” the number of online poker tournaments he competes in to under 30 per day in 2016. This will place him around the 8-10 table range (perhaps more on Sundays) in tournaments that have an average buy-in of more than $100. If that’s enough tables for the 13th-ranked online poker player in the world, then maybe that number can also serve as a general guideline for up and coming pros who are working on their abilities in smaller stakes affairs.

That’s not to say of course, that there won’t be a few individuals who are introduced to poker in upcoming years who are 100% willing to live, eat and breathe poker 18 hours a day 7 days a week. But for everyone else, the time to concentrate on establishing an “A” Game” and developing it to its full potential while not focusing so much on volume is here.

Best of luck at the online tables!

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David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.