Just because online poker games are offered 24/7, it doesn't mean that you can log on at any time of the day if you want to maximize your poker profits. Part of your poker routine is to know when to play, and when not to.
To make the most of your playing time you'll want to always try and play when it's the best time to play online poker - we'll look at what makes a good time to play in this article.
Important Factors About Timing
As with everything in your poker playing strategy, there are multiple factors to consider when figuring out the best time to play. These are some things you should consider when deciding when to play.
The most important thing to consider is exactly why you're playing. If you're just playing for fun then don't worry about any other factors, the best time to play online poker will be when you have the time to do so. Once you start planning your schedule and your whole life around the next time you're going to play poker, it becomes more of a chore than a hobby - so keep it fun!
If you're playing to learn you may want to play at times where there are more regulars at the tables to challenge yourself. Playing against better players is one of the things that will improve your game the most as you expose yourself to new ideas and strategies that you may not have seen before.
If you're looking to play against casual players to make the most money you can, then you'll want to play at peak times when there are the highest number of these players online.
Cash Games vs Tournaments
When you play cash games, the number of players in a player pool has no impact on anything other than an increased selection of tables to choose from. There will always be a maximum number of players at a table so more players in a player pool just gives you more choice. This is why there are almost no downsides to playing cash games at peak times - there are more casual players playing and more table choice so if you're unlucky enough to be at a table full of regulars you can just choose a different one.
Unfortunately, if you play tournaments things aren't quite as simple. Playing at peak times will still mean an increase in casual players but it also increases the size of the tournament you're playing in - making it harder to make deep runs where you start earning big money.
This is compensated somewhat for the prize pools being bigger but all this does is add an extra layer of variance. If you run bad while playing at peak times but run well at off-peak times when the tournaments are smaller you could be losing hundreds of dollars in EV by just running bad in the wrong tournament.
Depending on the stakes you're playing, it may not make a lot of difference what time you play. For example, if you're playing the very lowest stakes cash games then you're not going to see much deviation in the player pool based on the time of day. It's a safe bet that no matter what time of the day you're playing, the majority of players are going to be casual.
However, the higher stakes you go the more you're going to want to pay attention to the times when weaker players are playing. As the games and the regs get tougher as you move up the stakes, more of your money is going to be made from the weaker players. Playing at peak times with the most casual players could be the difference in whether or not you're a winner at a certain stake level.
These will become a big factor if you play in a ring-fenced player pool such as France, Spain, and Italy in Europe or one of the states that have legalized poker in America. These countries only allow players from within that country to play on their sites so the best time to play online poker may be different from the rest of the world.
For example, in Spain people will take siestas sometime between the hours of 12 pm and 4 pm before going back to work - lengthening the workday compared to countries like the U.K. where such a thing isn't a part of the culture. This means that casual players who have a full-time job will be on at a later time on average compared to the rest of the world.
Knowing the equivalent for your culture could help you maximize the amount of time you spend playing against casual players.
The Best Time of The Day to Play Online Poker
If you want to play as many hands as possible against casual players, you'll need to log on and play the same time they do. Most, if not all casual players are busy during the days and find the most time to play in the evenings. You will generally see a poker site's peak traffic is between 5 pm and 11 pm GMT. This is generally considered the best time to play online poker.
During these times you'll find the most casual players in both cash games and tournaments. Tournaments will also tend to have bigger prize pools at these times as there are more players participating, bumping up the total amount you can win. With the increased prize pools comes more variance as you have to beat out a larger number of people to make a final table during peak hours than you would in a tournament that started at 6 am.
If you were to play more during these off-peak hours you'll find that tournament prize pools are smaller but you don't need to outlast as many people to make a deep run. You'll also find at these times that the number of cash players starts to dwindle as most casual players are unable to play, which sees a drop in the number of players who will only play with casual players - leaving a player pool made up of mostly regular players.
The Best Days of The Week to Play Online Poker
For tournament players the best day of the week by far is Sunday. The tournament prize pools are much bigger than they usually are so the earning potential is much higher on Sunday than it is every other day - some tournaments will have twice the amount for 1st place on a Sunday than they would on a Wednesday for example.
For cash game players the best time to play online poker is at the weekend. At the weekend the casual players have a lot more time to play so you see more of them at the tables. On Friday/Saturday evenings the majority of people don't have to be up for work in the morning so are more likely to drink alcohol - I'm sure you don't need telling that it's better to play against drunk players!
Weekdays tend to see the lowest traffic and the highest concentration of regular players. During the week most people have other things in their lives that need attention and can't always find the time to play, so the people who are going to find the time are the people who take poker the most seriously.
The Best Time of The Month to Play Online Poker
The best time of the month to play online poker is the time when people have the most money in their pockets - payday. Now, this isn't going to be the same for everyone, but most salaried employees get paid on the last Friday of the month, meaning that the very end and very start of each month is when people will have the most money to play with.
As we get further away from payday you'll probably decide to see a small decrease in the number of casual players as they decide that they would rather spend their money on things like food and shelter than continue to gamble online - that is until they get another fat paycheque in their pockets and start it all again the next month!
I would say that the time of the month that you play isn't going to have a significant impact on your win-rate, the differences in player pools isn't going to be so noticeable that it wouldn't be worth your time playing one week and not the next.
The Best Time of The Year to Play Online Poker
While poker traffic is seen to be cyclical over small time frames such as over the course of a day or a week - there isn't much noticeable deviation month to month. That being said, if we think logically there are times over the year when people are less likely or more likely to play online poker.
People are less likely to play when they're looking to save money as for most people poker is a hobby that costs money rather than earns them money. One of the most universal times when people save money is in the build-up to Christmas. Don't be surprised if you see slightly fewer casual players in November/early December as people spend their money elsewhere.
Conversely, people are more likely to play when there's nothing specific to save for - such as late summer/early autumn after people have finished any summer holidays but aren't yet thinking about Christmas. There are also some cultural holidays where money is given such as Chinese New Year, knowing about these times in your location will help you prioritize which months to play.
Ideal Poker Playing Time - FAQ
We've collected and answered some of the most common questions around when exactly is the best time to play online poker.
When is the best time of the day to play online poker?
The best time to play online poker if you want to increase your winnings will be the times of peak traffic - this is usually between 5 pm and 11 pm GMT. The cash tables will have a higher number of casual players and tournaments will have bigger prize pools to compete for.
When are the best days of the week to play online poker?
The best days of the week to play online poker are Saturday and Sunday - as well as Friday nights. These are the times where the most casual players log on and players who are just looking to gamble and have a good time so log on at the weekends if you want to increase your win-rate.
When are the best months of the year to play online poker?
The best months of the year to play online poker are months where people don't have higher than usual expenses or when there are cultural celebrations that involve the gifting of money such as Chinese New Year in January/February.
When is the best time to play online poker tournaments?
The tournament prize pools are going to be bigger during the peak times but there will be more participants you need to beat to make a deep run. If you play during off-peak times there will be fewer people to play against but your winnings will be smaller.
When is the best time to play online cash games?
The best times to play online cash are in the evenings when the highest number of casual players are online. These players don't have the time during the day so are limited to evenings and weekends - if you want to play against casual players log on at these times.
Is it more profitable to play online poker at night?
It depends on when nighttime is for you! The peak time for most poker sites is between 5 pm and 11 pm GMT and this is considered the best time to play online poker because of the increase of casual players.
As poker players, you'll want to take every edge you can get in order to improve your win-rate. And the game selection is a big part of that, as well as knowing when the best time to play online poker. These will put you in a great position to earn more money at the tables.
This article was published on February 2, 2021, and last updated on January 30, 2021.