Scheduling your Playing Time


How many of you have heard the song that starts:

            I wake up every evening

            With a big smile on my face

            And it never feels out of place.


            You’re still probably working

            At a 9 to 5 pace

            Wonder how bad that tastes.


It’s easy to imagine that the song writer was a poker player.  After all, isn’t the appeal of playing poker professionally that you can wake up whenever you want, play whenever you want and never have to work on a schedule?

Unfortunately poker isn’t like that – at least – not for people who play it for a living.  Like Brian Roberts (Flawless_Victory) said on 2M2MM, “You show me a person who gets R&R from playing poker and I’ll show you a losing player.”  Winning poker is work and work comes with a schedule.

However, just because you schedule your time doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in a 9 to 5 grind.  In fact, grinding 9 to 5 is a terrible idea because you miss out on the best times to play.

The Best Times to Play Poker

If I were to make a full-time poker playing schedule, it would be Wednesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. eastern time.  Why?  ‘Cause that’s when the fish are out.  Since went online, players have a wealth of information available to them.  One important piece of information is average pot size and the data shows that the average pot size grows largest between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

That timeframe is undoubtedly the best time to play poker from a purely empirical standpoint, but is it the best time to play poker from a psychological standpoint?

It depends.

I’m lucky.  I worked in the restaurant industry for years and a 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. schedule works perfect for me.  I’m naturally alert late at night and can think clearly and make good decisions.  But that’s just me.

There is, so I’m told, another breed of human out there known as the “Morning Person.”  These morning people can get up at 5 a.m. and are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on the world.  These people are sharp and alert early in the morning and tend to be groggy and sluggish when it gets late.  If you’re a morning person, it doesn’t matter that the pot sizes get larger late at night.  You’ll make more mistakes in larger pots because you’re not thinking clearly.  Stick with your strengths and play early.

When Should I Play?

If you’re not sure when you play best, you should try playing several thousand hands in a range of different times.  A good tracking program like Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker3 will help you break down your win rate during different timeframes.  After a while, you’ll start to notice that you win significantly more during certain hours.  Obviously you should make an effort to play in that timeframe every day.

Don’t Force It

Some poker players are machines.  They can play multiple tables for hours on end without sacrificing their win rate.  Other players can only focus for an hour or two before they fall into a rhythm and start playing robotic poker.  Know your limitations and take breaks when necessary.