Online poker players are spoiled in that they can find a game any hour of any day. However, just because games are available 24/7 doesn’t mean all are created equal. In fact, the best games (i.e. lots of players, increased action, etc.) tend to take place at the same time each day.

The online poker calendar used to revolve around the United States, and still does to a large degree. However, Black Friday dealt a crucial blow to US players, meaning now a large volume of online players on legal sites like 888poker come from places like Russia, Brazil, countries throughout Europe, and of course Canada and Mexico, the two closest options for US players to cross the border and play.

Knowing Your Time Zone

This is dependent upon where you’re located. For example, when it’s 5 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), it’s only Noon Eastern Standard Time (EST) in Montreal. There are 39 time zones around the world – some have just 30-45-minute differences – so it’s not easy to keep track of everything.

In Canada, they use six primary time zones – Newfoundland Time Zone, Atlantic Time Zone, Eastern Time, Central Time Zone, Mountain Time Zone, and the Pacific Time Zone. So, an event that starts at 2 p.m. in Newfoundland would start at 9 a.m. in Vancouver. 

For the most part, the majority of online sites set their tournaments to start by GMT. It’s up to you to figure out how your time zone stacks up to that. For example, if a tournament starts at 13:00 GMT and you’re in Tijuana, Mexico, you’d have to be up eight hours earlier at 05:00 PT to play.

Online poker primetime hours are the worst for players in Asian time zones as it means they have to either get up super early or stay up late.

Fortunately, like most things, there’s an app to make your life easier when it comes to managing time zone differences. 

Clocker is an app designed to help you keep track of your friends and colleagues – and different worldwide tournament times – in different time zones. It can be downloaded to any computer for free and is a great resource for online poker players. 

Best Times to Play

The prime online poker events and tournaments used to revolve around American players. In Las Vegas and California, which is Pacific Time, 4 p.m. to Midnight were the primetime hours. That mean many European players would have to stay up from Midnight to 8 a.m. to take advantage of the good games.

After 2011’s Black Friday, things shifted and became more kind to European players. Nowadays, the best games start around 18:00 GMT, which would be 10:00 PT in Vegas, and those in other time zones have to work around the European market if they want to take advantage of larger fields and more cash games.

That said, no matter where you’re located, if you just want to compete against players from your time zone, it’s pretty much understood that peak hours for the best games are 6 p.m. until midnight. That’s because those are down hours from most people when they’re off from work but before they go to bed.

Other good times to play are weekends when players are off work, and Sundays when most sites host a full slate of premier online tournaments like 888poker’s $215 buy-in Mega Deep. Holidays are also a good time to fire up an online poker client as many recreational players are off and looking for something to do.

Taking his even further, you may want to consider playing after New Years as many players set lofty goals they want to get an early start on. Like gym attendance, online poker games always seem to have more people around this time.

Similarly, playing on the 1st and 15th of each month is always a good idea. Those are paydays for working men and women, so many reload their online bankrolls around those dates.

Finally, you may want to log more hours in the winter months, there is a 20 percent drop in online traffic in summer months compared to winter months. One reason is that people like to go outside and get away from the computer when the weather is nice, and another is that many online players head to Las Vegas during the summer for the annual World Series of Poker.

Here’s a general breakdown on different times to play poker and what to expect:

7:00 – 12:00 GMT (2:00-7:00 ET) – Not many games but you can catch players who stayed up all night playing. They may be tired and more prone to make mistakes.

12:00 to 17:00 GMT (0700 to 1200 ET) – Players are starting to get up and may fire up some games. Things are still getting warmed up though.

17:00 – 19:00 GMT (12:00 to 14:00 ET) – The workday comes to an end for many recreational players, who will be looking to relax by jumping online. This is a good time to play.

19:00 to 23:00 GMT (14:00 to 18:00 ET) – These are primetime hours as not only is it the best time for European players, but there’s also a crossover with players in Canada, Mexico, etc. You won’t find more games, nor a better selection, than during this time.

23:00 to 02:00 GMT (18:00 to 21:00 ET) – A lot of players, especially those who have to work the next day, head to bed around this time. However, it’s also a good time to catch the bar crowd, especially on the weekends. Those players tend to play a little looser and lose a little more.

02:00 to 07:00 GMT: (21:00 to 02:00 ET) – The games tend to die out around this time as players head to bed. You’ll still be able to find games, just not as many and the action won’t be as good.

Wisdom from the Forums

Don’t take it from us. Let others players tell you when they feel are the best times to play online poker. We combed through the poker forums and compiled a sampling of insights and wisdom.

“My tip. Play at time before some popular sport is starting and after it ended.”

“I love to play when football games are on. I've noticed the volume is higher and the play seems more loose. I attribute this to sports betters trying to chase their losses of spend their winnings at the table.”

“I love to play when football games are on. I've noticed the volume is higher and the play seems more loose. I attribute this to sports betters trying to chase their losses of spend their winnings at the table.”

“Well, I once played a freeroll tourney at like 3 a.m. and everyone had sat out. Couldn't stop smashing that raise button and keep raking in the chips.”
“So, if you feel fresh, give tournament a try at midnight.”

“I prefer morning or early evening hours. My focus and freshness are way more important than a shark's schedule or fish peak hours. If I’m rested and focused I don’t mind facing anyone. So, it's more of a personal thing than trying to adjust to the rest of the world.”

“The best time to play poker is when Russians go to sleep.”

“In PokerLand fish and sharks swim 24/7.”

While there are certain times that are better than others in terms of the number of players and games, remember that online poker is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No matter where you’re at, no matter the time, there will be a game for you!

About the Author

With digital marketing strategies in his blood, Louis Wheeler has traveled around the world, exploring gambling cultures and gaining experience in casino games from 2003. If you are in a casino anywhere around the planet, you may find him right next to you, playing blackjack, roulette or texas hold'em. 

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