If you have been following my column you will know I have been working hard on getting the perfect poker set up. This has been in an effort to be able to play the maximum number of tables as comfortably as possible, in an effort to maximise my profits. This is the reason for the dual monitor set-up, as it is fairly obvious you will have an easier time playing poker with two large monitor spaces to work with than playing on a 10" mini notebook.
There are three methods of displaying your poker tables on the screen, namely:
Tiling is fairly self explanatory, in that you have all your tables' set-up in a tiled fashion, side by side and on top of each other (exactly how I would set-up Girls Aloud if given the opportunity!). Cascading staggers the tables diagonally across your screen so they are on-top of each other and overlapping, but you can clearly see the title bar of each table. Stacking means the tables are literally stacked one on top of the other in a uniform fashion.
It is important to note that not all poker rooms will support all 3 options. Generally if you wish to stack, you will have to set-up and save this layout yourself, assuming that feature is available. Some sites have a "Tile tables" and "Cascade tables" option that you can click and they will automatically sort the tables out for you. Both stacking and cascading rely on the table requiring action to pop to the front of the screen after you have acted on the table currently in the foreground, so you will have to ensure your poker room does this if you wish to employ either of these methods. All three options work fine with Pokerstars and Full Tilt.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages that can be attributed to adopting the different methods of playing. Most people will have tried tiling, even if it is only with 3 or 4 tables, so I'd first like to point out the huge advantage that comes with either cascading or stacking. This is that for the most part, you will not see the results of the hands that you play. If you call an all-in, the second you do so, the next table requiring action will be flashing at you (exactly what I would want Girls aloud to do if given the opportunity!), and you won't see what happened in the hand where you called all-in. This can be fairly disconcerting at first, and takes some getting used to. However, it is great for taking away some of the emotion of the game. We all know the pain of getting two-outered on the river, or having Aces cracked in a big pot. However, if you aren't watching it happen, it is funny how much this reduces the pain of a bad beat. Not only this, you are being more efficient with your time as instead of wasting your time watching all-in showdowns, you are now concentrating on the next hand where you can still control what is happening.
This efficiency of time is perhaps part of the reason you can play more tables when stacking or cascading that you can when you are tiling. Online legend 'Boku87' has been known to stack 40+ tables successfully, but there is no way that he could play 40 tiled tables no matter how many monitors he had at his disposal.
Of course the main disadvantage that comes with not-tiling is that you will be able to keep track of the action on the tables much less. You will have much better reads, and be able to make more player dependant plays if you are tiling. You will be more aware of what has happened on that table, and also you will be able to easily tell which table is which, which is most difficult when stacking. However, using a Heads Up display can help counter this disadvantage when stacking.
Tiling > Cascading/Stacking
• Better awareness of happenings on the tables
• Better reads on the players
• More player dependant plays possible
• You see the results of your hands
o key to knowing opponents style and range.
• The ability to pre-fold (using the tick boxes), so you can potentially spend more time on the more important hands
Cascading/Stacking > Tiling
• You don't see the results of your hands
o an emotional advantage
o less time wasted
o you can become less results orientated
• Less movement of the mouse required
• Less frantic (not looking all over the screen all the time)
• Less eye , head and neck movement required
• Ability to play lots of tables on one monitor
• You can play a greater quantity of tables
Cascading > Stacking
• More awareness of which table is which
Stacking > Cascading
• Less mouse movement required
• Less eye , head and neck movement required
• All action occurs in the same space
Over the last few weeks I have experimented with these various methods. I began by tiling 9 tables which grew to 12, I then started stacking (personally I think if you are going to cascade, you might as well stack). I found stacking 21-24 too much for me, but am now comfortable playing up to 20 tables. Based on my experience I recommend that you stick to tiling if you are playing between 2 and 10 tables at a time. However, if you want to increase your number of tables above this, then you should definitely give stacking a shot. I had tried stacking previously and bailed on it almost immediately each time. I think you need to stick it out for a whole session to see if it is a viable option for you personally, as it is difficult to get used to. However, once you have, it is difficult to see yourself ever going back. I'd recommend experimenting on micro-stakes tables first, because if you are playing a serious amount of tables and you are not used to it, you might find yourself panicking and not being able to cope all that well (just like I might if Girls Aloud really did give me the opportunity).
The set-up I currently employ, although essentially a stacked lay-out, uses all three methods in combination. I will have my main stack of tables, I will then cascade a second stack of tables if I make the last 2 tables in a 45-man tournament. If I make a final table, I will tile these tables on the outside of my main two stacks. I also use an auto-hot-key script to 'pull' a table out of my stack a particularly important hand is in progress, and once finished replace it in my stack, all at the push of a couple of buttons.
It is important to do what works best for you, but there's no harm in experimenting with how you play poker if it might increase your winrate or enjoyment of the game!
NB. When setting up your tables, "All snap" is a very useful program to use. Auto-Hot-Key scripts can also help your play, and I've already recommended TableNinja for PokerStars and now Full Tilt, but I'll recommend it again.