The Perfect PC Setup for the Online Grinder

Created By: Sean Lind
12 November 2009
Posted in: Positively Nerd Street, Poker Gadgets and Technology
dual monitors

My father once taught me a very important lesson: Always use the proper tool for the job.

If playing online poker is your job, or even your hobby, you're going to want the right PC.

The first thing to know is that you don't have to buy the most expensive computer and accessories to get what you need. You just need to know what you're looking for.

If you do it right, getting the optimal grinder's PC won't actually cost you all that much.

When you're looking for items to buy you should be paying attention to:

  1. Technical quality
  2. Compatibility
  3. Price
  4. Comfort

The Box

The actual PC is the most important part, but also one of the easiest pieces to configure. As long as you know the very basics of what you want, the details are relatively insignificant.

If you walk into a computer shop saying you want a Dual DVI 512meg vid card for less than $150, that's exactly what you'll get. The exact model and brand doesn't really matter here.

Your computer is made up of the following items:

  • Mainboard (Motherboard )
    • Sound Card
    • Network Card
  • Graphics Card
  • CPU (Processor)
  • RAM (Memory)
  • Hard Drive
  • PSU (Power Supply)
  • Case

The Mainboard

This is the central nervous system of your computer. It controls everything else in the computer.

Although you really shouldn't buy cheap anything when it comes to your computer, this is the one thing you never want to skimp on. Get a crappy Mainboard and everything suffers.

If you're piecing together a computer yourself, you need to also make sure that your Mainboard is compatible with the restof the items you're about to buy. If you're not a computer geek, just ask someone who is or someone in the store to help you set up your system.

These days, almost all Mainboards come with sound, network and graphics cards built in. This saves you having to buy specific cards for these functions, which in turn saves you money.

I would still recommend you get a Mainboard without an onboard graphics card or just don't use it. You're going to want a real graphics card for your machine, so make sure the Mainboard has a PCI Express slot to accept your new graphics card.

As for brand names, I will only recommend two brands: ASUS or MSI.

  • Recommended: MSI P45 Platinum

Sound Card: As mentioned earlier, pretty much every Mainboard sports an onboard 5.1 surround sound card. Unless you're planning on doing high-end recording or music production, this will be more than enough for what you need.

Save your money and stick to the onboard option.

  • Recommended: On-board

Network Card: All Mainboards have built in network cards, but if you want to go wireless you'll need to buy a wireless card as well.

  • Recommended: Onboard

Graphics Card

If you want to run dual monitors (and I highly, HIGHLY recommend you do), you want to get a graphics card with Dual-DVI video outputs. Get an ATI or NVIDIA graphics card, ideally with a minimum of 512 megabytes DDR3 ram.

This card will be far more powerful than anything you're ever going to need, but considering the price of a card such as this you'd be a fool to buy anything less.

This card will be more than enough power to run everything, including high-end games (but not at the maximum texture and graphics quality).

If you want to use your PC for high-end gaming as well as poker, grab a vid card with a little more juice.

  • Recommended: BFG GeForce (Nvidia) 9800GT

CPU

The Central Processing Unit is your computer's brain. Anytime your computer has to do a calculation, or perform any sort of task requiring "thinking" or logic, it's using the CPU.

Online poker actually requires a decent amount of CPU usage, especially if you're running multiple tables across multiple screens. You don't need anything crazy, but don't get anything less than a Dual core Intel 2.6 gigahertz processor.

Why Intel? I personally hate AMD and will only recommend Intel chips. There's a reason Apple Computers has begun using all Intel chips in their systems. Intel simply makes the best CPUs on the market.

All the dual core and better chips are 64 bit also, allowing you to use 64-bit software (such as Windows 7 Ultimate x64).

In case you don't know, 64-bit software can operate much faster with much more efficiency as its 32-bit equivalent. Since you have a 64-bit chip, you might as well use 64-bit software.

Soon enough there will be no such thing as 32 bit (also known as x86), as 64 bit is slowly taking over the entire marketplace.

  • Recommended: Intel Core 2 Duo E8200, 2.66GHz

RAM

Random Access Memory is your computer's muscle. While your CPU is doing all the thinking work, the RAM is doing all the heavy lifting.

The more RAM you have, the quicker your computer will run. Simple as that. Make sure you get RAM compatible with your Mainboard and a minimum of two Gigabytes.

If you want to have a high-speed machine (especially if you want to do any serious gaming), get 4 gigs and call it a day.

It's always better to buy RAM in pairs and buy all of it at once. Having different brands of RAM used in the same computer has been known to cause errors.

Plus, all RAM these days is DDR (Dual Data Rate). This means to get the most performance out of your RAM, you need to have two identical chips in the correct RAM slots on the Mainboard.

If you want 4 gigs of RAM it's better to buy two 2-gig chips rather than four 1-gig chips.

  • Recommended: OCZ Dual Channel DDR2 2x2048MB (4-Gig)

Hard Drive

As long as your hard drives are compatible with your Mainboard (almost all current Mainboards are running the SATA2 interface) just get the one with enough storage.

Every day the price of drives goes down and the storage gets bigger. Buy whatever's big and cheap, probably around 500 gigs in size.

  • Recommended: Western Digital Caviar 500Gig

PSU

The Power Supply Unit takes the power from your wall and distributes the correct amount of juice to everything in your computer.

You want to make sure you get a PSU with enough power to run your computer without issue. Basically, get a 750-watt PSU and you're good to go.

  • Recommended: Ultra LSP750

Case

All the guts and wires of the computer need to be contained somewhere - that's your case.

The case also includes all the fans required to keep your computer cool. If you don't have fans, your computer will melt or set itself on fire.

When looking for a case you need find something that looks cool, fits your parts and, most importantly, is quiet.

With all the fans running in a PC, they can get pretty damn noisy. A good case will keep your computer cool and quiet without forcing you to wear earplugs in your own room.

  • Recommended: Cooler Master HAF 932

All the Rest

Now that you have a PC, you need the rest of the crap that goes with it. This includes:

  • Monitors
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Speakers
  • Chair

Monitors

I cannot be any clearer on this one. Monitors should always be plural.

Once you start using dual screens, you'll see why it's impossible for you to ever come back. Your best bet is a pair of 20" or 22" widescreen LCD monitors, side by each.

  • Recommended: Two Viewsonic vx2262wm 22" Widescreen LCD

Mouse

What mouse to use is really a matter of personal preference.

You need something that functions accurately and consistently on the surface you're using it on. If you want to avoid carpel tunnel I would highly recommend you look into a trackball or "thumb" mouse, such as the Logitech TrackMan Wheel.

These let you keep your wrist stationary, using just your thumb to control the pointer. It takes a little bit of usage to re-learn how to operate your mouse, but once you do you'll find yourself being more accurate with less effort.

Also, these work on any surface without any surface jump errors. When your money is on the line, an accurate mouse is a requirement.

  • Recommended: Logitech TrackMan Wheel

Keyboard

This really doesn't matter for poker as anything will work. Simply for ergonomics I'd recommend getting a split or wave keyboard.

You'll have to re-train yourself to type on it, but it's a small amount of work to keep your wrists happy.

  • Recommended: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Speakers

You're going to need to hear your computer somehow. Use your headphones, grab cheap speakers, or buy a full-on surround sound system. Whatever works for you.

Chair

Anytime you're spending hours at a time at a desk, you need a proper task chair to give you the back support needed to keep yourself healthy and pain free.

If you're uncomfortable, you're not going to be able to play your best game.

High-end office chairs can cost thousands of dollars, but you can find decent task chairs for cheap prices by hitting up Staples or IKEA. Just be sure to get a task chair instead of an executive chair.

Task chairs keep your weight forward in the proper position for typing, rather than lounged back where you need to strain to reach the keyboard.

It's possible to shave a few hundred dollars off of this system without having to sacrifice all that much performance. To do this, get less RAM, a cheaper case, cheaper (or on board) video card and a slower processor.

But it's always best to do something correct the first time rather than have to buy it twice. Buy a PC that's faster than you need right now, and it will still be adequate in a couple of years.

If you have any questions about specifics parts, or compatibility, feel free to drop your question in a comment. I'll see what I can do to help you out.

Please fill the required fields correctly!

Error saving comment!

You need to wait 3 minutes before posting another comment.

Comment added. Thank you!

Stephen Groom 2011-04-19 11:40:10

A very well written and useful article.

I have built a number of PCs for myself and have a fair amount of technical knowledge. This guide is basically everything you need to know without all of the tough to understand technical info.

I had never even considered things such as a proper chair or trackball mouse so thankyou for including stuff like that!

david 2010-11-06 01:37:58

I am currently looking to buy a new computer for playing online poker. I plan on getting coaching so I will need to run skype and pobably team viewer plus mutli table and holdem manager. I currently want at least 4Gigs of RAM and an i5 cpu. Do you think this will be sifficient to meet my needs for a while. I also want to ask about monitors. I know you advise 2 but I am just starting to play a lot of hours and I wonder if it would be better id I get 1 24" to begin with and then add another 24" later or would it be best to go with 2 20" or 22" monitors right from the start? I am alos curious about what graphics card would go well with what I have described. By the way, this is a great article and I can't tell you how helpful it has been.

musaire 2010-03-11 00:53:59

Sean Lind, thank you for the advice!

Sure I´ll check out that mouse review in the blog too. You´ve got very interesting posts there btw! I just found out about it yesterday.
Good luck at the poker tables and
cheers from Estonia!

Sean Lind 2010-03-10 21:00:14

Musaire,

A 2.66 dual core will be just fine, obviously if you can afford it going with an i5 would be a good idea, since importing HH is almost all on the CPU, so it will greatly speed things up.

But a 2.66 dual core should do the job just fine.

As for monitors, you can use VGA + DVI and that will work just fine, I don't like HDMI and wouldn't use it, but if you have to I think that could do the job as well. Dual outputs is all you need, but dual DVI makes the most sense (since DVI is the shit, and I like keeping things consistent).

Then again, with my vid card and W7 I have to use the VGA adapter on my main DVI out for the OS to pick up dual screens, so I'm technically not using DVI on my main screen myself.

For a regular mouse, check out my mouse review in the blog section, I've been using the Razer Imperator for a while now, have no complaints what-so-ever.

And as rouliroul said, a good UPS is a good idea for any decent rig, as it's always cheaper to spend $200 on one of those than to replace your MB.

musaire 2010-03-10 18:02:49

Hi,
I´m about to buy a new pc for online poker soon. Are those recommendations of yours for just a 2-4-tablers or do you also recommend this setup for a multitabler who plays constantly 40h a week 9-16 tables, maybe 20 at times, with PokerTracker3 and a HUD enabled as I play? Secondly, does it have to be a DUAL-DVI port graphics, can´t I just connect one monitor to the HDMI and a second to the only DVI port there is (1GB Geforce 220GT) or VGA?
I dont know much about newer PC-s and these stuff... Is dual core cpu enough for all those hand imorts and PT3 housekeeping or should I choose something like intels i5 750, although it is a bit pricy for me at the moment if knew 2.66 dual core would do the work just fine?
Please can you answer!

Sean Lind 2010-03-05 20:08:54

rouliroul,

Yeah, always a good idea, especially needed if you live somewhere with dirty power. Really any decent UPS will do though, as long as it cleans your power and provides a decent shut-down grace period.

rouliroul 2010-03-05 04:01:51

How could you forget a good UPS

Bloggers