Large data contexts present a number of challenges to optimal choropleth map classifiers. Application of optimal classifiers to a sample of the attribute space is one proposed solution. The properties of alternative sampling‐based classification methods are examined through a series of Monte Carlo simulations. The impacts of spatial autocorrelation, number of desired classes, and form of sampling are shown to have significant impacts on the accuracy of map classifications. Tradeoffs between improved speed of the sampling approaches and loss of accuracy are also considered. The results suggest the possibility of guiding the choice of classification scheme as a function of the properties of large data sets.