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Poker: Game Selection

Bill Burton 08:52 Mar 15th, 2006 Poker

Many players agree that game selection is one of the most important concepts in playing winning Poker.
It is also the one that is most often overlooked by most players. There is an adage that says, “You don’t have to be the best poker player in the world. You just have to be better than the other players at your table.”

When you have a choice, you should pick a game that you think will be profitable for you.
A game filled with rocks who only bet when they have the nuts will not be as profitable as a game with one or two calling stations. You should evaluate the skill level of the players in a game and determine where you fit in. If you feel that you are outmatched by the players at one table, you should look for a different game.
Game selection will be a big factor in whether you win or lose.

As you can probably figure out, the type of game that you are in will be dependant upon the types of players sitting at the table. Most of the time you will have a mixture of players but more than likely you will find yourself with the majority of players having the same style.

No Fold'em Hold'em
This is the term given to games that contain a large number of calling stations. The game is usually very loose with a lot of players seeing the flop and many of them calling all the way to the river. This type of game is also called "Showdown Poker" because you will have to show down the best hand at the end.
There is absolutely no time in this game when it will be correct to try a bluff. It just won't work.

Wild Games
In wild games, you will have a large majority of loose aggressive players. They will want to cap the betting before the flop and continue betting after the flop. This type of game can produce big fluctuations on your bankroll if you play your normal style. You will have to tighten up your game even more than normal and wait for the big solid hands to play. You may not be playing many hands, but the ones you do win will be huge.
It has been my experience that most of the wild games I have been in consisted of mostly younger males who are out having a good time and showing off a little macho bravado at the tables. If this type of game makes you feel uncomfortable then you should find another game.

Tight Games
If you are in a game with many tight players, you will see much smaller pots, as there will be fewer players involved in each hand. They will be very selective about the hands they play and will do a lot of checking, looking for a free card if they are on a draw. Usually a bet will drive them out in this situation. If the game is passive as well as tight, you may be able to loosen up a little since you will be seeing the flop fairly cheaply.
If there is ever a correct time to bluff in low-limit Hold'em, it will happen when you are in an extremely tight passive game.
In some brick and mortar card rooms there will be several games being played at the same limit but in others your choices will be limited. Most of the time you will have to be seated before you can determine the type of game you are in. If it is not to your liking, you will have to ask for a table change.
This is not the case when you play poker online.
When you play online, you will usually have many different choices. In fact, one of the advantages to playing online is that fact that you can tell before hand how many players are seeing the flop.
Most online poker sites also show you the average size of the hand. This can help you choose a game easily.
It is also easy to jump from table to table when you play online.

Know Your Limit
Some players want to move up to play for higher limits. This is fine if you have the bankroll and the skill to move up to the higher limit games. When you do move up don’t let your ego get in the way.
If you find you are outmatched at the table, there is no shame in moving back down to a lower limit game that you know you can beat.
With the growth of online poker, there is an abundance of the very low limit games that are extremely loose with many players staying in to the river. This has produced a lot more bad beats and I often hear player lament that they want to move up to higher limit games to play with a “better quality” players.
This is not necessarily the remedy. If you can’t beat these loose players at the lower level, you most likely will not beat the more skilled players at the higher limits.

Your goal in poker is to win money. You can start by evaluating the games you play in. Pick one that suits your style and bankroll and always play your best game.

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