Considerations In Game Selection

Guide To Winning Poker (25)

  • Ideal game selection involves many different considerations
  • It’s all about what you are going to play, where you are going to play it, and much more
  • All of these concerns have a common goal, to maximize your profits and enjoyment

Finding The Best Games For You Is Definitely An Important Consideration

So at this point I want to throw in some things to think about in terms of what you should be thinking about in terms of finding the best game or games for you. So here’s some things to think about not only in the beginning stages but throughout your poker development. I’ve touched on this before but I wanted to devote an entire lesson to this as it’s a very important topic.

Proper game selection is an essential component of maximizing overall poker success. In fact, your profitability overall is a direct measure of the differential between your own ability and the average ability of your opponents. While we properly spend a great deal of time and effort honing our own skills to try to increase this separation, it’s equally important that we pay close attention to the other side of the equation.

So What Do I Mean By Game Selection Exactly?

Game selection here needs to be defined in the broadest sense, which is comparing the potential of playing this game at this poker room at this table, as opposed to something else. So the first question we need to ask ourselves is whether we’re playing the ideal game or games. Our present abilities will factor into this heavily of course, where we’re not just looking at them in isolation but rather in terms of what the skill differential may be. In fact, all our measurements here need to be in terms of this separation. In fact our best game may not necessarily be the ideal choice, as there may be another where we’re not quite as accomplished at, but the competition is even less so.

Our personal interests need to be accounted for as well. Playing a game we don’t enjoy near as much is going to have a negative impact, where we may be less motivated to put the proper effort into it, both at and away from the table. This is especially a concern the more hours per day you’re looking to play. It may in fact be a good idea to mix in some variety here even though the alternate choices may not be quite as profitable if necessary to keep your interest level at high enough levels.

Some variations lend themselves to a higher level of skill, like heads up for instance, whereas if you find that you have a higher aptitude you may want to look to get the most out of this ability by choosing a game where there’s more potential. This is particularly important as the stakes get higher, as there will be less fish and more regulars, so it becomes more necessary to aspire to higher levels of thought in order to succeed. So you may want to focus on games that give you more opportunity here, both in increasing the potential quantity and quality of your decisions against standard lines.

You Need To Be Playing The Right Stakes

This brings us to considerations of stakes. Managing stake levels in general is a huge factor in proper game selection, and many players are either too conservative or too bold. Mistakes here will be very costly, as inappropriate choices will lead to a lot of lost profits by playing either too low or two high. Also, you want to make sure you’re taking advantages of temporary opportunities to move up or down, although the benefits need to be significant enough to make sense of the move.

Variance can also play a factor, and this will depend to a great degree on your ability to withstand it as well as your personal disposition toward it. Ideally you will be shooting for straight ROI if you can, but you’ll need to be able to handle the variance both financially and psychologically, and will need to find something that fits your comfort zone.

How Involved You Like To Get Also Matters

Players also have preferences toward being more or less involved during a session, both in terms of quantity and quality. For example, one player may prefer to play a single full ring game and do other things, where they are only put to a real decision infrequently.

Another may prefer to play a lot of ring game tables, where the decisions are mostly standard but there are a lot of them. A third may opt for more intense action where there are frequent decisions which often involve more thinking. So a lot of this is a matter of fit and you need to be both good and comfortable with a particular game to do well at it.

Nothing Is More Important Than Proper Poker Site Selection

Once you’ve chosen your preferred variation or variations, it’s now time to look at where you’re going to play. It’s always a good idea to give yourself more options here, and maintaining accounts at several poker rooms is almost always a good idea, if you can manage it. You need to be playing at the right tables and part of that is expanding your range by allowing yourself to select from tables at several poker rooms. This should include both the higher traffic rooms and the less popular ones.

Just because there isn’t a lot of action at a room doesn’t mean there isn’t enough. It’s not one room versus another on a totality basis, it’s what one room can offer at various times versus the investment involved in bankroll and time in order to cultivate the opportunities that exist there.

More than anything though, it’s the opportunity cost of time that is the most significant factor in deciding which particular tables to play at. We want to make sure our time selecting is well spent, especially if it involves downtime. You need to of course increase your average rate per hour here, so it’s easy to see how spending too much time looking or waiting and not enough time playing could end up accomplishing the opposite. So working efficiently becomes very important, and you also want to ensure that the advantages gained are worth the time.

It’s All About Finding Where The Fish Are

You’re going to need to be using some sort of tool or tools to do this properly. Depending on what you’re playing, you may want to use a table finder to automate the process somewhat for you. With ring games, you’re looking for particular table stats, which you can also get from the lobby. You may also want to seek out particular players, and one big fish even at a full ring table of better players can often be enough reason to play at it. As the table shortens, this becomes more important, and of course if it’s heads up it’s all about the single player and how you match up.

There’s several good ways to judge the abilities of opponents. The simplest is just relying on memory. You can also look up his stats overall through a central database like Poker Table Ratings or Sharkscope, look toward your own hand database against all players, or compare hands where you played against the player at the same table. All of these methods of gathering and using information, and once again it all has to be performed in a timely manner, which includes acquiring the needed info and then making your decisions. Both an opponent’s playing strength and the way that you match up with his style of play need to be taken into account.

You Also Need To Manage Your Time Effectively

The manner in which your decisions are put into practice must also be looked at. If you’re finding some great tables but by the time you get a seat the fish have been replaced by regulars, then you’ve wasted your time. So it’s a matter of the time investment versus the benefits gained over a less time consuming strategy that’s key here.

Having to sit on a waiting list can often also involve more downtime, although you want to try to manage this in terms of replacing less profitable tables with better ones, rather than simply waiting. This also needs to be the case if you’re sitting at a table waiting for an opponent, as is often the case with heads up. So the strategy when waiting should be to get involved in as much action as you can at all times, as long as all the opportunities have a positive expectation, and then use game selection to improve on the quality of them.

Further Considerations With Heads Up Poker

With heads up there are some additional variables that need to be considered. With heads up cash games, it’s typical of the better players to be sitting in waiting for a fish, which often results in the dilemma of either having to play one of them or sit in yourself and hope a weaker player comes along. To make matters worse, you may sit in with the weaker of the regulars and have them not want to play you. The key though is to always look to get into profitable situations as best you can while at the same time being open to look elsewhere if the situation warrants it and you’re able to do so. This includes both playing at a different room and perhaps even looking to move to a different variation if needed and if suitable.

With heads up sit and go’s, there’s also the choice of sitting in versus sitting down with someone. Depending on the traffic at a particular room, in the time it takes to scope a player, someone else may have sat down instead. Plus, as a rule, the better players tend to sit down and wait for the weaker players. There’s a fair bit of variation here among poker rooms though, both in terms of the quality of players sitting in and the likelihood that you’ll be able to scope them and still get to sit with them. So this is something that you’ll have to develop a feel for at your stakes and room in terms of what is best for you. Of course, as you come to know players more, the task becomes easier. With HUSNGs though, one real advantage is that if you sit with someone they are committed to the match, and can’t just run away from you as they can at cash HU.

In the end, we want to ensure that we’re spending our time most profitably and that’s what game selection is really all about. By focusing our efforts toward being in the best games we can at any given time, which as you can see involves taking into account a lot of different factors, we can ensure that our experiences at the table will be as profitable as we can make them.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series