Online Poker Game Selection - Choose the Right Game To Win in Poker
Poker is one of the only games in the world where you almost always want to play against players worse than you are.
That might not be the case 100% of the time (who doesn’t like a challenge every now and then?), but if you’re playing worse players you’re going to make money. And who doesn’t like making money?
Game Selection in Poker
If you had a choice between sitting down at a No-Limit Texas Hold'em table with Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu, or one with six amateurs who had never played Texas Holdem before, which one would you choose?
You might choose the superstar table for the stories you could tell, but if your interest is in winning money you probably want to go for the table full of amateurs.
Of course it’s not always that easy to figure out if you’re playing sharks or minnows. There’s an old poker saying that goes something like this.
“If you can’t spot the sucker at the table, then you're the sucker.”
It’s not that far from the truth. The moment you sit down at a table — whether it’s online or live — you should be paying careful attention to your opponents and assessing their levels of play.
If you can’t find the soft spot — the sucker — then you probably want to select another game to play. That’s called game selection.
Game Selection in Live Poker Games
In a live casino, game selection can be difficult. There are a limited number of seats, tables and dealers.
If you want to get into the action, you may have to take whatever seat is available.
Furthermore, if you stand too close to a game in progress, the players may get edgy, stare you down or even ask the floor person to remove you.
These conditions make observing a table to draw conclusions somewhat difficult. There may not be any other games running so the amount of table selection strategy you can employ is rather limited.
Game Selection in Online Poker Games
Online poker is a different story. The availability of seats is virtually unlimited and you can observe the players all day long without those players objecting or even knowing that you are there.
There is no excuse for not carefully selecting your games in an online poker situation.
There’s also no penalty to leaving a game quite early. Winning a bunch of money early and leaving right away is usually considered bad etiquette -- but if you’re winning you’re probably not going to be leaving!
On the other hand getting away from a table when you are losing — which is called a "stop-loss" tactic — is usually very sound.
Online poker also has the benefit of a very easy-to-use but incredibly comprehensive note-taking system.
If you notice a player being way too aggressive you can simply designate the player as “aggro” or something similar. You’ll always have that note for that particular player. You can accumulate notes on thousands of players if you play a lot.
Approaching Online Game Selection
The first thing you should do is look for games with players you already have notes on.
If you've previously identified certain players as weak, or if you have good reads on them, finding two or more of them at a table can be like money in the bank.
Failing that, observe tables to see where you will thrive. If you can find a table with a lot of loose-passive calling stations, for example, where multiple players are putting in chips with marginal hands, you have a great opportunity for a winning session.
If you are a very aggressive player and stumble upon a table where everyone seems to be playing very tight, this may be a table you want to join and try and run over, although the nature of the table will probably eventually adjust to your presence.
If this happens, though, you can always jump to a new table - one of the great benefits of online poker.
Where Are All the Bad Players?
This is an excellent question! If you can find a place where there are consistently bad players, you should probably never leave (or tell anyone else!).
There are numerous professional poker players who have made their entire living playing private games filled with bad celebs or gamblers.
Here are a few basic things to look for to help you find those bad players:
1. Generally, bad players are too aggressive. If you play on an online poker site that shows the average pot amount and the amount is above average, that’s a good sign.
2. Bad players generally play low stakes. That’s just how it is. The majority of learning is going to be done at the very micro-stakes.
3. The majority of people start with No-Limit Hold’em so that’s the game where the majority of fish will be found. That said, if you pick up another game quickly, you may find that it’s easy to beat people who clearly don’t know the game.
4. You may find you run into a much lower caliber of player when playing on smaller sites. The more well known sites tend to be filled with good players.
5. It can be a good thing if your online poker site of choice also has an online casino attached. Sometimes the casino players like to mix it up playing poker and they tend to be sub-par.
You never really know where you’re going to run into fish. If you find a particularly soft mid-stakes game, you should just keep playing it. Pay close attention and try to get in again the next time you see it running.