Game selection might seem like an obvious step before you can get good at poker, but a lot of people overlook it. In fact, game selection is a critical poker skill all by itself. While many talented new players strive to better specific skills in order to win more—which, of course, can only help you out—the route to increased profits often simply lies in choosing a better game to play.
When we refer to “game selection,” we’re not referring as much to the type of poker game as we are to the players in the poker game. You want to play in a poker game in which you have an advantage over your opponents. Simple enough. No matter how good you are, it’s virtually impossible to make any money if you play in a game that’s filled with sharks. The luck factor, in addition to the rake, would make real profits pretty slim in the long run.
Now that you know that you need to find a game that’s beatable, how can you determine which kinds of games qualify? Well, there are several ways to quickly analyze your opponents to figure out if you should play:
First, you might just KNOW the opponents. If you play at your local casino or at an online poker room for a little while, you’ll get to know the other players. Either by keeping notes or just through memory, you’ll come to know who is strong, who is weak, and who you can understand the best.
Secondly, try to determine how loose-passive the game is. A game that’s loose is good. That means the flop percentage is high and people will call you down with hands that can really only beat bluffs. A game that’s passive is also good. Passivity can be determined by how much raising occurs. If people won’t bet hard when they have very good hands, they’ll let you draw out on them and you can get away with small losses on your losing hands. Fundamentally, loose games and passive games work well together because loose games let you win big pots when you have a made hand and you’re aggressive, and passive games let you draw cheaply and have small losses on losing hands.
Finally, you should notice the number of fundamental mistakes that people make. After reading this site, you’ll hopefully have a good idea about poker fundamentals: pre-flop hand selection, pot odds, etc. If you notice people calling with K-4 offsuit and drawing to inside straights without pot odds, the game is good. People who often call with poor starting hands and people on draw, without pot odds, are doomed to lose. Pick these players off!