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All About Game Selection

by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is an advantage blackjack player and skilled poker player. He is the author of "1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets" and "Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em"(the latter available at 10% discount in the BJI store) and the guide at


You walk into the poker room and find there are seats open at two tables with the limits you want to play at. Sitting at table number one is Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and Annie Duke. Seated at table number two is Mickey Maniac, Ricky Rock and Carrie Callingstation. Which game would you pick to sit down in?

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 donít have to be the best poker player in the world. You just have to be better than the other players at your table."

I consider myself a good poker player but if I had my choice of the two tables above, I would definitely pick table number two as the game to risk my money in. It might be an ego trip to sit down with the Pros but in all honesty I know that I would probably be out matched. I have a much better shot of winning against the less experienced players.

Choose YOUR Game

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. Here are a few of the types of games you will find.

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. Tight players are 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 your stating hand requirements 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 a tight game you want to play loose.

Wild or Loose 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.

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.

Online Advantage

When you play in a brick and mortar poker room you will not always have a big choice in game selection. However when you play online you will have many games to choose from. One thing to look for is the percentage of players seeing the flop. Most online sites show this right from the main lobby. You can usually determine if a game is loose or tight by this figure.

Know Your Limits

Some players want to move up to play for higher limits. This is fine if you have the bankroll and also the skills to move up to the higher limit games. When you do move up donít 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.

There is an abundance of unskilled bad players in many of the low limit games both online and in the casinos. 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 canít 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. [p]


Until next time, remember:

"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever!"


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