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Game Selection

Poker Strategy: Game Selection
By Loki Luchs of

Being a poker player has many facets; you need to excel in all of the aspects of the game in order to be the best. Contrary to popular belief, however, you don't need to be a master of strategy, statistics, tells, or psychology. The one trait that can determine if you're going to be a winner, even if your game is mediocre, is game selection. It alone is the single best determiner if you're going to be a long term winner or loser.

Game selection is pretty self-explanatory… selecting a game that you can beat will make you money. While this would seem to be common sense, this is often overlooked by even the most serious players of the game. Often the pride in their own ability mixed with the aggravation of playing with less qualified competition, keeps solid players from "slumming" in games that would be far more lucrative than the games that they actually choose. In many cases, these players go from being a dominant favorite to being a slight favorite or even at a disadvantage because they feel the game is more sophisticated. If their purpose in playing is to test their own skills in the heat of competition, that's one thing, but if their goal is to maximize their profit, then sitting down in the wrong game is the largest mistake they could make.

If you've ever been mesmerized by the lions on the Discovery Channel, you'll understand what I mean. The kings of the jungle are the masters of game selection! They don't bother wasting their time trying to hunt the strongest, fastest wildebeest; those fat cats patiently wait until they find the oldest, sickest, injured in the pack! They have no need to prove anything by taking down the best fit, because it might mean that they go hungry! Their only purpose is to gorge themselves on as much meat as they can so they can go back to laying in the sun. Winning poker players have the same mentality… we want to take as much money by exerting as little energy as possible! The better we are at figuring out who the easy prey is, the sooner you'll find us lounging by the pool and working on our tans.


Game selection is much harder than it sounds. (This is especially true if you're a mediocre player.) You've never heard of most professional players… 9 out of 10 of them are grinders who don't have the desire to enter the tournament circuit. These players would never be a favorite for a big pay day, so they wisely avoid wasting their money. What they excel at is finding games where they face little to no risk. Some players, especially those with mediocre card ability, will walk from one poker room to the next looking for the absolute easiest game possible. This is an extremely effective strategy! By finding the weakest competition, these players maximize their profits! Other players will sleep until midnight and only play with opponents who are up late and tired. Their opponents have slipped off their A-game, but aren't willing to leave, so they become easy prey for the well-rested grinders. They become even easier prey if they've been drinking all night and have passed their tolerance threshold.

The real trick to winning money consistently in poker is to have an edge on your opponents. Regardless of how well (or poorly) you play, there are opponents that are both better and worse than you. Being able to put yourself in a situation where you're surrounded only by people you can beat is probably the biggest determiner whether you will be a long-term winner or a long-term loser. Winners aren't the best in the world; winners are the best at the table.


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