Game Selection in Online Poker
Game selection is one of the easiest ways to increase your overall win rate in online poker. Even though players will work tirelessly towards improving their skill sets in order to make a few more dollars per hour, there are many who don't even give a thought to the potential found in proper game selection. If you are totally unfamiliar with the term, game selection is the process of shopping around for the best games possible.
When you are seated at a table and see that a handful of others are running, you should always be scouting the lineups in each game to see if there's more potential easy money available than what you are currently working with. This is game selection in a nutshell, and the following sections outline tips and tricks that will go a long way towards your success in finding the best games running at any given time.
How to Spot Good Games
The first thing that you'll need to learn how to do in order to most effectively game select is to figure out which players are good, which are average, and which are bad. Needless to say, you should be looking for those tables with the highest density of bad and average players and the fewest winning players. If you are new to online poker, or even if you're experienced and don't use any type of poker tracking software, this can be a challenge.
The easiest way to get familiar with players and their strengths and weaknesses is to have a HUD (heads up display) running at all times when you are playing. A HUD will give you a quick snapshot of a player's tendencies over the sample size for which you have played with them. If you haven't been involved in many hands with any particular player, the best thing that you can do is to assign them with an average skill level at best. More likely than not, you have already sat with the stronger players on your poker site of choice at one point or another, provided of course that you are a regular and put in a significant number of hands.
If you don't use a HUD and/or do not want to use any type of software, there's still another easy way of remembering which players fit into which skill level demographic. Virtually every online poker site allows players to take notes on their opponents. Because of this, you'll be able to jot down everything you pick up on a player as time goes by. The only negative aspect of using this approach to tracking players is that it will take a lot more time, effort, and persistence. If you only take notes on rare occasions, you won't have nearly as much information as you should.
Along these same lines, you'll also need to make sure that your notes are as precise and useful as they can possibly be. One of the bad habits of online poker players is taking short and/or out of context notes. Writing down one hand history in a player's notes isn't going to be very beneficial somewhere down the line. At the very least, include the general skill level of a player in their notes. If nothing else, notes will tell you whether or not you want a particular player at your table.
When to Change Games
There's always a chance to find a better game. Even if you are sitting at a table full of the worst players you have ever seen, it's always possible that another game will start that's occupied by even worse players. This is the beauty in online poker. There's always a game breaking, a game starting, and a game changing. If you play a lot of hands, you'll start to notice that the stronger players hop around very frequently. Anyone who takes online poker seriously will be looking for ways to exploit their opponents whenever possible, and game selection is one of the easiest ways to do this. In the end, there's never a bad time to change games. Don't get comfortable with where you are at, be vigilant, and always keep an eye out for the easy money.
Sometimes you won't notice a new table that would be profitable, but instead will find a better seat within the table that you are already playing at. Seat hopping is the act of simply changing places in the same game, and it can really make your life a whole lot easier. The main goal of seat hopping is to get position on certain players.
For example, if there's an exceptionally strong opponent in your game, it would make a lot of sense to switch to an empty seat on that player's left should you be presented with the opportunity. Likewise, having position on a very weak player can also make it easier to play in pots both pre and post-flop. There is a small segment of players who will get upset when they notice someone constantly changing seats, but rest assured knowing that there's nothing wrong with improving your position at any table, no matter how much someone might harass you.
Bum hunting is the negative connotation attached to game selection in heads up matches. A bum hunter is a player who is said to play against weak opponents and weak opponents only. On one hand, it's only logical to play only opponents that you are better than, but on the other hand you'll be admitting that you aren't a very strong player. Bum hunting isn't so much a matter of profit as it is a matter of reputation. For most players, it won't matter whether you adhere to this online poker strategy or not, and it's even advisable.
The only players who are given a hard time for bum hunting are high stakes players. They will create a bad reputation among their peers and will be prone to jeers from railbirds. Unless you are playing in nosebleed games, however, bum hunting is just another way to increase your bottom line without any repercusions.
Game and table selection is also very important when playing in a live casino. If you play live poker, we suggest giving our live poker game selection article a read. It may help you increase your winnings next time you're in a casino.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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