Getting Your Game Selection Right

When you first sit down at a poker table – and I am talking about the very first time you sit down at a poker table – you are unlikely to be aware of what type of game is most suitable for you. You not only have a choice of games from which to select (Texas Hold´em, Omaha, Stud, etc.), but also a choice of the formats in which they are played (cash games, Sit & Go games, multi table tournaments, etc.).

Within each of these games and formats there are further sub-divisions. For example, you have the choice of full ring, 6-Max or heads-up cash games. Sit & Go games can be played where the top two or three players get paid, where half the table gets paid, or where the winner takes it all. I won´t even start to go into the options available for multi table tournaments!

The selection can be quite daunting. Many players experiment with one type of game/format/sub-division, then another, and then another. Until they get their game selection right, they are often losing money to more experienced players who are more accustomed to the style of game they are playing. This “guide” to getting your game selection right aims to accelerate the selection process to avoid those losses, and to help new players settle on the game/format/sub-division to which they are best suited.

The Choice of Games

No matter how new you are to online poker, you will have usually heard about Texas Hold´em. It is the most popular poker game in the world and provided for by every online poker site. However, just because Texas Hold´em is the most popular poker game in the world, it does not necessarily mean that it is the most suitable game for everybody.

If you feel that the thrill of rapidly escalating pots may be more to your liking, you may want to try out Pot Limit Omaha. If your priority is safety first, possibly Fixed Limit Omaha Hi/Lo would be more suitable for you. If you have the patience of a saint – as it takes much longer to play each hand – you will probably enjoy the intricacies of Stud Poker.

You can find an explanation of each type of game and details of how each is played in our “Guide to Online Poker Games”.

Cash Games, Sit & Go Games or Multi Table Tournaments?

The choice of whether you should start playing online poker at the cash game tables, in Sit & Go games or in multi table tournaments again depends on your nature and propensity to risk. Cash games are most players´ first choice, as you can enter and leave a table as you wish. Sit & Go games run until just the winner(s) remains, as do most multi table tournaments – the length of these games depending on their format (slow, regular, turbo, hyper-turbo, etc.) and the number of players entered into each.

I am going to discuss cash game selection in the next section, and have dedicated a page to the range of Sit & Go games that are available. So let´s just talk about multi table tournaments for the minute.

Multi table tournaments start at a designated time, often have a late registration period and can run for hours and hours. To be successful in multi table tournaments, you need a comprehensive skill set in order to play tight during the early stages and increase the aggression as the tournament progresses. It is this range of skill sets that often catches new players out. They often play too aggressively during the early stages of a tournament or too tight as the blinds increase and chip-sapping antes are introduced.

It can be demoralising to play in a multi table tournament for hours, and just miss out on cashing in the event due to a lack of endgame experience. So, I would suggest that new players start their tournament experience by playing Sit & Go games. This will give new players a grounding in tournament structures and prevent them from losing their tournament buy-ins due to a lack of experience.

Cash Games – Full Ring, 6-Max or Heads-Up?

I mentioned in my Top 10 Poker Tips that there are advantages and disadvantages of each type of poker depending on your tendencies and your level of patience. Although you might not need the patience of a saint to play cash games of Texas Hold´em, your betting tendencies should certainly influence your game selection.

Full ring cash games (those containing eight, nine or ten players) tend to have more players paying to see the flop, which increases the size of the pot. The advantage of this is that if you win a hand, you will likely win more money than you would playing on a table with less players. The disadvantage of having more players in the game is that there is a greater chance your premium hand will get beaten.

As a rule, full ring cash games are more suitable for players who are prepared to wait for a premium starting hand to arrive than those who want to be involved in a high percentage of pots. If you are a patient player and can keep your urge to get involved in a hand under control, full ring cash games should be your initial destination.

For players who like a little more action, and for those with a little more experience, 6-Max cash games should be ideal. The primary advantage of 6-Max cash games is that you can have a wider range of opening hands, as it is less likely that there will be a premium pair dealt to any of your opponents. The disadvantage of 6-Max cash games – particularly if you are a tight player – is that the blinds come around 50% faster than on a full ring table.

Heads-up cash games are all action. There is no hiding place when you are playing against one opponent and, although a series of good hands can be very profitable in heads-up cash games, running into a good player can devastate your bankroll very quickly. If you like the prospect of being involved in practically every hand, don´t let me dissuade you from giving heads-up cash games a try. My only recommendation would be to start at stake levels much lower than your bankroll management would suggest, and move up the stakes as your level of skill (and bankroll) increases.

Final Words of Advice

If you find that you are losing money at one game/format/sub-division, it can be a good decision to change to something else, but it is not your only option. The levels of skill between one stake level and another can vary dramatically. For example, if you have tried playing $0.10/$0.25 NL Texas Hold´em and experienced more losing sessions than winning ones, try stepping down to $0.05/$0.10 NL Texas Hold´em.

Finally – and most importantly – if you are experiencing losing sessions, never increase your stake levels to chase your losses. Online poker is a game that takes a long while to master. Work hard on your game and develop your skills, and the losses from one session will be more than recovered in future profitable sessions.