By Paul “Regitime” & Alton Hardin

Introduction

This thread kicks off our Mastering Holdem Basics series, a series that covers basic and fundamental aspects of NLHE to help improve our members’ games and win rates.

What is it?

Game selection is simply the strategy of finding the most profitable games available to you. It involves identifying “soft” tables with “weak” players. It involves both table and seat selection.

Why is game selection important?

In poker games, if we are always playing against players who have equal ability to us, or superior ability, then long term we cannot expect to be a profitable player.

Theoretically, if we played a table of players who were of exactly the same ability as us and utilized the same strategy, then we would all lose money to the rake in the long term, so despite none of the players being better than us, we would still lose money.

This is why it is important to find games with inferior “weak” players to us. These players provide the “dead money” that cover the rake and provide profitable opportunities. It is our skill edge over these weak players that account for a majority of our profitability. At the poker table, the regulars duke it out for the fish’s money.

Finding “weak” players in modern games is not easy as it used to be pre-Black Friday, but that should not provide you with an excuse not to make game selection your first priority when you open your poker client and sit down for a session.

Game Selection Strategies

You should be looking for players sitting on stacks of less than 100 big blinds (bb). A tell tale sign of a fish is a player with less 100bb and that does not auto-reload. One caveat to this strategy is that a fish’s stack size should be around 25 – 30bb; if not, it is really not worth your time to duke it out with other regulars to stack a fish with overly small stack sizes.

You should also be looking at the lobby stats and sitting at tables with the highest average pot sizes. Fish tend to play too loosely and call down too light, which bloat pots. You want to play against loose, passive, calling station fish that will allow you to get the most possible value out of your hands.

When you’re at the table, look for players that are limping into pots rather than opening for a raise. Also, look for players that regularly under bet or over bet post flop. These are all tell tale signs of weak fishy players.

When you find weaker players, use your poker client’s color coding system to tag them to make them easier to find in the lobby on future sessions. Similarly, mark the skilled players as well, so you can avoid tables where there are too many skilled opponents.

When you find a weaker player, you should try to have them as close to your right as possible. The further from your right they are, the harder it will be to extract value from them. The reason for this is the power of position. You want to dictate the action of the hand and manipulate pot sizes in your favor, something that is much easier to do when you are always in position to the fish.