Game Selection: An Honest Guide for Poker Players

  • Softer sites are a good bet if you want to avoid pros and target recreational players
  • Playing late at night and on the weekends will give you a better chance of success
  • Forget Europe and go play poker in the US if you want to make some real profit
  • It’s vital to play on sites with lower rake and take advantage of rakeback deals
Poker dealer
For professional poker players, just choosing a game can be a difficult decision. [Image:]

Lots of poker pros like to pontificate on game selection, and insist that it’s one of the areas of the game that players overlook too often. However, if you sign up to training sites, they seem to have 80 videos on block betting ranges in 3bet pots and not much to comment on where you should actually be playing.

With that in mind, here’s an honest guide to one of the most profitable skills in poker.

Find softer sites

According to the playwright Terence MacSwiney: “It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can endure the most who will conquer.” Nothing has ever been truer when it comes to finding soft sites. It’s time to drastically ramp up your tolerance for slow software, outdated graphics, and obscure bookies.

Recs like to play wherever it is they already put their weekend accumulator on

Pros love being able to plug in their HUDs and trackers, have a smooth playing experience, and get well looked after by customer support if they need it. Recs like to play wherever it is they already put their weekend accumulator on because they have money on there anyway.

In general, if the site looks like a contemporary of the old Space Jam website, it’s probably not going to be favored by Belarusian stables grinding out their 7bb an hour.

Leave your ego at the door

In short, don’t let it become your personal quest in life to bust the reg sat to your left who keeps 3betting you every single hand. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re actually bad – simply pick up your toys and move to a table where this isn’t happening.

This extends to what games you actually decide to sit down in too. No need to play the high rollers or zoom tables if you can get the same hourly with lower variance playing against the bums at smaller stakes.

Play at the right time of day

Some clear pros and cons with this one. Playing late at night and on weekends means you’ll have a field day playing the recreational, the inebriated, and the Canadian, all of which are highly profitable. Often they will be all three.

The downside is that you can then not go out on Friday or Saturday nights yourself, so you’ll now have to have a circle of going-out friends consisting only of hospitality workers and other poker players. That demographic tends to consider a good night out to be either hitting the gym and playing some bullet chess over a kale smoothie, or consuming your entire body weight in tequila in the space of a single evening, with little in between. If you’re not in either camp, it might be a big ask.

Just play live poker

This is always the obvious solution. Instead of playing 800 hands an hour, you’ll play 32! You’ll regularly go an hour without VPIPing a single time! You’ll have to pay transport costs! You’ll have to hear inane conversations! You’ll get hassle from drunk guys! You’ll be informed that the under-the-gun player folded 97o when the board ran out 99746!

if you can simply maintain your sanity where others cannot, there are absurd edges to be found

If live poker sounds hideous, well – it is. But that’s the point. Just remember that it’s the same for everyone, and if you can simply maintain your sanity where others cannot, there are absurd edges to be found. Except for in London, where you need to be aggressively predatory because of the number of stables and pros operating. Or elsewhere in the UK, where the stakes are comically small so you can’t get a good game going. Or in France, where the rake is set so high the games are basically unbeatable. Or in Germany, where it’s illegal. Or… actually, you know what…

Go to the promised land

Yes. Forget Europe. One of the problems with game selecting as a European is that while you may have accessible healthcare and a free university degree that was clearly taxpayer’s money well spent if you’re reading this article, we don’t have as many rich idiots as across the pond. Have you seen what US salaries are like nowadays? Nobody’s going to be bothered about calling you down for four figures with fourth pair over there, and that’s why a lot of euro regs spend a couple of months of the year taking advantage of that fact.

Of course, the downside of this is that you’ll need to factor in the cost of flights and accommodation, but you should be able to make that up. You’ll also invariably rent somewhere 300 metres away from the casino, only to discover that US city planning means walking there is somehow literally impossible if not an actual felony, so you’ll need to price in the cost of Ubers too.

All you have to do is clean up versus the competition and laugh your way to the parking lot

Still, when you’re there, there’s undoubtedly serious bean to be made. All you have to do is clean up versus the competition and laugh your way to the parking lot at the knowledge you won’t have to pay a cent of your winnings in tax, thus making you the most hated man in the room. In a country where people have guns. Just remember you’re not in Bavaria anymore.

Get on the apps

This can be questionable, but poker apps proliferated enormously during lockdown, and inexplicably, a lot of recreational players seem to prefer them despite the multiple legal avenues available for playing online poker. I don’t get it either, but ours is not to question why. The fact is they’re out there, and if you can find something established and reliable, it’s probably likely to be far softer and it can’t hurt to get stuck in. Just don’t keep more than a handful of buy-ins on there. Cash out early, cash out often, and price in the risk.

Take advantage of offers

Playing on sites with lower rake is just as important a part of game selection, and it pays to do it Martin Lewis style, going around to see if any extra rakeback deals are on any sites in that particular month. You don’t need to be clobbering the opposition quite so hard if you’re getting 40% of the cardroom’s cut back in your account.

The one exception to this is rake races. For the love of god, stay well away from those. To have any hope of breaking the top few, you’ll need to eschew friends, family, and an actual toilet, and given the average standard of play for someone 12-tabling for 16 hours straight, you’ll probably be lucky to break even on the whole affair. No matter how much of a shut-in you think you are, there’s always an even bigger dork than yourself, and that’s something we should all try to be content with.

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