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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Choosing Ring Games - Part One

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The big online poker sites (Party Poker, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars to name a few) have literally thousands of tables in play at any hour of the day or night, 365 days a year.  Although these include both tournaments and cash games, it is likely that, somewhere on the Net at this very moment, there is a ring game going that is absolutely perfect to step into.  How do you decide what game is the right game for you?  This article, and the one which will follow it, will tell you exactly how to give yourself the best possible opportunity to pick a game where you will have the greatest likelihood of turning a profit.  One of the more underrated aspects of being a successful online player is consistently playing games you have a good chance of beating, and these articles are designed to help you do just that.

The considerations to take into account before sitting down at a ring game can be divided into four categories. Two of them will be covered here, with the other two to follow in the second part of this series.  Those four categories are: 1) The game you want to play, 2) The stakes at which you want to play, 3) The type of table that is optimal for you to sit at, and 4) The players against whom you will compete.

The issue of what game to play is one that many players fail to consider at all before they sit at the table.  The vast majority of online tables are devoted to Texas Hold’em, and with the popularity of that game from all the television exposure of recent years, that trend is not likely to change any time soon.  Hold’em is available in fixed limit, pot limit and no limit games, and can be played at full tables (usually nine players), six player maximum tables, or heads-up on most sites.  It is important for relative newcomers to understand that cash games are quite different than the tournaments that are most prevalent on television.  Since there are no antes, and the blinds are fixed, the pressure of having to continually accumulate chips that is present in a tournament is not a reality, and that means that you have a much wider choice of styles that you can choose to play.  If you are starting out, I would recommend that you read Dan Harrington’s no limit cash game books, or if you are going to play limit, Jennifer Harman’s chapter on the game in Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2, to give you a stronger idea of how to develop your game.

While Texas Hold’em takes up the majority of online cash game tables, it is by no means the only game in town.  Omaha, both high only and high/low, is the second most popular game online, and it, too, is played at fixed, pot, and no limit stakes.  You can also find stud high, stud 8-or-better (high/low with a qualification for low), razz (seven card stud for low only), 5 Card Draw, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, Badugi, Crazy Pineapple (hold’em with a third dealt card, where one card is discarded after the flop), and other variations, as well as mixed games, where a variety of games are played in rotation, such as HORSE (hold’em, Omaha high/low, razz, stud, stud 8-or-better) or 8-game (those five plus triple draw, no limit hold’em and pot limit Omaha).

The best way to determine the most appropriate game for you to play is to keep track of your results over time.  Almost everyone has games that they seem to have a higher level of skill or natural talent for, as well as games in which they are weaker.  While you ideally want to learn a variety of games well, in order to be able to choose tables based on other factors than what your best game is, when you are starting out, it is important to quickly determine what you are best at, so that you can begin to build a bankroll.  Keeping basic statistics each time you sit down at a game will enable you to quickly see where your strengths are, and where you are leaking money.  While the temptation may be there to play games that are “fun” for you, remember that the idea of playing poker is to make money, and you need to consistently play the games that are most profitable for you.

The second area to consider in choosing a table is the stakes at which you are going to play.  This decision should exclusively be made based on your existing bankroll.  PLEASE RE-READ THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE BEFORE CONTINUING.  Playing outside the limits of your bankroll is an almost surefire recipe for going broke, due to what is called “variance,” meaning the natural ebb and flow of luck and quality of cards that you are dealt during any given period of time.  It is essential that you understand that, regardless of how good a player you are, there will be times when your opponents seem to hit every draw and two-out miracle against you over and over again, and other times when you are dealt an endless series of 7-2 offsuit and the like.  It is absolutely imperative that you play at stakes that will enable you to absorb these bad times without losing all your money.

In order to do this, you should never have more than 5% of your bankroll at risk any time that you sit down at the table.  That 5% should enable you to buy-in with a maximum amount at a no-limit or pot-limit table (usually 100 big blinds), or with about 20 times the big bet in a limit game.  So, for example, if you have $1,000 in your bankroll, you can play a .25/.50 no limit or pot limit game, where the maximum buy-in is $50, or you can sit down at a $1-$2 limit game, where $40-$50 is a very adequate stake with which to play.  While the temptation to play higher stakes may be great, exercising discipline in this matter will serve you well in the long run.  As soon as your bankroll has reached a level where you can play higher stakes without jeopardizing more than 5% of your money at one time, that is the signal that you are ready to try your hand at something bigger.  If however, you lose 50% of your bankroll, you need to humbly begin to play at smaller stakes until you build yourself back up again.

In the next article, I will deal with the other two areas you need to consider in choosing the perfect ring game for you.  Until then, work with these first two concepts, and see if your win rate doesn’t start to improve.

See you at the tables!

*Read Clearspine's Blog*

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