This lesson is both the simplest, and the most important. A lot of players don't give game selection the regard it deserves, and it's very hard to overstate it's importance. We've all heard the saying about how important location is in real estate. And it's even more important in business. It's even more important again though in the business of selecting the proper game in poker.
The mistake a lot of players make is this: They figure the importance of game selection is relative to their skill level, which is to say they feel that they need to choose a game within their skill level that they can beat. And especially as they get better, they feel that they can now succeed at the more difficult games. While this may be true to some extent, it is the absolute wrong way to look at this.
Poker isn't like an arm wrestling contest, where if you're stronger than your opponents you'll beat them. The reason is: simply beating them isn't the only concern, it's by how MUCH you beat them that matters. Weaker players just don't lose to you, they lose MORE. Which means you MAKE more. And that's the only real concern in playing - how much you make.
So, regardless of what level we are at, what we need to do is to make sure we are always playing in these types of games, the weakest ones we can find at our level, where the players are willing to give us their money - and lots of it. And we want to avoid the ones where the competition is more difficult and is tighter with their money. So what do we need to look for here?
Well, it's not too hard to see that what we seek is the loosest games for our level. By loose we mean players who not only play bad cards, but play them poorly. Contrary to what some people think,"loose" in poker is just another term for "bad." This will become more obvious to you as we progress through the lessons, and we look in more depth into what constitutes good and bad play. For now though, consider that the looser a player is, the more likely he is to have the weaker hand, and thus lose the hand and the money contributed to it.
So how can we tell if a game is loose? The first thing we need to look at is the flop percentage. The higher it is, the worse the average hand is that we're up against. 50%+ is the ideal here, where people are playing all kinds of garbage starting hands. We're looking to play MUCH fewer, and thus when we're up against even several of these, we're going to be the favorite and take their money over time.
Another consideration is average pot size. It doesn't do us a whole lot of good if everyone's folding on this flop, as this is going to make it difficult to make any kind of real money when we hit our hands. Instead, we want people calling us, preferably with all sorts of junk hands and long shot draws. This way we get paid a lot more when we have the advantage.
A third consideration is how passive or aggressive the competition is. This is the least important of the 3, as we can adapt to either profitably, but it's a little more difficult if the table is more aggressive, as it's going to require us to have a higher skill level. Once we achieve this though, there's not a whole lot of difference in terms of our profit margins. Aggressive tables will have us folding our blinds more on the one hand, but on the other, we'll make more when we do hit than if they were more passive.
In selecting our games, we need to look at both the site as a whole, and the particular game at it. For various reasons, some sites tend to have higher caliber players on average than others. And of course we're hunting for the lower caliber ones, where we can be much better than they are, rather than only a little better.
We have chosen sites for you based upon the ease of competition. This is by far the most important aspect of becoming successful at online poker.