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Game and Table Selection

Today, we focus on the particular game of poker you choose to play plus the table at which you play that game. Recently, we added consideration of “when”– which day of the week and which hours – it is best to play.

Many games

Realize there are numerous poker games. New games and variations of these continue to be developed. Similar games at various stakes are, to a large extent, quite different in terms of how they are best played, and tournaments likewise require different strategies than cash games of the same types.

Our recommendation is to choose one particular poker game/variation. Preferably, you should select the game/variety you most enjoy playing. Get to know that game as best you can – “like the palm of your hand.”

You have many opportunities in that regard – poker books and magazines, classes, seminars, on-line discussion sites, and face-to-face discussions with poker buddies. You can always find self-designated “professionals” who are willing and ready to offer you private lessons. The same is true in many professions.

Wouldn’t you rather have a heart surgeon perform your cardiac surgery than a general practitioner? The same applies to the game of poker.

Game selection

That simple decision could transform you from an average (mediocre) poker player to a consistent winner. Who was it who first said, “It’s all about winning, and the more I win, the more fun it is?” (Answer: I believe it was my late wife. She was a great poker player. She played limit 7-card stud until switching over to Texas Hold’em.)

Every table is different

Perhaps your favorite casino is running several tables of your favorite game. But, in fact, each table is unique. The character of a table is determined by the players.

With a few aggressive players, you can expect lots of preflop betting and raising – especially if there is a “maniac” at that table. For low-limit recreational players like me and most of my poker students and other seniors who have discovered the magic of the game, a more sedate (relaxed) game is preferred.

Occasional raises before the flop are just fine. My reason: Most hands dealt out are not worthy of your investment. Most of the other hands require a multi-way pot (3 or more callers seeing the flop) plus no raises preflop. This is the basis for the Hold’em Caveat, described in the Hold’em or Fold’em Booklet.

Best times

For example, weekend play is bound to bring out more casual players – as distinct from regulars – at the casino. Undoubtedly, you can win more chips from those who play less frequently.

Late evening is likely to include many losers (perhaps even a few on tilt, who appear anxious to give away the rest of their chips), struggling to try to break even for this session. (They most often will eventually lose the rest of their chips.)

You may see a gentleman, wearing jacket and tie, sit down at your poker table early on a weekday evening. Likely, he is a businessman seeking a few hours of relaxation after a long, perhaps stressful, day in the office.

Regard him as a recreational player who is more prone to call – rather than fold – with a marginal drawing hand, even from an early position.

Next: The conclusion.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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