How to Choose a Poker Game

Poker is not just one game.

There is hold’em, Omaha, stud, razz, stud 8, Omaha 8, pineapple, crazy pineapple, big-O, triple-draw (ace-to-five, deuce-to-seven, or badugi) and then an unknowable number of other variations. Each game could be played limit, spread-limit, pot-limit, or no-limit. With no kill, half-kill, full-kill, or a rock. I’ve seen at least one game with a two-thirds kill.

On any given day, public poker rooms spread games with minimum bets as small as $1 or as large as $400. Games with $4,000 minimum bets run regularly. And at one point there was a game in Vegas with a minimum bet of $100,000.

Given this dizzing array of choices, how do you choose what game to play in?

Maximize fun

If you are playing for fun, pick the game that is the most fun.

That could be a game that is fast-paced, has a lot of action, and friendly players who enjoy conversation, camaraderie, and competition.

Or maybe you enjoy a game where every player tanks for sixty seconds before every action, everyone is completely silent behind their hoodies and sunglasses and the only thing the players have in common is a mutual disdain for each other and regular bathing.

Whatever it is, determine which games are fun for you and play those games.

Maximize winnings

If you are playing to win money, pick the game where you will win the most money.

It is impossible to know exactly what your expected value is for any given game, but you can estimate your win rate with ninety-five percent confidence.

It takes some trial and error to find out which games are most profitable for you, but it is absolutely worth it in order to maximize your winnings.

A little of both

Normal human beings don’t have a singular goal that they pursue at the exclusion of all others.

I want to have fun and win money. When I play poker I am willing to sacrifice some fun for money and some money for fun.

I won’t sit at the table with the big fish if they stink so bad that it makes me miserable. I give up some money to have a more pleasant experience.

And I won’t sit at the table with the deep thinkers who counter and re-counter my strategies. I give up some enjoyable challenges to have a more profitable experience.

It’s a tradeoff and it’s a tradeoff that will be different for each player.

That you can afford

Finally, make sure you choose a game that you can afford.

You cannot have fun playing poker or win money playing poker if you don’t have money to play poker.

Decide how much money you have to play poker. That is your bankroll. And decide how much risk you are willing to take of losing all of that money.

The Definitive Guide to Poker Bankroll Requirements explains how to figure out which games you can afford based on that. But the easy way to find out is to sign up at Neverbust for free and record your results there.

What do you think? What else should you consider when choosing a poker game? Tell me about it.