Whereas most live-action players (outside of California and Las Vegas) have a very restricted choice of possible games, the range of games on offer online is immense. Instead of driving to a cardroom, placing your name on the $5/$10 list and taking a seat when it becomes available, online you can choose between several limits, with many sites even offering several simultaneous games at the same limit. With so many different games to choose from, selecting the right opportunity becomes a much more important aspect of the game. Indeed, for players at $5/$10 and above, in particular, the consistent ability to identify good games in which to play have a significant effect on your bottom line at the end of the year – game selection becomes that much more important as you move up in limits.
Finding your Limit
The first and most fundamental aspect of game selection is identifying the correct limit at which to play: one that is commensurate with your abilities and bankroll; not so high that you feel intimidated, and not ‘ so low that you become bored and fail to play your best game.
In general, the standard of opposition will rise as you move up in limit, since you would hardly expect someone with the ability to beat a $10/$20 game to be playing in a $1/$2 game; it would simply not be worth their while. However, it is sometimes argued that some of the players in the $30/$60 game at TitanPoker are considerably weaker than those that frequent the $5/$10 game. One possible explanation for this is the fact that some $30/$60 players may be very wealthy and are naturally drawn towards the higher limits to make the stakes meaningful, regardless of whether they possess the requisite poker skills or not.
In contrast, the $5/$10 games at Titan Poker are neither big enough to provide excitement for these wealthy ‘action’ players, nor small enough to appeal to poker newcomers, most of whom will naturally choose to begin their apprenticeship at $3/$6 and below. Furthermore, some winning $30/$60 brick and mortar players may choose to play at lower limits online for reasons of trust, fearing the possibility of collusion.
Thus sometimes the $5/$10 PartyPoker games are filled with solid, experienced players who lack the bankroll or confidence to play at higher limits. Having said all that, the nature of poker is such that successful players do gravitate towards the higher limits, so the very best online players can nearly always be found playing at the highest limits available.
In a fairly recent (2001) Card Player article Nolan Dalla put forward the interesting theory that ‘the highest-limit games do not necessarily equate to the greatest potential win amount.’ He claims that over the years he has made far more money playing in the second-highest game in a brick and mortar cardroom than the highest, and in such circumstances he will often prefer a $10/$20 game to a $20/40 game. His theory rests on the following arguments:
• The highest-limit game will usually contain the best players at the cardroom.
• The highest-limit game may contain players who would usually play even higher if such a game were to be spread.
• The second-highest game will often contain a cross-section of players, including players who are not good enough for the higher game and those who are stepping up from low-limit games to ‘take a shot’ at a higher limit.
• The second-highest game will usually contain more ‘loose-passive’ players than the highest game, and this absence of aggression (with many players seeing the flop without a raise) is, he believes, exactly what you should be looking for in a game.
Dalla concludes that ‘A winning player can make just as much playing one limit lower than his normal game – providing that the players are considerably weaker.’ Instead, many players become tied to their ego, believing that it would be a step backwards to play in, to use his example, a $10/$20 game when they usually play higher. Don’t fall into this trap – by all means strive to find the ‘ideal’ limit for your ability and bankroll, but at the same time you should be flexible enough to move up or down depending upon the specific game selection opportunities available at that particular time.