In poker, it’s all about game selection



You don’t have to be a great player to make money at poker. To be frank, there are times when you don’t even have to be good. The key is to be less bad than the players at your table.

In poker, you earn money by making fewer mistakes than opponents. Yeah, exploiting other players’ mistakes is fun, but let’s focus on playing mistake-free poker. In cash games, grinders are privileged in a sense. They can choose to play at certain tables.

They can ask the floor person to be put on a list for a specific table, whereas in a tournament, if you draw a table with two 21-year-olds with headphones on your left you’re kinda screwed for the rest of the day. Table break, one time!

The key to table selection is to let go of your ego. This is tough for the most players, but if you can quiet the beast you’ll most certainly observe a boost in your bottom line. I see a lot of my friends grinding tough cash games infested with full-time grinders. What’s the point? They’re just passing money around and paying rake.

This game is about money and profitability. I’d rather play at smaller stakes and make money than take turns trading coolers with the regs. Why do you play poker? Is it the competition? If so, then go ahead and butt heads with other pros. If it’s about paying rent, then go find a soft table where you know you have an edge. Screw what the other players think about you for playing a smaller game.

What’s the best way to pick a table? I suggest stereotyping. I’m going to catch some flak for this, but it’s true. Here are a few pointers:

AGE: If the table has two or three older players, it’s probably a good game. They tend to play passively and can be run over a lot. They also tend to stack off because of their inability to fold overpairs.

ALCOHOL: If someone has a lot of money in front of them and they’re drinking, pull up a seat. Actively try to get involved in pots with them because they’re bound to spaz at some point.

GENDER: There are a ton of really amazing female poker players, but, generally speaking, if you see a middle-aged woman playing mid-stakes cash games she’s usually not very good. Be careful, though. I play a lot with a high-stakes regular at the Borgata who is a woman. She understands how people adapt to her. She understands who’s going to try to bluff her and she understands exactly what her flirting does to the other players.

Take everything you read here with a grain of salt and you should be all right. Be picky. Picky is good. Being a game-selection nit will make you money. And like I always say, money is pretty cool.

— Mike Wolf is a team pro at Email him at and follow his adventures on Twitter @mikewolf7.

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine