Game selection means use caution

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You need to be careful about which games you elect to sit in and which games you elect to stay in. Here are some scenarios that might bring up a “move or don’t move” choice and how you might approach that decision. You need to keep in mind that it’s possible the correct move is to just go home. There’s usually a lot more variance in a game that you can make $20 per hour in than a game you can make $60 per hour in and while it’s not possible to know the difference in such specific terms, you should be able to eyeball it.

THE BIG DONKEY JUST ARRIVED: It’s time to go tip the person who handles the seating and make sure we get moved to that table immediately. Right? Not always. Here’s the thing about the legendary fish in poker rooms: All of the reasonable players in that room know about the legendary fish. If you’re the first or second to move to that game it might be worth it, but especially in those scenarios where new tables start because of the big fish, you may often find yourself in a game with the fish and six of the best players in the room.

YOU’RE UP NEXT FOR THE MAIN GAME: Finally. You’ve been waiting all day and your stack is huge. You get to go from the must-move game to the main game where all of the big stacks are and play some serious poker. Right? Um, maybe. Again, here’s the thing, must-move games invariably end up with the better players. Often, the fish in a game will show up with one buy-in and a few hours to play and are less likely to make it to the main game. Depending on the lineup, this is possibly going to be the end of your session. Make sure you look at the main game and try to make an objective decision as to whether it’s worth moving.

YOUR GAME MAY BREAK SOON: This takes some skill, but in the event that your game looks like it’s going to break, you need to try to find a good target for your next move. Don’t try to go to a game with only one seat if there’s shorter games; look at those shorter games and see which ones look juicy. Don’t leave your game to do it; this will accelerate the game breaking, but know where you want to go. When the floor or brush comes over to break you, politely ask to go to Table 6 and, since you’re the first one to ask, you’ll get that option. Sometimes rooms will have you draw for priority as well, so know where you want to go when it’s your turn.

TRANSFER LIST: Each room is different, but you usually can narrow down when the better players will be strolling in the room each day, especially if there’s a big promotion that starts at a specific time. If you have your name on a transfer list, as your table fills up you’ll be able to make a choice as to whether you want to move or stay put. You won’t be able to move until your game is full and if one of the other pros in the game notices the game getting bad before you, you’ll have to wait longer.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.