The Tsunami

Strategize. Optimize. Pulverize.


Table Selection

Suppose you’re the best shorthanded no-limit hold’em player in the world. You sit at a $500-$1,000 blind shorthanded no-limit hold’em game with five other world-class shorthanded no-limit hold’em players. Meanwhile, at the same time, there’s a $100-$200 blind shorthanded no-limit hold’em game featuring three world-class players and two relatively weak players. If your goal is to make the most money per hour, which table would you prefer to site at?

Though the $100-$200 blind game is smaller, it may very well be the case that your expected win rate at that game will be higher than your expected win rate in the $500-$1,000 blind game. It only takes one or two relatively weak players to affect your expected bottom line substantially – especially in a shorthanded game, where fewer opponents can run interference. And remember that your hourly win-rate is a function of both stakes and competition.

If table selection is important for world-class players, imagine how important it is for you!

The Ideal Games

Many authors write about wanting to play in cash games that are loose and passive. This basically means that people like to stay in hands, and that they typically do so by calling. Another keyword I’d like to ascribe to these games is straightforward. The most profitable games for you will be ones where your opponents employ very little trickery. Against straightforward, passive opponents, you can 1.) value bet your marginal hands to death 2.) know when your good hands are beaten and 3.) pick up lots of free cards.

Players who are too loose and passive are generally the best source of income for a winning poker player, but don’t forget that players who are too anything are exploitable to varying degrees.  Players who are too tight will allow you to enter more pots if they’re to your right or to your left (if they’re to your right, they’ll preempt you with preflop raises less often than they should; if they’re to your left, you’ll be able to steal their blinds effectively). Players who are too aggressive will create inflated pots in situations that they normally shouldn’t. If you’re going to be a winning player in medium- and high-stakes cash games, recognizing how to exploit all player types is important. The higher up you move in stakes, the less often you’ll encounter extremely exploitable loose passive players.

If you’re a tournament player, your goal should be to find tournaments with overlays, good blind structures, favorable payout structures, and typically weak fields. Additionally, never forget that maximizing hourly winnings is more important than maximizing return on investment (ROI).  Play around at different venues and on different online poker sites to find the tournaments that are best for you. Once you find juicy tournaments, play them religiously.

Discipline is Key

Sometimes you’ll be lucky and stumble upon a really good game. However, you usually need to go out and find it. If you’re in a casino, walk around and observe all the games before sitting. If there’s a board, and you have no choice regarding where you first sit, request a table change if you’re seated at a tough table. If you’re playing online, table hop until you find a game with at least one player who’s exploitable in an identifiable manner. It’s not good enough to think that a player is exploitable. You need to identify why a player is exploitable and what you can do to capitalize (i.e. don’t assume your entitled to winning money; identify precisely how you’re going to win money).

Finally, regardless of how you’ve been doing at a table, don’t grow roots at your table. Games change over time, so if a once easy game has become tough, change tables. Be disciplined, keep your ego out of things, and you’ll be rewarded with a rapidly growing bankroll.


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