Over poker’s evolution, the trend of specializing at a particular game type has become more popular among competitive players. Specialists have a natural advantage over generalists since such a high concentration of their studying goes towards mastering the only game they play.
Now sometimes a single game can be multifaceted and complex; if you gravitate towards an 8-game mix or playing tournaments there are a collection of minigames to learn within the overall game type. I don’t mean to discount the value of a liberal arts poker education so that you can jump into any situation when you really want to play, but to become the most successful player you can be you’ll want to stick to one game type.
At Poker Power, we help you learn and hone your skills at N0-Limit Texas Hold ’em in a tournament format. But with a seemingly limitless array of options, here’s how to find your favorite poker game.
Step one: try everything
To understand your options and how each game feels to play, I recommend you learn through experience. You can gather friends and play the games locally or you can log on to a poker site and try each game type with play chips. I’d recommend you play at least 200 hands of each format to get a feel for the nuance involved.
What is everything? I don’t mean every homebrew game that anyone has ever concocted, but I do mean a pretty exhaustive list of commonly played poker variants. Here’s my recommendation for what should be on your list:
- Full Ring NLH (No Limit Hold’ em) cash games
- 6-max NLH cash games
- Heads Up NLH cash games
- Full Ring NLH MTTs (Multitable Tournaments)
- 3-handed NLH Sit and Go Tournaments
- Full Ring Limit Hold’em cash games
- Full Ring SDNLH (Short-Deck No Limit Hold’ em) cash games
- Full Ring PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) cash games
- 6-max PLO Cash Games
- Heads Up PLO cash games
- Full Ring PLO MTTs
- Full Ring 8-game mix cash games (Stud, Stud 8, Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, No Limit 2-7 Single Draw, Limit Hold’em,
- Fixed Limit Omaha 8, Fixed Limit Double Board Omaha, option of Badugi)
- Full ring 8-game mix MTTs
- Open Face Chinese Poker Cash Games
That’s a daunting list to look at, but it’s really just important to discover your favorite game to play, your favorite table size, and whether you prefer tournaments or cash games. Enjoy the learning process and accept that you won’t be great at every game type right out of the gate.
The term cash game really just means a game that you can buy into and at any time and leave at any time. Whereas a tournament you are committed to playing until you lose your chips or win. Cash game can also be referred to as a ring game.
Step two: reflect on your strengths
After you get a feel for each game, make a mental note of what you liked and what you felt strongest in relative to your opponents. Enjoyment should be top priority when selecting a game you’ll commit a lot of time to so consider which games got more fun the more you learned about them.
In terms of your starting skill level, think about the games that came naturally to you. It might feel like stud is an easy game for everyone, but in reality you could just have a great memory for mucked up-cards.
Dig into some general strategic concepts for the game types you lean towards — such as how card removal is used in that game — and compare your intuition to the literature of existing strategy. Improving will be easiest in games where your instincts are strongest.
Step three: consider your opportunities
With a shortlist of games that have caught your fancy, it’s time to take scope of what runs in your area. Let’s say you have an aptitude for both NLH Tournaments and Open Face Chinese Poker cash games. Your local poker scene could have one or both of these games on offer regularly or it could not.
Do a bit of sleuthing: if you just like to play with friends, ask your friends what their favorite games are. Poker is only fun when you have people to play with; look at where the action is and allow popularity to inform your decision.
If you enjoy playing poker online, investigate what games are running on sites that are legal in your area. I personally play Heads Up NLH Sit and Go Tournaments because Heads Up NLH is my favorite game type and heads up cash games are not offered on sites legal in my state.
Step four: anticipate the future of poker
Finally, follow trends to predict which game types will remain popular throughout the timespan you plan on playing for. Generally speaking the easier a poker game is to play perfectly, the shorter its lifespan will be in the eyes of the masses. Limit Hold’em is unlikely to be a relevant game in ten years for this reason.
Another indicator of a game’s longevity is the velocity of chip movement at a table. Increasingly poker is becoming attractive to enthusiasts of games where equities run close. Games like Big O, PLO, Pineapple, and Short Deck NLH are gaining ground on traditional NLH because they encourage more action, swings and excitement.
Particularly if you’re a young player, be on the hunt for the next big game. You’ll develop a huge upper hand by compiling a coherent strategy through a breadth of experience; advantages compound in poker so the leg up you enjoy out of the gate will persist until you stop working on your game.
Historically popular formats will remain popular with older demographics of players for the foreseeable future, but to share the table with the younger generation and their changing interests it helps to know the metagame of the times.
Ultimately, poker is what you make of it. Investing a bit of time to introspect on the right game type for you can turn an entertaining pastime into a lifelong love. If you want to learn more about poker with a group of curious peers, click here to sign up for free Poker Power lessons. Take your seat at the table and discover the power of poker.
POKER POWER is for educational purposes and does not permit gambling in our clubs. No poker experience is required.