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Poker strategy essays

Game selection in high stakes No Limit Holdem

By Eric Nevlys

When you enter the world of high stakes, No Limit Texas Holdem you have crossed the threshold into an exciting and somewhat foreboding place. These games feature the most pressure, the highest amounts of money and the best players. They also offer the greatest rewards and most intense challenges in all of poker.

To be successful in this world, you must be well equipped, and possibly the most important skill you need to have must be exercised before you ever sit at the poker table. To really reap high stakes, No Limit Holdem poker profits, you must be a master of game selection.

At the highest stakes No Limit Texas Holdem games, you will tend to find three types of players. Professionals, players who think they are professionals and "whales," players with a lot of money to burn who want to challenge the best and aren't worried about how much money it will cost them to do so. You may already see why it behooves you to find the best games.

So how can you find the right high stakes, No Limit Holdem game to sit in? The only answer is observation. Watch the players and how they play. The ones with the big stacks are often strong players, but they could easily be players who continually rebuy as soon as they get low, or weaker players on a lucky streak. By the same token, a very strong player could be experiencing a bad run of luck and be down on chips. Watching the play of the game will be the only true indicator.

If the game is live, it may be tough to get close enough to get some really good information. However, clearly if you recognize the majority of the players from television, this may be a game you want to avoid, unless the players you recognize are those who have won a single big tournament, as they may have gotten lucky and vastly overestimate their playing abilities. Additionally, players who make a big show of how high they are playing are often in the "think they're professionals" category, although very savvy pros may act obnoxiously or overly boldly in order to appear much more maniacal than they really are.

Online poker games offer a much better chance for observation. You can see which players seem to be overly aggressive, trying to bully their opponents out of every flop, and which ones pick their spots. You'll see who is winning by sucking out and which players are making genuinely good plays. If you've reached this level of play through playing at the lower stakes, you probably already like to observe your opponents to try to pick something up before you sit down at the online poker table, so this should come naturally. If there are only one or two high stakes games and the games seem to have more sharks than fish, you should probably play at the highest middle stakes no-limit game instead. If your goal, like most professional players, is to have the highest win rate possible, a middle stakes game full of amateurs is probably going to suit your needs better. If money really isn't the issue and you just want to challenge the best, feel free to sit down at the shark game. Be aware that those players will be smelling blood and coming after you though, so you'd better have your best poker game ready if you want to survive.

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