The Noob Guide to Choosing Your First Poker Game

From my experience, many beginner poker players aren’t sure of what games they should play. What ends up happening is that they bounce around a lot from game to game, not becoming efficient or profitable at any one of them. In the long run, these players end up losing money, and some even get discouraged and quit.

So what I want to do in this article is explain a few things you should consider when choosing a poker game to play. I won’t be able to tell you what games are best for you. But I hope this information will help you to make a more informed decision.

What to Consider When Choosing a Poker Game

A mistake that I made starting out was not realizing what each game entails in regards to buy-ins, time frame, money to be made and volume. These are important variables to consider since each game is so different in this sense. Let’s look at a couple examples to better understand what I mean.


In regards to time, I’ll compare 2 games that I know well — 18-man and 180-man SNGs.

An 18-man SNG takes about 45 minutes to complete, from start to win. Compare this to an 180-man which takes roughly 2 hours from start to win.

This is important to look at for a couple of reasons. One, you need to decide how much time in your day that you can block out to play. Two, and really a consequence of how much time you can block out, but how much volume would you like to get in per day? In a 2hr block, you can get in roughly 25-30 18-mans 10 tabling assuming you load a new table as soon as you bust. You can only get in roughly 15-18 180-mans.

And it’s not just about making money, as in dollars per game. But you should also consider your other goals. For example, volume is needed to earn VIP points at a lot of sites. So if you want to achieve a higher VIP status, playing games that last longer might not be the best way to go.

Compare Money to Be Made in SNGs

Now, although 180-mans take longer to play, there’s more money to be made per game. There are guys out there with a 50% ROI at the $12 games, which means they earn roughly $6 profit per game. At a similar level 18-man ($16s), guys earn around $2 per game. So 50 games equals $100 in an 18-man whereas 50 games in 180s equals $300. This is a big difference considering that you only need to play 33-50% longer to earn 300% more money. (50 games can easily be played per day for both 18s and 180s.)

Available Volume in SNGs

Another variable to consider is volume. Not the amount of volume you can put in, but the amount of games that simply load up throughout the day. The times they load are also important too.

For example, 18-mans run all day. When the USA was still able to play, the 18-mans would load at the rate of 1 for every 30 seconds during the day. They would slow down at night, but you could still get a full set in. 180-mans run all day too — but they load much slower throughout the day (1 for every 5 minutes, maybe more), and at night you’d have to load up 45 or 90-mans, if not a completely different game altogether (like 18s) if you wanted to get any sort of volume in.

This will hold true for all games. You will definitely want to look at when the games load, how fast they load and when they slow down. If the games don’t load enough to meet your needs, you might need to mix in other games or (as I recommend in the beginning) find a different game.

Cash Games vs. SNGs

Up to this point I’ve only mentioned SNGs, but a lot of you guys may be considering cash games. There’s a few things to consider here too.

For one thing, cash games are nice because you can sit down whenever you want and get up whenever you want. You can’t do that in SNGs — you’re stuck playing until you bust or win.

The profit ceiling is much higher for cash games too. It’s possible to earn thousands a day in SNGs, but you can play for thousands per hand in a cash game. That’s a big, big difference.

However, that’s once you get higher up in stakes. At the lower stakes, you can earn money faster (from my experience) in SNGs. In a 10nl or 25nl game, you might average $.50 to $1 per 100 hands, which is about an hour at a 6-max table. If you can play 10 tables at once, you can make $5 to $10 per hour. Not horrible (for small stakes). But compared to SNGS, say $3-18s, I can play 12 tables in a hour at about $.80 each in profit, or $9.60 an hour. And you can probably do a little bit better if you were to play 45 or 180-mans.

Which Poker Game to Play?

The best piece of advice I can give is find a game that you enjoy playing and just stick to it. Use the info I gave above, and determine what might best fit in current situation. If you’re short on time, need volume or want to rack up VIP points, you’re probably better off sticking to cash games or single and double table SNGs.

However, if you’re not stuck on time and you want to earn a higher dollar amount per game, then larger games such as 27, 45, 90 and 180-man SNGs might be the better option. Or even MTTs.

This isn’t to say that you need to stay put in that one game; not forever at least. Once you get a game and basic strategy down, it won’t be difficult for you to adjust to new games so that you can further your horizons as a poker player, as well as give yourself opportunities to win more money. Just be sure to give yourself the time to become profitable first.