One of the most underrated tools for maximizing profits when playing poker is practicing good table selection. There are several ways to do this that I have found very effective through my years of playing. Unfortunately some of us aren't in a poker mecca like Las Vegas, Florida, or California and we aren't afforded this option. But for those who have options this article is for you.
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Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2008 7:52 am Posts: 1184 Location: Cleveland, Ohio
A few questions. Suppose you don't really have a good read on the table -- e.g., you don't already know any of the players and there hasn't been a lot of action while you are watching. What sorts of things should you be looking for to tell you it's a bad table (should I look for how loose people are playing, someone on tilt, more or less players seeing each flop, really short or really deep stacks)? Is it style dependent, so that a good table for you might be a terrible one for me? Also, if you don't have different casino choices, how can you tell if there might be a better table in that room? Thanks!
P.S. I live where there aren't a lot of casinos, play mostly low stakes limit and have just started messing around with $1-2 NL. So I'm not sure that there is much difference there is between tables. But, I figure it's still worth knowing what to look for when I do have options.
_________________ The opinions in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Poker Atlas, AVP or PokerTrip Enterprises.
Two quick indicators that you might see in the first couple rounds or while watching are the preflop bets/calls and the conversationalness (we'll pretend that's a word) of the players.
If it's it's 1/2 and 12 is getting called in 3 spots regularly you can be sure it's a good table. If there's a few chops in the time you're standing their watching or 7 bucks seems to win without much fight, you could probably do better.
Similarly if you sit down and everyone seems to be in an agreeable mood, talking and joking, not only will your stay be more enjoyable, but there's a good chance they are more in the mood to gamble. Poker is play for most people, but if you sit down at a table that doesn't feel especially playful, they probably aren't in it for the fun...or the rush. Old farts are notorious nits with a noticable lack of playfulness.
The reason I think loose players make a better game is because loose play is significantly more difficult to pull off. It is probably the most profittable style long term, but there's way more variance to survive and really just more to remember, pay attention to and implement. It also doesn't fair well with other good loose players so the odds of you sitting with three loose players who happen to be the future Ivey, Dwan and Hansen are really small. If you do spot a good loose player they're still good for the game and likely the other players are playing "over their head" because they've got the table going the same way an action player would have. Try to sit on their left and not let your game be affected.
And yes, I good game for me may be a bad one for you. As you play more you'll find out which type of games suit your style best so look for indicators that the game is the kind that suits your style. Some people prosper in tables of maniacs and some hate the variance and would rather 3-4 good players, a few mediocre ones, and a few bad ones. It's all in what you prefer.
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:16 am Posts: 2916 Location: Seattle area
Good post. One of the best things about coming to Vegas is table selection. There are a lot of medium and large rooms where you can ask for another table and if you don't find a good table, there's another casino a 10-minute walk away.
Things I look for that make a good table 1) Number of people seeing the flop in limped pots. More is better. A lot of six-way and seven-way pots means people are playing junk. 2) Number of people to flop in raised pots. More is essentially better. But if raised pots are always 4-5 way, you're in for a wild ride -- because people will suck out with crazy 2-pair hands against your top pair. If raises often take down the pot pre-flop or go heads up, the table is too tight. 3) Size of the standard raise. If people are raising 6 or 7 BB and getting action, that's great. If people raise to 3-4 BB and anything larger doesn't get action that may not be the best. You can make money raising the limpers to 7 BB, but it's kinda boring winning money $8 at a time. Also, you can't protect your stack with a 3 BB raise. 4) % of pots raised pre-flop. Less isn't necessary better. If there's only one raise per orbit that means people are raising just AA, KK and sometimes QQ. That sounds nice, but this likely means you're going to play a lot of small pots. If 2/3 of the pots are raised, that's a pretty aggressive table and you could do better. 25-40% is good, as it means people are raising top 10 hands only. It means you'll get action when you raise but you'll also be able to see a lot of flops cheaply. A word of caution, one orbit doesn't make a good sample though "no raises" or "8 raises" is pretty telling. 5) Hands shown down, especially in raised pots. If there's a pre-flop raise and people show K6s, J7o, and A9 and other marginal limping hands it's a petty good table. 6) People calling off a large percentage of their stack pre-flop. You see this a lot and it's perhaps easiest to spot. If a player limps for 2 then calls a raise to 15 with only 100 behind, what is he hoping to do (besides get lucky)? And really it doesn't have to be that extreme. If you see player put in 10% of their stack pre-flop it's loose and weak.