Select Advantageous Tables
Table selection is one of the most overlooked aspects of winning at poker. It becomes even more important in the world of online play. Unlike brick and mortar games, internet poker minimizes the barriers to switching tables. In addition, many sites provide countless tables to select from. It would be foolish not to exploit table selection to its fullest to help improve your win rate at poker. This holds true regardless of the type of game you are playing, but is extremely lucrative in limit Texas Hold ‘Em because of its current popularity resulting in a large number of tables from which a player can select from. You can sit at a table with three world champions and still make money if the game has a few really poor players in it. The importance of poor players at your table cannot be overstated. This is where the money comes from, everyone else at the table is just arguing over how much of it they should get!
So how do I select an advantageous table? Great question, I was hoping you would ask that! There are several factors such as average pot size, flop percentage, number of players with short-stacks, and number of weak opponents in the game.
Average Pot Size
For starters, many people like to examine the table’s average pot size. Common belief is that the larger the average pot size is, the more lucrative your chances are at this table. Personally, I have found mixed results with this approach. Larger pot sizes sometimes indicate looser and weaker opponents, but many times they simply indicate more aggressive opponents. Aggressive opponents may be maniacs, but they may also be extremely skilled players and differentiating between the two can often be difficult. There are a few more points I would like to add about maniacs. Although they will lose their money in the long-run, playing against a maniac, or multiple maniacs, greatly increases your expected variance. In the long-run, this should work itself out, but many players, particularly learning players, may not want to incur high variances while they learn the game and build their bankroll. Another point on maniacs is that they are tougher opponents to play than less aggressive poor players because they become nearly impossible to put on a hand since they bet and raise with anything. Without any other information to rely on, choosing a table based on its average pot size has some merit, but I think true long-term profits resulting from table selection come from selecting tables with weak players and not simply from selecting tables with high average pot sizes.
Personally, I like playing at tables with high flop percentages. I would choose a table with a high flop percentage over a table with a high average pot size any day of the week. High flop percentages indicate that many players are paying to see the flop. This further indicates that these opponents have relatively loose starting hand requirements. This gives tight players (like you will be if you when you follow the advice in the Texas Help ‘Em guide or in the limit Hold ‘Em guide of your choice) an advantage right out of the shoot. They will be playing the dominated hands and experiencing all of the kicker trouble. It will be their flushes and straights that lose to higher flushes and straights. This is where the money comes from. There is nothing more frustrating that consistently losing to an opponent who seems to always have a higher kicker. That opponent can be you in games with high flop percentages. Many sites will publish a table’s flop percentage. Unfortunately, not all sites do publish this. If you are really dedicated, you can track a table for approximately 20 hands and get a good idea of where it stands. However, I realize many players won’t take the time to do this. In these cases what you can do is begin tracking the flop percentage for the first 20 or so hands after you start playing. If it is high, you are very likely at a lucrative table. If it is low and you have not noticed any poor players during those 20 hands, it might be time to look elsewhere for a game.
Chip Stack Sizes
Another method of table selection that I think is worth mentioning is examining the player’s chips sizes at the table. In general, only poor players will play short stacked. After you read my advice on opponent tracking (not yet available, but coming soon, please check back), you will learn why this is a symptom of a weak player (hence you will NOT play short stacked). Without any other knowledge about a player, their stack size can be remarkably telling. When selecting a table to play at, if I don’t recognize any bad players, don’t have access to table flop percentages, and don’t feel like going to war with a bunch of maniacs (or worse, a bunch of skilled aggressive opponents), I often look for a table with several people playing short-stacked. As I play there and track my opponent’s play, I will be able to more accurately stereotype these opponents and I can then choose whether or not I want to continue to play at this table.
Number of Weak Players
Finally, let me cover the best and most lucrative method of table selection. If you only take away one thing from this website, make this be it. Sit at tables with known bad players. Let me repeat this. Sit at tables with known bad players. I cannot overstate the importance of this.
You might be thinking “well how do I know who is a bad player” and “how do I know where these bad players are sitting”. This is information you must obtain over time. As you play, you will be tracking your opponent’s play (the Texas Help ‘Em guide, available at [http://www.TexasHelpEm.com], provides several suggestions for how to do this). Please keep in mind that tracking your opponent’s play is not solely done to be able to precisely predict what cards he currently has. It is done for a variety of reasons. It will allow you to categorize, or stereotype, your opponent into a particular type of player. Yes, one benefit of this stereotype is that it will allow you to better play your hands against them. However, this categorization will also help you in table selection. The easiest player to identify is a really bad player. They play too many hands, repeatedly make bad calls, fail to capitalize on their big hands, etc… As you track your opponent’s play and identify weak players (some like to refer to them simply as “fish”), make a note of them. Most poker sites have some kind of buddy tracking software (e.g. UltimateBuddy is used by UltimateBet, or the Buddy list provided by PartyPoker). Add these players to your buddy list. Over time, your list will grow and provide you with the best means of table selection. Why play against unknown opponents when you can play against known weak opponents?
For a further discussion on table selection and player tracking as well as additional keys to becoming a consistent winner at online low-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, please visit my website at [http://www.TexasHelpEm.com].
Texas Help ‘Em – An Online Player’s Guide to Low-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em
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