Thursday, April 8, 2010

Table selection 101

From a comment on my last post: "You mention very often table selection. Might it be possible for you to write an article one day about the way you choose tables, e.g. how long do you observe before sitting down... do you fixate yourself on a specific seat and wait till it's free? Are you using buddy lists?"

Why table select?

To put it as simply as possible, if you are the worst player on the table, you will lose (in the long term). Poker is a game of relativity - you could be a crap player, but if you're playing against worse players you could still be a long term winner. Conversely, you could be the 2nd best poker player in the world, but if you play against the best player, you will lose.

Conversely, if you are best player on the table, does that mean you will win? Well, actually no. Since rake (the house cut) is taken out of every hand, not only do you have to be better than enough players at the table, but better by a margin that also covers the rake. So for an extreme example, if i'm the best player in the world, and am playing against the second best, there's still a fair chance i'd lose in the long term, just because of the rake.

Therefore you need to carefully select tables that have enough players that are worse than you, by a large enough margin to at least cover the rake.

How to table select?

The answer is .... it depends.

Generally I would start by looking in the lobby at tables with the highest number of players per flop. I'm really looking for the loosest opponents, who are most likely to be quite fishy and willing to donate a lot of cash to the other players. (might talk about that a bit more in future posts as some people look for tighter tables, which, in my opinion, is crazy).

On a site like Fulltilt, where you can use pokertracker and a HUD, I also colour code my opponents. For Fulltilt, these colours show up in the lobby view, so you don't even need to open the table to see if there are fish on it. For me, I code the very loose fish a bright green, and preferably if there's two or more on the table, i'll open it up and jump on or add myself to the waiting list.

On Cake poker, where you can't use poker tracker, I make manual notes against each player. These notes do not appear in the lobby view, so I have to open individual tables and then click on each player to check their stats,or view their colour code, generally starting with the player to the right of an open seat. If there are plenty of fish on the table and it is full i'd then just add myself to the wait list.

If the table is full of unknown opponents, then I am a little more reliant on the lobby players per flop figure. If it is very high there's a reasonable chance i'll sit down straight away at an empty seat, and then watch the table fairly closely both before I play a hand and for the first couple orbits. If there are a couple seats free or it's at the top end of my preferred stakes, its more likely that i'll just watch the action for an orbit or two to try to spot a loose passive to sit next to. If the table appears to be super aggro, i'll probably just give it a miss if the opponents are unknown.

Generally what i'm looking for, is a table which has a seat with two loose passive fish to the right, which i'll talk about a little more in seat selection (maybe my next post). If I can find a table with even more loose passives i'd jump at the chance, and instantly add myself to the wait list. Even one huge fish on my right would be acceptable if I know they regularly donate 10+BB/100.

I'm not really using buddy lists, as only certain sites seem to support it. Playing fixed limit 6 max, there's often not that many tables running, so I don't need to go looking for certain opponents, but rather accept any table that looks adequately fishy.

After selecting your table, though, you also need to keep monitoring it, just in case it tightens up as the fish leave, or better players join. I'm always prepared to leave a table if this happens, irrespective of how i'm running.

Current bankroll: $25,250
April time played: 8.3h
April hands played: 1,576
April profit / (loss): $550


ovchica said...

I agree with everything you said about table & seat selection. It is so important these days that you can't afford to not care about it if you want to be a winner.

shit said...

Your post re table selection is very interesting and I thank you already lots answering to my comment with such a great level of detail.

Since table selection and the subsequent seat selection are very closely correlated i'm looking forward reading about it.

My experience shows though that it's sometimes very difficult - after finding a potential table with enough supposed fishes - to get 1. a positional seat on them 2. get a positional seat before the table tightens up...