Table Selection – Why Picking the Right Table is Key
Picking a good table is just as important as hand selection and choosing the wrong table can cost you in the long run, as the Tip Top Fox explains:
Often overlooked by casual players eager to get into the thick of the action, table selection is just as important to your bottom line as hand selection and position. Pick a tough table and you have to fight tooth and nail, even for the small pots, but pick the right table and you can make money hand over fist.
Why Table Select?
Table selection directly affects your win rate. If you don’t have a definable edge over your opponents then you are at a disadvantage. As Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott says in the 1998 film Rounders: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half an hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”
Poker is not about playing with the best of the best, it’s about making money. With the margins in the modern game becoming slimmer it’s much easier to show a profit playing against weak players.
Picking The Right Table
With information on how a table is playing – the number of players to a hand, the average size of the pots, and the pre-flop raise percentage – viewable in the lobby before you even sit down, there is no excuse in the online era to play in a bad poker game.
Another table can be opened in a matter of seconds; all it takes is the click of a button. There is even tracking software like Hold’em Manager, PokerTracker, and TableNinja that can pick out the most profitable tables available. Of course, if you don’t have this software or are playing live it can be tougher to spot the ‘good’ tables, but you should be looking at the average pot size and the VPIP/PFR (Voluntary Put $ In Pot/Pre-flop Raise) statistics.
Big pots are usually an indication of too many players seeing the flop and not folding enough. A table with big pots and players with a high VPIP/PFR is usually a profitable game. However, a high average pot percentage is also the sign of an aggressive game, as loose/passive opponents don’t raise all that often.
Tables with smaller pots but with players with a high VPIP and low PFR percentage can be just as profitable. You are just aiming to win lots of small pots rather than a few really big ones. Of course, this means that a different playing style is needed at each table type.
Adapting To The Table
A tight-aggressive game (TAG) is the most profitable to play at a table with a high average pot, VPIP, and PFR statistics. You should pick your spots and opponents carefully as where there are fish there are sharks. Play your big hands aggressively and isolate the fish by raising/re-raising to take your hand heads-up or three-way. Of course, it is better to do this in position and you should also look to sit to the left of the bad players. You should not be playing marginal hands out of position (OOP) against good players, and if the fish leave you should immediately be searching for a better table.
A loose passive game with lots of pre-flop open limping means you can play a little looser and should be looking to get in cheaply in position with more speculative hands like mid-small pocket pairs and suited gap connecters. You need to hit the flop hard before you commit to the hand though, as with so many players per flop, top pair top kicker is far from being the nuts.
It is possible for an average player who table selects well to show bigger profits than more skillful players who ignore the impact table selection has on their bottom line. While playing in competitive games against tough opponents improves your skill level you should always be looking for the more profitable games against softer opposition. This will enable you to take shots at the tougher games, as your bankroll will be a great deal healthier.