Good Table Selection is Key to Profitability
Table selection is one of the best ways to increase your profitability in poker. Where you choose to sit has a profound effect on how much money you can make from the game.
Think of it this way. You are the sixth-best poker player in the world, one who regularly wins substantial sums of money. Will you be profitable if you sit at a table with the top five poker players on the planet? It should not be a surprise to learn the answer is no. You will win some money, but you are an underdog in the game and luck plays a pivotal role.
You make most of your money from poker when your opponents make mistakes. Solid players make fewer mistakes than weaker players. Therefore, you want to play against weaker opponents whenever you can. Some players claim their dream table is one seating several of poker’s big winners. That is just bravado talking. What they should wish for is a table full of people who do not even know hand rankings!
Table Selection: First Impressions
What constitutes a good table? The same criteria apply to both online poker and live poker. The first thing you need to do is take a look at the people sat at the table. This is easier in the live poker arena, obviously.
Look at the age of each of the players. Younger players tend to be more aggressive and older players more passive. Furthermore, younger players tend to play more loose with the older generation employing a tighter style.
Online poker players give information away via their alias. Nicknames featuring names of popular TV shows and new slang phrases are usually younger players. Find clues in numbers in opponents’ names, too. A name such as “Brad1992” hints at them being born in 1992 so they could be 27-years-old. Likewise, someone called “Brad2018” is unlikely to be one-year-old, but could have only been playing poker for a year.
Be aware, however, that some intelligent players create aliases to throw you off the scent. “Rock1952” probably is not a tight-passive 67-year-old!
Watch The Action / Scan the Lobby
You need to decide what sort of opponents you want to face; it is down to personal preference. A table full of tight-aggressive players is not where you want to be at. We discussed TAG players previously and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses. Sitting down with several TAGs is going to make for a difficult session, one that could be quite frustrating.
Conversely, try not to sit down with a table of loose-aggressive players either. It is bad enough if you have one or two of these crazy folks to contend with. Having four or five of them if the thing of nightmares!
Live poker players have no choice other than to watch a few hands take place. Watch the prefop action, is there much three-betting? Are hands progressing beyond the flop? What sort of hands are being revealed at showdown?
Online poker players have the added advantage of statistics in the lobby. Playing at somewhere like Ignition Poker or Bovada allows you to see how the tables are playing before you sit down. VPIP and Average Pot are the two key indicators. The former is how often players are seeing a flop, and Average Pot is exactly what you think.
It is best to avoid tables where both these figures are low. High VPIP and large average pot means there are likely loose-aggressive players seated., but also a game that is giving lots of action. Low VPIP and low average pot indicates a table of tight-passive players. A low VPIP and larger than average pot shows tight-aggressive players live here!
You should also look at the stack sizes of your potential opponents. Online players sat with less than 100 big blinds do not have auto top-up turned on so are likely to be more on the recreational side. Short stacks can be a pain to play against because you never have the correct implied odds to chase draws or hoping to flop a set.
Find the God Seat With Table Selection
The God seat is the best seat at your ideal table. Not all seats are created equally even at a good table. Ideally, you want to be seated to the left of the players who are most tricky and aggressive. This way you get to see how they act before deciding how to play your hand. Also, you can re-raise them if you know they are playing very loose and bullying the table. You still have position on them throughout the hand even if they call you.
Many online poker sites are doing away with table selection and randomizing the seating process. Live poker players have the chance to simply stand up and move to a new seat on the table when it becomes free.
Never stay in a table that turns bad, especially online where you have more choice. A game with high VPIP and high average pot attracts good players. These good players vacuum up the bad players chips and the table is left with solid players only. Keep an eye out for this happening and switch tables if needed.