The importance of table selection cannot be understated. It can be the entire difference between being a winning player and losing player.
To illustrate this example think of five professional players, like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, or any other professionals you like. If you play in a game with them, even if you play your very best it is unlikely you’ll be a winning player. On the other hand, if you play with five people who have never played the game, you can likely crush the game while fooling around.
These extremes of game difficulty aren’t present in real life, but at any limit there are tables that are easier or more difficult to win at than other based on who is sitting at it. There are three main habits you should introduce into your table selection if you don’t currently use them.
1. Keep a ‘Favorites’ list
Most major sites allow you to put players on a favorites or buddy list of some kind. If you get into the habit of adding bad players to your list, over time you will accumulate a large list. You can then search this at the beginning of sessions to see which bad players are currently playing and trying to get a seat at their table.
2. Limit Your Tables
To table select well you need to be able to actively scan the lobby for open seats at tables with fish on them. If you find that you’re too busy at the tables you currently have open, you may need to reduce how many you play. If they’re all healthy tables that you’re a sure winner at you can pause your lobby scanning until any of them look like they’re about to break-up.
3. Look for Common ‘Fish’ Signs
When you’re looking at tables in the lobby you first want to identify any fish at a table. Some common signs are:
- Name of popular player in username
- Buys in for random stack amount
- Doesn’t auto-top up stack
If you see any of these players, try to sit down. At the same time, you should also look out for tables infested with regular players. Regular players, or ‘regs’, are typically the best players at a limit who play the most. While you shouldn’t be afraid of them, you won’t typically win much or any from them.
4. Remember Money Flows ClockwisePosition is a powerful concept in poker, which basically means that if you get to act after your opponent, you have an advantage because you have more options and information. This means that it is best to sit directly to the left of a fish, ideally within one or two seats of him/her. Since the fish will lose his money faster than an average player, the people directly to the left of him/her are likely to get most of it.
If you follow these four concepts, you will be able to continuously find games to play in that you are profitable in. Over time they will become instinct and it will take less effort to find good games. Do your best to put aside your ego and realize that some players are easier to beat than others, and you will have a long and profitable poker career.