Cash Game Table Selection

One of the most important and least talked about concepts in poker is table and game selection. I take pride in my choice of games to play in, I may not be the greatest poker player going around, but I feel like table selection is a real strength of mine. With practical and rational decision making before you sit in a poker game you can increase your win rate by so much. A break-even player can be very profitable just by being very selective with when and where he or she plays.

With all that said I want to share a few tips and a bit of knowledge I have picked up over the course of playing in no limit hold ’em cash games. Most of my advice pertains to full-ring, as that is my game, but equally a good choice of opponents and situations in 6-max and heads-up scenarios is crucial.

What Makes A Good Table?

  • Not many short stackers
  • Not many regulars
  • Loose pre-flop and post-flop play
    • Look for large % of players seeing flops and large pots
  • Full stacked aggressive players and fish to your right
  • Short stacks and tight/predictable players to your left

Time of Day/Day of the Week
If you only have a few hours to devote to poker a week then you want to make sure you schedule your time to best take advantage of the peak player times. With the majority of poker traffic coming out of North America the absolute best time to be playing is night time in the US & Canada. Additionally, the games are at there best with lots of casual players on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoon.

The more traffic at any time the more choice you will have in games to play in. Not only that though the peak periods of night time and weekends are when the most casual players will be in the games. It can be a real reg-fest in the middle of a weekday. That said, it is always night time somewhere in the world and there are fish to be found.

You might see the juiciest table in the world where everyone at the table is a massive donkey, but if you aren’t properly bankrolled for those stakes you shouldn’t be playing. What use is a juicy game if you are risking busting your poker bankroll just by sitting down?

Statistics and Monitoring
If the site you play on allows data-mining then that can be a great source of information before you have sat at the table and played any hands with the players. Poker Tracker and Hold ‘Em Manager are great for keeping records of player’s statistics and hand histories. Once you have played a fair amount of hands at a certain level you should get an idea of who the good regulars are, who the exploitable regulars are and some of the fish that frequent the games. Additionally, if you play just about every day and see a table with players you have never seen before with odd stack sizes, chances are that it is a great game.

Note Taking
One thing that can really help speed up your table selection process is good note taking during your sessions. You will thank yourself later when you got to sit down at a table and you already know some information about your opponents. It can help you determine whether to sit down at all, where to sit and help you immediately cash in on profitable situations. A great thing you can do on Full Tilt Poker and some other sites is colour code certain opponents. It is a great idea to colour your players according to their type, that way you can see if there are too many short stacks or regulars in the Lobby before you even open the table.

Starting Tables/Playing Short Handed
An excellent method to find yourself at an awesome table is to be there when it starts. Non-regular players don’t join wait lists, they want to sit down and start playing straight away. Additionally, tables that have been running a while slowly lose their bad players as they go bust.

Starting full-ring tables is actually a great way to learn to play short-handed. Full ring regulars and the less adept players that join new tables are great to play against when the games are short because they don’t adjust well. Generally, short-handed play won’t last long as the tables fill up pretty quickly.

50BB Min & Deep Stacked Tables
Short stacks, while generally not very good, take up a valuable seat at the table that could be occupied by a poor full stack player. Additionally, it can be annoying to constantly have to monitor and adjust your play for short stacks at the table when you are multi-tabling. The solution is to play at the 50 big blind minimum tables at PokerStars or the deep stack tables at Full Tilt Poker. There probably aren’t enough of these tables around to play at them exclsuively, but where possible you should try and use them and maximise your skill edge against deep stacked opponents.

Choosing Your Seat
Choosing the right seat at the table can often be overlooked when it comes to game selection. You generally want to have position on the good aggressive players and shouldn’t mind being out of position against tighter more passive players. Where possible you want to be to the left of fish so you get to play lots of pots against them and have position a lot of the time when you do. Without knowing much about the players, try and sit to the left of the deep stacks as you want as much position edge as possible when the big money decisions come up.

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