Online table selection could be one of the most important skills of the Internet Poker player. In a Live Poker room we are pretty much restricted in our choices of which table or seat we select, but the lobbies of most online Poker Rooms give us a wealth of information to make a more intelligent selection. Let's look at the Lobby from Full Tilt:
Most poker experts agree that the most ideal poker game is a Loose-Passive table, where the players play too many hands but simply call and don't bet or raise their hands aggressively. There should also be money on the table. The best game in the world means nothing if there is no money to win. Finally you should play at the highest level your poker bankroll can stand.
There are 5 columns to concentrate on.
• Column 1 is the stakes. At Full Tilt the default sort is on this column from high to low. If it isn't sorted, simply click on the column title "Stakes," until it is sorted high to low. Scroll down until you get to a level that can be supported by your bankroll.
• Column 2 is the percentage of players seeing the flop. Scroll down until you find the highest percentage. A full game with 40% or higher is quite loose. At Full Tilt you might consider 35% rather loose.
• Column 3 is the average pot size. A small average indicates that the players are not betting and raising often. So if the flop percentages are equal select the game with the lowest average pot size. You might consider a 38% game over a 42% game if the average pot size is significantly smaller.
• We've now found our loose-passive game. Well, the loosest and the most passive.
• Column 4 is the table. Make a quick check to insure there is ample money on the table to make it worth your time. In No Limit you might also look for several concentrations of money. If several players have stacks significantly larger than the maximum buy-in, you might want to look for a different game. You will be entering the pond as a small fish, and very vulnerable to their big stacks.
• Column 5 is the hands per hour. Although this isn't one of the considerations, you should always check for games that are very slow. They can be exasperating to play in, and the more hands per hour usually indicate less thinking by the players, which isn't a bad thing. A little extra information never hurts when you sit down in a new poker game.
• Finally go to the table have a seat and observe for a few hands before you enter the game. Waiting for the big blind is usually a good idea, but after a few hands you should get a good feel for the game.
Now let's look at one more online lobby, Poker Stars.The columns at Poker Stars are exactly the same as Full Tilt, but look at these numbers. The 1st game with only 3 players has a flop percentage of only 24%. These are some real tight players. Most of these hands are simply checked around to the big blind. Even the next two games are quite tight for a short handed table. A very aggressive player might find some success here if he was willing to bet strongly with marginal cards.
• The 4th table down, a 6 seat table with 5 players, has a flop percentage of only 16% but an average pot size of $108. These guys are raising big pre flop. If that is your sort of game, go for it, but it will be a wild ride.
• The 5th table, the first $2/4, has 2 players but only 30% seeing the flop. These guys appear to be aggressively folding.
• Only the 9th table, with 4 players, has a flop percentage that is anywhere near what you might expect in a short handed game, and the pot size is small. Looks like a lot of limping to see the flop. If you like to see the flop this might be the game for you.
• The 10th table has 6 players, and a 41% flop percentage. That's still a bit low for a shorthanded game, but here the pot average is larger, and they at least bring it in with a raise.
• The 11th table has 7 players, and like many of the above has a really low flop percentage. Most of those players have moss growing on their mouse, because they aren't moving off the fold button often. The average pot size is about average for $2/4 so they do bring it in with a raise occasionally. Personally I'd watch Barney re-runs before I would sit at this table.
In fact the example from Poker Stars is the best reason I know for having accounts at multiple poker sites. Poker Stars has one of the biggest and best poker tournaments schedules online. Several tournaments during the week have prize pools to $500,000 and some approach or exceed $1,000,000 regularly. So, play tournaments on Poker Stars and Cash games on another site
Most of the sites have lobbies similar to Poker Stars and Full Tilt, but a few, like Party Poker, don't include the flop percentage. If your favorite online poker site doesn't include flop percentage, simply observe the games for 10 or 20 hands. If 4 or more players see the flop you've found your loose table.
In conclusion, I'd like to add this little bit of information. I play at many different sites for different reasons.
- Poker Stars for the weekly big poker tournaments on Sunday.
- Full Tilt for the Stud and Horse games and a few Sit & Go's
- Party Poker for the Hold ‘em Cash games and Sit & Go's
- BoDog for the Soft Cash Hold'em and Omaha Games and occasional MTT
- Ultimate Bet for the soft cash games
I know most Americans can't play on all the sites now, but there are still several different sites that provide a whole different set of advantages for the skilled player. My ID on all of these sites is jbharshaw. If you catch me at the tables, my chat is always on.