In the first part of this series, which can be found here, I discussed the first two of four considerations you should examine in choosing whether or not to sit down at a particular cash game table. You should read and review the information on the game you want to play and the stakes at which you want to play before moving on to this article.
The last two areas to look at in choosing the right table for you are the TYPE of table that is best for you to sit at, and the specific types of players against whom you will play best. While these two concepts overlap to some degree, there are aspects of each that are important to examine before committing to play, and they will be the subjects of this article.
One of the resources available to you online that you will not find in a live poker setting is that you can see what the average size of the pot being played at the table is, as well as the percentage of players that are seeing the flop, fourth street or first draw, depending on the game. These are absolutely invaluable pieces of information for you to have, as they will identify the relative tightness or looseness of the table, as well as the overall aggressiveness being exhibited by the players. If you are a solid player, you are almost always better off choosing a looser table, as it will enable you to play somewhat opposite to the overall tone of the game, which is usually an indicator of impending success.
What is considered a looser table? In a game like 7 Card Stud High/Low, any percentage in the range of 40% or above is definitely a loose game, and any average pot size over 5 times the large limit bet is a game where players are not giving up their hands right away. Unless you are running really badly that day, basic, solid play will almost always turn a profit at a table like this. In a Texas Hold’em ring game, you are much less likely to find such a high percentage of players in a no limit game, while you will often find that many players seeing flops in limit and pot limit action. In a no limit game, any flop percentage in the high 20’s or more is still a loose game, and you can expect a waiting list for any game whose flop percentage is higher than that. Once again, tight, aggressive play will usually win in this type of setting. However, you need to establish a strong image at this type of table, so that your bets and raises will be respected when you want to move people off of hands in marginal situations. Remember that a loose table also means that people are more likely to chase hands, and so you will take a higher percentage of ugly beats from people who catch miracle cards at the end of hands. If you tilt easily, you want to be careful of getting involved with too loose a table.
If you are a looser, aggressive player, you might consider playing at a very tight table (less than 20% participation), as it will give you more of an opportunity to steal pots at your leisure, and bully players who won’t get involved in a hand without the nuts. On the other hand, if you truly have more skill at playing that style than other loose players, you will be able to outplay them as the hand goes on, and a looser table will provide you many more opportunities to put money in your virtual pocket.
As far as the type of players against whom you want to play, the games played with blinds are different than the limit games with antes, in that your position in every hand is fixed, and you always know going in just what position you occupy in that deal. Ideally, you want to have the players two and three to your left to be ones who will give up their blinds under pressure, because that will enable you to take them down over and over again from the button and cutoff positions. You will be amazed at how often you can blithely steal their blinds without them fighting back, and you should take advantage of this situation as often as possible, without becoming too obvious about it.
If you are playing at a relatively loose table, one of the things to be aware of is if there are players who are consistently getting into raising wars and capping the betting in limit games, or going all-in in no limit games. Often, this will involve two players who are trying to compete for who can be the boss of the table, and who just keep firing away early in the hand, trying to push people out of the pot. Engaging with these types of players will definitely increase your variance, meaning that you will experience much higher highs and lower lows in your stack size than in a “normally” played game. Whether or not you play at a table like this should depend on how comfortable you are with more extreme ups and downs in your account than usual. If you tend to get thrown off stride by players like this, as well as rapidly plunging and rising fortunes, you will likely need to avoid this type of table. However, it is important that you get to a point where wild play doesn’t unsettle you, since it can become a major source of profit for you if you are able to continue to play a controlled game in the face of the chaos.
Once you’ve taken into account all four of the areas I’ve covered in these two articles, it should be relatively simple to choose a good table at which to play. Keep track in your playing notes of how you perform at a variety of different types of games and levels, and, after a while, you will become quite clear as to which tables are the most and least profitable for you. Once you’ve identified that, as well as specific types of players, and even specific players, against whom you excel, you will have a means to consistently turn a profit at the table. And that is what poker is all about.
See you at the tables!
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