Table selection is one of the most overlooked, yet most important, elements of winning play in online poker. If you don’t know how to properly table select, you are going to be self-implementing a restriction on your win rate.
It is infinitely easier to generate a profit when you are picking out weaker competition to play against. For any online regular, table selection is an absolute necessity. It takes relatively minimal time and effort to find the best game available, and the dividends will more than payoff. Depending on your particular game and limit, the amount of games that you have to choose from will vary. For example, a micro stakes 6-max player will have more games to select from than a high stakes heads up player. The more games that you have to choose from, the greater the opportunity for an improved win rate.
Your First Steps
First, if you are a regular player in a specific game, you should be able to recognize at least a handful of the names at your table. Anyone who plays on the same site for an extended period of time will eventually start to see the same names over and over again. If a mental note and recognition is not enough for you to remember who is who, the next option is to turn to your poker software. Provided that you are using some sort of software that gives you database history on your opponents, you will be able to see how often a player plays and also how that player plays. This is the easiest way to differentiate between someone who you do want at your table and someone who you would prefer to stay away from.
If these two steps fail or do not sufficiently allow for you to scope out the best games, the last option is to join a few games and get a feel for which one(s) will be the most profitable. It won’t be long before you can tell whether you are sitting with a number of fish or a group of winning or better than average players.
The “Best” Games
It goes without saying that you should be shopping around for tables with over aggressive action junkies, but this isn’t always going to be an option. Weighing your options is important when it comes to choosing which tables to get involved with. If you are on the fence about one game, go ahead and let it sit on the side. If worst comes to worst, you can always go back and join it later on. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in table selection is joining a table because you feel that there is no other option. The best plan is this situation is to move on altogether. There is no use in joining a game just because you feel obligated to play a certain number of tables.
The best games are going to vary from hour to hour and day to day. The games you find running on Friday nights will not be available on Monday mornings. This means that you will need to adjust your expectations when shopping around for the best tables. Don’t jump into a game with 5-6 regulars if you are playing at what would be considered peak hours. Peak hours are the evening for most US players on any given day, and even more so on the weekends. The easiest games to beat are almost always going to be found on Friday and Saturday nights, with Sunday being close behind. This is one of the drawbacks to playing a ton of poker online, however. If you want to truly capitalize and make the most money possible, you might have to stay at home and play poker when you would prefer to be out doing something else. With that said, though, there is no denying that there are plenty of good games to be found on week nights as well, especially if you are on the right site.
One of the primary elements of proper table selection is moving from game to game. You shouldn’t ever feel the need to be sedentary when playing online poker. There are always games breaking and starting up, which means that there are more opportunities for you to shop around for another table. Online players tend to join their games, sit down, and completely disregard the fact that a better game might start running a half an hour later. This is why you should always keep up with the action and check out what is available.
If you don’t want to take a few minutes and expend the added effort required to see what games are new, you really aren’t deserving of the best win rate possible. It takes a lot of work to earn as much money as possible in online poker, and changing tables on a frequent basis is just one of the ways to maximize your returns.
Passing Up on Bad Games
If you can’t find any tables that are to your liking, the best course of action is to simply wait it out. Depending on your game and limits, there will be new options and choices in a matter of minutes. Joining a bad game will either diminish your win rate or turn your win rate into a losing rate. If you are looking for a 6-max game, but the only ones available are full of 5-6 regs, you aren’t going to win at a very strong rate. Yes, you can definitely beat the games and make money, but there is a big difference between $4/hour per table and $18/hour per table. Instead of expending a ton of effort just trying to eek out a small win, see if you can’t sit back and join a better game later on. You will lose out on a little bit of time, but it is better to ensure that you are in a good game rather than battle it out in a tough game.
Starting New Games
One of the most overlooked areas of table selection is the ability to start your own new games. Every single poker site allows players the opportunity to choose their limits and game types and to start up a new table. In fact, some poker rooms will actually give you a boost or a bonus on your player points for being the first to start a new table. As a general rule of thumb, a new table is more likely to attract bad players than it is to attract good players. The only common exception to this rule would be if you were actually the bad player, in which case all of the stronger players would sit down in hopes of busting you out. Regulars tend to avoid new tables because they will see that they are started by someone who they wouldn’t voluntarily choose to play with (you). As a result, you should expect an influx of bad players to sit down who are just eager to give their money away.
A unique element to starting up your own table is that you are going to have to play a lot of heads up poker. Since you are the first to sit down, the next player to join is going to be your only immediate competition. Most of the time, your opponent will want to play heads up to get the action started, though there are some players who will wait for a few others to join. If you are not comfortable playing heads up games, starting new tables is not for you. Sitting out when other players join your new table is a great way to get a fish to leave. Even if you are not particularly good at heads up poker, you should still have a significant edge over the average player who is going to sit down at a new game. As a result, playing a few hands of heads up will give you a chance to stack your opponent before the game fills up. After all, who doesn’t like eating a fish all by themselves?
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk