Table selection – Key considerations

Table selection

When is table selection important in cash game poker? If you are playing cash game poker, you may have a selection of tables to choose from at the start of your session. Whether or not that is the case, you can usually request a move to any other table.

There are some that say you should never change table, and they have 2 main reasons for this. Firstly, they say if you want to become a better poker player you should be able to beat whatever opposition has been thrown your way. Secondly, they argue that changing tables is often done to go after the weakest players in an obvious way, and this is not good for the game.

At UnfairPoker.com, we think you should always put work into difficult spots – e.g. if you were finding a particular table difficult. However, we think this is best done away from the table at first. When you are actually playing poker, and especially if your poker time is limited, you probably want to increase your chances of winning – thus, we recommend you pick the best tables (IF there are stark differences between the tables).

Live Poker – Table selection can be really important

When you play live poker, you can only play on one table at a time. Due to the slow nature of live poker, it makes sense to pick the absolute best table for you (and change if necessary). There can be stark differences between the tables available, and not picking correctly can be the difference between a winning and losing session (on average).

What makes a good live poker table?

The 2 main things we recommend you look out for are:

  • Deep stacks preferable to shallow stacks
    • As a studied player, your unstudied or less studied opponents are most likely to be making mistakes in deeper pots, either via over folding after putting in more money than they should, or not being able to let go of their hand despite the spr suggesting otherwise.
    • Rake is usually capped, the more the pot grows above the cap, the less as as a percentage of the pot the winner will pay as rake. Clearly, if you can play on a table with deep effective stacks as opposed to shallow stacked, this is helpful in terms of losing less to the rake.
  • Weaker players preferable to stronger players
    • This one is obvious, if you are looking to maximize your winrate this session (on average). Obviously, you could take a view that playing with stronger players (combined with appropriate off-table work) can help you maximize your long term winrate, even if you win less (on average) this session. If you are a regular at your cardroom you will already know who the stronger players are – so look out for tables where there are less of them. If you are new to a cardroom, you can spot strong players in various ways: including their general frequencies and tendencies, and general profiling based on age/dress etc. Tables where players are clearly having a good time, may be more profitable than quiet tables (although not always).

Online Poker – Table selection is less important

If you are multitabling, especially over a large number of tables, table selection is less important than live poker. This is because you are probably using a quasi-GTO strategy as standard (and are not looking to exploit your opponents as much as live poker). As you move up in stakes online, again table selection is not likely to matter much – as most of your opponents will be strong anyway – so there won’t be much difference between tables.

Methods to help you find good tables online
1. Use the statistics shown in the lobby (to spot players or tables with too high a VPIP for example. There is third party software, that can analyze this data, to help you find the best tables as certain cardrooms (but check if they are allowed by your cardroom).
2. While playing color code any fish a particular color (or better still use different colors depending on their main weakness). On some sites, you can add them to a buddy list. Look out for these players in the future.
3. Observe potential tables either before you start playing, or once you start playing open up a couple more on the side of screen. Look out for opportunities before you sit down.
Occasionally a whale or two sits down, at an online table filled with solid regulars – so even if you don’t usually table select – these tips can help you look out for them.

We don’t recommend changing seats

At any given table, you are always free to take any available seat (and can change seats as often as you wish). We at UnfairPoker.com are less keen to recommend you change seats than tables, especially in live poker. This is because we think it’s good for you to try and figure out, how to proceed, from whatever seat you were allocated. Also, changing seats (especially if done to get position on a weak player) is kind of obvious (especially if you do it more than once, either in one session or over multiple sessions), and we don’t think that it is good for the game.