Table Selection at 6max

April 14, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm

Table Selection at 6max

This article will look at 6max table selection criteria in the low to mid-stakes cash games, $50nl -$400nl.

In poker there are a few truths that are pretty much universal. One is that as long as the sample size is big enough, the best players will make the most money. As we all know, poker is not like the lottery, there is always a skill edge that some players will have over others. Whether that skill edge is 90% or 5% is not the purpose of this piece, this piece is about ensuring YOU are the player with the skill edge over every table you sit at.

Table selection is one of the most important keys to be a winning poker player. Yet for some reason, its often one of the most neglected facets of a players makeup. Whilst some players can have an edge over nearly every table they sit at, the majority of us have to be humble and honest about our own poker abilities. We might beat the game, but we probably are not that great. The game is getting tougher, this is an indisputable fact. The fish of five years ago have been replaced with an altogether tougher breed in lowstakes NL, who have polished up their reading, joined cardrunners and probably had some seriously worth it coaching sessions on the way. No longer can you just sit down at a table and expect that you have an edge, unless you are something truly special, you need to be selective about whom you play.

Ok, a quick back to basics ramble, but its important to lay the foundations and make sure we tackle this problem from an objective standpoint. We make money from players mistakes at the poker table and lose money by making mistakes. The difference between winners and losers is that winners make more from their winning hands (for example value betting thinner) and lose less from their losing hands (for example folding in marginal spots more often). What matters in table selection is we are looking at the exploitability of players, i.e how our edge manifests itself in a specific table dynamic. Therefore, although we might be able to comfortably beat a table of 20/15 solid regs for 1.5bb/100 by stealing more and picking up more orphan pots than they do, we are not maximising our profitability if there are softer games available.


Before even thinking about table selection you should probably consider investing in datamining software for the good of your bankroll. There are plenty available and internet forums will give the best feedback on which to use for your specific site. You should definitely be using some sort of software such as pokeroffice or pokertracker and this in conjunction with good table selection tools (like spadeit-Eyepoker on BlueSquare/ipoker) gives you a headstart. You can obviously table select without these programs, it just speeds up and aids the process. Use of these programs and carefully analysing the data can allow you to get thousands of hands on your opponents and select the biggest fish to fry. I generally upload the data onto PT and use a couple of symbols for the players I find I make the most $ against, mainly very loose weak players and very tight weak players.

Once you have your database up to scratch you are ready for kickoff. Often it's best to let a program like Eyepoker run for a couple of hours to give you the lowdown on what is happening on your site. It is just a more effective way of analysing the tables at that particular moment in time than methodically going through table after table, looking for the biggest fish. Bear in mind that at any stage a game can suddenly become hugely profitable, some of the most profitable sessions can be when some random donator joins after winning a tournament or getting a big bonus. Whilst here I should mention that on the whole, the lobby stats are pretty useless as a guide to where to play. The reason is that the statistics get skewed by the odd huge pot and don't give an accurate reflection, for example, the table was 3handed for ages then just filled up. If you have no other information available to you, use your buddy list and open up tables to get an idea of whether they present a good opportunity.

Selecting process

The aim of selecting a table is full stacks of chips (or more preferably) in the hands of bad incompetent players. Here is a preference of opponent in terms of profitability.

Your primary goal is to find fish, players that play too many hands regardless of position and play them badly. These are the key to profitability and should make up the bulk of your income. Ideally you want them to be on the passive side too. For those of you (lets face it 80% of us) with a more solid and conventional game, these players are the most exploitable out there. These players are so valuable that finding a table with one, or if you are especially lucky, two, gives you a huge edge over the table from the get go. I usually identify fish as players with a VPIP of 35% or more, but 30% is also very high and fair game. Preferably you want them to have low aggression factors and be more calling station type in tendency, but it's not an enormous problem if they are aggressive and spewy as long as you have a positional advantage.

The secondary aim of analysing tables is to find losing regulars with big holes in their game that you know you can exploit. These players might be those that play in an especially simple style, for example only ever slow-playing and check-raising big hands post-flop, usually on the turn. That sort of leak, once you have pinned it as 100% reliable, is pure gold. Remember, money saved is the same as money earned. Regulars that massively multi-table and play in a very robotic manner can be juicy too, especially if they are on the weak/tight side, these TAGfish will make up probably 50-60% of the player pools on the mainstream big poker sites. Remember, loose players look for an excuse to call, whereas tight players are looking to find a reason to fold. Simple adjustments to your game can turn these players into little mini ATM's as you just make their life difficult by check –raising their continuation bets and floating them in position mercilessly. They are not as exploitable as fish of course, but you cannot always find a whale online anymore.

Bear in mind when selecting tables that you want to consciously avoid good winning players, or those that are tricky. Poker is not an ego contest (for most of us) and the aim of the game is making $, not getting into bluff wars with a fellow winning regular. Try to avoid tables with one crazy guy and 4 other competent players, the dynamic gets twisted and can often result in innocent casualties as everyone battles for the donkeys dough.

Once you have selected a decent table, look at the waiting list and keep in mind that unless you are very close to next in line to join, you probably are too late. Add yourself anyway if the list is only 4 or 5 long, but more often than not other players are doing exactly the same as you and the table makeup will have changed dramatically by the time you get there. The fish will have been replaced by nits who have been doing their homework and you can kiss goodbye to a nice easy session.

A final thought on table selection, if it is unclear what tables to join on a busy night (Friday/sat peak hours), a handy little trick is just to open up new tables. Bear in mind that fish just want to be in action, so when one rolls in at 11pm after a night on the booze, he cannot be bothered with waiting to play poker. He just wants a quick fix and instant thrills. You can be waiting for him.

Positional Awareness

Money in poker flows clockwise round the table. Position is half the battle in 6M holdem. Ideally when you take a seat you want full stacks to your right in the hands of loose players and tight short-stacks on your left. This allows you to maximise your EV against the big loose stacks, whilst also reducing the EV of the too tight short stacks rocking it up on the left. This also makes full use of the implied odds versus the bad players on your right whilst at the same time having an easy time of it picking up the blinds regularly. Although there is rarely a choice when you are joining a table, it can be a very good move to change your seat if a fish sits down with you when you are starting a table. Also, move tables/seats if a good player is directly to your left, it just create headaches when all you want is the easy money from the fish.


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