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Rules for Table Selection

There are many things you can do to increase your poker skill and you should do them. However, it is unlikely that you will do anything between now and your next poker session that will dramatically increase your skill. Reading the right books, studying some articles, reviewing your play will help you, but, barring an epiphany, when you sit down this evening to play poker, you will likely be about the same skill level that you are right now.

But there is a way of improving your chance of winning on your very next online session, regardless of your current poker skill.

You can achieve this amazing result through ‘table selection.’ Table selection is the practice of being choosy about what tables you play and about where you sit at those tables. Regardless of your poker skill, you can increase your chance of winning through proper table selection.

Rule #1 for Table Selection

Play at tables where the other players are worse than you are. It may sound trite, but it is true regardless of your skill level. You win more often when the people at the table do not play poker as well as you do. The 100th most skilled ring poker player in the world is certainly damn good. But, if he sits down at a table with numbers 1 through 9, he is likely in for a bad afternoon. Conversely, a mediocre player is likely to have a pretty good day if he sits at a table of people who can not play anywhere near his level.

Things that will help you do this:

1) Play within your bankroll. See all the articles on Bankroll Management.

2) Regardless of your starting bankroll, do not start higher than the 0.10/0.25 NL tables if you are new to poker.

3) Keep general notes on other players. Avoid sitting at tables with players that have confounded you in the past. Try to sit at tables with players that you have previously noted are worse than you. They are worse than you when you understand what their actions mean. Regardless of your absolute poker skill, when you reach the point that you are certain what another player’s actions mean, you are better than they are. You want to play against these people.

Rule #2 for Table Selection

Take a seat where the players to your right have money. Money tends to flow clockwise in Texas Hold’em (which is to say that it tends to flow from the earlier positions to the later positions.) If you want to know why this is, there are great articles here on FTR and in plenty of Poker Books. But for now, accept this principle. You want to pick a seat where you will typically have position on players that have money. Because that money will tend to flow your way.

Rule #3 for Table Selection

Take a seat where the players to your right bet and raise a lot of losing hands (loose). Not only do you want them to have money (rule 2), you want them to be willing to lose it to you.

Rule #4 for Table Selection

Take a seat where the players to your left have very little money. Position, acting after other players, is very important in Texas Hold’em. If you want to know why this is, there are great articles here on FTR and in plenty of Poker Books. Again, for now, accept this principle. At a ten man table, you will be the last to act 10% of the time (being the Dealer, or the Button). Imagine playing at a table where the player to your left has 1 penny. Granted, he acts after you do. But his actions are trivial to you because he can only bring one penny into play. He cannot chase you out of a pot with a big bet. You would not mind calling his meaningless All-In, even if you had a speculative hand. At that table, you are effectively last to act when HE is the dealer because no one cares what he does. Sitting with a tiny stack to your left (or better yet two tiny stacks) makes you the last to act 20-30% of the time, instead of everyone else’s 10%. There is another great thing about having small stacks to your left. We said above that money tends to flow to the players that have position. The players to your left have position on you but they have no money to bet. On any given hand, they can only get as much money from you as they have in their stack. As they have small stacks, not much of your money will be flowing to them because they cannot make you put a lot of money in the pot, even when they have an outstanding hand and you have a great one that is 2nd best.

Rule #5 for Table Selection

Take a seat where the players to your left will only bet or raise when they have VERY good hands (tight). As mentioned above, position is important. You typically get to see the actions of the people to your right (you have position on them.) But you have to guess what the players to your left are going to do after you act becase they have position on you. By sitting with tight players to your left, you know what they are going to do. They are going to fold unless they have a VERY good hand. If you bet and they raise, then you are likely beat, so don’t put any more money in the pot.

Rule #6 for Table Selection

If, while sitting at a table, you discover that it is not the kind of table you want to be at, get up and leave. This may seem trite, but it is one of the primary reasons people lose money at a poker table. They just will not leave the table, even after they realize the table is not right for them. You are not in competition with the table! You are trying to make money playing poker! Perhaps you followed the guidelines above. But 30 minutes later you notice that the players to your right now have very little money, the players to the left now have much larger stacks than you, and that guy that always seems to know what cards you have just sat down to your left (he has position on you). Leave the table. Leave now. Go. There are scads of other tables. Find a better one.

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