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Online Poker Table Selection

Posted by David Cowell on February 28, 2011 at 3:27 BST

For a game in which profitability is heavily reliant on skill, it might seem a little crazy to suggest that one of the most influential factors that can affect that profitability is picking the right table to sit at. However, inasmuch as your choice of seat will have little control over the cards that are dealt to you, the type of opponent you are playing against might!

When you first enter the cash ring game lobby of your preferred online poker site, statistics are displayed showing the number of players on a table, the percentage of those seeing flop, the number of hands an hour being played and the average value of each pot. Most tight players will go hunting for the tables with the highest percentage of players seeing flop, as these are the tables which are considered to contain the loosest players, however there are other factors that you should also consider.

If the loosest tables are also those returning the lowest number of hands per hour, this will indicate that your opportunities of being dealt winning hands are going to be fewer throughout your session, and although playing on a table that deals over 100 hundred hands an hour does not guarantee that you are going to be successful, you will have a better chance of winning on a table that is seeing more action. However, perhaps the most interesting statistic is that concerning the average pot size.

Even though the temptation might be to look at the tables paying the largest pots, there is good reason to investigate those paying the lowest! Consider this example for $1.00/$2.00 stake levels:-

Table 1: 10 players, 38% seeing the flop, average pot is $24
Table 2: 10 players, 31% seeing the flop, average pot is $12

Both tables are playing 80 hands an hour

At first glance, Table 1 is the one you want to get on – more players are seeing each flop and generating more money for the winning hand. However, on closer inspection you might want to pick Table 2.

To understand why, you have to consider how a pot is built. Table 2 has an average of three players seeing the flop (rather than 4 on Table 1) which decreases the chances of your premium opening hand being cracked by a lucky river. Furthermore, if three players are seeing the flop, that indicates that $3.00 is in the pot when the flop is dealt and there is very little subsequent action – 4x the pre-flop pot.

Over on Table 1, there is 6x the pre-flop pot when a hand is won – suggesting that there is more aggressive action happening, and possibly a maniac or two. In a phrase, “danger awaits” on Table 1 and you are in for a far more comfortable ride against some relatively passive players on Table 2.

Of course, you still have to wait until somebody leaves the table to get involved yourself, but a little time spent on the waiting list will allow you to observe the players and their betting actions before you are seated and create profiles on each to help your game.

In all but the less popular online poker sites, you will always have a choice of tables to choose from , so knowing how to determine which will provide you with the most lucrative is not such a crazy suggestion after all, and will only add to your poker profitability. See you at the (quietest!) tables.