Thursday, December 11, 2008

Table Selection in No-Limit Texas Holdem Poker and an update on our village

Before I get into poker I want to give a little update on our village and give an explanation of the two pictures. As I am sure most of you know there is great unrest in the Republic of Congo and also in Zimbabwe, both countries are very close to Botswana geographically.

“The Rock” (from our France trip) thought it might be wise if we armed ourselves and started doing drills for the villagers just incase we ever came under attack. We do these mock drills at night so the one picture is taken through night vision goggles. The other picture is one of the huts in our village during the day. I think most of
the villagers know we are very safe and Botswana is a great country to live in, but we go along with “The Rock” to humor him.

Now, for a great poker tip on table selection and table position while playing on-line poker, specifically Texas Holdem. There are two concepts I will point out to you, the first is picking a table and the second is choosing the correct seat at a table. You might think to yourself, do you really have a choice on what table you sit at. Right now Thursday December 11, 2008 at 10:25 am EST (PokerStars keeps their clock on U.S. Eastern Time Zone) there are 95,645 active players and 15,043 active tables.

How do you know what table to choose? There are a couple of easy questions to ask. What type of poker do I want to play? Do I want to play a cash game or a tournament? How much money do I want to risk? How many players do I want at my table?

These four questions are very easy for me to answer; I only play No-Limit Texas Holdem. My philosophy is if you feel you can only do one thing great stay focused and do it great. I would be concerned playing different types of porker would affect the quality of my play. I play 99% cash games and only 1% tournaments. The reason for this is I can walk away from a cash game at anytime, a tournament you either lose or stay until you win. This allows luck to factor into the game. As of now I play either $.50/$1.00 or $1.00/$2.00 cash games. This means my maximum loss potential is $100.00 or $200.00 respectively. I like to have 9 players at my table. You can pick 2 players (Heads up), 6 players or 9 players. I like 9 players you get more hands dealt for the blinds you pay.

Now that you have answered those four questions you can set your table filter to see the tables that might be of interest to you. So I set my filter to No-Limit Texas Holdem, 9 player maximum, minimum stakes $.50/$1.00 maximum stakes $1.00/$2.00. At PokerStars you can not filter out pot limit games from no-limit, so you need to make sure you do not sit at a pot limit game when you expect to be at a no-limit game.

Right now there are about 250 $.50/$1.00 tables and 175 $1.00/$2.00, these numbers will vary depending on the day of the week and the time of day, while I have been working on this post, the number of players has increased from 95,645 to 103,859 and the tables have increased from 15,043 to 16,125, this increase happened in about 20 minutes.

Out of the 375 tables that fit my criteria, what table should I play at, I have a few hints as to how to fine tune your table selection. I look for tables at the highest stakes I am comfortable playing. Since I am comfortable playing at either $.50/$1.00 or $1.00/$2.00 I will look at the $1.00/$2.00 first. PokerStars will give you statistics on each table, the number of players at the table, I had picked tables with a 9 player maximum, but that does not mean the table is full, so this number tells you how many players are currently sitting at the table. If the table is full (9 players) you can wait in line to sit at the table, they list how many people are waiting in line. Average pot is listed, this tells you the size of the average pot, this sometimes can be used to gage the aggressiveness of the players at the table, the idea being the higher the pot the more aggressive the players. You have to be careful as one big pot can skew this number, say in the last hand before you looked the average pot of $10.00 and then the current hand one player has AA and the other player has KK, they both end up all in before the flop, this pot will be $400.00, and will bring the average pot size up. So be careful when you use this number in the table selection. The next number I look at is what I feel is the most important number, players per flop. This tells you on average how many players are in the hand to see the flop this is an indication of how loose the table is. The higher the number the looser the players, this is true as long as the pot size is not small. Say there is a table where no one is making preflop raises, now you might get a lot of players seeing the flop because it is cheap, they only have to pay the blinds. I like loose players so I look for tables with high players per flop. I like to see a number above 25%. So you must think about all the statistics before you choose your table.

Once you pick a table you will either sit down at an open seat, or wait in line, if you choose to wait in line, which is the right thing to do, if a table that fits your criteria does not have an open seat. Because it does not make sense to play poker at a table that does not give you every advantage you can get. That is called GAMBLING, not playing poker.

If you need to wait in line, wait in line at several tables if you can find several that fit your criteria, put the tables up on your screen and watch the players and take notes. This way when you sit at the table you will have one leg up on the players already at the table, you will have some idea of how they play and if the other players have patterns but the other players will know nothing about you and your play.

If you sit right down at a table the first thing you need to do is look at the tables hand history. Usually you can see the last 10 hands or so. You want to see if anybody might have just won a big hand or lost a big hand or who has been playing and how they have been playing. This is all information that will help you win the game, and thus make money.

With all that said about table selection, sometimes you may want to play a particular player, if that is the case PokerStars has a nice feature where you can search for a player to see what tables they are at. This is useful if you happen to have played a player you know is weak, most likely he did not get better since the last time you played him so it could be easy money, though remember, he might have just had a bad day, so always be on guard.

Now that you are at a table, you want to make sure you have good position at the table based on the other players. I like to have loose aggressive players on my right I like players that play patterns on my right or left depending on their pattern. I like tight players on my left and I like calling stations on my left. You might say the table is really a circle so isn’t every player on your right and on your left. In a pure geometry sense that would be true, but in poker most of your hands will be player against the two or three players to your right and the two or three players to your left. This is a rule of thumb not a fact, but I typically would not worry about a player across from me, because I know I will play very few hands against him.

Loose Aggressive players – will play many hands, they have a low standard for starting hands, and they will play them aggressively will bet high preflop and continue to bet no matter if they hit or not. The reason I like these players on my right is I will almost always have to make my decision after they make theirs. So I will have more information then they will. For example, let’s say a loose aggressive player raises to 5 blinds preflop. Since he is loose he could have anything. If I do not have a hand I would simple fold and it would not cost me anything, but let’s say I have AA in this case I would call, I know he will make another bet no matter what the flop is and at that point I can either raise him or call depending on what I put him on, but I know I will most likely get 2 bets out of him. If he was on my left, and I had AA he would call me, I would have no idea what he had, so let’s say the flop is 3H, 4C, 6H, I bet after flop figuring my AA is best and he comes over the top of me, now I have a very hard decision. He could have 5, 7 for a straight, he could have 33, 44, 66 for a set, or he could be on a pure bluff and I would have no idea and most likely it would cost me my entire stack of chips to find out.

Players that play patterns – will play many tables and play a very consistent pattern, it is important to take notes on their pattern and allow other to test their pattern, or if you must do it by risking a small amount of your chips. Also you may want to bring up the other tables they are playing at so you can see if the pattern you detect is been played at other tables as well. The reason I say I like them on my right or left depending on their pattern, some players with patterns are aggressive if no one has bet preflop (they like to steal the blinds), I like that player on my right, I get to decided what to do after they make their play. Other pattern players like to make very large preflop raises when they think some is trying to steal from them (they are the blind). I like that player on my left. This way when I go to steal, he will raise and I can then re-raise or call, get a few more bets and then raise or bet when he checks, since I know there is a high likely hood that his play was a pure bluff. See below hand for a good example of this.

Tight players – will play mostly premium hands high pairs, AK, etc. Though you make a bet before them you know if they call or raise you what they have, so if you hit your hand you can slow play them and get a good bit of their money, also since most hands are not premium, most of your preflop raises will go uncontested.

Calling Station – will call almost all bets and then usually fold on a river bet. You want this player on your left so they will call your bets when you hit monster hands.

Though there are a lot of tables to choose from, there are rarely a lot of seats at a table to pick from, so how do you make sure loose players are to your right, tight players are to your left and the correct pattern players are on the correct side. There is no way to do this, what you need to do is if you see you do not like your position at the table compared to the other players, simple leave the table and find another table where you feel you will increase your chances to win. Remember you want to play poker and make money not GAMBLE!!!

See example of a hand below. Detail is below the graphics.

POKERSTARS GAME #22729424897: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($1/$2) - 2008/12/08 8:43:12 ET
Table 'Regina IV' 9-max Seat #2 is the button
Seat 1: studboy1 ($200 in chips)
Seat 2: NoTurns81 ($270.50 in chips)
Seat 3: Honk115 ($234.75 in chips)
Seat 4: dng_ps ($388.55 in chips)
Seat 7: DUG ($217.95 in chips)
Seat 8: ADZ122 ($210.95 in chips)
Seat 9: slicksam24 ($32 in chips)
Honk115: posts small blind $1
dng_ps: posts big blind $2
lapa00: sits out
kurbli: sits out
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to DUG [7h 7d]
DUG: calls $2
ADZ122: raises $8 to $10 When ADZ122 makes a big raise it normally means he has nothing. This was a little strange with him making it so early, this is his usualy move after the button, maybe has has AK.
slicksam24: folds
studboy1: folds
NoTurns81: folds
Honk115: folds
dng_ps: folds
DUG: calls $8 I would normally call he and hope for a set (7 on the flop) in this case I am going to push the hand at some point with a high degree of confidence that ADZ122 will fold.
*** FLOP *** [Td 6d 5c]
DUG: checks This is an ok flop for me, but I want to let him bet first.
ADZ122: bets $16
DUG: calls $16 I just call next card I will bet less then ½ the pot and feel he will fold.
*** TURN *** [Td 6d 5c] [6h]
DUG: bets $22 I think he will fold to any bet, but I need him to see I am for real.
ADZ122: folds He has to fold he is playing about 10 tables and no way can see I am just playing against his pattern.
Uncalled bet ($22) returned to DUG
DUG collected $52.35 from pot Not bad for pocket 7’s
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $55 Rake $2.65
Board [Td 6d 5c 6h]
Seat 1: studboy1 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: NoTurns81 (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: Honk115 (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 4: dng_ps (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 7: DUG collected ($52.35)
Seat 8: ADZ122 folded on the Turn
Seat 9: slicksam24 folded before Flop (didn't bet)



1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I read your Blog and I'm impressed. I hope I'm not someone who is just easily impressed. Despite anything I might have said in the past, you write extremely well.

I reviewed your write up regarding how to pick an on-line poker table. It was very insightful if not brilliant. I'm assuming you did not pull it from a book and figured it out on your own!!

One of the poker tactics I have been trying to figure out is how much to bet. Watching on TV, I often lose track of how much is in the pot and the commentators do not spend much time explaining the strategy behind a bet. For instance, betting enough to make the pot odds attractive enough to entice a bet when you feel you have a winning hand. There are so many variables including how many are at the table, your position at the table, stack sizes, pot size, blind size and then the biggest variable on top of everything above, the person your betting again and their poker style.

I was hoping that you were looking for a topic and that this was one the you would be interested in discussing in one of your Blogs.

Best Regards,