Table Selection: Sit with the Money

Action at the tables

You can only make as much money as the table you're on allows. Sometimes the best thing you can do to make more money is to change the table you're on.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not talking about superstition. I will never change a table or a seat because I think the seat is "cold." Often, as soon as a player who's built a big stack stands up, you'll see people requesting to be moved to that seat.

I believe that your luck is not dependent upon the seat in which you sit or the table you sit at. I know that this topic is open for debate and even I believe in energy and feng shui. And there could be a system to good luck that I don't know about.

But the best poker mathematicians estimate that poker is only 10% luck at a professional level. So even if there is such a thing as an "unlucky seat," you should still be able to make good money while in it.

What Makes a Good Table

Some of the advice that follows on what makes a good table comes from published sources such as Caro's Book of Tells.

In general, a loud table is much more profitable than a quiet table. A loud table typically means that the players at the table are having a good time.

When people are having a good time, they're much more apt to spend greater amounts of money. (Also, loud tables commonly are loud thanks to our best friend, alcohol).

You should also obviously take into account the players at the table. If they're all people you recognize as being good poker players, it makes more sense to sit at a table full of amateurs.


OMG Clay Aiken!!!1
If you can't figure out which table to sit at, just sit at 20 of them. Worked for Phil Galfond.

You want to play at a table where money can be made. Some tables simply aren't going to make you enough money for it to be worth your time. If every player on the table is a complete rock who will honestly only play the nuts, you can still make money though - it's just not going to be large amounts (unless you happen to be on the receiving end of a bad beat).

Lastly, there has to be money on the table. If you're playing a $200 max buy-in game and everyone at the table is playing a $40 stack, it's not a good table to be at.

Not only is there simply not much money in play, but you're playing against all short stacks. This increases the chances you'll be pushed against, and that in turn increases variance.

Which Seat to Choose

The first thing to consider with seat selection is your personal comfort. If you're not comfortable, you will not be playing at the top of your ability. If there's someone who looks like he hasn't left the poker room to shower in five days, he probably hasn't. Therefore, you want to sit far away from him.

If you're at all visually impaired, also make sure you're in a seat where you can see the board properly.

Line of sight: Some seats limit your view of the other players. Sitting in seat 1 of an oval table will completely block your view of seats 9 and 10. The best seats for a good view are the end seats, and that's why 3, 4, 7 and 8 are the only seats I like to sit in.

The last thing to take into account is the other players on the table. As a general rule of thumb, you want to be on the left of the biggest stack at the table.

If you know the players, and you know one of them to be a loose, very aggressive player, it's again best to sit on that player's left. Being to the left of a maniac is always the best place to be. You also want to be to the left of a player who is better than yourself.

When you have an absolute nutbar on your right, poker can be a very easy game. You just have to sit and wait for the right hand to pick him off. There is no need to do anything fancy at the table in this situation. Wait until you have the nuts, and trap him for all his chips.

When this nutbar is on your left, forcing you to act before him, it's pretty much the same game. The difference will be the hands you would limp with at a normal table you now have fewer chances to play. It makes no sense to be limping with a hand you're not willing to call into a raise with if the guy on your left raises every hand.

In general, you always want to figure out the playing style of the people directly to your right and to your left. You have more chances to outplay these people than anyone else at the table.


Mike Caro
Mike Caro writes a lot about table selection in his new book.

If the player to your right is a complete rock, then you'll never get caught limping and have to fold when he raises. If the rock is sitting to your left, you can raise to steal the button almost every orbit.

Having a good player on your left can be a frustrating experience. A good player will be making more bluffs, raises and large calls. When this player raises, chances are he's going to isolate the field.

When the whole table folds you're always going to be the last one left with the option to call or reraise him. Every move he makes has a strong chance of isolating directly to you. As a result, you're forced to play more hands against this guy, or continually fold into him.

Online Seat Selection

Table selection online is a different animal. You commonly have no idea how the table is until you play a few orbits. The beauty of online poker is that on any of the top rooms, if you don't like the table, there's bound to be another 50 at that same limit running.

If you don't like it, ditch it and move on. Find a table you do like. Never sit at a bad table online - there are sure to be fish on one of the other tables on the site.

If you sit at tough or tight tables, you'll always be playing games where little to no money can be made. No matter what, you want to sit at a table that will allow you to make money.

It's better to sit at a lower-limit table with action you can beat than to sit at a high-limit table full of nits.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »