Posted May 14, 2023
Owner and Lead Pro
Professional Cash game trainer Bart Hanson has been producing strategy content for over fifteen years. He first started on Live at the Bike! back in 2005, then moved on to host "Cash Plays" on Poker Road, then "Deuce Plays" on Deuces Cracked and then to CrushLivePoker in 2012.
In his career as a professional poker player, Bart Hanson has:
-6 WSOP Final Tables
-Over 15 years of experience at the table
-Over $1,000,000 in tournament earnings
-Multiple appearances on ESPN and Poker Night in America
-4th place finish in 2019 WSOP Monster Stack
When you first arrive at a new table, you're first task should be to assess if you've got a good table or not. Table selection is an important factor that can improve the likelyhood of a profitable session. There are many variables to consider here, including how long you’re playing, which tables have the longest list, and if you should even consider trying to switch tables, so let's take a deeper look at these variables.
First, you’ve got to have an idea of how long you want to play. Typically you shouldn’t be doing a lot of table hopping if you’re only planning on playing for a few hours. Obviously if you sit down at a table and don’t see a lot of weak players, you should do your due diligence and try to get on the list for a better table. However, it’s important to remember that things are always changing. People will leave your table, and other players (good or bad) will fill those seats.
If you see an unbelievable line up at another table, but there are 3-4 players on the list ahead of you, you’ve got to understand that the dynamic of that table might completely change by the time you get a seat. Try to pick a table that’s decent to begin with, then stick there for a while and start getting reads on players. If you’re planning on playing for 10+ hours you can definitely try to cherry pick a little more, but in general you should try to limit how often you’re switching tables and entering new dynamics.
How To Choose Your Table:
Here’s a question for you, would you rather sit down at a table with a bunch of losing players who have smaller stacks (50bb-100bb), or at a table that’s extremely deepstacked (100bb-500bb), but only has 1-2 losing players? You might think initially that you’d want to play at the deepstacked table, since there are better opportunities to win a massive pot against the bad players, but usually this would actually be the less profitable decision. You are usually more likely to win more at the table with the most bad players, not the table that is the deepest stacked.
Now there are definitely exceptions to this rule, like if there are a couple of massive whales with huge stacks that are just giving money away. However, in general you’ll find that sitting down at the shorter stacked table with losing players will win you more money, even though play might be a little boring and you’ll mostly just be playing tight and waiting for good hands. The thing about most bad players is they really have no idea how the amount of big blinds they have in their stack affects their play. They’ll likely have a higher VPIP than they should, allowing you to play tight, solid ranges and extract money from their shorter stacks.
When looking at a table, instead of just seeing which one has the biggest stacks, ask yourself what the combined winrates of everyone at the table could be. Obviously this is hard to quantify and will vary a ton, but if you are playing at your local casino and know a ton of the players, you can do this with some accuracy. Add all the perceived winrates of the players at the table together and average them. Say that you think 3 players are losing -5bb per hour, 3 are breakeven, and 3 are winning 3bb. The table would then have a combined average of losing -2bb/hour. Focus on finding the table with the worst average winrate, not necessarily the deepest game. One note to remember is that the table average can be affected by deeper stacks, as a bad player may only be losing -10bb/hour with a short stack, but could be losing up to -50bb per hour with a deepstack because they don’t know how to protect their stack, loosen up their range, and punt it all away.
The main takeaway with table selection is to focus on finding the table with the worst average winrate between all players, instead of focusing on just finding the table with the worst player who has the biggest stack. Pick a table where you think you have an edge, and just stick with that table unless an insane table change opportunity presents itself. Over time you’ll fall into a rhythm, understand the dynamics of the table, and give yourself the best opportunity to win, as opposed to switching tables every hour and having to reset and re-tag all of your opponents.
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