Playing profitable poker, much like any type of investment, involves recognizing lucrative situations and capitalizing on them. Likewise, it involves avoiding putting ourselves in overly risky situations with little to no chance of success. One of the best and easiest ways to help ensure a profitable return on investment involves engaging in a bit of savvy table selection in online poker rooms. Presumably, if you’re reading this you are playing poker to win. A great way to up your chances of winning is to play against opponents who aren't as good as you. Don’t worry about abandoning the moral high ground; it’s not a question of taking advantage of anything or anyone. Once you've done the time, paid your dues, and earned your hard won knowledge, it’s time to cash-in.
Table Selection in Online Poker Rooms: The Facts & Figures
When you're playing in real brick and mortar (B&M) casinos, you don't have much say over your table choice. Sure, you can pick your stakes and your game type, but you have precious little to absolutely no voice when it comes to the make-up of your table. When playing online, on the other hand, poker table selection can add a decidedly sweet boost to your bankroll. All you have to do is examine a few simple figures and you’ll easily be able to determine which table is the most profitable for you.
Table selection in online poker rooms affords you the opportunity to take a bird's eye glance at stats that would not be available to you in B&M poker rooms. The most important are average pot size and the average number of players per flop.
The average pot size refers to the amount, on average, your opponents are putting into the pot. If the amount is high, it means your tablemates are giving off some serious action, so you will stand to win more when you play your cards and/or the situation is right.
The average number of players per flop (PPF) refers to the number of players who are still in the hand as of the flop. There is no hard-line rule about whether a high or low number is better; this depends largely on how you play. Loose players will usually fair better at tables with fewer PPF since it allows them to scoop the smaller pots no one else wants to contest. Tighter players, on the other hand, often do better with more PPF because their discerning play can pick up the sporadic, but highly profitable large pots.
Regardless, you'll want to account for the number of opponents at the table when considering this figure since tables that are shorthanded will obviously have lower numbers of PPF and are therefore not an entirely accurate representation of what you’re really up against.
Table Selection: Timing is Everything
As we've already discussed, if you want to play to win, you're going to want to play against the less experienced, more recreational contingent. You can't expect them to come to you, you're going to have to go to them. In other words, if you want to catch the fishes, you'll want to know when and where the fishes swim.
People who are playing poker for fun will play during the most common recreational hours; namely, after work (i.e. after 5pm) and on weekends. Yes, yes - we know that recreational players aren't strictly 9-5'ers, and with the increasing popularity of telecommuting, entrepreneurship and freelancing, less and less people actually work these set, stringent hours. This said, the fact remains that well over 1/2 the full-time working population still works within this time frame, give or take an hour or so. This is when you’re going to cast your line. Starting around 7pm each night, most recreational are beginning to boot up to get down to the green. They’re relaxing, unwinding, and maybe even having a few drinks (the more the better for you). Sure, they’re hoping to win a few extra bucks, but they've been grinding it out all day at work and are playing for release. You, on the other hand, are just winding up to start your grind.
If you're regularly encountering the same poor player(s), it behooves you to take note and look for this person at the tables. As we've said countless times, poker is a game of imperfection information to be sure, but knowing you've got one fish on the hook is better than trying your luck in an ocean of unknowns.
If you want to know more about online poker rooms, and which sites have harder competition than others, check out our recommended poker site guide.
There’s definitely no shortage of action at the virtual tables these days, so there’s also no reason to take a passive approach to table selection in online poker rooms. As a player – and especially as a skilled player – table selection affords you yet another opportunity to max your return on investment, so use it!