Before we start on this “journey,” here’s a short quiz for you: Which U.S. president lost the White House’s fine china in a poker game?
(See answer at end of column.)
A “good” table is one at which you win. What makes a good table for you? How does the character of the table affect your chances of winning?
How many opponents stay to see the flop?
Is a “good” table one with few opponents staying to see the flop, so you have little competition for the pot? No way!
Intuitively, we all avoid tables that are too “tight” with only one or two opponents staying to see the flop. You make a monster hand but there is no money in the pot; and much of it may go for the casino’s rake.
Considering the vast majority of your starting hands will be drawing hands (usually must improve to win at the showdown), you want enough opponents in the pot to make it attractive when you do connect on the flop – especially when you catch a monster hand. That’s a “multiway” pot – three or more opponents staying to see the flop. That’s a “loose” table.
Sure, there are times – albeit rare – when you would prefer only two or three opponents see the flop with you. That’s when you are dealt a made hand – A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. In such infrequent cases, according to the laws of probability, your made hand becomes an underdog if four or more opponents stay in.
For the most part, a loose table where three or more opponents pay to see the flop is a better investment. Then, when your drawing hand connects on the flop, you can expect a decent pot as your reward.
Action before flop: Do you want to play at a table with lots of raising before the flop? No way; that makes it too expensive to stay for the flop with a drawing hand – and most of your starting hands will be drawing hands.
Certainly, lots of raising preflop is great when you happen to be dealt a big pocket pair, especially A-A or K-K. However, far more often you will be dealt a drawing hand. Mind you, even A-K is a drawing hand, albeit a “premium” one. Almost always, it must improve to take the pot (assuming you don’t try to bluff). Such a table is “passive” – in contrast to a “wild” or “aggressive” table.
So, in summary, most often you ought to prefer to play at a loose-passive table. But it doesn’t always happen that way.
What are your options? Often, you will be seated at a table with lots of betting and raising before the flop. The game is wild and too aggressive.
What can you do? Well, of course, you might just stay and play at that table, resolved to play only made and premium drawing hands. If luck goes your way, that could be extremely profitable.
One big problem: After your opponents realize you are a tight player, calling only with strong starting hands, they will be inclined to fold when you bet – and your winning pots get smaller.
Frequently, the raising is done by a very aggressive player – a “maniac.” You can try to be seated just to his left, so you can fold without investing a single chip when he raises – unless you have a made or premium drawing hand. (Then you have a good shot at winning a big pot.
Play very cautiously while waiting for such a seat to become available. But, if there are very aggressive players at that table, it’s not one at which it would be wise to stay and play for very long.
You might take a break from the game. Go for a walk; use the restroom; have a snack. While you are gone, perhaps the table texture will change more to your taste. Players come and go at the table. Maniacs often go broke. Too-tight players get disgusted with sitting ildly as their chip stacks recede every round while in the blinds.
Alternatively, another option – likely the best – is to ask the floor person for a table change.
Answer to our short quiz: It was Warren G. Harding who died in office at age 57.
Perhaps he was not playing at a “good” table!
Defining what we call good poker tables
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