Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How I Table Select-- And How You Should, Too.

Received the following email question from reader Drew P., following my last post on when to leave a bad table

"Welcome back to the US. Nothing but good things to say about the post - only thing I wish you would have gone into more detail about is any criteria you have regarding table selection. Do you just pick a table and play until you're sure it's a bad seat? Do you use software like Tableninja in tandem with a HUD? What about the lobby table stats (% players to flop and avg. pot)? Just some thoughts I had while reading. I tend to pick the table that has the highest avg. pot. I pay almost no attention to % players to flop, and I am not using any software."  -DP 

The quick answer I sent Drew is that I used Table Ninja with good success back when I played on Full Tilt and Poker Stars, but since moving to Bovada a few years ago I don't use it anymore. Now, instead, when I'm going to sit at "regular" tables (read: non-Zoom tables) I primarily look at the % of players seeing flops, not the average pot size. The chief reason is that the percentage number tells me the average table VPIP, which is a significant indicator of the number of fish. The bigger the number, the more players there are seeing flops— which by definition means there are more crappy hands in play. You can also infer that many of these folks are not playing positionally aware poker, simply because there are so many players seeing flops and they can't all be on the button. Said another way: bad players with bad cards and bad position. Said yet another way: a fish-rich environment.

The other lobby stat that Drew mentioned (average pot size) can be helpful, but you have to be more cautious with interpreting what it actually means. The problem with it is that large pot sizes can be due to lots of players seeing flops (a good thing), or it can be due to undue aggression from one or more players seated at the table (not such a good thing). If you sit down at one of these tables you have to take the time to figure out what is the root cause of the big average sized pots, then proceed accordingly. Stay if the pot sizes are due to lots of players limping in and bloating the pot, but leave if it's due to aggressive players bullying the table with raises and re-raises.

The bottom line is Table-VPIP is the main stat I use, whether I'm sitting down by myself or whether I'm working with a student. I've had good success table selecting based on this number, and I suspect you will too.


In non-poker news, I just finished reading a really excellent book: The Martian, by Andy Weir. Rarely do I finish a novel as quickly as I did this one; I literally read it in two long sittings. Really fun, exciting read, excellent writing, fascinating space-travel facts throughout, pulse-pounding adventure, edge-of-your-seat how's-he-gonna-get-out-of-this-one scenes, etc. The book has been--and continues to be--a national best seller, and has now been made into a major motion picture (starring Matt Damon) that will be coming out in a few months. Bottom line is I highly recommend picking up this book if you have a few bucks, a couple of days, and want to be engrossed in an exciting story. Over the past few months, three separate friends of mine, plus my wife, have each read the book and independently recommended it to me. They were each right-- it's a really, really good book. I'd definitely consider reading it before the movie comes out, too.

All-in for now...


  1. Just bought the Kindle version. Thanks for the tip. It also recommended "Ready Player One." Have you heard anything about this one?

    1. No, I hadn't heard of it before, but I see on Amazon it's one of the books that readers of The Martian also buy. I'll probably take a chance on it.

  2. There's always a waiting list for tables with high % player and high average pot stats. They are interesting to rail since those kind of stats are like chum to sharks and action junkies.

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