Selecting a profitable table

Selecting a profitable table

How many people think before they sit down at a table and play their favourite poker limit?

For instance, how many people sit at the first table where there is an available seat and post the first round no matter where the button is? I would suspect many people do! Online poker offers you a tremendous opportunity to select an appropriate table because you have a vast number to choose from and there are helpful statistics to help you decide which will be the most profitable. Also, you can move freely between tables with minimum down time.

Here are a few simple guidelines to follow to help you select a profitable table. I would have thought most of this is obvious, but many people do not follow these instructions and miss out on profitable opportunities or worse still play in unprofitable games. The difference between winning and losing in the long run often boils down to the table you choose to sit at.

Look at the average pot

This is pretty obvious sort of stuff, but you should look for where the action is. Just about every poker site bonuses has average pot statistics which shows the average pot size for the last x number of hands. For most sites, average pots are taken over the last 20-100 hands. Don't sit at a table that looks ridiculously tight. A good rule of thumb for limit poker is to pick a table where the average pot is more than 12 times the small blind. For example, on a $3/$6 table look for tables where the average pot is more than $36. I always think the higher the better. Some prefer to stay away from the really wild tables, but most agree the super tight tables are of no value.

Selecting a profitable table

For no limit and pot limit poker, I look for tables where the average pot is more than 65 % of the maximum buy-in. For example, the $1/$2 no-limit and pot-limit games at Party Poker have a maximum buy-in of $100. Therefore, look for average pots over $65.

Look at the percentage pre-flop

Some poker rooms also have the percentage pre-flop. For a start, look for games with a percentage pre-flop is greater than 35% in limit poker. Also, you can deduce a lot of information from looking at the combined percent pre-flop and average pot statistics. For example, in a $3/6 game if the percentage pre-flop is high (around 40% or more) and the average pot is relatively low (around $30), it is likely that this is a fairly loose game with lots of pre-flop callers and not much raising before the flop or action after the flop. These games can be profitable.

The percentage pre-flop is not as good a guide for pot-limit and no-limit poker by itself, but can be a good supplement to the average pot statistic. For example, if the percentage pre-flop is low and the average pot is high; there is a good chance that one or two fish are making all the running. It pays to quickly identify the fish and if the fish leaves so should you.

Follow the fish

I like to keep a database of players who play poorly. I do a quick scout around before I join a table to see if I can identify any of the usual suspects. This can be a very profitable practice and one I suggest you follow. Sure it takes a bit of work but life was not meant to be easy. An equally good strategy is to follow the fish on a given night. If you identify someone as a fish and see that they switch tables then jump on the table they have moved to. Often players can play their best game for a while and then go on tilt. You should follow players that are on tilt because they are likely to remain on tilt for the rest of the session.

Move tables regularly

Staying at a table too long is a common mistake I see. If you do all of the above and select a table that gives you the best chance of winning you have to keep on monitoring the table to make sure that it is still profitable. Your decision to move should be independent on whether you are winning or losing at that particular table, as long as the conditions remain ok then continue playing. If conditions turn sour it is time to find another poker table.

Don't post until it is time

Selecting a profitable table

Players' posting out of position is a big mistake I often see. How often do you see someone joint a table and post just before their big blind comes around because they are too impatient to wait? Don't be one of these players because it will cost you a lot of money. This is particularly true if you follow my advice and regularly move tables if conditions go sour. Wait until it is your big blind or until you have the button to click on auto-post.

Make sure your limit is profitable

Once you start increasing the limits you play, the players get better and better. If you are a poor player you will quickly go broke at a higher limit compared to the smaller limits. Make sure that the limit you are playing is profitable and not too tight. If the limit appears tight, it is better to play two tables in a lower limit.


If you follow these simple steps your profits will increase without your actual play changing at all. It is obviously important to read up on the game as much as possible as well, but selecting a profitable table is an important part of poker that often gets neglected.