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Choose A Table To Suit Your Style

Most of your money will be made before you sit down to play. Literally this isn't true, but in a broad sense, it is. In order to make up the disadvantage of having to pay rake, you have to sit yourself next to players who are of a significantly lesser skill level than yourself. Sitting next to players who are of equal skill or even of a slightly lesser skill just isn't good enough.

So how do you spot such weak players before you sit down? First you have to know what to look for. If you were at a live casino, you'd have to stand at a distance and watch hand after hand to get an idea of how the players play. When playing online, all you have to do is check the lobby. You select a table, and the table's statistics pop up. You'll probably be given the following information for each table: hands played per hour, percentage of players seeing the flop, and average pot size.

You want the hands played per hour to be as high as possible, because the faster the table is playing, the more money you can potentially make. Generally speaking, you should look for 60 hands/hr or better at your low limit tables, and 80/hr or better at your high limit tables. Of course, the looser tables (which are the better ones because the players aren't as particular about what hands they play) usually play less hands/hr, so you need to look at the stats relative to one another.

The percentage of players seeing the flop is your quickest and easiest way to determine how tight or loose a table is. The ideal table is a loose one. The more players seeing the flop, the better. This is the most important statistic to look at. I personally don't sit down at a filled 10 person table unless that percentage is at least 30, and I expect at least 40 for lower limits, or short handed play. If you're playing really low limits, such as 1-2, you can often find tables where 70-100% of the players are seeing the flop every hand.

The average pot size is your best gauge of how active or passive the table is. That is, at an active table, you'll find a lot more betting and raising, or at least a lot of people calling all the way to the river. Although this affects my play (I'll play less hands at an active table than I will at a passive table), it doesn't affect whether or not I'll sit down. I enjoy playing at both active and passive tables.

Another thing you may consider before sitting down is the size of each player's stack (how much money they're playing with). Bigger stacks are usually indicative of more serious players. Take this with a grain of salt though. A lot of good players will sit with small stacks so as to remain inconspicuous, and some really poor players simply have a lot of money to blow.

The last thing you can look at before you choose a table are the players themselves. If you've played long enough at any one site, you should have a list of the best and worst players you've played against. Obviously, you want to avoid the best, and sit down next to the worst.

Where to sit

The decision of where to position yourself at the table is not as important as the selection of the table itself, but still shouldn't be overlooked. You are said to have position on your opponents if they are seated on your right - that is, you get to act after they do. Therefor, you want your stronger opponents on your right. Generally, this means your tight players - those that are very specific about which hands they choose to play.

If you aren't familiar with the players sitting at the table, then before you sit down, you would be wise to watch a few hands in order to get an idea for how each player plays. Make note of which players are tight and which are loose. Try to get the tight players on your right, and the loose ones on your left.

In regards to the loose players, you especially want to try to get any maniacs (those that love to bet and raise with very little to back it up) on your immediate left. This will allow you to many advantages. First, you get to see how every other player after him reacts to his betting - whether they have good enough hands to call his raises, ect... Secondly, you'll be able to use the maniac as an unwitting partner to knocking out those players after him. If, for example, you flop top pair and bet, he'll probably raise making it too costly for the others to chase down their gut shot straight draws, and bottom pairs. Your final advantage comes when you have a great hand. Let's say you flop four of a kind. You check to the maniac, who bets, and allow everyone else to call before you raise, gaining a whole lot of additional bets.

When to leave

Before every hand you're dealt, you're making a choice not to leave. You want to make that an active choice. You want to be the one making the choice to play with the other people sitting at your table, not the other way around.

Regardless of whether you are winning or losing (although especially if you're losing), you want to be vigilant in asking yourself two questions. Is this the best table that I could be playing at right now? And, am I still playing my best game?

In order to find out if you're still playing at the best table, you need to first check to see if the conditions that made this a good table to play at still exist. Have any of the fish left? Have any sharks sat down? Is everyone still playing as loose as they were when you began? Check the table statistics in the lobby to confirm that the percentage of players seeing the flop is approximately the same or higher. Even after you confirm that the table conditions are the same or better, you should check the other tables. You may be at a good table, but perhaps there is a better one.

After you've confirmed that you are at the best possible table, you have to determine whether or not you're still playing as good as you possibly can. If you're losing, should you to contribute your losses to a string of bad luck, or are you outmatched? In order to come to the correct, and therefor profitable answer, you need to be honest with yourself. You need to objectively look at your play and honestly critique it. Are you tired? Are you overly frustrated? If you are, then you're probably not playing your best game, and you should leave. Even if you aren't, you still might be outmatched. Perhaps you judged the table wrong. The safest thing to do when losing is leave. You can't lose any more money by leaving. If you are convinced that you are indeed playing your best game, and that you aren't outmatched, then you should feel perfectly safe in continuing to play. I've been down 800 dollars before but still knew that I was sitting at a good table, and playing my best. So I kept at it, and by the time I left, I was up 300. The important thing to remember in such a situation is to remain calm so that you can continue to play your best.

You should note, however, that most players make the mistake of blaming bad luck when they are in fact outmatched. If you're even the slightest bit unsure, then I recommend following the simplest rule of all: if you're losing, leave.

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