Unlike most live casinos you can choose which table to sit at when playing online poker. You can try and find soft tables with lots of fish and avoid tables full of good regulars.
But how important is table selection at low and micro stakes games? That's one thing I'm still trying to figure out but I've tried a few different things and have some opinions.
What To Look For In a Poker TableEverybody plays different. What type of table is the most profitable for you is going to be different than what's the most profitable for me. I like a good combination of weak players and tight players. The weak players to get easy money in big pots from, the tight players to steal small pots from and to stay out of my way when I go after the fish.
There are a lot more low and micro stakes poker players than there are high stakes players. You're not going to know all the regulars at these levels but there are a few table stats you can look at to get an idea of the action. The poker room lobbies help you table select by providing you some basic stats. Below are screenshots of PokerStars' and Full Tilt Poker's lobbies.
Both sites show you the following information that can help you choose profitable tables.
Average Pot SizeThis is the first stat I look at. I ideally want to find players that are willing to play big pots. Monsters aren't handed out every deal so if the average pot size is large it means players are willing to put a lot of money in with marginal hands. When I flop something strong, there's a good chance someone will pay me off. Even when I have a marginal hand, I can still win a big pot if I have a good read that I'm ahead.
You have to be careful of this statistic. The table could be pretty passive but recently had a couple of large all-in confrontations. It's possible that after such hands the loose fish have busted out or won big and decided to leave the table leaving it full of tough competition.
Players per FlopThe more players that see a flop, the looser the table. I try and find a loose table but not too loose. From time to time you're going to have to win a pot with a second best hand without a showdown. You can't do that if half the table are calling stations that will go to showdown with bottom pair or even just ace high.
The looser the table is, the better you have to be at post flop play. You're going to need to make some marginal calls and some big lay-downs.
Hands per HourIf you're a winning player, the more hands you play the more money you make. They more hands you play per hour the faster you make your money.
Interpreting this number can be difficult. When it's high it could mean that hands are won either pre flop or on the flop. When it's low it could mean that a lot of hands are going to showdown with multiple players or the table is full of multitabling regulars that are slow to act. You need to weigh hands/hour with the other stats.
Players Seated at the Table/Chip StacksBoth PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will show you the players seated at the table and how many chips they have. If you've taken notes on players and color coded them you can quickly see if there are any players you've played with before that you want to avoid or want to go after.
Most bad players don't improve. If you have a history with someone and you know their game well enough to beat them try and seek them out.
Stack size is also important. If there isn't a lot of money on the table it may not be worth your time no matter how soft. When you hit a big hand, you want to win a big pot. The pot can only get as big as twice what your opponent is able to put in the pot.
If you see a lot of players with the max buy-in, that's a good indication that they're multitabling regulars that automatically have the software top off their stacks. You might want to avoid those tables if you don't play well against them.
PokerTableRating's Table FinderPokerTableRatings has a Table Finder tool which will help you find soft tables.
Simply select the online poker room, stakes, game type, and number of seats and it will return a list of all the tables that match sorted by their rating. The higher the rating, the softer the table.
PTR gives you some information your poker room lobby won't, such as VP$IP (voluntarily put money in pot), PFR (pre-flop raise) and Aggr (aggression factor post flop).
This will help you make a better determination of what the action at the table is like.
Joining Wait Lists
Even if the table is very good when you join the wait list, the seat you might get is the seat of the soft player that made the table so juicy. At this point the table is just full of good players that saw there was a lot of action and wanted in.
I rarely join the wait list for a table unless there are a number of players I've played with before and I know they'll reload if they stack off.
Don't Bother with Table Selection
4 BB/100, -29 BB/100, 24 BB/100, -12 BB/100, -23 BB/100, 2 BB/100, 5 BB/100, -3 BB/100
8 bb/100, -9 bb/100, -12 bb/100, 4 bb/100, 2 bb/100, -2 BB/100, -21 BB/100, 1 BB/100, -17 BB/100
Those look like pretty good tables to me and it didn't take any thought to find them.
At first it was hard to tell if there were any fish. Since the tables started off short handed, my Holdem Manager HUD showed everyone as loose but as the table filled up and more hands were played that beautiful green fish icon started showing up for some players and others showed they were tight.
Both tables were profitable for me. I got into some tough spots calling all-ins with a marginal hand. Top pair/weak kicker vs top pair/worse kicker and pair vs complete air and got sucked out on. That's going to happen in these situations but in the long run you come out ahead.
Don't let suckouts get you off your game. When someone sucks out on you it means you did everything right and got them to commit a lot of chips way behind. They did exactly what you wanted them to. The cards just didn't fall your way.
Table Dynamics Can Change QuicklyYou may join a table that's loose and profitable and within a couple of orbits it's tighter than a duck's butt. It's not uncommon for the weak players to bust out quickly and decide not to reload.
When this happens don't feel you have to stay at the table. It doesn't matter if you're ahead or behind. It only takes a few seconds to do so. There's no reason to play at a tough table when there are usually so many soft ones.
It should be easy to tell when the table dynamics have changed, especially if you use a HUD from Holdem Manager or PokerOffice.
Those are my thoughts on table selection for low stakes cash games. What are yours?