How to Change Tables Effectively

Hey guys, sorry I’m late! Last night when I normally would have been writing, game 5 of the World Series was on, and I didn’t want to miss Cleveland winning their second championship of the year… although that ended up not happening. We still have two chances to close it out at home, so I’m confident we’ll get the win. Because of all the non-poker stuff I had going on this week, I had trouble reaching three of my four goals. I played for a total of 20 hours, studied for about 5, and ran just twice. I was able to reach my meditation goal, so this week wasn’t a total bust. My profit for the week was $795.

This week, I want to talk a little bit about table-changing, a tool/skill that is highly underrated (IMO) amongst many poker players and can drastically affect our win-rates. Depending on location, many of us may not have the luxury of being able to table-change or may be limited in the number of choices we have in selecting tables. Fortunately for me, at the Jack in Cleveland, there are usually 6-10 1-3 games running on a weekday during peak hours (excluding days with promotions) and roughly 12-20 on the weekend. No matter how many tables are running, however, certain ones are always going to be more profitable than others. What causes this is the total amount of money in a given game, individual stack sizes, and players’ strategies/willingness to gamble. Because I know that some tables are going to be more profitable than others, I make a conscious effort to get up at least once every 1-2 hours and take a lap around the poker room to scan for better games. This results in me changing tables quite frequently, probably 2-3 times per session on average. I have definitely given myself a reputation as a table-changer, to the point where when I walk up to the front desk, the first words out of the floor-person’s mouth are something like, “Where do you want to go, Jon?”

Here is a list of the things that weigh into my decision making when looking for a new table:

  • Bad players that I recognize

    • This one should be pretty obvious, and how well we’re able to spot these players will be somewhat dependent on how frequently we play. Since I’ve become somewhat of a regular, however, I’ve taken note of a handful of god-awful players who I will almost always follow (depending on their stack size, and the rest of the players at the table).

  • Good players (pros) that I recognize

    • Depending on the state/ confidence we have in our game, these players may be something we should look to avoid when table changing. However, since I am confident in my game and don’t expect to get tangled up with these players too often (and when I do, I still think I have at least a slight edge :)), I actually like to switch to their table. This may seem counter-intuitive, but since I know that they are there with the intention of maximizing their profit, they should also be practicing good table selection. So sometimes, if I am having trouble finding what looks like a good game, I’ll switch to a good players table in hope that I simply don’t know or recognize some of weaker players at the table.

  • Stack Sizes

    • Again, this one should be somewhat obvious. The more money our opponents have in front of them, the more opportunity we have to profit. Playing in a game with deep stacks also adds more skill to the game and thus should increase our edge (assuming we have one). As a side note, when stacks are deep, bluffing/ barreling becomes more viable/ profitable. For example, if we bet $100 on the turn in a HU pot vs. a typical LLSNL villain and the villain has a $400 effective stack, we are going to have more fold equity than we would if he/she only had a $150 stack. This is because the villain with the $400 will want to “protect” their stack, and likely will fear that if they call our turn bet, then they could face a big bet on the river which will put them in a very difficult spot.

  • Talking/ laughing

    • When players are talking a lot/ laughing at a table, it’s generally a sign that the game has a more fun and less serious dynamic going on, which can often signify a profitable game. In games where players appear to be having fun and focusing less on being stereotypical poker players (silent, listening to music, blank-faced), we’re more likely to see recreational players who are willing to gamble, which is something we can easily exploit.

  • Drinking

    • This one kind of goes along with the talking/laughing point. When players at a table are drinking we can expect the game to have a more fun/ looser dynamic which again can be exploited and is very profitable. Additionally, we can expect players who are fully intoxicated to be easy targets as their decision-making skills will almost certainly be hindered.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Are there any other table-changing criteria you guys take into account when looking for a new game? If there are, be sure to leave a note in the comments below. Thanks, happy-grinding, and may the run-good be with us all.