This is the sixth in our series on common mistakes Texas hold’em poker players often make. Let’s explore a very common mistake related to table and seat selection. Your opponents’ playing traits and the “texture” of your table can make a huge difference in how well you fare. So many players fail to take this into consideration.
You will often see players change seats or even move to another table because they have been losing. For the most part, in their own minds, they just want to get luckier – as if seats and tables can influence the poker g-ds. That’s the wrong reason. It’s the laws of probability that really matter. Their mistake is not making an appropriate adjustment when their opponents’ playing traits and the table texture are contrary to their best interests.
We classify our opponents as tight (playing few hands – mostly strong ones) or loose (playing lots of hands – more than one out of four, on average, including weak starting hands); aggressive (lots of raising) or passive (calling along but rarely raising). There may also be deceptive players (who often slow-play, check-raise and/or bluff), and calling-stations (hard to bluff them out – they came to play).
Those characteristics lead to a texture that defines each table. The smart (winning) player has his preferences. The others just accept what fate has bestowed upon them, and fail to seek out any possible improvements by moving to a different table or seat.
The smart player (our hero) does not want to be seated to the right of an exceedingly aggressive opponent. He wants to be in a position where he can see if Mr. Aggressive makes his frequent raise before he must act. In that case, a seat change (when available) to the left of Mr. Aggressive can really help.
Failing to consider your opponents’ playing traits and the resultant table texture is bound to cost lots of chips as the game progresses. For example, if you recognize your opponent is prone to bluff, you might decide to call with a mediocre hand on the river so long as the pot is big enough; i.e., pot odds substantially higher than the probability your opponent has the goods. (Yes, that is a judgment call.)
Here’s another good example: When you first sat down at that table, the game was fairly loose with relatively little raising preflop and on the turn and river rounds of betting. Several players stayed to see the flop, often calling to see the turn. You feel comfortable playing in a game with this texture. As time passes, one or two very aggressive players join the game.
Now, holding a fairly decent starting hand, you may have to pay several bets (lots of raising before the flop) to stay to see the flop.
Bottom Line: Neglecting how your opponents play their cards – their playing traits – is a big mistake. These traits give the table its texture. You can always change to a “better” seat or make a table change.