“All men are not alike; alas! good neighbor.” – from Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Nor are all tables in the casino alike. They may be similar in dimensions and appearance – oval in form and covered with felt. It’s the seated players who define each table.
You have just arrived at your local casino to play your favorite hold’em limit game. You sign up at the board and your initials are listed for that game. You notice there are four tables going for those limits. There are three people ahead of you. It shouldn’t be long before a seat becomes available at one of them.
You wander over to the rail alongside a few of these tables – and watch. What are you looking for? Anticipating you might be called to this table, you’d like to have a good idea as to the type of opponents you will be playing against: Tight or loose; passive or aggressive; timid (easily bluffed out) or a calling-station (don’t try to bluff him out). Perhaps there’s a “maniac” at that table.
Who are the winners at that table; who are the losers (likely to be on tilt)? You want to be prepared, should you be seated at that table.
Game texture: Likewise important, give this special consideration. Is it a loose game? Or is it tight? Is there a lot of betting and raising, especially before the flop? Or is it so tight that hand after hand, the pot is “chopped.”
When there are only two players staying to see the flop, the dealer asks if they would like to chop the pot, i.e, take back their bets less one chip that the dealer rakes for the casino. (That can quickly add up if the pot is chopped often – all to the players’ disadvantage.)
Personally, I prefer to play at a loose-passive table. Loose: Lots of players willing to put their chips into the pot. Passive: Little if any raising before the flop.
If the game is too tight, you are less likely to have a multi-way pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop). In that case, the pots almost invariably will be relatively small. That’s contrary to your best interests when you stay in with a drawing hand (usually must improve to win the pot), especially since most of your playable starting hands will be drawing hands.
Note: This is in contrast to a “made” hand preflop. In this case, based on probability law, your best interests are to play against three – but not more than four opponents.
When you hold a marginal drawing hand (one that just meets or slightly exceeds the criteria of Epstein’s Hold’em Algorithm), then the Hold’em Caveat is very important. (See ad for Hold’em or Fold’em?) Basically, it explains that under those circumstances, it is in your best interest to play in a multi-way pot with no preflop raises.
A raise would make it too costly to play this hand. With fewer than three opponents, the “profit potential” is too low to warrant a capital (chips) investment.
You’re seated: If you have not been able to assess the texture of the game, tell the dealer you will “wait for the button to pass me.” You will not be dealt in until after the button passes your seat. Meanwhile, use that time to evaluate the texture of the game and your opponents playing traits.
Changing tables: If you find that game is not to your liking – too tight or too much raising – then calmly get up from the table and take your chips to the sign-up. Tell the person-in-charge you will wait for another table, and “please put my name back at the top of the list.”
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