Fact, theory, superstition at the poker table

August 20, 2013 3:00 AM


Two Aces, Poker Recently, I wrote a column about superstitions at the poker table. Two of these were about playing at a particular seat and at a particular table in your local casino.

We concluded a “lucky seat” and a “lucky table” are foolish concepts. More important is your seat position relative to the various types of players at the table. And, a loose-passive table is best; that’s the “texture” of the table (game). A friend asked me to elaborate. He agreed seat and table selection are more than superstition; he referred to these as theory.

The best table: I began by explaining that the term “theory” implies conjecture as distinct from fact. The “texture” – or character – of the table is not theory; it’s real. It is determined by the types of players at the table.

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Your opponents’ starting-hand selections and playing styles define how they play their hands, and in turn contribute to the character of the table. Winning players generally prefer a loose-passive texture: lots of players involved with little raising (preferably by you).

Tight players are very selective in their starting hands. In early positions, they invest only in the best holecards: “made” hands (A-A, K-K, and Q-Q) and premium drawing hands (A-K, A-Q, A-J, and K-Q). When a tight player raises from an early position, you can be sure he has the goods.

One or two aggressive players can change the texture of the table to aggressive – lots of betting and raising. The extreme is a “maniac” who is prone to bet or raise almost every hand. (He loves “action!”) You are far more likely to win at a fairly tight table.

A table that is so tight only one or two opponents stay to see the blind, hand after hand, is not conducive to winning much money. Indeed, at such a table the casino’s rake could siphon off most of the chips on the table – especially in low- or middle-limit games.

By far, the majority of hands you might want to play are drawing hands; they must improve to be the winner at the showdown. The odds of improvement to that degree are against you; so you need to have three or more opponents staying to see the flop to make your preflop investment worthwhile.

In such a multi-way pot, the pot odds are likely to be favorable. That’s a “loose” table. In addition, it is best if it is also “passive” – relatively little raising preflop, which would make staying to see the flop a rather costly investment, something you would prefer only with a made hand.

In fact, with a made hand, you might very well do the raising to “reduce the size of the playing field.” By forcing out some of your opponents, you will improve the probability of your “made” hand holding up to take the pot at the river.

In conclusion, my friend agreed: Generally it is best to play at a loose-passive table.

Seat selection: For viewing the action, the best seats are those opposite the dealer, where you can best observe the cards on the board and your opponents, including the size of their chip stacks. More important are the types of players at your table.

For example, sitting to the left of the maniac, permits you to be more selective in starting hands and, when appropriate, to take advantage of his frequent raises. Or, if you hold a made or premium drawing hand, after the maniac raises preflop, you can reraise, thereby forcing out most of the players behind you.

That can gain you the “effective” button position (last to declare for the rest of the hand), or isolate the maniac who, most likely, has a weak hand, over which you are a big favorite.

In summary, my friend agreed: Superstitions don’t win poker hands. The best seat is to the left of a very aggressive player; and the best table is one with lots of loose players who don’t do a lot of raising preflop.

We invite your comments. Email to IreneEdith@GamingToday.com.

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