Find the right seat when dealing with a poker maniac

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As noted in Part I, you always have the option of changing your seat as well as the table while playing in a cash game – not so in a tournament.

The best reason for changing your seat is if your view of the board (eyesight corrected) is substantially improved by sitting opposite the dealer, closer to the cards on the board. Many poker players do suffer from ageing-related and other eyesight deficiencies.

Certainly, you don’t ever want to misread the board! Having to strain to read the cards on the board places undue stress on the player. Then his focus on the game and ability to make important decisions are negatively impacted.

But, even if you don’t have a vision problem, there are other reasons you might prefer to change your seat position. (Note: During the course of a game, betting position matters not as the positions rotate around the table. In that regard, hold’em is an equal-opportunity competition.)

A very good example of when it would be prudent to change your seat is if you find yourself seated to the right of an extremely aggressive player – a “maniac.” He bets, raises and re-raises almost every hand.

Holding a marginal drawing hand (as is frequently the case), you would like to stay to see the flop. But is it worth a double – or a triple-bet? Should you call to see the flop; knowing the maniac is likely to raise? And, then another opponent may reraise. It would cost you three bets to see the flop with holecards that do not warrant such a large investment. It’s worth one bet, but no more.

Ideally, you want to be seated to the maniac’s left, so you can see what he does before you must act. Then, you can easily fold your marginal hand to his raise – at no cost to you. And, there is another plus: You can also use his raise to thin the playing field by reraising with a made hand (A-A, K-K, or Q-Q) or a premium drawing hand without an Ace such as K-Q.

If everyone else folds to your reraise, you will have isolated the maniac – who most likely will call your reraise even if he has a weak hand (more often than not). That’s the way maniacs like to play.

A somewhat lesser case for changing seats can be made when there are several tight players in the game. Ideally, you would like to have them seated to your left (especially if a very aggressive player – even if he’s not a maniac – is seated to your right).

Tight players are less likely to raise after you bet or call. And they are more likely to fold when you bet/raise to thin the field, making your goal-to-win all the more attainable. If one does raise, then you know he has a big hand.

With that information, you can make better decisions. You can be more cautious on the next rounds of betting. Of course, being seated to the left of the maniac is your primary goal when considering a seat change.

The only deterrent to changing seats in a cash game is there has to be an available seat you would prefer. Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen. Just be ready when it does, and – without delay – calmly and quietly tell the dealer you are moving into that seat as it is being vacated. Even a seat two or three places to the left of the maniac is preferred over a seat to his right.

If you were playing in a tournament, this option would not be available – under any circumstances, for whatever reason. You are randomly assigned a specified seat at that table, and cannot change it at any time or at your discretion.

Only in a cash game can you do so. Part of being skilled is taking advantage of this opportunity. Of course, that is why many astute poker players prefer to participate in cash games.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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