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Table selection distinguishes cash games from tournaments. (There are other differences.)

When you register for a tournament you are assigned a specific table and seat. On the other hand, when you sign up for a cash game at the casino, you are directed to an empty seat at a table playing the specified game and stakes.

While waiting for a seat to open up, perhaps you (wisely) observed that table in action. You could decide that table is not to your liking and notify the person at the sign-up board you will wait for another table. Your prerogative; it’s your money that will be at risk.

More likely, after being seated and playing for awhile, you might decide this table is not to your liking. Just ask a floorman for a table change. It may take a while, be patient. You might have to remind the floorman. (He may forget – or he is trying to keep all tables fairly even in the number of players at each.)

Why Change?

Several reasons. You may not want to play against a certain player at that table: Having played against him before, you know he is a “rock.” You may not want to play when a particular dealer is dealing the cards at that table.

(I am inclined in that direction when one particular dealer is at my table. He often makes decisions to speed up the action, and neglects to call over a floorperson when there is a dispute between players. Some of his fast decisions may be incorrect.) But there is a much better and more common reason for asking for a table change.


Every poker table has it – a certain character that defines the game. Is it loose, with lots of players staying to see the flop? Perhaps it’s tight, with most players folding preflop, hand after hand? Is it passive, with very little raising – mostly checks followed by calls to a bet? The opposite extreme is an aggressive game, with lots of raising; often re-raising.

The texture of the table is directly related to the type of players at that table. As we all know, players can be tight or loose, passive or aggressive, deceptive (“tricky”) or timid; they can be calling-stations who rarely fold.

Of most significance in defining the texture of your table are:

• tight vs. loose.

• passive vs. aggressive.

It only takes one or two very aggressive players for a table to gain an aggressive texture; i.e., lots of betting, raising, and re-raising. A table with a few tight players is ok so long as the others are loose and stay to see the flop more often than not.

For most of us, a tight-aggressive table is the worst. Nor is a loose-aggressive table desirable – unless you happen to be extremely lucky. At least for me, a loose-passive table is best, perhaps with an occasional raise. A “happy” table with lots of chatter and beer (or other alcoholic beverage) drinking is also a plus.

My preference

Loose players will stay in the pot, which is likely to yield high pot odds. Being passive, with few if any preflop raises, I can see the flop at the lowest price. That’s the optimum situation when you hold a drawing hand preflop; and the vast majority of your starting hands will be drawing hands – must improve to win the pot at showdown.

It’s a different story if you hold a made hand preflop – pocket aces, kings or queens. Then you might want to raise or even re-raise to put the card odds in your favor.

Most often, your drawing hand won’t improve enough to warrant investing further chips beyond the flop. So you will have saved a significant amount of chips by not having to call a pre-flop raise – perhaps even two or three raises.

If the poker gods happen to smile on you and you are fortunate to substantially improve your hand on the flop, having a multi-way pot ensures you of a good payoff on those occasions. Loose, passive. That’s my preference.

So remember: All poker tables are not alike. Texture makes the difference. Play at tables that best suit you.

“The Engineer” Epstein, a noted author and poker teacher in West L.A., is a member of the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame. Contact him 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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