Rating the action

May 20, 2003 3:37 AM

Poker games, even at tables of the same limits, are not created equally. People are the ingredients that define the type of action you might be facing.

And the juxtaposition of styles adds variety and intricacy to any analysis of table suitability. If a player has the option and luxury of table choice, what factors should contribute to a profitable selection of seats? By using the list waiting period to advantage, a player may be able to rate the choice of tables ahead of time.

Of course, for this concept to be effective, a player must possess some idea which type of action has proven profitable. Regular players should keep records that reflect limits, games, notes on action, styles, tournaments and so on. At year’s end, examination and honest appraisal of each category should reveal which classifications offer the most profit and which need more work.

Additionally, a player may wish to dissect his or her own style for methods to alter responses in a more positive way for those types of games that are less rewarding. For example, a player may discover the jump from $5-$10 hold’em to $10-$20 hold’em generated a lower profit margin. That evaluation may enable a player to either be more selective about $10-$20 games, or better, force an altered game strategy and bankroll for a different result.

Okay, back to the railbird’s choice. The best method of determining the action level is not by the average pot size, but by the number of players from round to round and the type of betting.

For instance, a low limit stud game may have six callers for the first round and then three checked rounds before any other betting. That game looks as if there are lots of players in each round, but nothing is happening. By contrast, a hold’em game with six players and raises in each round has much greater action.

Games with a couple of action players taking the lead and a collection of first round calls followed by next round folds could be a dangerous game with skilled trap players who will not give up much extra pot action.

The pace of a game can be measured by the average number of hands per hour per player. Looking at a typical stud game, a tight game might be 4-6, a passive game 7-10, a loose game 11-15, and a no-fold’em game over that.

Count the number of players conforming to the average: Players under the average tend to be selective or afraid to bet. More careful observation might extend to grouping the number who take a single card, those who go to fifth street and the number at the end.

Tight games have mostly two or three player contests. A passive game response is a single raise followed by calls.

Loose games are characterized by long draw hands and end calls with less than nut hands. No fold’em games are just that: put the money in and look at cards — any chance is enough to play. Also, the time between player bets is a clear indication of skill level. Good players know what they’re going to play and act quickly. Casual players have to frequently check their cards and think about it.

Another interesting factor is the quality of hands being played. To really make the distinction, the railbird has to look at the entire betting cycle for the showdown hands. Is a player actually considering the pot size compared to the hand odds? Does position matter in hand selection? What’s the winning possibility of each player on the final found? A table might look active when a cycle of big hands is occurring, but that might not be indicative of the average action.

Some other tidbits to note are the amount of chips in front of each player and how they are stacked. Chip architects and conservative stackers indicate tougher action than mound builders and helter-skelter piles. The general posture of the players might denote a relaxed approach rather than attentive.

All of the above signals are just information tools to help a player gauge the type of table action in advance. Translating that raw data into choosing a table or adjusting playing styles is another topic. However, properly integrating these tips into your game plan might just help avoid big losses.