Table selection deserves respect in poker

February 28, 2017, Brent Philbin  

Table selection is an important skill that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This is not a luxury that higher limit players are afforded because they’ll often only have one game in a given room, or the second game is a must-move, giving no selection at all. While you’re still at the lower limits making your way up, you need to take advantage of this option.

DON’T MIX IT UP WITH THE BEST: There’s no reason to play with the best players in the room if there’s a better option available.

You have nothing to prove; you’re there to make money. Exactly when to get up is a judgment call, but if there are six $2-$5 no-limit hold’em games and you’re sitting with two other players you know are pros and two you suspect win more than they lose, there’s a good chance one of the other tables is better.

SOMETIMES IT’S NOT WORTH PLAYING WITH THE LEGENDARY DONKEY: Every room has one, sometimes more than one. There’s a person that walks in the room and suddenly every shark in the building is looking to transfer to this donkey’s game.

The thing is, many times the most savvy players are the ones that are able to maneuver themselves to the table and you’ll often end up with a game that contains the six best players in the room all champing at the bit to play with the whale. There are few scenarios where a game full of six winning players and one horrible one is better than the other options in the room.

Examine the situation with an open mind. Many times this game will be great, other times take the path of least resistance and collect your money elsewhere.

AVOID THE SUNKEN-COST FALLACY IN BAD GAMES: The sunken-cost fallacy is the idea that you’ve invested too much into something to give it up, but in reality your previous investment has nothing to do with the decision.

This happens constantly in poker. You don’t want to go home broke or you keep firing bullets in tournaments when you’re only getting five big blinds.

You want to avoid this fallacy, but it should be mentioned with regard to table changes.

Maybe you’ve lost two buy-ins at a table when your name is called for the transfer; this has nothing to do with whether the transfer is correct.

WHEN IT DOUBT, GO WHERE THERE’S LAUGHTER: If you’re in a room you’re not familiar with, try to get to the table with the most laughter. Laughing tables are always great games.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.