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Play with Fish! Table Selection is Key for Fun and Profits


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 3, 2023

Good table selection skills are important because the tables you play at directly affect your bottom line and your enjoyment. The players at your tables can help to make or break your sessions.

Listen to this podcast as you follow along below:

Who's At Your Table

You want to have Whales (LP fish) and Maniacs (overly loose and aggressive) at your tables because they’re easier to gain value from. They get to the flop too frequently with lots of weak hands, and they’re willing to put too much money in with sub-par made hands and draws.

It’s also good to have Nits and TAG’s at your table because they’re much easier to steal from. They fold a lot, both pre and post-flop, which helps you win more pots without showdowns.

Winning LAG and TAG players are the least desirable to have at your table. You might not know right away if they’re a profitable player, but if you pay attention long enough, they’ll show you their skills and prove to you they’re winners. But, it’s not the end of the world if there are 1 or 2 at your table as long as they don’t have position on you.

And to speak a bit on just enjoyment, when is table fun? For me, it’s when I have weak players all around me who are easy to exploit and to play against. I dislike having good aggressive players on my left, so those are the tables I avoid.


Quickly recognize player types for better exploits:


Position Reigns Supreme!

Position is the most important advantage you can have at the table, so you want to select tables and seats where you have position on the LAG's and Maniacs because their natural aggression, if they have position on you, will limit the plays you can make and can cause for tilting situations. When you have position on them, they're less of a concern.

Also, you want as many fish on the table as possible. Preferably on your right, but if there are 4 fish on a full-ring table all with position on you, that's not a bad thing. They’re in the blinds a ton when you open-raise, so you’re going to be able to put yourself in Bread & Butter spots a lot with all of those Fish.

Having position on the solid TAG and LAG regs allows you to put pressure on them and stifle their aggression because they always have to worry about you using position on them. They’ll fold more often, and hopefully this allows you to get involved more often with the fish at the table.


Table Selection Example

Hero has a great seat on this full ring table in seat 4:

Looking left:

  • The Nit and TAG in seats 5 and 6 will fold a lot to our steals.
  • The Whale in seat 7, 3 seats on our left, will be in one of the blinds when we’re in the CO and HJ, making for good opportunities to isolate him.

Looking right:

  • There’s a whale on our direct right in seat 3.
  • The LAG in seat 2 and the Maniac in seat 1 will have to contend with our position. We can 3bet and call them to exploit our position on them.

Across the table:

  • These are a couple of TAGfish in seats 8 and 9. TAGfish are tight preflop but have a hard time folding post-flop, so we can exploit them pretty easily.


7 Aspects That All Profitable Tables Have In Common

1. Lots of Lose Players

You want as many loose players (Whales and Maniacs) at your table as possible. 1 or 2 isn’t bad, but 5 or 6 is great. The more the merrier because more Whales = more profits. If you recognize lots of loose player names in the table lobbies, put your name on these waitlists. You might not get the best seat at the table, but being on the table is step one for profitable sessions.


2. Few Good LAG’s & TAG's (especially with position on you)

Solid LAG’s & TAG's make it harder to take money from the softer spots at the table. They try to isolate before you can, they raise lots of pots before the fish can limp in, and they’re tough when they’ve got position on you. Try to play at tables with as few of these players as you can.


3. High Player/Flop % (Pl/Fl %)

Most online poker lobbies will show you on average how many players see the flop. The more seeing the flop, the more likely it’s full of fishy calling stations who want to see every flop.


4. Large Average Pot Size

Bigger pots = more money to be won by the best players.


5. Low Hand/Hour

When a table is full of loose players, you’ll see a very low hand/hour statistic on that table. This is because more players seeing flops = longer duration hands = less hands/hour. Don’t worry about low hands/hour cutting into your rakeback profits. Your goal with table selection isn’t playing a lot of hands for rakeback.  Instead, your goal is to play with as many weak players as possible to earn profits from them. Good players make more money from beating weak players than from rakeback.


6. Stack Sizes Below 100bb’s

Regular players (TAG’s and LAG’s) have the auto-rebuy turned on and are always at 100bb’s or more. But the recreational players often buy-in at the minimum with the goal of doubling-up. If you see a table with all players over 100bb’s, that could be good, but it’s possible they’re all regs. When you find lots of 30/40/50bb stacks, that’s a better sign you’re surrounded by fish. Make sure you keep your stack at least as high as the highest fish’s stack, though. You want the opportunity to win all his chips.


7. Many Players on The Wait List

Players want to play with fish, so when a table is full of them, the regs notice and swoop in with their fishing poles and bait. Go ahead and try to get on these tables, but beware that by the time you get on, it could be an unprofitable, reg-infested table.


Be Ready to Leave the Table Already!

If you NEVER leave a table for any reason, you probably don’t think about table selection. Maybe your poker site, like Ignition, just puts you on a random table and you accept it. Or you’re just lazy and don’t want to find another table. Or, you just want to try and make the best of a bad situation. Maybe you don’t even realize what kind of table you’re at!

Well, START paying attention to table selection and STOP accepting unprofitable tables.

If a table is “tough” or not fun to play on, and you’re feeling stressed and anxious because the best players at the table are on your left, then leave. You’ve been folding to 3bet after 3bet, or they call with position and bet or raise every flop or turn.

If you’re not enjoying your time on a table, your profit potential is really low and you’re just asking for a frustrating session.



Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

For the next week, with every table you sit at, assess the profit potential. If you spot lots of fish and you have position on the good players, great! Stay there. But if you see trouble on the horizon with aggressive players on your left or no fish at the table, get up and find a new one. Learning to become a table selector will really move the needle on your poker journey.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.


Sky Matsuhashi

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