Skip to content


Table Select for High Profit Potential – Avoid the Sharks! | Podcast #282


Sky Matsuhashi

on March 12, 2020

It's critical that you table select to improve your profit potential with every session. This holds true whether you’re an online or a LIVE player. This is a “low hanging profit fruit” that's quick and easy to grab. Sure, you can take the time to improve your 3bet game, your double-barrel skills or your river value betting. However, those might take weeks of study and play to see positive effects on your win rate. Table selection, though, takes almost no time and very little effort to do effectively and you’ll start seeing results right away.

Listen to this Episode: Table Select for High Profit Potential #282

Which table would you select?

Let's test your table selection skills with 2 extremes. Which table would you prefer to play at?

  1. 6max cash game with 5 of the most aggressive 3bettors, cbettors and position players that you have ever seen.
  2. 6max cash game with 5 of the loosest and most passive players who love to limp and call see flops. They only make post-flop bets or raises with 2 pair or better, and they call every draw.

I bet we made the same choice: #2 for the win! The table full of the fishiest players who love to play passive poker… That’s where your greatest profit potential lies.

Along with the high profit potential, the table full of fish is going to be so much easier and more enjoyable to play at than that other table full of loose aggressive players. LAG's make sessions super frustrating and no fun at all.

When you table select, the 1st thing you’re looking for is a greater proportion of fish than anyone else at the table.

Avoid Other Sharks

You’re a shark at the table trying to gobble up as many fish as you can. You want to avoid tables that are full of other sharks. Sharks are either TAG or LAG regular players who know what they’re doing. By looking at their stats, it’s obvious they use a HUD just like you. You also pay attention to the plays they make, and it’s obvious they know what they’re doing and they're hunting for fish just like you.

The more sharks are at your tables, the harder it is for you to gobble up the fish.

If you have sharks at your table, do this:

Table Select on Fishy Sites

If you only play at one site currently, like only PokerStars, then you’re missing out on opportunities to find more fishy tables. Poker stars is a great site to play on with plenty of fish. However, it probably has more sharks than all other sites.

So, make sure you split up your bankroll among a few different sites so that if one site doesn’t have any good tables to play on, pop open the other site and go fishing there.

Because I’m an American player, my choices are pretty limited. But here are 2 recommendations for you:

  1. Americas Cardroom. I play almost daily on Americas Cardroom and this site has plenty of action as well as loads of fish and maniacs. There are quite a few sharks at the tables as well that you have to avoid, but you can always find at least a few tables worth playing on.
  2. [edited 9.13.21] Ignition Poker. I LOVE Ignition poker. The tables are anonymous and a lot of fishy players prefer these types of tables (because they don't want you to exploit them with your Smart HUD). The drawback to anonymous poker is that you can’t develop a database against anyone player. But I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that you can understand how a player plays within the first 10 or 20 hands with them at the table. Just imagine if you saw somebody’s VPIP in the first 10 hands at 80% and PFR was 0%. Sure, it's only been 10 hands, but their stats tell you that you found a fish.



Make Them Come To You

Fishing would be so much easier if you could just make the fish swim towards you in your little boat.  Well, the good thing about poker is you can kind of do that.  When a fish wants to play, they want to play.  They’re not happy about putting their name on a wait list.  You can help them to play faster by starting tables.  Take a seat at an empty 6max or FR table and just wait for them to arrive.  Go ahead and play your standard game if anyone else comes along. Hopefully, the fish will join you soon.

If you are a SNG player, register for Heads-up SNG’s and won't have to wait long for a fishy player to swim right into your pond. You’re already there, he wants to play, so he registers lickety-split.

Tagging Fish

I often forget player screen names unless I play a lot of hands against them. So when I see Bob 123 sit down at my table, I might not recognize right away whether or not he’s a fish (unless I've tagged him).

I classify all the fish I play against by color coding their player box green and if the software allows it, I tag them with the fish symbol. That way they're super easy and quick to spot.

I make sure to do the same against maniacs, lags, tags and nits (with different colors and symbols). This way when I pop open any table before I even sit down, I see right away how many of each player type is there.

Check out this quick video on table selection:

Seat Selection

Another concept related to table selection is seat selection. There are two super important concepts to understand here:

  1. Money flows to the left around the table. We all know the power of position, and position is being to the left of somebody. This means that those with position take money from those on their right. Money flows in a clockwise circular motion.  So, when it comes to seat selection, you want to have position on those who give away their chips.  And who are those people?  In steps #2…
  2. Money flows from those who play too many hands. We want to be surrounded by as many passive fish as possible with the biggest fish at the table on our right.  Money flows from these players like a river in a downpour and if we have position, we're more likely to earn their chips.

Table Select within the Online Poker Lobby

Here are 7 aspects of profitable tables that you can often just see from the lobby of your chosen online site.

1. Lots of weak players

The more the merrier because more fish = more profits. At a full-ring table 8 fishies is perfect and one fish might not be good enough. At a 6max table, 5 fishies is perfect and one fish ain’t so good.

2. Few Sharks and LAGs

Sharks and LAG’s make it harder to gobble up the fish. 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 they’re fishy stations just calling too much pre-flop.

4. Large Average Pot Size

This one’s simple, bigger pots = more money to be won by the best players.

5. Low Hand/Hour

Often times when a table is full of fish, you’ll see a very low hand/hour statistic on that table.  Usually somewhere below 80 hands per hour or thereabouts.  Don’t worry about that low # cutting down on the # of hands you can grind.  Your goal with table selection isn’t getting in tons of hands for rakeback.  Your goal is to find the fish and play with them.  Poker profits come more from beating weak players than from rakeback.

6. Stack Sizes Below 100bb’s

Regular players have the auto-rebuy turned on and are always at 100bb’s or more. But, fish let their stacks dwindle because they want to try and build it back 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 30bb, 40bb and 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 fishes’ stack, though.  You want the opportunity to win all their 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.

Take action to plug poker leaks

Table Select for More Profits

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Start to table select for profits. Look for tables full of fish that have a minimum of sharks. Always tag the fish so they are easy to spot and also the sharks so you can avoid tables with too many sharks on. Also, if you only play on one site currently make a deposit on another site and see if those tables are little bit more fishy than yours.


Sky Matsuhashi

Don’t Miss Out!

Get expert tips and strategies straight to your inbox each week!