Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cash Game Selection and the Rule of 3

I am pretty much a cash game specialist, playing mainly on FullTilt. I play 4-5 tables at a time usually. FullTilt usually has about 15 +/- 5 tables running at $.50/$1 nl. I thought I would let you in on how I select the tables I play on. Its a little different than anything I have read before. I tend to use the "Rule of 3". This applies to FullTilt, but could be used at most other sites.

1) Percentage of Players per Flop

I use this as my first sort. I sort descending from the highest % down. Because my cash game is squeaky tight, I want as loose a table as possible, so my superior preflop hand selection will get paid off. The LAG prolly wants to reverse this sort, but this is what works for me.

2) Number of Players at the table

I want a full table, or one that will be full when I join. If you are multitabling you do not want to be making adjustments based on the number of players seated. If we lose two players (7 handed or less), I will generally sitout at the next BB unless I have been running over the table. Also, the players/flop % is not reliable for shorthanded play. Since I am using players/flop as my first criteria, I need to make sure we are talking about 8 or 9 handed tables so I am comparing apples to apples.

3) The Rule of Three

Now for the good stuff. My next sort is on how many players have the full buy-in. I like to limit this number to three max, but in general, the smaller the better. Here is the thinking behind this. Good cash game players tend to buy-in for the maximum, and reload to the maximum allowed at the table often. Anyone who is sitting at the table with less than 1/2 the maximum buy-in, is not a good player by this definition. This is a handy trick when multitabling. Give the bigstacks credit for being good, and the shorties credit for being donks in the absence of any other info. Sure a donk may buy in for the minimum and run up north of the max buy-in from time to time, but that will only make me think the table is stronger than it really is. Also, a good player may be taking his first shot at this level, and may be buying in light, but this is also a semi-rare exception. In general, if you follow this rule, you will land on tables that have enough bad players to eeek out a nice profit. You want to really lean on the smallish middle stacks, and call down the small stacks when they appear desperate. The main drawback to playing against more middle to small stacks is you may not play your biggest hands against someone with enough chips to double you up. But, the opposite is true, and there will be less tricky good players with enough chips to stack you. When you run across a table that no one has a full buy-in you have just found a goldmine. You can buy-in and be the immediate chip leader, against a table full of poor players. When trying the higher limits, these are the tables you look for.

4) Average Pot size

Most people use this as there highest sort, and I have to give them some credit. The bigger the pot sizes in general, mean someone is making some big mistakes, but also that someone knows how to take advantage. It tells you there is a mix of skilled and poor players at a given table. I am definitely going to use this as a determining factor on table selection, but only after the above 3 sorts. Once in a while you will come across a table that has a ridiculously high average pot size. These tables can be very profitable, but they take a lot of focus to play properly. You probably want to reduce the number of tables you are playing if you want to take on one of these multi-maniac tables

5) Seat selection

Since I am opening mainly full or one shy tables, you really do not get to pick your seat. At the beginning of a session, I usually sign up for a few extra tables, and will fill the seats as they come up. Once I get my 4 or 5 tables open, I will use opening an extra table to allow me to close the worst table I have open. This is usually done to get out of a bad seat (i.e. Bigstacks or maniacs to your left).

These are my thoughts on the subject. I am usually in a hurry to get the 4-5 tables started so I don't have time to watch a bunch of tables and pick and choose. This seems to be a quick way to get to the fishiest tables that will make you money. Its also very unlikely you will end up at a table with all good players this way, so all tables should be beat-able. Some other sites are different. For example PartyPoker tends to have more people with max buy-ins per table even though it is still real fishy. You may want to take a look at your site, and see how many bigstacks/table is typical, and try to find tables that are less than typical. Also, beware of the monster stacks (i.e. 4x+maximum buy-in). I would shy away from all tables that have more than 1 monster stack. It is rare that fishys will run there stack this high so you are looking at a good to great player in most cases who has the chips to mess with you.


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