Picking a No Limit Texas Holdem Table

Chose well populated tables

POKERSTARS tableMy basic strategy for playing No Limit Texas Hold’em is to fold (the many) weak hands and make sure that I get paid very well on the (considerably fewer) strong hands. To ensure this, I pick tables with 8-10 players that have big stacks. There must be enough money at the table to create big pots for me to win with my great hands.

If I apply my strategy on a table with few players and small stacks, it doesn’t work out well. Playing poker costs money, because even if I fold most of my hands I still need to post small blind and big blind at regular intervals.

Examples:

  • I play at a $1/$2 table with 10 players. I post $30 in blinds for every 100 hands.
  • I play at a $1/$2 table with 6 players. I post €50 in blinds for every 100 hands.

This is why I avoid playing at No Limit Texas Hold’em tables with less than eight players present, and if possible I pick the tables with nine or ten players.

Another benefit for me is that with a full table, less attention is focused on me and my actions. Of course, a skilled player is likely to figure out my strategy even at a full table, but less skilled players will have a heard time remembering what their nine opponents are doing. Also, the more players at the table, the more likely to have at least one player present that is flamboyant enough to steal the attention away from me.

Chose tables where the players have big stacks

As mentioned above, I pick tables where the other players have big stacks. I want to make sure that there is enough chips at the table to create big pots when I have great hands.

I also bring the maximum buy-in myself when I sit down at the table. When I get a great hand, it is crucial that I have enough money to bet to entice or “force” my opponent to bet big. I keep my stack full at all times, even if it means reloading frequently during periods of continuous loss.

Chose tables that are suitable for your bankroll

multitableWhen I say “chose tables with big stacks”, I don’t mean that you should go to the tables where the stacks have the greatest monetary value. I simply mean that you should pick a table where the player stacks are equal to or above the buy-in maximum for that particular table.

Playing poker at tables that are too expensive in relation to the size of the players bankroll is a very common beginner mistake. Typically, an impatient novice player will start out at a micro stakes cash game table, and then try to move up as quickly as possible to higher stakes to “keep it interesting”. The problem is that just because you had a few profitable sessions at the micro stakes tables that doesn’t mean that your bankroll is now fat enough to sustain you through rough periods of weak hands and bad beats at the higher stakes tables.

Personally, I employ the 5% rule. If I have a bankroll of $200, I do not play at tables where the maximum buy-in is more than $10. A lot of successful poker players adhere to the 10% rule instead and would play at $20 buy-in tables with a $200 bankroll, but I have found that this is not optimal for my particular strategy.

Having a bankroll that is small in relation to the stakes comes with a slew of problems, including these three:

  • You increase the risk of losing your entire bankroll. Then you have to either stop playing poker or refill it.
  • Having a small bankroll in relation to the stakes is like being short-stacked. You can be, or feel, pressured to play more recklessly than you would otherwise.
  • When you move up in stakes to quickly, your bankroll isn’t big enough to sustain you when you transition from nano- or micro stakes to the new higher stake level. The games at nano- and micro stakes levels tend to have a different dynamic than the games taking place further up. Do yourself a favor and make sure that you have a bankroll that is fat enough to allow you to make mistakes while you adjust to the new environment.

N.B! Even though a novice player with a small bankroll should stick to low stakes tables, it is wise to realize that these tables tend to be loose and therefore cost more to play at. At the No Limit Texas Hold’em low stakes tables, you can expect larger pre-flop raises, and fewer hands are discarded pre-flop. Only play at these levels to fatten up your bankroll sufficiently for a move upwards. My No Limit Texas Hold’em strategy is more suitable for tables that aren’t super low. I prefer to play in the $50 – $200 maximum buy-in range.

Chose tables where the blinds are small compared to the maximum buy-in

I prefer tables where the blinds are small seen in relation to the maximum buy-in.

Example:

  • Table A has a $100 maximum buy-in, a $1 big blind and a $0.50 small blind.
  • Table B has a $100 maximum buy-in, a $2 big blind and a $1 small blind.

In this scenario, I would prefer Table A over Table B (ceteris paribus). Table B can be a good option for a player with a fast paced and very loose strategy, but that is not my strategy.

Chose more than one table

I usually play several poker tables simultaneously, since that gives me a higher hourly profit (on average, over time). Also, I find that a bat beat on one table is less likely to affect me negatively from a psychological perspective if I have several tables to attend to. Even seen from a pretty short-term perspective, playing at several tables simultaneously has a tendency to even out the swings for me.

If you are a novice player, do not start out playing more than one table at the time. You need to focus on one table and perfect your strategy there before you go up to two tables, four tables, etc. If things aren’t working out well, go down to fewer tables again and stay there until you feel ready to move up again.

Do not increase the number of tables and the stakes level at the same time. Decide which change that is optimal for you right now, and focus on that one alteration. Trying to change to many things at once can easily create an expensive chaos. Also, it will be tricky for you to pinpoint the problem if you have changed to many variables at once.