Make the Game Great

I’ve been preaching game selection to my students for years, but sometimes it can be tough to find a good game. If you are in a small poker room there may not be many tables available, and even in fairly large rooms you may be playing a game where there simply isn’t a good game available at the moment. Table changes can take time too, and there is nothing more frustrating than getting a table change and ending up in the seat that was occupied by the donkey who was driving the action until five minutes ago. As an old friend once said –

“If you aren’t at a party, that’s your own fault. Everywhere I go there is a party. I bring the party. Sometimes I am the party.”

I’ve spent enough time playing with friends who tend to make a table great, that I have learned a little bit about how to make it happen. While I’ll never be as good at waking up a table as guys like Adam Stemple, Tom Hammers, or Mark Kroon, I can definitely wake up a bad table and at least get people talking and playing a few pots. If you are stuck at a bad table and moving just isn’t a great option, try whatever you can to get the table moving. Here are a few ideas.

1. Make people laugh. When people are laughing, they are friendly, they feel a sense of community, and they are enjoying themselves. They may start playing more pots, and the happy table may attract a genuine fish.

2. Buy them a drink. In poker rooms where you pay for your drinks, like we do here in Minnesota, buying just one player a drink can start a trend and your fellow players may start buying each other drinks. You can refrain yourself, just have one drink, or even have the waitress bring you a coke with a lime in it so that it looks like you are part of the party. I love to order a Bailey’s and coffee, which has very little real alcohol content, but smells great and lets me be part of the party instead of buying a few drinks and ordering a water for myself.

3. Show them a bluff. There have been times at a bad table where I will make a play with a slightly negative expectation just because showing off the bluff will wake the table up. This is good for two reasons. It may wake the table up for you, but it may not wake the table up for the other tight players. You will get action, while the tight players may be annoyed with your antics and leave or just be frustrated by the lack of action. When a good player leaves, it opens up a seat that may be a filled by a fish that brings the table back to life.

4. Bust somebody. When a table is bad, there is usually not a waiting list of strong players waiting to get on it. The sharks know that the table isn’t good, so they won’t be waiting to play on it, but the fish won’t know the table is tough so they will be more likely to be on the list. Tables tend to cycle, with bad tables either breaking or being refilled with fish as the sharks leave out of frustration and great tables developing long lists of smart players waiting to get in which turns it back into a bad table after a few hours. Getting this cycle moving faster when the table is bad will get you to the good part of the cycle faster.

5. Point it out. The average to strong players may leave if you point out how tough the table is. Fish don’t care if the table is tough, they think they play well and should have no problem beating good players, so if there is a fish or two at an otherwise bad table you don’t have to worry about scaring them off. You can be careful about when you complain about the table and how loudly too, just to make sure that the fish stick around.

6. Go home. If there really isn’t a good game, and you can’t wake up the game you are in, just take the night off. Get some work done, enjoy time with your family, or just get some sleep. The game will be better tomorrow.

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  1. #1 by Fox on July 23, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Good question. I want to see happy people, not players who look like predators, big pots, alcoholic drinks, People making basic mistakes that show a lack of knowledge, and no grumpy people.

  2. #2 by robowolfman on July 22, 2013 - 9:46 pm

    What are the top five signs you look for that tell you it is a good table?

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