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Live Table Selection

Whether you're playing a tournament or live action, your seat at a particular table is usually chosen for you.  You either take what's available, or you have a specific assignment.  But let's say you find yourself in that rare moment when you get to choose.  The board is clear and you get your choice of tables.  Which to choose, which to choose…

Of course, there's no way of knowing what specifically is happening at each table.  Are players getting good hands?  Is the action loose or tight? 

But there are some subtle clues to pick up on.  Yes, generalizations abound.  With apologies to the ACLU, sometimes you have to rely on good old-fashioned stereotypes.


Bullies come in all forms of attire and mannerisms.  But there's one thing they all have in common: a stack.  It doesn't matter what your attitude is – you could be Phil Helmuth himself – if you don't have the chips to back it up, you're not going to push anyone around.  So look to see if one person has a predominant chip lead.  Chances are, that's your bully.  And if he looks the part, all the more reason to stay away.


Again, picking out locals, aka the Usual Suspects, may be difficult.  Certainly you can determine a person's comfort level by how they're dressed.  But there's a difference between a guy who's dressed for a long night of playing and a guy who's "been there before."  Locals are the ones who are smiling and nodding at everyone, calling the dealer by their first name, talking to their fellow Locals across the table.  Why is it a good idea to keep away from them?  Well, there's a reason they keep coming back to the card room (aside from the degenerate gambler likelihood).  Because they win!  They know how to parlay their luck with a degree of skill and rake chips away from the poor, unsuspecting non-Locals.


Ahh, finally.  The suckers, the rubes.  How does the expression go?  If you can't spot the sucker within the first 20 minutes, chances are you're it.  But the sucker is different than what I like to call the Weekend Warrior.  The Weekend Warrior is not a bad player, he just doesn't get the chance to play much outside his own home.  You can usually spot him because he's the one who's still dressed in his work clothes.  Maybe all he got a chance to do was take off his tie.  Khakis, dress shirt, nice watch, and nervous look on his face.  "Gee, I hope my wife doesn't notice that I'm an hour late getting home." Or if it's the weekend, he at least had the decency to wear sweats or shorts, planning for a "long afternoon of poker."  But his comfort clothes haven't seen the light of day in weeks.

The fact is that any table is going to have a mix of these types of players, and getting a proper read on personalities and playing styles is difficult.  But a little "profiling" can go a long way.