It should go without saying that the primary purpose of playing poker is to make the most money possible. For me that means using my time as efficiently as possible while playing.
Here are a few things I do to accomplish this at the tables:
I play the maximum amount of tables my brain permits me at all times. When I’m thinking clearly I can play 5-7 tables at a time (depending on number of players at each) with one being heads up or 3-handed. If I start having trouble keeping up with the action or if I begin to forget what has happened in a hand, I will drop a table. If two tables become heads up or 3-handed, then I need to drop at least one full table. In these cases, I will sit out at my worst table before leaving. I do this in case one of my remaining tables breaks so I’m able to sit back in without having to get back on a waiting list.
I always try to have a heads up or 3-handed game going. My win rate drops from 6 BB/100 at heads up to 3 BB/100 at 3-handed to 2 BB/100 at 4-handed to about 1 BB/100 at 5-10 handed. Incredibly, I make the same amount at one heads up table as I do at 4-5 full tables even factoring in bonuses. So regardless of how many full tables I have going, I’ll always being sitting alone at a table trying to get a new game started with the intention of sitting out or leaving one of my full tables if I get a short-handed game going.
Assuming there are enough tables going, I’m trying to game select and find tables where my earn will be highest. This can be tricky and involves some guesswork, especially playing different limits . I start with what I average given the number of players at that table and limit. So, if there is a 6 handed 15-30 game going, I’ll assume that I can make $30 per 100 hands if it’s a typical game. From there I’ll look at the players in the game and try to guess how much above or below average the players are compared to a typical 15-30 game. If it’s a really soft game I might estimate that I can make $60. There might be a 5-handed 30-60 game going at the same time that’s about an average game where I’d also guess I can make $60 per 100 hands. At this point, I’d choose the 15-30 game because I can make the same amount of money with less variance. This all assumes I need one more table to max out whatever I’m able to play that day. But once I’ve hit my max of 5-7 tables, I’m surveying the lobby as much as possible to see if a new game is starting or if an easier game has opened up. I’m estimating what my earn would be at a potential new table and comparing it with the worst earning table I have going and swapping out if necessary.
Lastly, assuming I have a choice, I try to choose the best seat possible at a table. My belief is that the best seat at the table is either immediately before or immediately after a bad player. The ideal seat being in between two bad players. Money is won by making better decisions than your opponents and you make the most decisions against the players seated to your immediate right and left. So, I want to make the most decisions possible against the people that will make the most mistakes against me.
All this is what I call the game within the game. Strangely it can be just as, if not more, important to my bottom line as how I’m playing the actual game of poker.