Strategy of Selecting your Seat in Poker
- Ideally, aggressive players should be sat on your right
- Although it’s not always possible, some poker games allow you to select your seat
- In an ideal seating aggrandisement, you want to be acting after your most dangerous opponents
While it’s true that in the long run good players will win and bad players will lose, no matter where they sit, it’s also true that choosing the right seat in a poker game can have a substantial impact on your bottom line. Seat selection is probably one of the most underrated elements of winning play. Sit down in the wrong place, and you’ll spend the entire game paddling upstream against the current. But when you choose the right seat in a poker game, it’s as if you’re paddling downstream, with the flow of the river now helping you. Either way, you can still get where you want to go, but the second way is much easier and faster.
Seat selection is especially important in flop-type games, like Texas hold’em and Omaha, since position is always fixed throughout the entire betting round. Poker guru Mike Caro is famous for saying that money flows clockwise around the poker table, and this is especially true for the flop games. The central idea behind seat selection, which really underscores the importance of position, is that you always want to act after your most dangerous opponents, but you don’t really mind acting before the more harmless players.
Your “dangerous” opponents include: maniacs, aggressive players in general, skilled players, tricky players, and players with big stacks (particularly in the big-bet games). And while they’re not exactly dangerous, you also prefer loose players to act ahead of you. In a best-case scenario, all of these players would be sitting to your right.
Aggressive players (especially maniacs) should be seated on your right, so that you can see what they’re going to do in the hand before it’s your turn. If they fold pre-flop, or just call, then you can safely limp in with your speculative drawing hands. By contrast, when aggressive players are to your left, you always have to play a guessing game about what you think they might do, before you ever enter a pot. And in the case of a maniac, having him on your immediate right provides the added benefit of allowing you to three-bet and isolate him with your good hands. Since maniacs play a lot of trash hands, this should give you a decided advantage. However, this tactic does not work if the other players in the game are wise to what you are doing.
Act Later for a Better Chance
The enormous advantage of acting later also applies to skilled, tricky players. For what-should-be-obvious reasons, it’s always better to act on your hand after you can see what the cunning poker shark has done. Take your turn in front of this player, and you’re back to the same slippery guessing game of trying to figure out what the shark is going to do, before making a decision on your hand. And in the case of loose players, it’s not quite as critical to have them on your right, but you’d still prefer it, since a raise from you won’t likely push them out anyway. So now it’s simply better to know if they’re in the pot or not, and then you can raise with your good hands, knowing they’ll almost certainly call for another bet.
The players you want on your left are mainly the tight, predictable players. The tighter and wussier they are, the easier it will be for you to bluff at them and steal their blinds, and so the more you want to try and get a seat that puts such players to your left. And predictable players are also good to have on your left, because obviously they are unlikely to present you with any nasty surprises after you have acted on your hand.
Of course, it isn’t always so easy to get the seat you want, especially when the games are crowded. In a live card room that’s packed, you’ll probably have to settle for whatever chair you can get. However, live poker does offer one big advantage here, in that if a new (and better) seat does open up at your table, you can request a seat change. Online, you can be choosier about where you sit in a new game, since you’ll have a much greater number of tables to choose from, as well as the fact that you can lurk and monitor several games for awhile before you join in, to find that premium spot. Technically, you cannot change seats in an online game, but you can quit the game and join it again in a new seat. If the online games are crowded, though, just leaving the game for a few seconds could mean losing the new seat and maybe even your old one.