Analyzing Internet Texas Hold’em Games for Potential Profits
Published on June 03, 2018
Before the poker boom, most online poker players paid little attention to table selection. Instead, they simply found a table with an open seat and started playing.
This has changed greatly over the past decade-plus, though, because internet poker tables aren’t as soft as they once were. Given how good the average player is these days, you absolutely must have a firm grasp on knowing how to spot profitable Texas hold’em tables.
You can study poker strategy for countless hours. But if you don’t find soft tables, then your win rate won’t be very high.
Bad players increase your win rate by making fundamental mistakes. Provided you play a solid game, you’ll take advantage of these mistakes and boost your profits.
I’m going to discuss different ways that you can find profitable tables, including lobby stats, HUDs, in-game observations, and note taking. But first, I’ll cover what exactly makes a soft table.
We’re no longer in the mid-2000s poker days when there were countless juicy tables. Some full-ring tables consist of 2 semi-pros or pros, 4 good players, and 3 decent players.
Fish aren’t as common as in the past, which is why they aren’t always found on the average poker table.
Ideally, you’ll join a table that has 2 or more fish. Having multiple poor players at your table allows you to win more pots by raising, outplaying opponents post-flop, and taking advantage when they either play too tight or too loose.
But you don’t want to just find a profitable no-limit Texas hold’em table. You also want to choose the best available seat.
The ideal position is directly to the left of one or more bad players and to the right of tight players.
Also called the “Jesus seat,” this allows you to act after an inferior opponent(s) while not being raised/re-raised as often by the nits to your right.
Getting the Jesus seat isn’t easy. Therefore, you often must settle for being to the left of an inferior player.
Bum hunters, or those who obsess over playing weaker competition, use seat scripting software to find optimal tables and seats. Examples include SharkScript and Magic Seat, which open tables and scan them for both players you’ve identified as fish and those whose stats show that they’re bad players.
It’s worth noting, though, that online poker sites are working to combat seat scripting at the time of this post. Software like this discourages recreational players, which is the last thing that poker sites want.
If your favorite poker room has banned seat scripting or you’re just not interested in using it, you can still find weak tables with an old-school technique. Open multiple tables and observe them without taking a seat.
Look for opportunities when there’s a verified fish or even a player you’ve never seen before. Once you spot them, click a seat to their left and start playing.
Players didn’t have seat scripting software in the early years of online poker. Instead, they had to rely on lobby stats to find soft games.
This tried-and-true method still works today, because you can scan the lobby and look for certain stats to indicate a profitable table. Here are four stats that you can focus on when performing your search.
One of the first rules of poker strategy is to be selective with what hands you play. Fish don’t adhere to this rule because they haven’t bothered studying much strategy.
This is where flop-viewed percentage comes into play, because bad players see the flop more often. The high flop-viewed percentage indicates that players are calling the blinds and re-raising too much just to see the flop.
These same players are often loose-passive, meaning they play a lot of hands and fold when they miss the flop. These are exactly the type of opponents you want because you can continuation bet the flop and steal pots even when you don’t have a good hand.
A big pot size is another indication of a juicy poker table. The reason why is because tables full of experienced players generally see hands won before the flop, which leads to a low average pot size.
In contrast, soft tables have multiple players who call too many bets (a.k.a. calling stations). This leads to bigger pots and more profitable situations for strong players.
This is definitely a good indicator, though, especially when combined with a high flop-viewed percentage.
You can let other players do the work of finding weak opponents for you. A long waiting list means that other regulars have found fish and are hoping to take advantage.
The downside is that you can end up 5th or worse on the waiting list and miss out on the opportunity. But I suggest taking note of the players whom you consistently see on waiting lists because you can use them to identify similar situations in the future.
If you see these same regulars on a waiting list with only 1-2 players, you can quickly jump on and wait for your shot at the juicy table.
One more sign of a profitable table is when multiple players have less than the maximum cash game buy-in.
In most cases, the max buy-in at an online poker cash table is 100 big blinds. Regulars have the max number of big blinds in their stacks so that they can take full advantage of positive expected value (+EV) situations.
Fish, on the other hand, are perfectly fine with only having 50-90 big blinds. They don’t even realize that they’re missing a chance to maximize on +EV with great hands.
One thing to watch out for, though, is professional “short stackers,” who buy into a game for the 20 big blind minimum, then leave when they’ve doubled their profits.
Short stackers are often multi-tablers, meaning they play multiple tables simultaneously. If you suspect that a short stacker is a pro, perform a search on them to see if they’re multi-tabling.
Many online poker players commonly use a Heads-Up Display (HUD), which collects stats and tendencies on opponents. This software can confirm when you’ve found a juicy table.
Two key stats that you want to pay attention to include VPIP (voluntarily put money in pot) and PFR (percentage of preflop hands raised).
Poor players may have a VPIP of 30% or higher in 6-max and full-ring games. As mentioned earlier, bad players see a lot of flops with marginal hands and fold when the board misses them.
You want to look at this stat in conjunction with PFR to see how often players are raising into pots. A high VPIP and low PRF (i.e., 30/8) indicate that a player often calls the big blind (a.k.a. limping), rather than raising and showing strength in their hand.
Furthermore, they’re likely to donate money to the pot by limping and folding when they’re raised or miss the board.
Chances are that you won’t find a lot of players with high VPIP and low PFR in today’s poker climate. But you should still use an HUD and focus on the stats to take advantage of profitable situations when they’re available.
Sometimes profitable internet poker tables become even juicier based on observations that you make in a game. Here are a few tells that can help you spot soft competition.
Limping into pots is one of the cardinal sins of poker. You can easily get raised, especially since you’re not showing much faith in your hand by calling the minimum bet.
Unless a player has a good reason to limp into a hand (i.e., set mining), then they’re a bad player with little concept of strategy.
Experienced players are in no hurry to post blinds out of position when they join a table. But some recreational players are impatient and will post a blind so that they can play right away.
Not waiting for the blinds to come around is like throwing money away. And it’s also a good sign of a casual player.
Standard poker strategy suggests that you make even preflop bet sizes (i.e., 3x big blind) and use the pot amount to determine post-flop bet sizing (i.e., half-pot or pot-sized bets). You can spot weak players when they deviate greatly from standard bet sizing.
One example is a player who bets 8x the big blind or more preflop. This exposes you to too much risk if you don’t have a premium hand, and it’s too large for value betting when you do have great cards.
Another example is somebody who makes a continuation bet worth $3 when the pot is $20. This is neither a good value bet nor does it convince anybody to fold if you’re bluffing them.
One thing to watch for in lower stakes is single tablers. While it’s good to only play one table when learning the game, it also indicates that you’re not a multi-tabling pro.
Again, you can run a player search on a username to see how many tables they have opened.
One thing always worth keeping in mind about finding soft competition is that amateurs must work a job. Therefore, you want to look for soft online tables when most amateurs aren’t working and are enjoying their leisure time.
Knowing the best hours for finding good tables used to be easier before . Americans led the online poker market prior to 2011, meaning you could find soft tables in the evening hours and on weekdays (5 pm to 12 am EST).
These days, it’s hard to pinpoint prime hours to a specific time range because internet poker is truly a global game. But you can gain a little more value by playing during evening hours in Europe (1 pm to 8 pm EST) and in North and South America (5 pm to 12 am).
Many of these recreational players don’t care that they’re at a disadvantage, because they’re looking for entertainment.
Sunday is especially good since this is when online poker sites hold their biggest poker tournaments. Amateurs come to these events looking for a big score and often partake in cash game action on the side.
The only thing that makes a poker table profitable is the inferior competition on it. Therefore, you need to track fish you come across so that they’re easier to identify next time.
Many poker sites offer note-taking features, which allow you to color-code an opponent. Select the player options on your online poker table to find notes.
HUDs also have features that allow you to track other players. You can even use an old-school method of listing fish in a Word/Wordpad document and refer to it when looking for tables.
This is nice on one hand because it makes recreational players feel safer and more likely to play. But it also serves as a major roadblock to table selection.
Fast-fold poker has been popular ever since Full Tilt introduced Rush Poker in 2009. Now, all major poker sites offer their own fast-fold variant.
This style of poker sees you join a player pool, rather than a single table. You’re then moved around different tables in the pool whenever your action is finished in a hand.
Some players enjoy these tables because they’re constantly playing poker, rather than spending most of their time waiting after folding. But the problem is that you can’t even select your seat in a fast-fold variant.
Instead, the software automatically assigns you seats at different tables. The result is that you can’t choose who’s to your right or to your left.
One more drawback to fast-fold games is that players are tighter. The reason why is because they can fold hands without having to wait for more action.
It’s hard to profit even when there are fish on these tables because they’re so tight that they don’t offer much profit potential.
You can always start your own poker tables instead of hunting bad players on other people’s tables. The advantage here is that you create a table with multiple empty seats.
You should quickly start the process of monitoring players as your table fills up. This is made easier with an HUD because you’ll quickly gain stats on opponents.
But you can also spend 20-30 hands getting a good read on everybody. This is usually a large enough sample size for an experienced player to identify amateurs.
Whether you start a table or join one, you’re not contractually obligated to stay there. You can get up and leave at any time, most notably when the game becomes less profitable.
Let’s say that you start a heads-up table, and the only other person who joins is a regular. This player doesn’t ever limp, they have good range balancing, and they 3-bet a normal amount.
Maybe you can beat this opponent and win a small profit. But odds are that you’re going to break even over the long term when rake is factored in.
The other scenario is when you’re on a juicy table with a couple fish, and they eventually leave. You then surmise – either through HUD stats your own observations –that the table is no longer profitable.
This is when you need to find another table that offers more profit potential. Some will call you a bumhunter for doing this, but insults are better than slowly losing money to rake over time.
The odds of finding profitable tables become much easier when you choose the right internet poker rooms.
Some sites have a reputation for having a lot of recreational players, such as 888poker and Unibet. Others become more profitable when they offer big tournaments, such as PokerStars and their Sunday Million event.
Offshore poker sites, or those that serve unregulated markets like the US, are also known for having juicy tables. The reason why is because many serious American poker players live in different countries, so they can still play at the biggest sites like PokerStars, 888, and partypoker.
One of the oldest tricks for selecting soft poker rooms is to choose sites that also have a sportsbook. Many sports bettors cross over into online poker occasionally, even where they know that they’re overmatched.
Of course, the softest poker sites change from time to time. Therefore, it’s good to open accounts at several sites and make your own observations on which ones offer the weakest competition based on your preferred stakes.
If you want to be a serious online Texas hold’em player, then you need to spend plenty of time working on your game by reading strategy articles and watching pros on Twitch streams. But you also don’t want this work to be in vain by not looking for soft tables that reward your skills.
Don’t be afraid to dedicate a significant portion of your poker sessions to looking for the best tables and tracking inferior opponents.
An old poker saying states that winning isn’t about the cards you’re dealt, but rather about whom you’re playing against. This refers to the importance of adjusting to opponents’ playing styles, but it also applies to the level of competition you’re facing.
You can’t expect significant profits by grinding against regulars who also know what they’re doing. You need to build your skills and balance this time with finding profitable tables.
Spotting juicy poker action becomes more difficult as you move up the stakes. But you can still find fish at all levels.
If you’re not even able to do this at the lower limits, though, then you need to apply this post to your table selection. You also must be willing to dedicate time to the matter.
Don’t worry about losing a few hours on the tables each week when looking for soft opponents. You’ll be more than rewarded when you find these players and increase your profit margin as a result.