Shifting Gears at the Poker Table

by Lou on May 16, 2008

I was playing online a few days ago and got an interesting lesson in table composition. When I joined the game, it was a full-table game that happened to be playing six-handed when I sat down. It was not a six-handed table.

Nevertheless, the game typified the aggression found at tables expressly set aside for six-handed play. We played for about 30 minutes when the table suddenly filled up. Now there were no open seats and almost immediately, all of the uber-aggressive players during the table’s short handed phase tightened up quite a bit, and the game played like a full table, not like the short-handed game it had been a few minutes ago.

The lesson is this: When you take notes on your opponents at the table, be aware that players are very likely to change playing styles as the table fills up or empties out. The person you’ve pegged as a maniac at a short table might be a very cautious player when the table fills up.

It’s also worth noting those players who prefer full tables and don’t really adjust well to short handed play. They’ll make mistakes and provide profit making opportunities to everyone who can shift gears quickly—in accordance with how the table’s composition changes as players come and go.

The great thing about note-taking is that you have the beginnings of a book on your opponents. The flip side of that coin is that players are not usually as fixed and rigid as notes make them seem. Players change style for a variety of reasons. It isn’t limited to table size. Players change because of table composition, because of the way they feel, because of a bad beat they took a few minutes ago at the table or a bad beat they took at home, or at work, or any number of other factors. It’s always a good idea to make sure your opponent is playing like the notes you’ve taken say he will.

If not, you’ve got to make some adjustments on the fly, or else you’re aiming at a target that’s on the move and out of sight.

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