Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Poker Concept: Little Talked About, But One That Can Turn You Into a Big Winner

Galleria BorgheseImage via WikipediaA Poker Concept: Little Talked About, But One That Can Turn You Into a Big Winner

I have been playing a lot of middle limit poker and I believe that many players don't understand the concept of "Table Composition." Yet, table composition is often the the first and most important thing to recognize when you start to play in a poker session.

First, you must understand that table composition is not to be confused with one player's table image.

I would define "table composition" as the table images of all your opposition combined along with the circumstances that these players are experiencing at that session.

Table Composition

In limit hold'em you will find that the way the table composition should greatly influence your selection of starting hands. Usually in limit hold'em you will find that pre-flop the following will occur:

1. A lot of limpers.
2. A raiser and a few callers.
3. A raiser and a lot of callers.

A lot of limpers

If the table composition results in a lot of limpers in a pot, you must widen your starting hands to include drawing hands. Drawing hands are small to medium pocket pairs, and suited connectors. When it comes to suited connectors, I'd recommend playing only no-gap and one gap suited connectors. In addition, you can also play unsuited connectors in a back position for one bet--such as 6-5 offsuit.

However, you must realize that your premium hands go down in value. The reason is that A-K does not play well against 5 plus opponents. Even pocket Aces are vulnerable, and as far as pocket Jacks go--well, you better hit a set on the flop!

Overall, this is the kind of table composition you will find in low limit games and when players are playing by route, tired or stuck in a middle limit games.

A raiser and a few callers

Most middle limit games result in one player raising pre-flop with a few callers. This means that you need to play solid poker and fully understand the concepts of limit play. The premium hands go up in value, while the drawing hands go down in value.

Most flops in these games result in everyone checking to the pre-flop raiser, and the player on a draw raising the bettor on the flop. It is a case of hitting or missing, stealing, and some smart poker moves in order to be a consistent winner at middle limit hold'em.

A raiser and a lot of callers

When you sit down to a game where most everyone is playing to win a big pot with a wide range of hands, look out! This is gonna be a wild ride. The variance in these games is wide and you can walk away a big winner or a big loser.

You can expect players to be aggressive on the flop and turn with raises and check raises. The reason for this aggressive play is that it builds the pot for a draw, the player with the best hand and/or get an opponent to fold before the river. Frankly, the pots are often so big, that at times to chasing to the river is not a mistake or that big of a mistake.

The starting hands played will be similar to the game with a lot of limpers, except for a few differences.

When you have a drawing hand in an early position and the player raises under the gun, you are going to have to call and expect to get multiple callers. Hands like 7-5 suited are worth a shot, when you know you are going to be paid off if you hit your hand.

Also, you must understand that when you miss your A-K on the flop, don't just bet into 5 plus opponents. Check and hope for a free card.

And, if you raised with those pocket Aces or pocket Kings pre-flop, you must muck them when the board is coordinated and there is a lot of betting and raising on the flop. You may have an overpair but with multiple opponents and redraws you are taking the worst of it.

Again, these games are wild and it can be a very profitable or costly session to compete in. In fact, when the table composition is this aggressive and risk-adverse, you may want to move tables.


You will get much better results when you understand table composition. Often you can get a sense of how your table is playing after just a few hands.

Oh, and you should also realize, that as players change, the table composition may also change.
Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

Mark Sweeney said...

Great post, and very true!

In our weekly cash game: ¢25-¢50 blinds, $10-20 buy-in, we have one player in our cash game who likes to make huge bets/raises on marginal hands pre-flop, so few people will limp into a hand with him.

I had some good reads on him, and picked my hands to go up against him. Throughout several hands I took him for about $70.

After cleaning him out for the third time, he left. The table composition completely changed - now more players in a hand, smaller raises/bets, and 'playing poker' vs 'playing all in hands preflop' with this guy.

I ended up cashing out for $145, after buying in for a total of $30 ($10, $20).

What's Your Poker IQ?