On Poker: Signs of a good game to look for before you take your seat

I've spent a lot of time in this space over the years writing about the need to profile the players seated at your table as quickly as possible as you play those first 10-15 hands. But you can get a lot of information on the way to your seat, too.

Here are some tips to consider before taking that seat in the $2/$5 with a full $500 buy-in, especially in a place like Las Vegas:

Promotions: Before you take that seat, check with the floor manager and inquire about any poker promotions that may be going on at the time. Bad-beat jackpots typically are a waste of time and money, but hourly high-hand jackpots can net some serious free cash if they are offered.

Recognize anybody?: If you do, this typically is good news … unless he or she is devilishly good.

Table mood: There's no such thing as "less is more" when it comes to the mood of a game. You want lively, happy people in the seats. People are more likely to gamble and take chances in a jovial setting, and they tend to not be too depressed when they drop a big hand. If the poker room is too quiet, it may be a sign to spend your time somewhere else.


Is there a monster stack?: In this scenario, players aren't allowed to sit in the game with more than $500, so if a player or two are sitting in front of $1,500, it says a few things about them. These are likely action players with a very loose range, and they obviously aren't afraid to play for it all. It also could mean that these are players who have spent a really long time grinding in the game to get to where they are.

Are there a bunch of tiny stacks?: You probably are looking at a lot of tight, passive players who are waiting for those pocket aces and a chance to double up. There's nothing wrong with picking on these people if they are holding between 15-20 big blinds, but be prepared to call some shoves when they get lower than that.

Convention badges: When you see players with convention badges, it's a little bit like Christmas. These players have been listening to boring speeches or standing on a showroom floor all day. And when they finally have some free time, all they are looking to do is have some fun at the poker table and order a few drinks. They are innocent kittens, and will play a simple A-B-C brand of poker.

Drunks: We love drunks -- even more than those blessed convention badges. They think they can keep it together and make good poker decisions, but they can't. And provided they aren't too out of it, they usually are pretty fun to have in the game.

Buddies and significant others: Are there two similarly aged people who are both wearing the colors of the same college at the table? That could be a bit of a red flag. If the two players are buddies, that could trigger some soft-play scenarios where the game may feel a little rigged. This also is true of husband-and-wife combinations.

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