Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Playing Too Many Tables

Do you consistently get the feeling that you are always doing something wrong or could be doing something better? Trust me, I get that feeling all the time but hopefully if I am able to follow my own advice, I won't be getting that feeling anymore. The question at hand is: have you been playing too many tables? Other than the obvious indicators that you have been, here are a few other ones that might seem minimal when you do them that could lead to grave errors.

1) Have you forgotten who raised the pot?

2) Have you missed seeing a third player in what you thought was a heads-up pot?

3) Have you made your standard button raise with a hand like T9s only to see that the BB was practically all in?

4) And most importantly, do you find yourself playing certain hands EXACTLY the same way every time?

I understand the theory behind playing multiple tables perfectly and believe me when I say that I have had this same argument with myself over and over again to justify doing it.


Actually, you probably aren't and I will use a direct analogy to explain why. My last job was waiting tables. In a smaller section consisting of 3-4 tables, I was usually seriously limited in how much money I could expect to make on that shift. After all, if I was working one or two more tables, I could expect to make more money, right? And that was true. But at least there, I KNEW that after reaching my load of 6 tables, my ability to serve our guests well began to decline rapidly. In what ways? Tell me if some of these sound analogous to you:

1) I could not give each guest special attention (playing the player and missing value).

2) I would forget who ordered what (missing who raised the pot or who was in the blinds).

3) I might deliver the wrong food to the wrong table (thinking you are playing AA when in fact you are holding JJ- ouch!)

At some point in time, by playing too many tables you will reach a critical limit where your ability to play even 1 correctly collapses entirely. Presumably, we are limiting ourselves to that point just before where that decline begins. But even if that were true, there are some unpredictable external events that could push you over the edge immediately. Maybe your phone rings and it is that important call that you have been waiting for. Maybe your dog just puked on the floor. Maybe your kid just woke up and began crying uncontrollably -- all while you were trying to "maximize your expectation" while playing 12-16 tables simultaneously.

Of course, we expect to make some (small) mistakes but these are the only ones we are noticing. In fact, it's almost like using selective memory. We remember the small mistakes that we spot, but will never "remember" the ones we never realized we were making. But the bottom line is that by playing too many tables, we are ultimately stunting our growth as players for some possible (and I do mean possible ) short-term gain. By playing too many tables, it is easy to get too ingrained in habits that are used to beat the average players at your chosen limit. By learning to beat consistently the best players at your limit, you are preparing your self to beat the higher limit.


Anonymous said...

I think it's amazing how few multitablers actually realise all the points you've mentioned, the competition to play the most for the longest is quite silly when you come down to it.

For one thing, when the tables are full of players doing the same, each hand takes twice as long to play, how does that increase your hourly rate?!

The thing is though I'm having to play a lot of tables myself so I don't go crazy with boredom, waiting for someone to fold their small blind or whatever. Autopiloting won't get you far as you move up in stakes, but it is still quite profitable versus the average opponents at low stakes.

Lorin Yelle said...

You know, I used to think the same thing myself but actually found that the opposite is true. The more tables I play, the more hands I play identically regardless of situation, and the more bored and unfulfilled I actually get. Now that I am limiting myself to playing 4 tables maximum of 6-max NL, I find that every single hand is an immersive experience since I can now fully utilize table image, bet sizing, stack sizes, etc.

I used to justify that I would multi-table autopilot until I had the bankroll to move up in stakes. The problem is that this never occurred. I have made a solid living, yet ultimately felt that I was selling my ability short and failing to maximize my earnings.