A long time ago I noticed a trend that I wasn't sure was real: Newly started games seemed harder to make money at than when I joined a game that had long been in progress. I couldn't tell if this was a figment of my imagination, a sampling anomaly, or a real phenomenon.
I mentioned it to Cardgrrl when she was here last month, and, to my surprise, she quickly agreed. Here are some factors we came up with that might explain it:
- At a new table it is less likely that players have already been drinking (though that's not unheard of).
- Nobody is stuck and therefore playing wildly to try to get back to even.
- Most players sit down with a mental commitment to playing tight and conservatively, but that discipline tends to break down over time, so it is less of a factor governing play in an established game than a new one.
- The table maximum buy-in set a limit on what the biggest stacks are at first. But after the game has been going, if players are taking big swings at each other, the total chip count on the table can climb dramatically as the rebuys accumulate.
Given those considerations, and now that I've taken the time to think it through, I have decided that on the rare occasions that I am offered the choice between a game just getting started and one of the already established ones, I will hastily select the latter.
Interestingly, the opposite may hold true online. In the current issue of Poker Pro magazine, Chris "Fox" Wallace discusses the life cycle of online poker tables. (Actually, this is what brought the whole subject back to mind and prompted me to write about it.) Again, this is not something I had really considered before, but he makes a good case that it is often profitable to be the first or one of the first to start or join a new online table. This is because the fishy players are impatient and will tend to sit down wherever they can find an open seat without waiting. They do not look for particular weak opponents to play with. They do not bother checking the lobby for table stats of average pot size, number of players seeing the flop, etc. So if you can be there right when they first log on, you can be the one to take their money. As Wallace puts it, when the other sharks smell blood in the water, it will be because you have been dining.
So take heed, and choose your table accordingly.