There has been many a mention here re: must-move tables lately and I got a question at work today regarding what that means. If you haven't spent much or any time in a cardroom, then it probably won't be intuitively obvious what we are talking about. If you know how they work then you can scroll down to the "How does this effect the game?"
What is a must move table? Let's say there is only one table ("Table A") spreading a given game (Holdem) at the same limit ($2-$4 limit). Then the waiting list gets > 10 and the manager decides to open up another table, "Table B". Again the waiting list is too long and there are empty tables, so they open up Table C. Every time a player leaves Table B, he is replaced by a player from Table C, and it should be the guy that has been at Table C the longest. If a guy leaves Table A, then he is replaced by the guy from Table B who has been playing the longest, who in turn is replaced by the guy from Table C who has been playing the longest. Table A is also referred to as the Main Table or the Main Game and all other tables are called Must-Move Tables.
Why do they do this? One thing that is constant in the poker universe is the fact that octogenarian regulars would rather listen to rap music and quit smoking than have to move tables if they have been there the longest. And since they don't have day jobs, they have always been there the longest. Evidently switching tables is the cruelest form of torture they can imagine. The less cynical side of me will say it is a fairly equitable way of maintaining at least one table that stays pretty constant at the small expense of some disarray, traffic and confusion at the other tables. It isn't the best system, but it works. Mike Caro wrote an article once with a proposal for a better method. The old locals had him buried alive in the desert.
How does this effect the game? I said in my first Vegas post, "In the main game, the stacks were bigger, action was bigger pre-flop and the skill was generally higher. (Remember this)," but I never elaborated. Let me do so now.
The following factors are typically true of the main game: 1) Stacks are bigger 2) Players are better (or else they would have busted out already) 3) Players are more aggressive. This is simply the result of the transitive property (aggressive = good, main table = good players, thus main table = aggressive) I guess this makes 1 & 2 a bit redundant, but stay with me...
In good table selection, what you generally look for is: 1) Short stacked opponents 2) Bad players 3) Cheap, weak, loose pre-flop action
Compare these two lists and tell me if you think playing in the main game is a good idea. There are many many reasons to cash out your $1,000, go get a burger, get on the waiting list, and hop back into the must-move game for $200. The reasons above should be justification enough. However, there is also an added bonus of being able to cash out a profit. Now you have to get busted 5 times to lose $1,000. Staying at the main game, you can get busted in one hand. There was a hand that I played that I think illustrates another reason to leave:
I had about $900 in front of me. Cheesehead blind straddles (raises 1x the BB without looking at his hand). I am two seats to the left and do my standard 3x the straddle raise with KQo. I always do this with any 2 cards > 9. There is a good chance that I will only be up against BB or Cheesehead in blind straddle. Not only are their starting hand requirements low (since they get to play for a "discount") but I also have position on them. I get two callers and there is $125 in the pot.
Flop comes Jxx. BB bets $25 and I think he is full of it. After all, who bets 20% of the pot from starting position? Anyway, I put $150 more into the pot and the small blind folds. Cheesehead thinks for a bit and then re-raises me another $300. Crap.
I need to call $300 into a $775 pot with nothing but overs. Maybe I shouldn't have gone for the steal but I am in real trouble now. This guy and I have been playing for about 12 hours together and a) he likes to steal and b) he has seen me tuck my tail in between my legs when faced with big bets before. It is very possible that he is on a steal. But the problem is that if I call, I am left with $385 and it would be pretty much impossible to avoid getting all my chips in eventually. I really have 2 options a) semi-bluff and put all my money in or b) fold. Calling was not an option. I eventually tossed out Option A since I couldn't imagine this guy running away. Anyway, with the rags he played all night, he just might have flopped two pair. I made the best of a bad situation and folded. He told me he was on a steal. I don't know if he lied.
Now replay that hand with me only having $215 in front of me to start. Everything plays out the same, my $150 raise puts me all in and the BB folds. Now, Cheesehead can only fold or call. If his hand sucks, he has no choice but to fold. I win. If his hand is good, (say he holds the power J6 that Jimmy Chan loves), he calls. But even then, I get to see two free cards to my over cards. I have 6 outs, which is a 25% shot of winning. Not great, but not bad. And if I lose, I only lose $215. Compare that to the first (actual) situation where I ended up with a 0% here and lost $215. It seems pretty obvious that this hand is a perfect example of where you don't want to be big stacked.
Now of course there are other hands where you love being big stacked. Like flopping the nuts and the second biggest stack betting into you on every street. How many times in your life have you been in this situation? Few. But how many times have you felt like the walls were caving in on you and there were no good options - like the hand I found myself in? Probably quite a few.
So, while there are huge benefits to being the chip leader in a tournament, the benefits are a bit more marginal in a medium stakes ring game. The benefits of being short stacked (relatively speaking) can be great, especially if you aren't a world class player. But even if I can't convince you of the benefits from a chip stack perspective, you have to agree that the fish in the must-move game that lose their entire bankroll in 3o minutes should be reason enough to get up and get back in line.
Junell figured this out a few months ago in Louisiana. I had learned it vicariously, but got caught up in the impressiveness of my stack forgot the advice. The next day, Junell and I were swapping stories and he reminded me of his sage advice. He walked me through the benefits of cashing out and starting over and it all made sense again. Trust me, I won't forget next time.