At the heart of every playing site is the lobby, which provides players with a menu of the games that are currently on offer. Here each game is listed with the table name, stakes, number of players seated in the game, number of players on the waiting list and average pot size’ (typically based on the last 20 hands). Several sites also offer additional information on the number of players per flop (or fourth street for seven-card stud) and the number of hands played per hour.
If a game in which you wish to participate is currently fully occupied, you will be directed to join a waiting list and then prompted to take a seat once one becomes available. You may choose to use time spent on the waiting list to scout the game, identifying which players are aggressive, which participate in nearly every hand, which may be on tilt etc. If there is more than one game going on at your preferred limit, then it is advisable to join each waiting list individually rather than opt for a ‘first available table’ option. You then retain the option to pick and choose a table when the time comes, rather than be forced to either take the first available seat or rejoin the waiting list at the back of the queue, should you decide that the table on offer is unsuitable.
Every player has their own views on what constitutes an attractive game for their style of play: some prefer loose games with many players involved in each hand; and others tight games in which they can steal pots with aggressive play. If the site at which you play provides information on the average number of players involved in each pot, then you may like to use it to help you choose the right game for your style. However, as we have stated, it is important to note that the averages provided are typically based on only the last 20 or so hands, depending on the site, and the departure or arrival of a single player can often have a marked effect on the characteristics of a game. Indeed, even a table comprising the same players can sometimes experience a marked shift in dynamics immediately after a big pot has been won and lost.
Many sites also use lobby space to provide a list of the players seated at each table. If you keep notes on your opponents, this information can be invaluable, enabling you to steer away from players whose games you respect and towards those whom you reckon to fare well against. Furthermore, you may be able to identify some players who are playing more than one table at once – at times these players can prove to be ideal opponents, since you may be able to run over them while they are concentrating on the other games they are playing. Multi-table players normally play in quite straightforward fashion, so you should respect their raises and at the same time look to exploit their vulnerability to a well-timed bluff.
Once you are playing, you should still check back to the lobby periodically to see what new opportunities are on offer. A new game may have started at a limit you prefer, another game may now be populated by players you like to compete against, or maybe the game you are playing in has gone completely flat and simply any other game would be a better bet!
The lobby is an important resource in the armoury of a winning player – work it!