Very often, when playing online, we're not going to get a lot of choice about which seat we take at a certain table. As a rule, we should prefer full games, since this gives us the best opportunity to play against more weaker players. We're selecting our tables based upon this potential, as a weak game generally, populated by 9 or 10 players, will have more potential bad players at it then one with less players seated. The reason is that with more players at the table, where the overall average skills are the kind we seek, there's more chance for these weaker players to become involved with you in a hand, and thus, more money to be made
Depending on the situation and our level of skill and experience we will eventually want to try out short handed tables with 6 max, tables with even less, and even heads up but we'll get into these situations more later in the series, and for now will focus more on the full tables.
This is not to say that we don't want to consider tables with 7 or 8 players at it currently, as sometimes they can present very profitable opportunities. However, all things being equal, we're going to want to seek out the 9 or 10 tables, with 9 being preferred of course, since it won't involve any time on a waiting list. Often though a little time waiting can be very profitable if the table we're waiting for is significantly juicier than one that we wouldn't need to join a waiting list to get in on.
However, be wary of joining a waiting list if it is fairly long. What can happen pretty easily is that not only is a longer wait in store for you, but by the time you get to the table the game may be far different than the one you envisioned when you signed up for it. The fish may have left by then and the players ahead of you on the list who have taken their places may not be what you were looking for in the first place. Poker Edge of course will alert you to these changing circumstances, but you want to try to stay away from situations where you've waited all this time only to find the time wasted. This will be more the case at some sites than others, for instance, at some sites the players are pretty much all weak, so you're just substituting one fish for another pretty much. Some other sites may have a fair bit of sharks like yourself mixed in with the fish, so you're going to want to pay attention to your experiences at a given site and decide whether a fairly long wait is going to be worth your time. Of course, one way to deal with this is to play at another table, sign up for the new one, and move if things are what you're looking for by the time the new seat becomes available.
Having said all this, there are things we want to prefer given the choice to sit next to one type of opponent or another. Given the choice, first of all as a general rule you want aggressive players to your right, particularly those who like to raise a lot. The reason of course is that you want to see if they are going to put in a raise before you act, rather than putting money in the pot you feel is worth a bet or call but not a raise. Keep in mind here that raises from these maniacs are going to mean less, and in some cases a lot less, than raises from average players, since they are raising more often and thus are doing so with lesser holdings on average. Still though, you keep your risk down when you're in a position to act after they do. So the rule of thumb here is that you're going to want to get as good a position on these players as possible, meaning you want them as close to your right as possible.
Some games are going to be juicy enough to get involved in despite having to sit to the right or close to the right of a maniac though, and you don't want to allow this rule to prevent you from profiting from these games. This is a rule of thumb of course, but one among several. In fact, like many situations in poker, this can actually be turned around to your benefit if it's played properly. For instance, if the rest of the table are all pretty much calling stations, you're not really going to worry about the maniac having position on you too much, meaning acting after you. You'll play a few less hands, but with the ones you do, you'll get paid more for. What you want to do in these cases is to check into the maniac, let him bet it, see several opponents call, and then look to re-raise. Whether the maniac re-raises as well or not, you're using him effectively to jack the pot size up in cases where that would be desirable, meaning you have a strong enough hand that you're not really worried too much about protecting it.
If you are looking to protect a hand, you can use the maniac to your advantage by betting into him and hoping he'll put in a raise, making your opponents cold call two bets, in addition to being concerned about further raising from both you and him. This way you can easily isolate against fewer opponents in cases where your hand does much better in that environment, for example, with a pair of pocket jacks with no overcards on the flop.
As another rule of thumb, you want to prefer tighter players to sit to your left. This is particularly the case when they don't raise a lot. This seeks to minimize your risk of having money in the pot already and having to put more in to call a raise when you really don't want to, which allows you to play a few more hands than you would normally. In a situation where the table is fairly tight, this also allows you to steal the blinds more, as tighter players are generally more likely to fold to a raise from the blinds than looser players would be.
Keep in mind that these are just general rules of thumb, and depending on the situation, your preferences may be different if there's a good reason why you would prefer a given situation. An example would be the true maniac that we described above, using his aggression to your benefit. It pays to be astute at the table and the goal here is to get you to think for yourself as far as where you'd best be seated in accordance with the table dynamics, although for newer players particularly, it does pay to use these rules of thumb in cases where you don't have a good reason not to.
If you find the circumstances aren't really to your liking as far as where you're seated in reference to your opponents, and a seat opens up at the table where things would be significantly more to your preference, it's very often profitable to change seats. Providing there's no one on the waiting list, you can just get up and then rejoin the table at the more desirable seat. You may have to wait out a few hands until the big blind gets around to you, but it's often worth it.