Hooking Fish: The Customers of our Poker Business
It is always fun to sit at a table with fish. A fish is the poker world’s ATM. Fish are weak players who are long term losers and donate money to the better players at the table. Fish come in many different forms. Some are tight, easy to read and will only bet with good hands and fold the rest. Some are very loose, play a lot of hands, call down with mediocre holdings and are perfectly content losing money just for entertainment. 90% of poker players are long term losers. Of these losers, many are actually decent players but don’t adhere to bankroll management, cant handle losing and will eventually make more bad decisions than good and lose. Some of these losers are monster fish, degenerate gamblers who play poker just to feed their addictive gambling habit. This article is designed to formulate a plan on how to exploit these weak fishy players for maximum value.
When you first sit down at a table, it is important to gauge the table flow and figure out where the weak spots are at the table. Basic reads such as noticing how someone stacks their chips, how many chips they have in front of them, how they converse at the table and how they are dressed and present themselves can lead to further in depth analysis of how that player plays. After a few orbits, it will become clear who is getting involved in a lot of pots, making bad plays and who is willing to gamble and lose money. If you cant identify the weak players at the table, the game is probably not juicy enough to even sit down or you might not be at the skill level required to earn a long term positive expectation. There is usually one or two weak players at at table and if your lucky, even more to take advantage of. I look to play a lot more hands against these players and stay out of the way of the good solid players. The more hands I can get against these bad players, the more money I can expect to win in the long run.
The Weak Tight Fish:
This type of player is extremely easy to play against. This player plays a very ABC type poker game, never mixing it up, never getting out of line and never bluffing. Most importantly, this player will fold to aggression when he holds less than the nuts. I wont get too out of line with these type of players because they don’t like to lose money. They are always trying to protect their stack which can be an exploitable edge under the right circumstances. The weak tight fish loves to call and fold. He will only raise when he has the best hand and will never make a lot of money because everyone at the table knows what he has. For this reason, I like to get very aggressive against these players post flop. When in position, I can fire the flop, turn, and river with something as weak as ace high if I know the fish cant possibly call a monster bet on the river. These type of fish usually give away their monster hands with a check raise on the turn. When they don’t have a monster, which is a majority of the time, a few big bets will get them to fold and donate you pots you shouldn’t have any business in. You always want to be heads up with a fish, never with more people in the pot because you have to worry about what hands they might have as well. For this reason, I wont make any big plays and moves against these players if other people are still in the hand. Position is still everything. The benefit of acting last is such an advantage it would be stupid not to effectively exploit it. Developing hand reading abilities can enable you to fire bluffs and semi bluffs and get weak fish off their sub par holdings.
The Loose Aggressive Fish:
This is the best type of player to exploit. It is very simple against loose aggressive fish, you wait for a big hand and let him dump money into you. There is no bluffing these loose fish as they will call with anything. For this reason, you want to simply bet you monsters and good hands for big value and fold everything else. Without strong reads, it is hard to call off big bets against these players as they also may at times have big hands. In the long run, these players will make more and more mistakes costing them a lot of money. A loose fish will play almost any cards pre-flop hoping to hit something on the flop or bluff when they miss. For this reason, I like to isolate these fish with larger than normal raises in position. I like to have these fish sitting to my right so I will have position on them for most of the orbit. The loose fish will limp a lot pre-flop then call a raise out of position which put them at an extreme disadvantage for the rest of the hand. When I hit a big hand, I will have position and the pot will already be very inflated due to the big pre-flop action. It will be easier to take an entire stack as you will never have to overbet any street to get all the money in. When these fish have gotten lucky and stacked a lot of chips, it can lead to a lot of juicy pots that I will be on the winning end of when I hit my hand.
The Compulsive Gambling Fish:
Hooked, Lined, Stacked
Just a complete dream to sit at a table with these degenerates. These are the type of people who are at the casino or log online everyday to simply feed their compulsive habit, maybe get lucky and stack a few chips but usually end up dumping all of their money before waking up and doing it all again the next day. These players are very easy to notice as they usually come for the free drinks and to have their money taken. They will be playing very loose and aggressive, get way out of line and make a lot of plays that make you question why they even bother to sit down. They will do anything from blind raising to shoving all in pre-flop repeatedly just to keep the blood flowing in their compulsive gambling veins. Beating these players is also very simple. I can effectively overbet any pot with a good holding and get them to pay me off or slow play them as they throw their money in usually drawing completely dead. Once again, you want to play these players in position, hope they have a lot of money in front of them and be very deepstacked yourself to get maximum value on your good hands. When I know I have the best hand and the fish is going to pay me off, I will make larger than normal bets, say $400 into a $200 pot in a $2/$5 No-Limit live cash game with a set of 9s on a A94J2 board on the river.
Most of the time, these fish simply cant fold any pair of aces and will think I am bluffing because I am betting so much, Why would I ever do that with a good hand? I would want to get payed off by betting $75 here right? That is the mentality they have, and they will tank for 2-3 minutes usually, then make the crying call, and shake their head when they lose as they reach into their wallet for another stack of $100s looking to erase their debts. Along with winning this huge pot, we now also have a compulsive gambling fish on monkey tilt and he will empty the rest of his wallet and checking account trying to get us back for the money we now have in our stack. Truly a dream situation.
Time is Money:
It may take hours to finally get into a hand with an ATM machine and it will take a lot of patience and discipline during this period to not get out of line with anyone else. Do not simply play hands because you haven’t played in a while. I like to open speculative hands in position a lot just to keep players on edge as a gear switch but I don’t recommend it that much unless you are a very strong player post-flop with great hand reading abilities. Stick to the basic good starting hands in position, the usual AA,KK,QQ,JJ,1010,99,88,AQ should be brought in for raises and smaller pairs can try to see cheap flops in hopes of set mining and taking a full stack with a monster.
I will open a lot of speculative hands such as 10-9 suited, JQ suited, and A8 suited in position to enable me to get a lot more value from my best hands as players will not know what I am doing until they get to see the rare showdowns at the end of hands. The more time you put into poker, the more you can expect to win in the long run if you have a solid strategy and don’t ever tilt and let emotions factor into your playing style. Poker can be a grind, but once you establish a good hand volume sample you can see what your average hourly rate is and dedicate a certain amount of time to playing and studying alike. I like to play more than I read because I feel I learn a lot more when I am actually experiencing the hands with my own chips and reads. I review and analyze hands after sessions but putting in at the time at the tables is essential in your poker development. There is no end to the learning process as the game keeps evolving and players are constantly getting better making the learning curve grow exponentially.
The more time you put in, the more times you will be able to exploit your edge and expect a long term profit. Stay focused, stay disciplined, put in the time and keep developing your game and the money will come with proper bankroll management. Never play a game over your head or where the money would effect you emotionally. I am extremely conservative with my bankroll which allows me to experiment with new playing styles which might cost me some money early but will lead to even better win rates in the long run. Once you are brutally honest with yourself on where you stand in poker, you can work toward improving and moving up stakes. I dump a lot of my poker bankroll into liquid investments so I know I always have money available outside of my poker bankroll. Poker is a business with two aspects, time and money. Money is the operating capital of the business and the time you put in nets a return on that operating capital assuming you have a good business plan. Develop a good plan, stick to the plan, make the necessary adjustments and reap the rewards of your hard work, its that simple.