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10 Ways To Spot a Fish
Identifying the bad players at a poker table by their actions
There’s usually at least one sucker at a poker table. This can be one or more other players—or it could be you. If it’s the former, you’re in luck–it means fish for dinner. If it’s the latter–well, it’s probably time to move on, lest you become the main course caught in someone else’s gill net. Life’s too short to be the worst player at a poker table. I assume you’re smart enough to get up and move on, which means you will find your way to a better table, which means it has fish to exploit…
…ah, but this assumes you know how to spot fishy behavior. Identifying bad players is the first step to exploiting them. In this post, we look at some common things fishy players do. If you see any of this behavior within the first couple of laps of play, then you’re probably at a good table that is rife with profit opportunities:
Playing Out of Position (OOP). After just a few orbits of a poker table, you can often tell which players don’t understand position. They’re the ones playing JTs and Ax from under-the-gun (UTG). Your job is to isolate them and get heads-up in position.
Defending Their Blinds Too Much. You may hear a player say, “You’re attacking my blinds!” Or maybe, “I’ve already got $X invested in this pot. I’m not going anywhere!” News flash: they’re not your blinds, nor have you invested anything. Posting blinds and antes is simply a regular sunk cost of doing business at a poker table. Pound these players when they’re in the blinds– they eschew folding, even when they know they have a bad hand, and by definition you’re going to have position on them.
Playing Suited Cards. Ten-deuce is a terrible hand, right? “Not if they’re suited!” exclaim the poor players. Yeah, right, keep telling yourself that, and then come sit next to me. Besides suited cards, these players also like any two Broadways, any non-suited connectors, Ace-anything… well, you name it, these players have a reason for playing it. Listen to them when they turn over some bizarre hand and tell the table that they always play it because it’s their “favorite hand.” Suh-wheet. It’s also my favorite hand–when you’re the one playing it, that is.
Open Limping and Cold Calling Pre-flop. There are two—and only two—ways to win a poker hand: show down the best hand, or get everyone else to fold. When you’re chronically passive preflop, you’re actively choosing to forgo the latter method of winning. Instead, you’re solely employing the “I hope I hit my hand!” approach to poker. This is losing poker, folks. Look for sizeable gaps between VPIP and PFR if you’re playing online with a tracking program to spot the loose-passives. Otherwise, just watch for the folks that rarely, if ever, raise. Hint: they’re the ones that are re-buying and re-loading.
Under-Betting Post-flop. When I see a no-limit player betting like he’s in a limit game, I know I’m at a profitable table. These players are often OMCs (Old Man Coffee players), weaned on $2/$4 limit Hold’em or stud games played at the local casino before the early bird tourney. Their sole purpose in life is to dribble their money away to you, one min-bet at a time. Their tiny post-flop bets accomplish next to nothing. They don’t build their owner a pot when they have a good hand. They don’t price you out from calling when you’re on a draw. And they apply essentially no pressure to get you to fold. I love these players sitting at my table.
Getting Married to Top-Pair, Top-Kicker (TPTK). These are the guys who overvalue big one-pair hands and won’t fold to any amount of aggression on even the wettest of boards. Aces only come around once every 220 hands, they think, and by-God they’re going to go to the river, come hell or high water. I love stacking these players because, besides getting paid off the first time, they often re-buy and then go on tilt after getting their Aces or Kings “cracked.”
Buying-In With Weird/Small Stack Sizes. I was sitting at an online $50NL table the other day and a player sat down with a starting stack of $18.48, which screamed that this was his entire bankroll. Within 30 minutes of passive spew, he busted out, typing into the chat box that “this site is rigged! I quit this bleeped game!” Yep, it’s rigged– rigged in favor of the skilled players, and yes, I’m sad to see you go. Please reconsider.
Posting Late Blinds OOP When They Sit Down. These are the players who are itching to play. They literally cannot wait the few minutes it’s going to take for the blinds to come around to their seat. They want to play, and they want to play now! They can’t wait to get involved with far too many hands–and give all their money to you. Your fish-finding sonar should ping away when you see this impatient behavior.
Explaining Why They Lost. When a player turns over a losing hand and then spends the next five minutes telling anyone who will listen why his play was the correct one, you know you’ve got a live one at your table. Yes, they might be semi-educated at poker, and they’re trying, but they’re still a fish. Listen closely, and over the next few hours, this player is literally going to tell you their entire poker strategy, skill level, and point out their leaks, free of charge. No, let me correct that: it’s better than free; they’re going to pay you for the pleasure.
Showing Their Losing Hands. When a player repeatedly folds his losing cards face-up, he’s trying to get validation that he’s playing correctly. Uh, he’s not playing correctly. Instead, the only thing he’s validating is that he’s willing to give away valuable information about how he plays the game. Attack him relentlessly.
In the world of engineering, we often say you can’t solve a problem until you’ve identified and isolated it. Poker is no different. Spotting the fish at a poker table is the first step to exploiting their weaknesses. Look for any of the behavior listed above—and reel in some easy poker profit.
Call to Action:
What’s your favorite fishy behavior to see in an opponent? And how do you profit from them? Please leave a comment below and let me know! Cheers!