10 Ways To Spot A Fish
Things you will learn:
- How to spot a fish
- How to adjust when you spot a weak player
1) Calling station
If you're not sure what you're doing in a game, the easiest thing to do is follow someone else's lead. That's why in poker you'll find a lot of novice/weak players calling every bet regardless of their starting hand.
It can be horrific watching an opponent calling every bet nonchalantly, before timidly turning over jack-high to your relief. But it's even worse when they call all the way and reveal aces at the showdown - a hand you could never put them on in a million years because they didn't bet or raise at any stage.
2) Underbetting and overbetting
An ace has just hit on the river and there's $3,500 in the pot when your opponent looks at his cards again and makes it.... $50 to go. $50? You only have bottom pair but decide to call because it's stupidly cheap. He shows a bluff.
You're in a $10 Sit & Go online when a player puts in 1,000 chips under the gun with only 10/20 blinds to pick up. Everyone folds and he reveals jacks. Now, it's not the easiest hand to play, but was it worth risking 1,000 chips to steal 30? The only hands he's going to get called by are ones where he's dominated like Q-Q, K-K, A-A. Note down his mistake and make him pay later.
3) The showoff
There are people who, when playing poker, just can't help themselves. They show every bluff they make, every pot they rake... in fact, they just keep on showing hands when they simply don't need to. This makes them highly fishy! After all, poker's a game that is based heavily on information. So why give it away for free when you don't need to?
4) The showdown
The showdown is the only hard and fast information that you get in a game of poker. What two cards was your opponent playing? And what did his bets mean? You don't even have to be in the hand to pick up vital information like this. Was he drawing to ridiculous pot odds to make his gutshot straight?
If you can give yourself a mathematical edge against your opponent(s), you'll be a winner against them in the long run.
It's true that some decent online players use the online chatbox to create a false impression or put an opponent on tilt. But you can bet the last dollar in your account that anyone typing in 'nh' or 'wp' when someone shows aces is a weak player, no matter how nice their sentiment.
If there's a lengthy conversation going on, you can be sure the chatters are not focusing on the game properly. In real life you can talk and play cards if you're skilled enough. But online, typing and using the mouse, while keeping an eye on the screen and making tough tactical decisions is a lot harder.
6) The critic
Bad players like to make themselves look good by critiquing everyone else, but the fact is that you want to be up against bad players and you don't want these bad players to be aware that they're bad players. Otherwise, they might leave the table - taking their money with them!
There's a famous saying - 'don't tap on the aquarium' - which translates as 'don't scare the fish'. If someone's tapping away then they either don't know enough to know this maxim (in which case they're a fish), or know it but choose to ignore it (and are thus stupid, which is the same thing).
Bad players don't like playing poker after the flop, because it involves far more skill. So watch out for an opponent who insists on pushing all-in every other hand, pre-flop or otherwise, when the blinds are still relatively low. Selective use of the all-in move can be a powerful weapon. Too much of it is suicide.
Position is paramount in poker but it's quite a tricky concept to grasp when you're starting off. Look out for people who consistently limp in under the gun and then call a raise only to check and fold to any bet on the flop. And look out for people who don't use the button to bet and steal the blinds.
If you play a bad player heads-up, suddenly their amateur status is magnified. After a few hands you'll soon realise that, perhaps because they're nervous or simply haven't been in this situation before, they hardly ever raise, give you lots of free cards and only bet out when holding premium hands.
At which point, unless you're holding a monster yourself, you can just fold and wait for a better position. You'll also notice lots of checking and folding pre-flop because they don't lower their starting hand requirements short-handed.
When playing online, players are prompted when it's their turn to act, blinds are posted automatically and it's impossible to bet below the minimum or above the maximum (if you're playing in a limit game).
However, when playing live all these things - and more - are not only possible, but almost inevitable if you're playing with novices. Don't get impatient with your opponent(s) if they keep making elementary mistakes like this. Keep reminding them to put their blinds in; tell them how much the minimum bet or raise is; and remind them to take their coat when they get up to leave hours before you do.
Skinning a fish
You've identified the fish at the table - now what do you do?
- Don't try and bluff them. Remember, those little Nemos will call you with anything and if you're bluffing their 'anything' could be a lot more than your 'nothing'. If you've got a novice/calling station on your table you're going to have to wait until you hit a hand
- Get friendly with the fish. If you're going to take all their money and expect them to come back to the table you're going to have to make them feel good about themselves. How do you do that? Just go on a charm offensive, like, 'Wow you played really well, you just got really unlucky.'
- Make them pay when you've got a big hand. If you're sure you've got the winning hand you want to ruthlessly extract as many chips from them as possible. Don't scare them off with a big bet, but do put your money in if you think they'll call. Don't check to them and hope they bet into you. Extremely passive players are much more likely to follow your lead - you check, they'll check; you stick in chips, they'll stick in chips. Also, if you haven't got a lock on the pot don't let them draw to a winning hand. There's nothing more annoying than losing to a fish on the river
- Make notes. Take down a physical note of your fish's online alias. Lots of online sites let you search for players by name, which is a great way of checking to see if your fish is swimming online when you log on