How to play
Poker fish: what is a fish and how to spot them?
Poker has many terms and phrases that are puzzling when you do not know their meaning. Calling someone a fish is one of them. A fish is a derogatory name for a poker player that is considered a weak or lesser-skilled opponent; it is the opposite of a shark, who is highly-skilled.
Although it is not entirely ethical to call someone a fish at the poker tables, it is a term that is not going away, so you need to know what a poker is, how to spot one at the tables, and the best strategy to employ to beat them because they can cause much frustration
How to Spot a Fish at the Poker Tables
Poker fish come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to all share similar characteristics. As a sweeping statement, fish play loose and passive, often up to 40% of their hands and rarely raising. There are aggressive fish who may come out betting and raising like the acts are going out of fashion, but they do this with a wide range of mostly weak starting hands.
You will often find that it is next to impossible to make a fish fold because they love calling bets. Such a player is also known as a "calling station." They do not care on iota about what their opponent is telling them through the betting action; they will call any bet if they have connected with the community cards or they have any sort of draw.
Similarly, fish tend to either massively under or over bet, and never select a bet size considered optimal. For instance, if most players are opening with a three big blind raise in a No-Limit Hold'em cash game, a fish may raise six or seven big blinds, or they may even limp in.
After the flop, a non-passive fish may only bet a single big blind, set the price to continue at 100% of the pot's size, or even overbet the pot. Of course, talented players will mix up their bet sizing to keep you guessing, but these traits combined with other factors and characteristics show the player is a fish.
Playing sub-optimal hands regardless of the action is another common fishy trait. For example, they may limp in with nine-five suited before calling a raise. In addition, positions at the table do not matter to a fish, limping in from early position with some crazy, weak holdings that must be seen to be believed.
Pay particular attention to the cards a potential fish reveals at showdown; they will frequently get to showdown. Someone continually showing up with less than stellar holdings on dangerous boards after much betting action is almost certainly a fish.
How to Combat a Fish at the Tables
From the characteristics and traits you have just read about, fish seem like the ideal opponent to bump into in a cash game or tournament at PartyPoker. Do not get us wrong, fish are the perfect opponents but they can be frustrating to play against if you adopt an incorrect strategy.
Fish do not last very long at the table because they bleed money and chips at an alarming rate. Couple this with the fact seasoned grinders will make it their mission to relieve the fish of their stack and fish often only last a few orbits before busting. Ideally, you should try to get heads-up against a fish by isolating them. You can do this by raising or three-betting them when you have position, hoping to fold out the rest of your opponents. You can battle with fishes in multiway pots, but you will have more joy taking them on one-on-one.
The golden rule for beating poker fish is to never bluff them. There is zero point in bluffing a fish because they do not care nor do they understand. Fish are only concerned with how pretty their cards look and if they have a draw or a piece of the board. They are not considering that your three-bet preflop, continuation bet on the flop, and turn bet semi-bluff reeks of strength. A bluff can only be successful if it tells a convincing story, and the fishes are not listening to anything you tell them! A fish is calling your bet with a hand as weak as bottom pair no kicker, so save your bluffs for stronger opponents.
Value bet your hands to the maximum, and consider making larger-than-usual bets when you have the goods. A fish is as likely to call a pot-sized bet as they are a half-pot sized bet, so go for the larger sizing. Don't get tricky when you flop top set; bet it like there is no tomorrow to extract the most value. Remember, fish don't think about their opponents' possible holdings.
Listen to what a fish is telling you through their calls and possible bets. As mentioned, most fish are passive, and will check-call their way to the river. Regardless of the prior action, if a fish comes out betting or raising on the river of a Qs-3c-8d-5d-7h board, they have a hand like 64 for the straight or some weird two-pair combination like 85, Q3, or 73. Do not pay off the fishes!Finally, you may hear the phrases "don't tap the glass," which refers to real-life fish. Tapping the glass of a fish tank can scare the fish away. The concept is the same at the tables; you do not want to scare off the fish. Do not berate the fish by telling them how terribly they played a hand, or how stupid you think they are for calling your three-bet with 9s-5c because one of two things will happen. They will either leave the table because they are only playing for fun, which means you cannot win any money from them. Or they will take onboard your comments, go away and study the game, and no longer be as fishy, resulting in another solid player to face. Instead, remain silent or a comment of "nice hand" will suffice.