For those unfamiliar with poker lingo, a ‘fish’ refers to a player who is less skilled and generally makes suboptimal decisions. These players can often be predictable and, with the right strategy, can be beaten consistently.
Understand Your Opponent
The first step in beating ‘fish’ at poker is identifying them. Fish often play too many hands, are overly aggressive or overly passive, and frequently chase draws regardless of odds. They often lack understanding of position and betting patterns, which can lead to predictable plays. Pay close attention to your opponents’ tendencies to identify the fish.
You can take notes on players and try to target them over time. There are online poker tools such as Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker that can help you keep track of your opponents while also keeping stats on your own play! However, Bovada Poker has anonymous tables so both you and your opponents’ player names are hidden. You can play here if you don’t want your opponents to track your playing style (but you can’t track them either!).
Fish Play Too Many Hands
The ideal pre-flop play percentage, often referred to as VPIP (Voluntarily Put money In Pot), can vary depending on numerous factors. These include the player’s skill level, the number of opponents at the table, the playing style of the opponents, and the specific variant of poker being played.
That being said, in a typical 9-handed Texas Hold’em game, a solid player often has a VPIP ranging between 15-20%. This suggests that they are playing roughly 15-20% of their hands. This range represents a balanced playstyle, which isn’t too loose (playing too many hands) or too tight (playing too few hands).
Fish typically play over 25% of their hands. They just want action, they hope to get lucky. Pay attention to your opponents’ VPIP if you can.
Play Tight and Aggressive
Once you’ve identified the fish, adjust your playstyle to a tight and aggressive strategy, also known as ‘TAG’. This means you should play fewer hands but bet and raise aggressively with the hands you do play. Fish tend to play loosely and often overvalue weak hands, so they’re likely to call your bets with inferior hands. Get them in on those second best hands.
Let the Fish Bluff
Fish often lack a refined bluffing strategy, leading them to bluff too often or at inappropriate times. If you suspect a fish is bluffing, and you have a strong hand, let them drive up the pot. Be patient, read the table, and call or raise when you’re confident in your read.
Conversely, trying to bluff a fish is often unprofitable. Because fish play a loose style and call bets with weak hands, they’re less likely to fold in response to your bluffs. Stick to playing strong hands and let the fish make the mistakes.
Value Bet Relentlessly
If you have a strong hand, make sure to extract as much value as possible. Fish often call bets with marginal hands, so don’t be afraid to bet or raise for value. However, be mindful of the board texture and potential draws that could complete and strengthen the fish’s hand.
Stay Patient and Keep Emotions in Check
Playing against fish can be frustrating due to their unpredictable and often reckless playstyle. Maintain your composure, stick to your strategy, and avoid going on tilt. Remember, each unprofitable move a fish makes is an opportunity for you to gain.
The most effective way to consistently beat fish is to improve your own game. Study poker strategy, review your hand histories, and continuously look for ways to refine your skills.
Before you start playing for real money online, be sure to get comfortable with the online poker platform first. Get the free Americas Cardroom download and play the free games against other real players. ACR has play money games that you can practice on. Get comfortable with the software interface and the pace of playing online without risking any real money.
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