In our latest poker strategy article we explain how to play against fish in poker, which are their biggest mistakes and how to exploit these tendencies maximally.
In poker, opponents who play more recreationally, or are less experienced, are commonly referred to as ‘fish’.
As a winning player, most of your profits will be generated by playing versus these types of opponents, and therefore, focusing on how to play against these individuals, is of paramount importance.
Common Errors of Inexperienced Players
When people first start playing poker, they routinely make the same sorts of mistakes:
- Playing too many hands: New players are often very impatient
- Playing too passively: They will choose to call or check, rather than bet or raise
- Not aware of pot odds: Thus folding too much vs. small bets, and calling too much vs. large bets
- Not positionally aware: Playing too many hands from EP and not enough from the BTN or Blinds
- Bluffing when it makes little sense
So, as these players’ opposition, how are you going to profit from these mistakes?
Playing too many hands
When fish play hands such as J5s from UTG, or they call a 3bet OOP with a hand such as 64s, they are simply playing too many hands.
Your adjustment should be, to play better hands on average, and to put in a lot of money when you do play.
For example, when they raise from UTG, you should not 3bet bluff very often, but when you do 3bet, you should raise to a larger size than you would versus a more experienced player.
Playing too passively
When your opponents are always trying to find a way to get to showdown, this benefits all the value hands in your range.
You should make sure to bet if your hand is good enough to build a pot, rather than trap, because your opponents are not going to regularly do the betting for you.
It is also important to usually bet large with your large hands, rather than betting small in hopes of your opponents raising you.
Unaware of Pot Odds
When your opponent’s range is inelastic (does not vary based on the size of bet you make), you should bet smaller as a bluff and bigger for value.
When you have a hand better than top pair, you can often make huge bets, such as in the hand below.
Here, I check back the flop, raise the turn and bet 150% size on the river. Villain’s range is fairly inelastic here, when they are a weaker player.
They will always call two pair or better, and will make a decision whether or not to call one pair hands, based more on whether they think I am bluffing, than whether I am bluffing enough given the pot odds they are getting.
Not Positionally Aware
Being positionally unaware, is similar to being unaware of pot odds. In this case, however, the opponent is inelastic to the situation rather than the betsize.
New players see KQs, AQs, 99 etc as good hands and see J2o, 75o etc as bad hands, no matter the situation.
The adjustment here, is to play looser than you normally would versus weaker players in earlier positions, and tighter than usual versus later position fish.
You can also steal their blinds more regularly, as they will usually not defend enough, and when they do, they will respond passively.
Bluffing the wrong spots
Weaker players love to ‘represent’ a hand. They tend to not represent a range of hands, however.
They like to bluff when the board pairs, or when the possible straight or flush completes, whether or not those hands are prevalent in their range.
This can lead to situations where they are massively overbluffing, and so your exploit should be, to call all your bluffcatchers.
Here, my opponent cbet 50% pot having raised preflop, checked back the turn and bet pot on the river.
The 5, on the river, actually reduces the amount of 5x he can possibly have, as there are only two left now.
He does not have that many 5x opening from this position in the first place, and may not bet so large on the flop with a 5, or may not even bet at all.
Additionally, he would likely bet good Qx or better on the turn, or bet smaller on the river with those hands.
Essentially, he is polarised, with many potential bluffs, and so I call, and he shows one of those bluffs.
How to play against fish in poker Conclusion
Fish are the most profitable opponents to play against.
The mistakes they make, offer you the greatest opportunity to increase your winrate.
Play strong hands versus their weaker hands, be aggressive against their passivity, and call them lightly when they bluff the wrong spots.
You should also look to capitalize on their lack of knowledge in relation to pot odds and the power of position.
If you follow these tips, you will be crushing in no time.
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