Let me ask you a question: in which of these situations are you more likely to earn profits?
- In your first 2 orbits at the table, you count 9 limps made from various players, most pots are multi-way in a single raised pot and people get to showdown with one pair while holding hands like J♦7♦ and 9♠8♥.
- You sit down and you don’t spot a single fish around you. Everybody is open-raising and 3betting and nobody’s limping. As soon as somebody checks postflop, the in-position (IP) player puts out a bet. The worst hand you see at showdown after somebody calls is TPTK.
Yeppers, #1 is a more profitable situation because sitting with weak players increases your chances of winning chips.
Here’s a beautiful, undeniable truth in poker: chips travel from the stacks of the weakest players to the stacks of the strongest players. This is because weak players make plenty of mistakes.
They don’t understand profitable strategies. They don’t understand how to exploit their opponents, nor do they pick up on players exploiting them. They don’t “play the player” and instead, all they think about are their 2 hole cards, the board, and the chances of hitting their straight or flush draw.
If your goal at the table is to pit yourself against the best and analyze them to work out exploits to beat them, then go ahead and choose table #2. I ain’t stopping you.
But, if your goal is to profit at the tables, you MUST find fish to play with.
Finding Fishy Poker Players
You probably already know who the fish are. “Bob and Sue are on table 1… easy pickin’s. Whoa, Larry, Chuck, Buck and Mary are at table 2… I’ll take table 1, please.” It’s as simple as that for live brick and mortar players. And if you were at table #2 first, then these 4 joined in… “Table change!”
If you play online, keep a fish list in your poker journal or better yet, use your poker tracking software to tag the fish. Color code their player boxes (I prefer green) or give them a little fish symbol 🐟 if applicable. When you sit at a table with no 🐟 and no green player boxes, find another table.
If you sit at a table with all unknowns, keep your eyes peeled for fishy moves that indicate weak players. In my prior article called Poker Players Can Learn A Lot From Fish, I discussed avoiding 5 fishy mistakes to save yourself money on-the-felt. Well, now’s your chance to look for players making these same 5 mistakes:
- Limping into pots
- Defending blinds too often
- Freely playing in multi-way pots
- Continuing with every draw postflop
- Using overly simplified reasoning – “I had a pair of Jacks, how can I fold?!”
Very important: pay attention to every showdown to confirm how weak your opponents are. An unknown player in seat 4 from UTG limped and called a 6bb raise OOP with J7s. He flopped a 3rd pair hand and proceeded to check-call 1/2 pot bets on the flop, turn and river… Yeppers, fish found. Now it’s time to earn his chips (if he didn’t just lose his whole stack 🤑).
Do NOT Tap The Tank
An important strategy that I see too many decent players haven’t learned yet: Do NOT berate fish for their bad play. This is for two key reasons:
- It makes you into the jerk at the table
- Fish are your friends (and contrary to Finding Nemo, also food)
Don’t do anything that will scare them away. If they’re not enjoying their time on your table, they can quickly move to another or join a tournament or just not play with you at all. Food gone!
Don’t coach them either. You want fish to remain ignorant of profitable strategies and when you let them know that J7s isn’t good enough to play preflop, nor does it make good enough 1 pair hands to call all 3 streets with, you’re potentially helping them improve. This reduces your edge over them and removes them as a food source.
Remember that one of the biggest mistakes fishy players make is the inability to fold in poker. They refuse to fold draws with incorrect pot odds, they refuse to fold bad starting hands preflop, and you make heaps of easy money when they make those mistakes. Teaching them to close those strategic leaks can cost you tons of easy chips both now and in future sessions.
Good luck finding schools of fish to gobble up in your next session.