Exploit Poker Fish For Maximum Value

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In my prior article called, Poker Players Can Learn A Lot From Fish, I shared the 5 most common mistakes that fish make in an effort to teach you what NOT to do on-the-felt. Avoiding these mistakes strengthens your game and helps you avoid money-losing situations.

Let’s flip the script on our thinking today, and instead of concentrating on what NOT to do, let’s focus on exploiting these same fishy mistakes. We’re working to maximize our profits against Fish, who are the weakest players at the table.

Click the video below to learn how to exploit fish who never fold preflop!

Mistake #1: Fish Limp Into Too Many Pots Preflop

When a fish limps into a pot, they’re telling you, “Hey, I like my hand and I want to see the flop. But I don’t like it enough to commit extra chips unnecessarily. So please let me see the flop super cheap.”

You will exploit this poker mistake in 3 ways:

  1. Expect a call when you iso-raise. The fish wants to see a flop and they defend 1bb limps just as often as they do their big blind. So, it’s going to be tough for them to find a fold with pocket pairs, suited hands (especially connectors and Aces) and broadway hands. Expecting a call forces you to make good iso-raising hand choices and formulate a plan for post-flop play.
  2. Iso-raise with hands ahead of their limp-calling range. If they can limp-call with the hands mentioned above, you don’t want to iso-raise with hands weaker and outside their range like J9s or K8o. Instead choose hands like KQ, AJ or 99. In the long run, fish can’t make up for the mathematical disadvantage their weaker ranges have against your stronger ranges.
  3. Iso-raise with a large size. The old standard for iso-raising was 3bb+1 per limper. If you hold AA and iso-raise to 4bb’s, sure, you’re getting some value. But fish are often willing to call 5, 6, even 9bb iso-raises. I recommend 6bb+1 per limper for greater value and to make it more likely you’ll get the fish to yourself.

Mistake #2: Fish Defend Their Blinds Too Often

Feeling the need to fight for their blinds causes fish to play way too many hands out of position and with wide poker ranges. This is great for you! Exploit fishy blind callers by open-raising to a size that isolates them in the blinds. Making it 3.5 to 4.5bb’s avoids 3bets and limits the callers… but it won’t prevent the fish from calling. They’ll still defend with A9, J8s, 75s and 98o. This puts you in a profitable Bread & Butter situation against the weakest players.

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Mistake #3: Fish End Up In Too Many MW Pots

Before you raise preflop, consider how likely the remaining fish are to call your open-raise. Callers beget other callers and this could put you in an unfavorable multi-way pot. Callers also beget 3bet steals from aggressive players, which you want to avoid most of the time. If you believe your raise will lead to multi-way action or 3bet squeezes, narrow your ranges and/or use a larger size to discourage these things from happening. 

Also, when you spot the potential for multi-way flops or 3bets, have a plan before raising. What kind of flops are good/bad for your range? What will you do if you face a 3bet squeeze?

Mistake #4: Fish Continue With Too Many Draws

Beware of wet, draw-heavy boards. “Beware” doesn’t mean to check and give up or just try to get to showdown as cheap as possible. You’re up against a fish because you isolated him preflop, right? So, you know that they hate folding any draw and are more likely to continue on wet boards.

Why do they hate folding? Because they love making big hands like straights and flushes. It’s your job to use this love/hate relationship they have with wet boards against them. 

Keep your postflop bluffing to a minimum on wet boards because “if they ain’t folding, you ain’t bluffing.” However, make sure to value bet big to overcharge their draws. If you hold top set on JhTh2s and you know they’ll continue with any flush draw or straight draw, you’re missing out on value if you only bet ½ pot. Sure, they’re overpaying at ½ pot to hit their 8 or 9 outs, but you’ve got to get the value while the gettin’s good. Go ¾ pot or more and maximize the value you get from these non-folding, draw-loving fish.

Mistake #5: Fish Use Overly-Simplified Reasoning

Here’s what a fish thinks when you double-barrel the turn for ¾ pot: “Hey, I have 2nd pair and a draw. I can’t fold.” The fish isn’t using a poker software HUD, thinking about your range, the size of your bet or the pot, future cards nor the fact that calling gives you position on another street. They only see their hand and the board.

You have a great opportunity to gain maximum value from non-believing, non-thinking passive fish like this. To exploit them, you must bet for value on every street when they can call with worse. Put them on a preflop range and gauge how well this range connects with the flop, turn and ultimately the river. If they have plenty of weaker hands and draws in their range that can call, it’s a mistake to slow play your best hands by checking. Fish are willing to call with weak top pair, 2nd pair and sometimes even 3rd pair. They routinely give three streets of value with a hand like 98 on the A6973 board. Sure, they could hold a straight with T8, but they’ll let you know by raising your river bet. Give them the opportunity to make calling mistakes by value betting at every opportunity.

Conclusion & Cliffnotes

The key is not to let fish frustrate you at the poker table with their uneducated and unorthodox play. This article provides a perspective on exploiting poker fish for maximum value. Understanding the best spots to attack weaker players will help you win more money at the tables. If you want to learn how to increase your expected value (EV) every time you sit down to play poker in a soft game how you handle the fishiest players should be huge part of your poker strategy to increase your bottom line. Ultimately finding the weakest opponents and leveraging effective lines to maximize ROI is a great way to increase your win rates overall.

As we wrap up this article lets take one final look at some of the biggest mistakes fish are making and how to best exploit those errors in their poker game.

  1. Counteract excessive limping by the fish
  2. Attack fishes blinds aggressively
  3. Avoid multi-way pots with fish when you have non-premium hands
  4. Make fish pay heavily for their draws
  5. Identify the lower level lines of thinking by fish

There are plenty of other ways to improve your poker play against fish like the strategies outlined in this article “Crushing Preflop In Fishy Poker Games” by James “SplitSuit” Sweeney.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every day.

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