Poker Players Can Learn A Lot From Fish

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I came across this quote the other day and absolutely fell in love with it because it’s not just applicable to life, but it suits the poker table as well.

“It’s good to learn from mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”

Warren Buffet

The first thing I asked myself was, “Who makes the most mistakes at my tables?”

The fish!

They’re the weakest players at any table. They love to see flops so they enter too many pots, and they remain in the pot for too long with weak hands and draws. Fish refuse to fold postflop, they size bets terrible, and they completely misunderstand basic strategy. These mistakes make them the perfect targets for value.

This is great for a smart player like you because you can target these mistake-makers for maximum profits. Each mistake they make is a chance for you to modify your strategy in an effort to exploit the errors in their approach to decision making on the felt.

Identify their mistakes, exploit their mistakes, and avoid making those same mistakes yourself.

But fish can help you beyond the value they give to your bottom line. We can observe their most common and costly mistakes, and learn from them by working to NOT repeat those same mistakes.

What Mistakes Do Fish Make?

So, what are the most common mistakes that fish make? And what MUST you do to avoid being a fish yourself? Here are the big 5 that you need to understand today:

#1: Fish Limp Into Too Many Pots Preflop

In an effort to see as many cheap flops as possible, fish limp too often. This increases the chances of multi-way pots, and worse, with hands that will too often be offering reverse implied odds.

  • DO NOT limp into pots. If a hand is worth playing, it’s likely worth raising. Raising gives you fold equity, and if called, you still have the same chances to hit a strong hand on the flop.

#2: Fish Defend Their Blinds Too Often

They continue too often when in the blinds, often times citing a “discount” after posting the small or big blind. While it’s true that they get slightly better pot odds when defending, they still defend too wide and end up serving up loads of “bread & butter opportunities” to their opponents.

  • DO NOT defend your blinds too frequently. Feel free to fold “pretty” hands like J8s, 75s, 98o and K2s. Only defend with hands that are toward the top of your opponent’s range. If your opponent is raising a 20% range with the worst suited-gapper being J9s, don’t defend your blind with 75s. Not only are you giving them positional advantage postflop, they also have a mathematical advantage over your incredibly weak hand.

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#3: Fish End Up In Too Many MW Pots

Fish call bets and raises with multiple players yet to act, which often leads to harder-to-win multiway pots. Or, they end up facing squeezes and typically defend against them too wide.

  • DO NOT ignore the players yet to act. Consider how they may respond once you enter the pot or call a cbet post-flop. Your call tells them you’re weak, and they can easily respond with a raise or they can call themselves with a better price on any draw or marginal hand they hold.

#4: Fish Continue With Too Many Draws

Fish love making straights and flushes, so they can’t find a fold postflop with any draw. While continuing with draws is fine in many flop situations, their drawing mistakes are typically on the turn when mistakes get even more costly.

  • DO NOT call with just any draw. Count your outs, run the break-even math and if you’re getting the right price, make the call. Don’t forget that you have the option to bluff raise. If they’re folding versus a raise, you don’t even have to hit your draw to win the pot.

#5: Fish Use Overly-Simplified Reasoning

Fish pay off too easily with weak hands because, “He might be bluffing, and my 3rd pair can win.” They fail to consider hand ranges or frequencies particularly well, and end up making decisions based upon the absolute value of their hand. If nothing else, pairs are tough to hit – and that can be enough reason for them to make yet another “thin hero call.”

  • DO NOT ignore the signs that your hand is beat. When a player commits lots of chips over many streets, you’ve got to hold a strong hand yourself to avoid giving away your chips.

Good luck targeting the fish and exploiting the mistakes they make. And for the sake of your bankroll, work to avoid making those same fishy mistakes for yourself.

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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