Poker Fish are Your Value Targets | #217

In this episode, I teach you how to spot the poker fish at your tables and what to do once you find them.

In episode 216, I discussed how to build skills into your unconscious competence through Focus Sessions.

Challenge (2:00)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  You’ve got to know who the fish are at your tables, and that requires you know what you’re looking for and you take the time to do so. In your poker sessions over the weekend, make note of each fish at your table. Write their names down on a piece of paper or add the word FISH in the note editor or color code them to indicate a fishy player (I use the color green denoting a source of money).

Try to enter as many hands as possible against the fish especially when you will have a post-flop positional advantage. This means isolating their limps (and isolating multiple limpers), 3betting their open raises or open raising to isolate them in the blinds. Your goal is to get into B&B situations against these fish so that you can exploit their poor preflop hand selections and poor post-flop skills.

Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.

Question: Why do we target the Fish? (3:55)

We all love to play poker.

Some of us like the competitive nature of the game, others like the social aspects, some may like the gambling aspects and others just enjoy a hobby that puts their mind to work.

But, no matter the reason you play the game, it’s always more fun when you’re taking chips away from your opponents. And, the easiest players to do this against are the weakest ones at the table, the Fish.

Fishy players are the most likely source of income. They lack a lot of the skills and strategy that you’ve spent so much time working on, and they’re basically Level 1 players. This means they only concern themselves with their hand and its strength in relation to the board. The reason you can profit from them comes from making better decisions than they do.

There are quite a few things that separate you from these Fish:

  • FISH only play their cards and the board. YOU think about ranges, future streets, stack sizes, player tendencies, etc.
  • FISH let you know they like their hand when they bet or raise. YOU disguise the strength of your hand with variable bet sizes and switching between passive and aggressive play.
  • FISH do not understand Bread & Butter play. YOU strive to play in position as the preflop raiser against one or 2 opponents as often as possible.
  • FISH pay too much to see the next card with weak draws. YOU consider the pot odds you’re being offered and the likelihood that you will hit your hand and get paid off.
  • FISH play against anybody. YOU are always aware of your opponent and you try to play against a Fish as often as possible.

What Indicates a Fish in My Games? (5:45)

I want you to think more about the Fish that you play with. How do you know that they are a Fish? What characteristics do the Fish have at the stakes and games that you play? Here are 4 questions you must ask yourself to help you spot the Fish and profit from their weaknesses:

1. What statistics indicate a Fish at your stakes? It’s often a high VPIP and a low PFR (like 40/5). Other good sources of profit could be from Maniacs with an extremely high VPIP and a high PFR (like 40/25).

2. Where do your Fish make the biggest mistakes?  It could be preflop or on any of the streets. Maybe when they’re over-committed to a big hand or when they give too much value and call big bets with draws.

3. What position do the Fish lose most of their money from? It might be out of the blinds or in the EP and MP.

4. What action leads to a majority of your Fish’s mistakes? It could be calling, checking, betting, raising or folding.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you can’t identify the mark at the table, then you are the mark.” So, if you can’t find any Fish at your table, you need to leave ASAP. Don’t be the Fish that everyone is going after at the table.

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Tagging Fish (9:50)

In today’s Challenge, I told you 2 ways to tag the Fish: color code them green and put the word “FISH” in their player note editor. You can also keep a list of Fishy player screen names to help you spot them.

Another good way to help the Fish stand out is by color coding their stats in your HUD. Set your VPIP stat as green for anything over 30%, and set PFR as red for anything below 10%. If you see somebody’s VPIP/PFR color combo as green/red, this indicates a Fish.

Fish are Friends (10:30)

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Don’t tap the tank.” This means that you don’t want to scare the Fish in any way and make them leave your table.

This is pretty easy for online players to accomplish: we simply don’t type anything into the chat.  This makes it impossible to berate them online.

But, this can be a problem for LIVE players. When a Fish sucks out on you or they call your 3bet with J4s and catch 2p or better and stack you, either say nothing at all or simply say “nice hand”. They may have taken chips from you this time, but eventually those chips will make their way back into your possession.

Keep the Fish at the table by not giving them any reason to leave due to your actions or attitude.

Don’t Be a Fish (11:50)

It just occurred to me that some of you listening might be a Fish yourself (or maybe even a Maniac). Open up PokerTracker 4 right now and look at your VPIP and PFR over the past 10,000 or more hands. If there is a large gap between the numbers, like the 40/5 I mentioned earlier, then YOU ARE A FISH.

If they’re both extremely high, like 40/25, then YOU ARE A MANIAC.

What you need to do ASAP is stop your Fishy or Maniacal ways. I’m sure you can imagine ways to do this, so I’m not going to cover that right now in the podcast. But I want you to realize that if you can spot the Fish with their HUD stats, you can spot your own weak tendencies the same way.

Exploit the Fish (12:40)

Once you identify the Fish and understand how they lose money, it’s time to start exploiting the Fish. I’m going to list 4 different weaknesses and one way to exploit each of them.

  • Fish play too many hands preflop. EXPLOIT THIS by isolating them with hands that are better than their range and try to play against them in position.
  • Fish often call cbets on the flop and turn to liberally. EXPLOIT THIS by value betting wide and with a larger sizing. If they are going to give you value, take as much as possible from them.
  • Fish let you know they love their hand with bets and raises. EXPLOIT THIS by folding when they show aggression, especially with bigger bet sizes on wet boards.
  • Fish don’t think about position. EXPLOIT THIS by isolating them with raises and re-raises when you have post-flop position on them.

I’ve only given you 4 ways to exploit Fish, but there are many more ways to do so.

Some of the exploits are player-specific. For example, a Fish may time down when they flop a set then just call your cbet. This delayed action means they’re thinking about how to get max value from you. You need to play differently against these players than you do against those who quickly check or donk lead with their flopped sets. Take notes on the fishy tendencies you notice so you can be ready for them when you encounter them next.

Support the Show

Brian and Dominic Disanto purchased the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  In addition to the 3-part HUD with 6 custom popups, they also received loads of video links to help them get the most from the HUD and from PT4.

Craig Damiano got PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link, and I also sent him the Smart HUD in thanks for the support.

Filip Bucek purchased How to Study Poker Volume 1 in PDF form.

Sky Matsuhashi