In my continuing series of playing exploitative poker against common player types you will encounter at low-stakes poker games today, we are looking at The Fish.
The fish is a particularly loose, passive player who if you said the word range to them would think you were talking about an open field out west somewhere.
The fish is the eternal optimist to the extreme who feels they can win pots with any two cards. In stark contrast to an OMC who often looks for a reason to fold the Fish is always looking for any reason to call a bet.
While this eternal optimism will occasionally win them big pots when they draw out in the long run they will lose a lot of small and medium pots when they aren’t so lucky.
The best way to take advantage of Fish is to use exploitative poker strategies, sound pre-flop ranges, and play them aggressively. This means we should always be opening for a raise first in the pot, fold or 3-bet our marginal hands in position, and occasionally over-call a raise in position with low pairs (to set mine) or suited connectors for balance.
By playing proper ranges we will often find ourselves in the fortunate position of having our opponents, especially Fish, out kicked when we flop top pair. This situation will allow you to get three streets of value from them as a Fish will almost never fold a top pair hand but will also almost never 3-bet any hand aside from the nuts.
The key to extracting maximum value from a Fish is bet sizing. Once you have a fish on the hook, by getting them to call a flop bet of roughly ⅓ – ½ pot, you can gradually size up on subsequent streets and inflict max pain on their stacks.
The second item to pay attention to when you have a fish on the line is what I like to call their “pain tolerance”. What I mean by this is the maximum they are willing to call without 2-pair or better. By identifying a Fish’s pain tolerance you can avoid going for too much value and letting them off the hook.
One example of betting too large comes from a hand I played a couple of weeks ago.
I was in the big blind and had 5♥︎5♣︎, 3-players limped in the pot and since I had no reads as it was my first hand I just checked my option.
The flop came 2♠︎5♠︎6♦︎ giving us middle set on a very connected board. I was certain I had the best hand at this point so I wanted to start building a pot and bet $10 into a pot of $13. To my delight, all three limpers called making a pot of $53.
The turn was 3♥︎, bringing in the one-liner to a 4. Undeterred I continued for $25. The first two limpers call the $25 but then the third limper on the button raised to $65.
This was the decision point in the hand for me, this slightly over a minimum raise gives me two options. 3-bet to drive out the two callers and get the hand heads up or call and allow the two limpers to come along for a cheap price.
I elected to call here, I did so because it was highly likely that the button player had a 4x hand and had outdrawn me. If I raise here I am only getting called by straights and I am only about 16% to improve to a full house (8 outs). The button had about $250 left in his stack and it was only $40 for me to call so I could call and reevaluate on the river. Surprisingly, one of the limpers called as well and then the other limper folded.
The river was exactly what we were hoping for in the 3♥︎, now we were only losing to one combo of 33 and 3 combos of 66.
Now came the second decision point, to bet or not to bet (that is the question). In my mind, I truly thought there was no chance one of the two opponents would fold if they had a straight but I also thought that the paired board might scare them into checking behind if I checked.
This lead me to jam the river for $250 effective into a pot of $248. The first limper folded fairly quickly, then the button player thought for a moment…then folded as well. I was certain he was going to call but alas I was wrong.
As the session went on it became clear to me that the button player in this hand had an aversion to calling bets over $100. In future hands, I used that to my advantage by betting under $100 when I wanted him to call and over $100 if I missed and wanted him to fold. This strategy served me very well in that session.
The second instance where the observations of a Fish proved fruitful was another session in which I over-called a $10 early position open with 3♥︎3♠︎ in middle position. The button then 3-bet to $35, the initial opener called and I called as well.
The flop came 6♦︎5♣︎3♦︎ giving me bottom set, I checked in flow when the initial opener checked to me and, as expected, the 3-better lead out for $100 into a pot of $109.
A few hands before I saw this same player insanely overplay his hand when he flopped top two pair, K9 on a K9x flop, against a pre-flop raiser who hit top pair. The opener in that hand bet the king high flop and the Fish jammed all-in for 2.5x the pot with top two pairs. After a short tank, the initial raiser in the hand folded AK face up, and the Fish showed his top two.
With this hand in mind, once the other player in the hand folded to the Fish’s $100 flop bet, I started to weigh my options.
The Fish had $472 behind and we looked to have roughly even stacks. I could just call and let him hang himself, but any thinking player would see this as a very strong move.
I could raise it to ~$250, but with stack sizes, I thought this may look a little odd as well.
My third option was to jam all-in, which could look strong or bluffy depending on this player’s take in this situation.
My instinct told me this player has a big pair, AA or KK, and would likely be unable to fold to a jam as he would be afraid of being bluffed off such a big hand.
With this in mind, I jammed for $570 total, he ended up having me covered by $2.
The Fish then went into the tank, he was visibly uncomfortable and then said, “I don’t know if I can fold this hand” at which point I put him squarely on AA.
Fortunately for me, after about a minute, the Fish called, showed his A♥︎A♦︎ and watched the run-out come J♣︎5♦︎ and immediately got up and left as his chips joined my stack.
By paying attention to this Fish’s overly aggressive style and fear of being outdrawn I was able to exploit his tendencies for maximum value.
The Fish at your table can easily be the most profitable opponents you will face as long as you pay attention and learn the best path to choose in order to exploit them.
The key is paying attention to their patterns and behaviors so you can use them against them as the session progresses.