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How to detect fish? – Poker Basics

Main income in poker comes from the fish. In this lesson we will learn how to detect  fish. Playing in game without recreational player is quick recipe for disaster. Many players make mistake in detecting and marking of weak players. I often  see regulars( pro players) marked as a fish from other regs. That is huge mistake. Nobody plays perfect. Even top pros are sometimes tilted or in bad emotional state from other factors and can play poorly. One bad play from player in your play pool is not enough to mark him as recreational player. In order to to properly detect and exploit weak players first we will have have to understand what is a real bad player and what are types of fish.

Fish – player who constantly plays poorly with massive loses and serious lack of game knowledge.  For online player  main thing is having good statistics knowledge and good HUD to gain information on opponents. More info on subject –> Poker stats basic and HUD.

How to detect fish ?

In order to be marked as a fish player need to LOOSE MORE THAN 50bb/100 in the long run. This is a factor often overlooked . If the player is playing poorly but still not chasing enough draws and not continuing with weak hands but folding instead he is not profitable enough to play against in the lower limits. If you already do not have winrate listed in your HUD this is something you need to add. In live games you can not have this statistics to help you out but you will have to use your experience and judgment to see if someone is really a big looser constantly or not. 

Keep in mind the lower the limits higher is rake and we need more bad players to compensate for rake we are paying . If there was not rake we would not need to have a fish on table to make a profit . We would only need to be one of the better players in our play pool. But since there IS RAKE in live and online casinos we need MUCH WORSE players to PAY OUR RAKE. Just for the reference in the time of writing (January of 2024) I paid over 3000$ rake this month playing NL100 and NL200. Those are 3000$ coming straight out of my pocket deducted from my winnings. 

Second thing is their VPIP (voluntary put money into pot) so how many hands are they playing. If the player has VPIP of 100 he is playing all hands dealt. In order to be marked as a fish player needs to have VPIP OVER 42%. In extreme cases player could be playing lower VPIP but making ridiculous bad calls and spewing money left and right so his winrate is still worse than -50bb/100.

How big a fish is he ?

This is fish rankings :

Blue tag – Semi fish.  VPIP over 30 under 42. This players are not profitable enough under NL500 limits online and under 10-20 blinds live. So if you are playing NL20 and you see a bad player on the table with VPIP of 35 you SHOULD NOT sit on that table without more bad players.

Green tag – Standard fish. VPIP over 42 under 55. These players are usually very profitable to play against but ALWAYS be sure to check are they also loosing more than 50bb/100. If that is not a case and they are often limp/folding, not chasing weak draws and continuing with weak holdings you SHOULD NOT sit on this table only because of this player.

Purple tag – Whale (huge fish). VPIP over 55. These are super profitable players to play against . You should mark them with purple as I do or any other way you prefer. If it is possible always sit with purple tag . 

Very important thing is to always sit in position to the fish. If only available seat is directly right to the fish even against pink tag you SHOULD NOT sit on this table. Keep instead table open and wait for the better seat to possibly come up.

If the better seat comes up ( better position against the fish) immediately stand up and pick better seat.

Final words

Hopefully after reading this article you will know how to detect fish and when to sit on the table and when its time to leave and find better game. If you wish to watch a video on the subject here is youtube video  Playing against the fish.

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