To fish, or not to fish – that is the question. But the topic of the discussion has nothing to do with bait, tackle or live wells. The subject of this article is fishy poker players, and in this case, finding the ‘honey hole’ has to do with knowing which poker sites have the juiciest competition and what games/stakes these types of players most often compete at. To get to the root of the problem, we must first answer a few rudimentary questions.
What is a Fish?
In the realm of online poker, a “fish” is a player who has little or no experience, and/or displays no discernible skillsets. This player will often make moves that go against every strategic recommendation for the simple fact that they are novices and don’t know any better. A fish is careless with their chips, often betting to see the flop whether they have a decent starting hand or not. As such, they see more flops than any skilled poker player would invest in, making them blatant targets to identify.
In short, a fish is an easy player to siphon chips from. In direct contrast (and for obvious metaphorical reasons), a poker player who seeks out fish is commonly referred to as a “shark”.
Where are the Fish?
In theory, fish can be found at any game or any stakes level, but realistically, sharks must seek out the right conditions to find the fish. They tend to congregate at the lowest stakes of most online poker sites and frequent the real money Texas Holdem tables in both FL and NL stakes. They can sometimes even be found at mid-level stakes as high as $2/$5 or even $5/$10, but the latter has become increasingly rare since the online poker boom. Because fish are relatively inexperienced, they aren’t inclined to delve into other game types or higher stakes very often.
What Constitutes a Fishy Poker Site?
Every online poker site has fish, but in order to earn the eminent title of a ‘fishy poker site’, there must be an abundance of these carefree novitiates patronizing the virtual felt. The fishiest poker sites are commonly represented by a moderate size player base. The largest operators are too well known for being the destination of professional poker players. In fact, any site with a sponsored ‘pro team’ is going to have too many serious, proficient players with distinct skillsets to make fish hunting worth the effort. In the same token, when the player base is too small, the ratio of fish to skilled players won’t be significant enough to keep them on separate tables. There isn’t much point in playing a game against one or two fish when there are twice as many fellow sharks lurking in the midst.
Identifying a Fishy Poker Table
In order to find the fishiest poker games, the software must contain a few specific qualities. All of the necessary information should be available in the cash game lobby. There are three features that denote the fishiness of a table. The first and most important is the Viewed Flop Percentage (Flop%). Alternatively, some poker sites have done away with Viewed Flop Percentage in favor of a new similar statistic called ‘Players per Flop Percentage’ (Players/Flop%). Second is the Average Pot Size (Avg Pot), followed by Average Hands per Hour (HpH).
Flop%: This statistic will indicate how often the hands are being played to or beyond the flop. If the percentage is low, averaging anywhere from 1% to 30%, there aren’t any fish at this table. When the flop% is on the high end, especially 40% and up, it suggests that players are being too loose with their starting hands, thereby alerting sharks to the presence of potential fish at the table.
Players/Flop%: For poker sites that have upgraded to the Players/Flop% stat, it offers a whole new perspective for fish hunters. Instead of indicating how many hands reach a flop, the percentage denotes how many players pay to see the flop each time a hand goes that far. Seeing a high number in this stat is a great sign that there are numerous fishy players at the table. A rating of 50% and up is considered highly valuable.
Avg Pot: The average pot size is going to vary depending on the stakes of the game, of course, but when the pot size is relatively high, and there are fishy players at the table, it offers the shark increased value in the short term. However, the way in which online poker sites calculate the average pot size can vary. The standard would be the average pot size over the last hour of play, but not all operators are the same. If one huge pot occurred in a recent hand, it could greatly distort one’s expectations. Thus Avg Pot shouldn’t be a dominant factor in table selection.
HpH: This particular statistic isn’t nearly as prevalent as it used to be, but some poker sites still display it. The average number of hands played per hour simply defines how fast or slow the game is moving. The more players seated at a table, the slower the game will progress, but if there are only 20-40 HpH at a 2-4 player table, the action is moving excruciatingly slow. It could even indicate one or more players being continuously disconnected, which could result in other erroneous stats. These tables should be avoided. When the HpH and Flop% are both high, the conditions are prime.
Who are the Fish?
Once a fishy poker site and table has been identified, it’s time to narrow down which player(s) at the table are the fishiest. There are several key tells to look for. The easiest sign to recognize is a player who regularly calls the flop, if not all the way to the river. A player who chats too much is another obvious symptom. They might try to trash talk, or talk about their hand, even bragging about bluffing. Simply watching what cards players are holding at the showdown can reveal a lot of information, based on the way they handled their chips throughout the hand; overbetting, underbetting, etc.
How to Play Against a Fish
Beating a fish is incredibly easy, but arrogance can kill the mood. Play a tight, strategic poker game at all times. Absolutely never attempt to bluff. A fish by definition will play any hand, thus bluffing will typically end in defeat. Only play strong hands and bet appropriately, making them pay for every hand they remain active in. Above all, never go on tilt. Fishy poker players rely on luck, and sometimes it works. Accept the occasional losses, even when they defy all laws of poker probability, and keep on trucking knowing that skill will prevail in the long run.
Taking their money is the easy part, but keeping them at the table can be more difficult. If they continue losing, they will stand up and walk away. Stroking their ego should do the trick. Give them a few praises in the chat window when they lose a big pot, telling them how well they played the hand and how they just got unlucky.