POKER TIPS & STRATEGY

5 Ways to Profit From the Mistakes that Fish Make

By Sky Matsuhashi
November 14, 2022

Let’s get you earning more profits from the weakest players in the game, the fish.

In a prior article called “Fish Can Teach Us What NOT To Do”, I taught you the five biggest mistakes that fish make. Well, we’re flipping the script with this article and you’re going to learn simple ways to exploit these mistakes for maximum profits.

If you haven’t read that prior article, check it out first so you can learn why these plays lose money, so you can work on NOT making them yourself. Then come back here to learn how to profit from these mistakes.

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Mistake #1: Fish Limp Too Frequently

Fish love seeing cheap flops in order to make big hands. Their thinking: “I like my hand and I want to see the flop. But I don’t like it enough to commit extra chips unnecessarily. So, I’ll just commit 1BB.”

You will exploit this mistake in three ways:

  1. Make isolation raises (raising after limpers) with hands ahead of their limp-calling range. This requires you to visualize the range they can limp then call you with. If they can limp-call with hands like JTs and J9s, then you don’t really want to isolation raise with J4s. Instead, choose hands like AJs, KJs and QJs. In the long run, fish can’t make up for the mathematical disadvantage their weaker calling ranges have against your stronger raising ranges.
  2. Expect a call when you isolation raise. The fish already limped in, so they’ve shown interest in seeing the flop. Plus, they hate committing chips only to fold them before the flop. This means you need to plan for post-flop play before you isolation raise because chances are you’ll see a flop. What are their post-flop weaknesses? Are you in position? What’s their stack size after they call your raise? Expecting a call forces you to make good isolation raising decisions and formulate a plan for post-flop play.
  3. Use a large size. The old standard for isolation raising was 3BB+1 per limper. If you hold AA and raise to 4bb’s, sure, you’re getting some value. But fish are often willing to limp-call 5, 6, even 9BB raises. I recommend 5-6BB+1 per limper for greater value and to make it more likely you’ll get the fish to yourself (hence the term “isolation” raise).

Mistake #2: Fish Defend Their Blinds Too Frequently

This is great for you! Sure, your bluffs will work less often, but the fish are calling with very wide and weak ranges. Plus, you’ve got position!

Exploit fishy blind callers by open-raising to a size that isolates them in the blinds. Making it 3.5 to 4.5BB avoids 3-bets and limits the callers… but it often doesn’t prevent the fish from calling. They’ll still defend with A9, J8s, 75s and 87o. This puts you in a profitable Bread & Butter situation against the weakest players.

Mistake #3: Fish Play Too Many Multiway Pots

Before you raise preflop, consider how likely the remaining fish are to call your open-raise. If your raise elicits three callers, you’re now in a multiway pot, which makes poker a bit more difficult.

If you believe your raise can lead to multiway action, narrow your range and/or use a larger raise size to discourage too many callers. A benefit of a larger-than-usual size is that it might just end up isolating the weakest player who is willing to call such a large size with weak hands.

Mistake #4: Fish Can’t Fold Draws

Keep bluffing to a minimum on wet boards because they’re not folding draws: “If they ain’t folding, you ain’t bluffing.” However, make sure to value bet big to overcharge their draws. Imagine you hold top set of JJ on the JhTh2s flop. You know they’ll call with any flush or straight draw, plus their TP and maybe 2nd pair hands. You’re missing out on loads of value if you only bet ½ pot.

“Get value while the getting’s good.”

Make it ¾ pot or more and maximize the value you get from these non-folding, draw-loving fish.

But you do have to beware when the draw completes. “Beware” doesn’t mean to check and give up. However, it’s a good idea to slow down when the 3rd flush card or the 4th straight card hits the board. It’s okay to pot control and just check when there’s a great chance the new board card just improved your opponent’s hand.

One of the ways strong players hurt themselves is by spewing chips in ugly spots because they just don’t want to believe their opponent has the goods. If the fish suddenly wakes up with aggression in a spot where he’d usually be passive, that’s a key sign that he’s got the goods. It sucks, but sometimes you’ve got to be the one to find the fold and not give value to them.

Mistake #5: Fish Can’t Fold Pairs

Fish tend to just play their cards and the board. When they hold 2nd pair and a draw on the turn, and you barrel for ¾ pot, they don’t consider your range. All that goes through their mind is, “I have 2nd pair and a draw. He might be bluffing. I can’t fold.”

The fish isn’t using a HUD, they don’t care (or even think about) your range, future board cards nor the fact that calling gives you position on another street. They only see their hand and the board.

This gives a great exploit: Gain maximum value from non-believing, non-thinking passive fish by betting big with a hand ahead of their calling range. As long as they can call with worse hands, bet for value on every street. Put them on a preflop range and gauge how well this range connects with the flop, turn and ultimately the river. If they have plenty of weaker hands and draws in their range that can call, it’s a mistake to slow play your best hands by checking.

Take Action!

Write down each of the exploits in bold font above. Put ‘em on a sticky note attached to your monitor and refer to them in every session you play. Tag the fish on your table, and work to exploit them in every way possible, especially with the five exploits here.

And good luck!

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Sky Matsuhashi poker author
Written By.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 4 poker books including ‘How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2’, ‘Preflop Online Poker’ and ‘Post-flop Online Poker’. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every […]

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