Poker Tips by George: Using the Fish

By George Epstein
March 28, 2023

When playing Texas Hold’em, you will often find a “fish” or two at your table. What’s a fish in the game of poker? It’s a very loose player who often sees the flop with a starting hand he should have tossed into the muck before he invested a single chip. If he has even the smallest chance to connect on the flop, he is prone to chase all the way. He may not even take the trouble – or doesn’t know how – to count his card outs, never mind figuring the pot odds. This information is of little interest to him.

Skilled players relish having a fish or two at the table. They are always welcome because they are bound to “donate” their chips to the better players. The fish are “the live ones” at the table.

How to Use the Fish

Let’s illustrate a situation where you are in a hand with a fish in a $4-$8 limit game. The player might be an avid sports bettor, specializing in NFL picks against the spread, but in poker he’s not too highly skilled.

Suppose, from a late position you are dealt As-10h. There is a raise before you from an early position, which is called by your fish from the middle position. After considering a re-raise, you decide to just call along and see what the flop brings.

shark fish
The flop is 10d-3s-10c, giving you trip 10s – a monster hand! You know you are a big favorite to take this hand. This is an opportunity to build the pot that you expect to win.

Both opponents check to you. And you decide to check along. Had you bet out, very likely one or both of your opponents would have folded, leaving you with a very small pot. (What a waste!)

The turn is the 10s. With three 10s on the board and the 10h in your hole cards, you have quad 10s –  4 of a kind! Wow! Of course, your two opponents have no idea as to the strength of your hand. It’s sure to be the nuts.

On the turn, the early position checks to our fish in a middle position. Fish studies the board, glances at his hole cards, and decides to open bet; it’s now $8. You suspect he is bluffing, hoping to steal the pot. Holding four-of-a-kind, most players would likely raise his bet – betting for value. Being skilled, you decide instead to just call his bet on the turn. This way, he is more likely to bet out on the river. If you had raised his bet on the turn, even a fish would probably have folded his hand – and you would have lost your fish.

The river card is a blank – not likely to help anyone. Even if it does improve the fish’s hand, there is no way he can beat your quad 10s. Because you did not raise his bet on the turn, the fish decides to bet out again on the river. Thus, you have gained an extra big bet from him, and a chance that he will call your raise on the river. That extra bet or two can make a big difference over the course of a poker session, helping you to go home a winner – and with a big smile.

Of course, the same applies to no-limit and high-stakes games; and your profit will be so much bigger..

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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