Do you remember fish? You know, the well-known ‘casual player’, the guy who doesn’t mind taking a shot with a couple of hundred bucks at the end of a long working day. If he loses, then it’s been a good night’s entertainment; if he gets lucky and wins, even better. Maybe you’re one of these ‘guys’? If so could you write in and let me know your screen name and what site you play on, because I’m looking everywhere for you.
The truth is that apart from at the very lowest stakes there aren’t many fish around anymore. When you play a decent amount of mid stakes poker online and you find a fish or casual player, it’s hard to stop your eyes from widening and your pulse from racing. Bless those fish with their names in capitals and their slightly less than a full buy-in that they never top up – I love them all. The thing is that as these donators become ever more rare (come on US regulation for goodness’ sake), it becomes increasingly important to exploit them, taking them for every last cent you can get.
In a recent session against one such fish I managed to play both well and badly within the space of a few hands. I often hear players say they find it harder to play against bad players than ones that know what they’re doing. This is utter bollocks – if you can’t make money off bad players then good luck with your future in poker. There are two real keys to crushing them – value-bet them to death and don’t pay them off when they have a hand.
I had position on my fishy villain and he’d managed to hit a few hands to build up his stack above a full buy-in. We hadn’t been sitting for long when I picked up A-K offsuit. He made a min-raise from early position (casual players make these bets with a lot of marginal hands and they should generally be attacked). I made my standard three-bet and he called. The flop brought Kh-7c-3s. My immediate thought was to get three streets of value from him; against a good player this would be very hard to do. He checked the flop and I bet three-quarters of the pot. The turn brought the Ts, which wasn’t the greatest card as K-T was definitely in my villain’s range. Still, a plan’s a plan, so I bet again and he quickly called.
The guy played so predictably that I was now almost certain I was ahead of his half-decent hand. He’ll almost always have a weaker King, a pocket pair, or, occasionally, a hand containing a seven with two spades that picked up a draw on the turn. The river was the 3h. He checked for the last time. At this point it’s really important to go for maximum value, as leaving money on the table is a mortal sin. I had slightly more than the pot left and decided to just put it all in. He thought for some time while I prayed for Mr Gambler to call. He eventually obliged – with K-J for those who care.
Unfortunately, I undid a lot of my good work later in the session when I attempted to fry the same fish but ended up misplaying a hand that still makes me shudder when I think about it. I’d taken the lead in the hand with pocket Jacks. After betting the flop and turn the board read 9d-6h-4d-Ts. The river brought the 2s. The fish then instantly moved his stack into the middle. It was an overbet and made no sense to me at all. My poker brain was conditioned to playing regular tight-aggressive types and they just don’t take this kind of line. There were so many missed draws that I felt folding my Jacks would be horribly weak, so it didn’t take me long to call before being shown 6c-6s for a flopped set.
His line here is pretty weird as there are so many draws that could kill his hand or his action. But the point is, I hadn’t adjusted to him properly. He was as passive as they come and never ever bluffed – certainly not against someone who’d been betting strongly in the hand. My call is pretty standard normally, but against this player, trust me, it was like setting money on fire.