Fish Psychology

This is something that I have alluded to throughout this book as well, especially in the NL2 specific sections. I will have quite a bit to say about this subject. I think that my understanding of “fish psychology” is a big part of the “secret” to my success at these stakes. And this stuff is very rarely talked about in poker books, on forums or anywhere else. Probably because I just made up the term. Enough buildup! What are you talking about?

I am talking about putting yourself into the mind of a bad player and trying to see the poker table how they see it.

I know it’s hard. There isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason behind what they do a lot of the time. But there are a few patterns amidst all the madness. Here are 3 general rules which are applicable to almost all fish.

They like to “see where they are at” in hands with min bets, donk bets and probing bets.

These bets are a dead giveaway that they don’t have anything very good. They usually represent top pair no kicker at best but more often they are a draw, bottom or middle pair or complete air. You can raise them up pretty liberally with a wide range, especially when IP.

If the size of their bet doesn’t change from street to street, then neither has the strength of their hand.

If a fish bets 2 big blinds on the flop, 2 on the turn and 2 on the river, his hand strength (whatever that is) has very likely not improved. Also this is very rarely anything better than a top pair hand. You can use this information to your advantage.

Fish don’t bluff big.

Well they do sometimes, but not very often. As mentioned in the river section, they will definitely bluff their missed draws, but often only for a small amount such as 1/4 of the pot. When they fire a pot sized bet it is often with a strong hand.

But now I really want to get to the heart of fish psychology. This really is the core of my “secret.”

Fish are sceptical and always think you are bluffing.

Think of the 10 dollar home games that you have played in. It’s no fold’em right? Fish play microstakes online poker with the same approach. Their #1 concern is their pride. They absolutely hate to get bluffed. And they will call you down to make you honest dammit!

This brings me to my second point. While fish are already suspicious of us in general, they are even more prone to think that we are bluffing if we make a big bet.

Fish view big bets as a bluff.

Fish view a big bet as a scared hand trying to “buy the pot” or “bully” them. If you ever want to get a fishes attention in a hand just make a huge bet. They will perk up and give you the long stare down and try to “read your soul.” They will tank and give you a lecture even if they have nothing at all. This is what fish love to do. After all, they have seen their poker heroes on TV do it for many years. Fish play this game for the big call. It’s what get’s them excited.

So how do we use all of this to our advantage? I think you can already see where I am going with this. We should show up with the exact opposite range of hands that they expect us to have when we make a big bet. They expect a bluff so we should show up with the nuts every time.

And I should mention that I believe this principle applies when you are playing fish at any limit, not just NL2 or NL5. However, it may work a bit better at lower stakes where the amount of money involved doesn’t mean much to them.

I use this idea of fish psychology to win absolutely enormous pots off of them. When I pick up a big hand I will win a 500bb pot off of the fish. If some other mediocre winrate reg were to play my exact same hand against the exact same fish they would employ some silly half potting strategy and only win a 200bb pot. Do you see why my winrate is so much higher than his?

The whole point of this section really is that fish love to call. But everybody already knows that. What everybody doesn’t seem to know is that even though it sounds completely backwards fish are actually more likely to call a ridiculous sized bet than a regular one. If you want a big winrate you need to take the fish for every last penny when you pick up a big hand. Anything that is left in his stack after the showdown is money that you threw away.

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