If you're playing poker, chances are you're doing it to win money. And one surefire way to win the most money is to play against bad players: what rounders like to call fish.
Unfortunately, due to overfishing and Bill Frist, the fish are less plentiful these days and you may be lucky to find yourself at a table with one fish.
Get the Fish Away from the Sharks
The best way to maximize equity in these games is to isolate the fish as much as possible. Get him away from the other sharks and maximize the amount of time the two of you play pots heads-up.
It should be pretty obvious why you want to play pots heads-up against a fish. If you're the better player, the more you play heads-up against a bad player, the more you will make in the long run.
Your edge comes from outplaying your opponents. Meaning you will win more money if you play most of your pots against one bad opponent than if you play pots versus one bad opponent and one (or more) good opponents.
Sit to the Fish's Left
If there is a seat at the table open to the fish's left when you first sit down, you should definitely take advantage of it. Sitting with position on a fish will make isolating him a simple task.
Every time he limps, you raise with the hope of folding out the rest of your opponents. Because fish love to call, this will often leave the two of you heads-up.
When you're in position against a fish you do not need premium hands to isolation-raise. Instead, your entire range of playable hands should be brought in for a raise.
Now granted, you're not going to always find a seat to the fish's left, but you can still isolate from out of position. If the fish is cold-calling a lot, you can still raise and hope he is the only one to call.
Also, you can take advantage of other players trying to isolate him. Let's say the fish limps from under the gun and the button raises. The button (if he is good) is going to be raising very light in position against the fish.
If you're in the big blind you can take advantage of this by three-betting a wider range of hands, ones like A-Js, K-Qs, TT, etc. If the poker gods are smiling on you, the fish will call your three-bet with his whole range of crappy hands and the button will get out of the way, leaving you heads-up.
Isolation Raise: Right Move Even with Weak Hands
Under normal circumstances you play tight, because good players will not pay you off with bad hands. That means the quality of your hand needs to be that much better to extract value from their hands of similar quality.
When you play a fish, he's liable to be playing everything, which includes bad hands. Also, he rarely knows where he stands after the flop and will often pay you off much more readily than a good player.
Since you are the better player you will impose your will on these loose-passive fish. You'll be putting money in when you are ahead and folding when you're behind.
The fish, however, will always just be putting money in, with little rhyme or reason.
Fish Pay Whatever It Takes
Your strategy will derive you the most value after the flop. Fish take weak hands too far, and they pay off too lightly with any piece of the board.
When the pot grows on the turn and river, you have the ability to decide whether your hand warrants big bets or if it's time to slow down.
This is why you want to get into pots with fish: they do not make the same distinctions. They only think about their hand.
If they think it needs to see a showdown, they will pay whatever it takes.
Since you are heads-up you only have to worry about the fish, and not about other good players in the hand who could be lurking in the weeds with big hands.
Try to avoid getting into hands with fish multihanded as much as possible. Look for situations where you can play heads-up against them, whether by raising, cold-calling or three-betting.
Remember: you are the better player, so impose your will on them.
It's in their nature to make mistakes. As we all know, when your opponent makes mistakes, you profit. So start profiting - isolate that fish.
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