Fish make the poker world go ‘round. Sometimes you may feel frustrated when the fishy player across the table catches his 5th gutshot straight in a row, but those random streaks of luck are good for the game in the long haul. If it wasn’t for dumb luck, the fish would be eaten alive and never return.

If you’re having problems beating the fish, don’t feel bad. They may be considered “bad” by poker standards, but they are still crafty human beings like the rest of us. They do unpredictable things and are very good at extracting money from overzealous and frustrated poker players.

You may be more skilled or educated, but you are still beholden to the general rules, strategies and random nature of poker. Simply being “better” doesn’t guarantee anything. You must implement a very specific strategy to beat the fish.

Here’s what you need to do.

1. Play an ABC Poker Game

No trickery is required to beat the fish. In fact, trickery can get you in trouble. Fish are calling stations first and foremost. They chase draws. They make big calls just to keep you honest. They love to make random plays based on whatever strategy they deem appropriate. Trickery will get you nowhere with such an opponent.

What you need to do is play a straightforward game. This means you bet when you have big hands and you check/fold when you have weak hands. You do not need to mix up your play or worry about being predictable. The fish play their own cards without much regard for what you may have.

This advice may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at how many otherwise good poker players deviate from this simple, straightforward strategy. The temptation to bluff is ingrained into us. We don’t want to be predictable after the flop so we feel compelled to throw out a continuation bet every single time we raise before the flop.

Cleanse yourself of those habits. You do not need to throw out continuation bets or bluff the river X% of the time. All you need to do is bet when you have it and check when you don’t. You want to get maximum value for your made hands and lose the minimum with your hands that don’t pan out.

You can still play your normal game against the other players. Don’t worry about what they think. You may be predictable when you play against the fish, but you can still mix it up when you find yourself in the pot with someone else. When it’s just you and the fish, stick with your standard ABC poker game.

2. Don’t Bluff

This deserves repeating. Do not bluff the fish. There’s no point in doing so. They call so often that your bluffs are basically pointless. Why take the risk? You can instead wait for legitimate hands and bet those hands hard.

Forget about your table image, the meta game and all that other nonsense. The fish have enough trouble remembering if a flush beats a straight. They do not pay attention to how often you second-barrel the turn. They only care about what they have and what they might have.

You should also stop semi-bluffing the fish. The point of a semi-bluff is to win the pot right there with the added advantage of maybe getting lucky and hitting your draw. It also enhances your table image. None of this is necessary against a calling station.

Semi-bluffing only makes your own draws more expensive. There’s no need to do that. You’ll probably get to see the next card free anyways.

3. Value Bet Them to Death

Your average fish loves to call light. You can exploit this by value betting light. If you have the top pair and the fish is willing to call, keep on betting. You don’t need to risk half your stack in doing so. A few decent sized bets are enough to get that value without hanging yourself.

Fish do like to slowplay hands, so be careful. A top pair hand is good for a few small or medium sized bets, but you don’t need to play like you’re trying to run over the table.

When you do have something big, go wild with it. Throw out those pot sized bets all the way down. The fish will call if he has something. He will also call if he’s chasing a draw. Make him pay for those draws. This is how you get value and win pots.

4. Do Not Underestimate the Fish

The fishy poker player may be bad at poker, but that does not mean he is completely brain dead. If a fish is calling you all the way down, he’s doing so for a reason. He believes he either has a good hand or has the ability to improve to a big hand.

So if you have top pair and the board pairs or a draw completes, slow it down a bit. He’s probably not calling you down with Ace high. Even fish know to fold sometimes. One of the easiest ways to lose a big pot is to get too aggressive with a marginal hand.

Always remember this: the fish has a reason for what he does. It may not be sound poker strategy, but there is a functioning human being behind those cards.

5. Isolation is Good – To a Point

Everywhere you go, people tell you to isolate the fish. Play as many heads-up pots as possible against the fish. It is true that you should strive to play in pots with the fish, but you do yourself no favors by trying too hard to isolate the fish.

If you catch yourself 3-betting with a pair of 6s just to play against the fish, you’re probably overdoing it. You are still playing a game of incomplete information and it’s hard to play well when you’re building big pots out of position

It’s fine to raise in late position with the knowledge that the fish in the big blind will probably call. You have position, decent cards and a poor player all working together in your favor. All I’m saying is don’t overdo it. You do not need to play every single pot against the fish. Let the good cards come to you; the fish will probably be there anyways.

6. The Fish Have a Wide Range of Hands

You cannot pinpoint what the fish has because he plays a wide range of hands. This is not a weak-tight nit who plays a face-up game. The fish will show up win weird spots with surprising cards.

The solution is to remember that your made hands go up in value and your bluffs go down in value. Again: bet when you have it, check when you don’t.

7. Get a Good Seat

Get a seat as close to the left of the fish as possible. This makes it so much easier for you to isolate the fish without risking as much of your own money. You can make a small raise behind the fish, you can limp in behind him and you can see what he does before you act.

Having position on a fish makes your life easier. Not only do you have the power of position before the flop, but you also have it after the flop. Fish tend to play a passive game of checking and calling. This makes it easier for you to control the pace of every hand and the size of every pot.

8. Keep Your Patience

Fish have an uncanny ability at throwing otherwise skilled players into tilt. It can be absolutely maddening when the idiot in seat 3 pulls a runner-runner flush out of his backside. This will happen. You have to learn how to deal with it.

Resist the urge to tell the fish how stupid or lucky he is. He is doing you a favor playing the way he does. You gain nothing by educating the fish in poker strategy or shaming him away. Tell him “nice hand” and keep your cool.

One of the worst things you can do is let a fish tilt you to the point where you throw caution out the window. I’ve seen this many times. A fish catches something lucky, someone gets mad and responds with a flurry of big raises and bluffs. This is the exact opposite of the correct strategy to employ against fish.


Once you know the basic mechanics, it’s not all that hard to beat the fish. You simply need to play a straightforward, ABC game. This is poker strategy 101. The hard part is keeping with that strategy even when the cards don’t fall in your favor.

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