So you think you're a fish?
As a beginner, you are known as a fish. If you are more interested in playing than winning, you are definitely a fish. If you do not do the research and try to master your game by learning the odds of each hand, you will lose in the long run. The good news is that by reading this article, you will have achieved the first significant step towards mastering online poker.
However, it is not just beginners who can be classed as fish - any player can become a fish during a game. Tournament play is a great example of where an otherwise astute player can begin to play like a fish. The fluctuations in variance can bamboozle even the coolest player as a long tournament plays out. Essentially, if you begin to panic when your stack begins to shrink, you will involuntarily play as if you were a fish.
Characteristics of a fish:
Typically, a fish will chase after the pot for a lot longer than they should, they raise with poor hands, and they count on luck to get them through. The style of play typical of a fish can range from passive to aggressive. A passive player pays little attention to the odds of the hands or to the comportment of the other players; they will rarely raise, but will often follow. The passive player is essentially distancing themselves from the nitty gritty of poker and is just drawing cards in a similar way to someone watching lottery balls tumble. On the other hand, the passive style, when combined with an aggressive style, creates a player profile that can only be described as maniacal and can present a real danger to players who aren't paying attention.
Improving your fish status one nibble at a time
In order to survive and win money, the fish should tighten his game. With experience and better understanding of the nuances of poker, the fish can combine the tight game with the aggressive game and this is likely to be the most profitable way forward. In most instances it is better to begin games by playing tightly, in order to get a feel for the table. By choosing their hands with care, the fish can optimise his chances of taking down the pot. Understanding the disciplinary techniques of the tight player is indispensable to a fish if they want to go further in poker.
To start off, the fish needs to develop a basic strategy in order to begin to instill discipline into his game. It isn't yet a question of betting tactics, or studying the behaviour of their opponents. According to basic poker strategy, these are the groups of hands that should be played by a fish looking to control their game. These groups are a general indication of what iconstitutes a good starting hand; they will vary according to the situation, especially after the flop. (the S after certain hands signifies that the cards are of the same colour - suited)
Group 1: AA, KK, QQ
Group 2: JJ
Group 3: AKs, 1010, AQs, AJs, KQs
Group 4: AK, 99, K10, QJs, A10s, AQ
Group 5: A9s, KQ, Q10s, J10s, 88, K9s, 109S, A8s
Beginning with group 1 and 2, we have the top 4: AA, KK, QQ AND JJ. With these hands, you should always raise or re-raise. They don't come along very often, therefore you must extract as much value from them as possible. A top pair dealt to you is already a winning hand which does not need to be improved; it is a huge advantage pre-flop. Not to raise with these cards is very unwise; you have to play as aggressively as possible if you want to lose your fish status. Be careful not to put yourself in danger though, because you hold only one pair, even if it is powerful. What you are doing here is trying to minimise the number of players in the pot by knocking people off their straight or flush draws. With a top pair, you should always raise at least three to four times the blinds in order to eliminate all the medium hands. These are basic poker principles that will build you a firm foundation for the more advanced plays that you can make when you're firmly established as a non-fish.
The combination of groups 1, 2, 3 and 4 form the top 16, which is equivalent to the top 7% of hands. It is fundamentally important to play these cards in the best way in order to maximise your winnings. The top 16 constitutes only 7% of the possible cards that can be distributed, thus they are not likely to make you rich, that will come with experience of playing medium hands. But in terms of starting out in the poker world, these are the hands that will get your foot on the ladder.
Basic Poker Strategies for Fish Who Want To Be Sharks
If you are a beginner, you should never join a pot unless your hand is in the top 24. You will want to instigate these rules for yourself even though the actual value of the hands can vary considerably depending on circumstances.
Ace-King is a good example of a hand that has a double edge to it depending on the number of players; it works a lot better when you are going heads up than when there are more players at the table. With Ace-King you have to make sure that you eliminate most of the players before they get a chance to see you at the flop. After the flop, if several opponents are still in the game, the strength of your hand will be diminished. Be careful not to go overboard with your bets because something like Ace-King can still be at a slight disadvantage heads up, for example against something like small pairs. You have to play hard with Ace-King, but without risking everything.
A hand like 10-10 loses its power when the number of players in a round decreases, therefore it is necessary to gather the most number of players possible in a pot when you have this pair. With mid-pairs in general you are really playing for the value of hitting a set, which is a one in seven chance. So in this situation you'll be wanting to get players into the pot but not at a crazy price.
End of the line
If you follow these basic guidelines you should move up beyond fish level in a relatively short space of time, then the next level of piscine poker fauna awaits you - the barracuda level!