Best Poker Sites for 2010

Identifying Poker Fish

Written by Wes Burns

This is the first of a two part series on how to identify and isolate online poker fish. Written by Wes Burns (also known as  SmackinYaUp) is a professional online poker player and author. He is a regular contributor to dozens of poker strategy websites and has been known to rake in more than $40,000 in a single month playing online poker.

With all the basic strategy material out there, identifying the fish these days isn't quite the same as it was just a few years ago. The all-out balls-to-the-wall calling station mega-fish are far and few between - especially as you move up in stakes. Luckily, it's not all bad. The only thing these fish are doing is camouflaging themselves better than they used to. They might know how to play tight before the flop but they still have leaks bigger than the Titanic.

I'm not going to go over the super-obvious signs of the fish today because you probably already know what to look for. The mega fish are the ones that call everything, they show down ridiculous hands and basically try to give away free money.

The hidden fish are the ones we want to find today playing at online poker sites. These guys might not look like fish at first but they have certain postflop tendencies that you can exploit all day long. It just takes a little observation and a willingness to try new things that might be uncomfortable at first.

Hidden Tendency #1: Continuation Bets

There are a lot of fish (and even decent players) that don't know a thing about proper continuation betting. If you find the guy who continuation bets every single time but gives up at the first sign up trouble, you have yourself an easy mark. All you need to do is call every bet he makes on the flop and then bet into him on the turn. You can also raise his flop bets for instant shut downs. If this guy finally resists you, get out of his way and try again on the next hand.

Against opponents like this, you should go out of your way to play pots with them. It really doesn’t matter what you have against them because all you need to do is make that bet.

Hidden Tendency #2: Terrible 3-Bet Ranges

Some of the fish disguise themselves very well as aggressive players by 3-betting a lot. They've read a little strategy and they know that 3-bets are "aggressive moves" but they don't know why or when to 3-bet.

You can abuse these fish all day long by using their wide 3-bet ranges against them. You have to be very careful when making plays against 3-bets because pots that have been re-raised before the flop are a lot bigger than other pots.

There are some fish out there that 3-bet all the time but they only take it to the felt with AA, KK and AK. Against these opponents you have two options: you can push all-in preflop every time they re-raise you or you can call their 3-bets and steal the pot after the flop.

This is a high variance tactic but it's very profitable against the right opponents. Make a note of how often they 3-bet and use this tactic against only the most liberal of 3-bettors. Eventually these players will start playing back at you with a wider range of hands. If you notice this happening, step back and leave that player alone for a while.

Hidden Tendency #3: Hot or Cold Rocks

This leak is easy to spot but the fish who play hot or cold poker often go unnoticed because they appear look like tags and slip under the radar while we concentrate on all 8 tables we have running at the same time.

Hot or Cold Rocks is a simple way to describe the fish that play ultra tight and only bet when they have strong hands. They might make the occasional preflop raise when their starting hand charts demand it but they don't know how to play after the flop unless they have a monster.

Against these players, your basic float tactic is an absolute beauty. The float is a move in which you call an opponent's preflop raise and then call the continuation bet even if you don't have anything. All you are doing is waiting for your opponent to check to you on the turn so you can place your bet.

This works so well because many fish know how to raise before the flop and continuation bet but they don't know what to do if they get called. The float works wonders against these players because it throws them off and it nets you a decent pot every time it works.

Every once in a while you'll try to float a fish when he has something strong. That's pretty much unavoidable so don't worry about it unless it starts happening to you on a frequent basis. If that happens, you might be misidentifying solid players as Hot or Cold Rocks.

The float move is just one of many tactics you can use against the Hot or Cold Rocks. These opponents play so straightforward that they basically play their hands face up. You can bet and steal all you want and simply fold when they fight back.