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Isolating Poker Fish

Written by Wes Burns

This is the second article written in the two part series about Identifying and Isolating Poker Fish. This article talks about how to isolate the fish after you are able to identifiy poker fish which was explained in the previous article.

There aren't as many fish around these days as there were when the first online poker room appeared in the late 90s but that doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of money to be made at the tables. Identifying the fish is a great start but actually getting their money is an entirely different matter.

You see, it's not just the fish you have to worry about. You have to get their money before the other players at the table do. If you spot an obvious fish, you can bet there's usually at least one other player at the table who would like to take that fish's money. Your job is to get that money first.

First of all, let me make it clear that sometimes there's nothing you can do to get to the fish first. Sometimes the fish will hit a hot run of cards, other times the fish will lose his money too quickly for you to do anything about it. There will even be times when the fish just gets up and leaves before you have a chance to play against him. That's how poker goes.

But the thing is if you do your job of isolating the fish every time, more money will come your way over time. That is, of course, unless you try too hard and start making wild, unprofitable plays. But we'll get to that later.

Isolation raises work so well in isolating the fish because your raises will usually push the smart players out of the pot but the unknowing fish will stick around. When the isolation raise works, you have the fish all to yourself. All you have to do from that point on is play smart poker.

You just have to be careful that you don't raise with garbage hands because in that case you would just be putting more money in the pot with inferior hands - an activity you should leave to the very fish you're hunting!

The Preflop Isolation Raise

One of the easiest ways to get the fish all to yourself is to use the simple preflop raise. You have to time these raises carefully, however, because if three people have already limped in and you try to pull an isolation raise with a fish to your left, he'll probably call and then everyone else will call as well.

The optimal time to raise the fish is when you are in late position, the table has folded around to you and the fish is sitting in one of the blinds. You already have most of the table out of your way and if the fish calls your raise, you'll have position on him. This is a great place to make money.

Another decent time to raise is when you have position on the fish, he has limped in already and there is 1 limper or less in front of him. You'll have to experiment with the optimal raise size but the best scenario is that you get that limper to fold but the fish stays in. If everyone folds, that's not such a bad thing after all because you just picked up a pot for free.

One thing you don't want to do when making these preflop isolation raises is go raising with just any trashy hand. There's a sort of conflicting interest in this because you want to get the fish heads up as often as possible but you don't want to face him with a bunch of garbage in your hand. Fish are hard to bluff so if you keep raising with 7-8 offsuit, you're going to have a heck of a time winning pots.

Choosing your hands depends largely on the type of fish you're up against. If you have a fish who literally calls with any two cards, you can raise with any two cards and rely on your stronger postflop skills to win out in the long run.

If you're up against a fish who does not call everything but still calls a little too often, you will want to push every preflop edge you can. You'll have to judge his range for yourself but pocket pairs, suited aces and big card hands are usually stronger than the average fish's range.

After you get the fish all to yourself, strong postflop play is absolutely essential. Some fish can actually be bluffed but those are far and few between. For the most part you will want to play your hands straight-forward after the flop with the very occasional steal mixed in.

The Postflop Isolation Raise

Isolating the fish after the flop is a little bit trickier but it's a more powerful move when you have other people in the pot and your hand has a chance of actually winning. Let's say you have a decent hand - something like top pair good kicker and that you also believe the fish has something but it's weaker. It could be a draw or some small piece of the board that the fish is hoping to improve.

That's a great scenario to be in but the problem comes when there are other people in the hand. It's even worse when one of your other opponents has you beat. If you have a strong read that your non-fishy opponent has something stronger than you but nothing invincible, all may not be lost.

A strong checkraise is sometimes enough to push that opponent out of the pot but keep the fish in the pot with you. But be warned - this is a risky move! It relies on all of your reads being correct and your opponents reacting how you want them to.

Postflop isolation raises work the best when you think you have the strongest hand but you need to shut the action down because there is either a dangerous board or other people are going after draws. In all actuality, however, you should be raising in this situation regardless of the fish. Strong but vulnerable hands need to be protected.

If you have a hard time finding fish check out the softest poker sites for more information on where inexperienced players are currently playing online.