Thursday, November 19, 2015

What to Do When the Fish Fight Back - Crushing the Aggro Donk

How to beat an aggro fish in poker
If you have been around the low limit poker tables long enough then you have probably encountered the aggro fish. This is the type of recreational player who for whatever reason wants to try and bluff you out of every other pot.

Now as you might know I am a huge fan of hammering on the fish and isolating them every chance that I get. But the consequence of doing this is that they will inevitably get frustrated with you. This is actually a good thing though because it causes them to play even worse than normal.

However, once the fish start fighting back it requires a different strategy to beat them. You need to be able to notice the signs of the aggro donk and switch up your approach.

So in this article I am going to discuss some of the top ways that I go about exploiting the aggressive fish at the poker tables.

Know the Difference Between a True Maniac and a Fish on Tilt

One of the first things that you need to know is the difference between a true aggro fish (often referred to as a "maniac") and a regular fish who is simply on tilt.

A maniac will have stats which look something like this:

VPIP: 55
PFR: 37
AF: 5

This means that this player is playing 55% of their hands and also raising with an astonishingly high 37%. This player also has an extremely high aggression factor which is even more insane given how many terrible hands he plays.

Compare this to the regular fish:

VPIP: 55
PFR: 7
AF: 1

These are the classic stats of the regular fish (sometimes called a "drooler fish") that you will encounter most of the time. They play way too many hands like their maniac counterpart. However, when they come in for a raise it is much more likely to be with a strong hand.

They also have the lowest aggression factor possible because almost all they know how to do is hit the call button. Their maniac counterpart is hitting the bet and raise buttons instead.

However, if you apply enough pressure (such as raising them up with almost any two like I talked about last week) then they are likely to get frustrated with you.

With most people (fish or regulars), the tendency is almost always to play more aggressive when they get frustrated. In the case of the regular fish, when they are on full blown tilt they play exactly the same as the maniac (bluffing up a storm).

Let the Maniac Hang Himself

Let's discuss the strategy versus the pure maniac first. A true maniac is very rare at the poker tables but you will encounter them on occasion especially on the weekends when they might be intoxicated. In some cases it might even be a higher stakes reg who is just blowing off some steam at the micros.

There is really only one strategy that makes any sense against a real maniac. This is to let them do almost all of the betting. They are going to try and bluff you every chance that they get so it is to your benefit to try and keep the pot small and let them hang themselves.

1. Do Not 3Bet/4Bet Them Light

Hopefully you have position on them. But even if you don't it is important to avoid 3Betting or 4Betting them light. It is much better to just see a flop and let them bluff off their stack with some random nonsense.

Unless you have a big time premium hand (AA, KK, QQ, JJ or AK) I prefer to just flat their initial raise or flat their 3Bet. This prevents me from getting into some ridiculous situation such as a 4Bet pot with 99 where the flop comes:


...and they keep firing away.

Just because you almost surely have the best hand preflop with 99 against somebody who raises 37% of hands does not mean that you need to re-raise them every time.

In fact it often makes a lot more sense to just let them have the betting lead, keep the pot size manageable and avoid getting yourself into some kind of ridiculous spot for your entire stack with 3rd pair.

Instead, play "small ball poker" if you want to call it that and just flat preflop. Then call down lighter than you would against any other player.

2. Do Not Ever Try to Bluff Them Postflop

The same thing goes for postflop. You should never even bother trying to bluff raise the flop against these kind of players. Or even worse, some fancy crap like check/raising the turn with a draw.

Why? Because they will call your ass down!

The whole point of a bluff is to try and get your opponent to fold. But against these players you have literally no fold equity at all. So unless you truly have a massive draw (12 outs+) it is better once again to simply manage the size of the pot and let them have the betting lead.

Hammer On the Regular Fish Until They Get Mad

So as I talked about last week, I will be raising up the fish in passive micro stakes games with as much as half the deck, the top 50% of hands. I will also be sticking a CBet in their face the large majority of the time we go to the flop whether I have something or not.

Any fish is going to eventually get pissed off about this. The bro will get mad.

In their ideal poker world they should be able to limp their garbage hands to their hearts content and make their fish bets after the flop. I am instead forcing them to pay a price for this almost every single time and then pushing them around after the flop as well.

They are going to start playing back at me. It is hard to say when this will happen because it is different with every fish. With some bad players they might put on their sheriff's hat and start calling me down after I beat them out of just a single pot.

With some others it might take 10 pots. You never know.

It is important to remember that most of these players are insanely passive by nature as well so the progression usually goes something like this:
  • Call you on the flop with anything
  • Call you on the flop and turn with anything 
  • Call you on the flop, turn and river with anything
  • Re-raise you preflop and postflop (donk bet postflop also).
Basically what will happen is that they are going to start calling you down wider after the flop often with nothing at all. And they will take it further and further until eventually you can't get away with any bluffs anymore at all.

After this (especially if you are running well and winning most of the pots) they will hit a point where they "snap" and become the aggro fish.

You will know that they have hit this point when they start limp re-raising you preflop and raising you on the flop or later streets. They will also start making donk bets into you after the flop. 

This transition is rarely subtle. Usually it will just happen out of nowhere and they are suddenly a maniac now.

Adjusting to the Fish on Tilt

So it is extremely important at this point that you adjust as well. You need to play them like you would against the real maniac. As we saw before this means a lot of pot control and letting them hang themselves with silly bluffs.

Let's look at an example hand. I actually played this one just yesterday:

Villain = 53/7/1 Fish

Villain limps in EP and Hero raises on the button with 79

The flop comes:


Villain donks for 1/2 pot
Hero calls

The turn comes:


Villain bets 1/2 pot again
Hero calls

The river comes:


Villain bets 1/2 pot again

So the key to this hand of course is the backstory. I had just sat down at this table a few orbits ago and I had no previous experience with this player. I had indeed just tagged him as a fish because he had all of the signs of a bad poker player such as a high VPIP, low PFR, constant limping, below 100bb stacksize etc.

I had position on this player and I had won a couple of pots already by raising up his limps and then firing at the flop. He had folded on the flop the first time and folded to me on the turn the second time. 

So I raise him up again in this hand because I have the 79 offsuit monster. I actually hit something this time (middle pair) and to my surprise he donks into me on this fairly non-descript board.

Standard call. 

The turn came with a fairly meaningless 4 and he donks into me again. This card actually does complete the 56 gutshot and possibly makes some fishtacular bizarre two pair hand. But other than that it looks pretty safe so I call again. 

The river comes with the big scary king which also completes the flush draw. He fires again. Yikes, what do we do?

Hero should...Call

After deliberating for a few moments I figured that there were plenty of bluffs and hands that I beat in this bad player's range. This is especially due to the recent history between us and him very possibly already being on tilt against me.

That fact that I am getting 3 to 1 on a call (and therefore don't need to be right all that often) also plays a role. So even though the pot had gotten reasonably big by the river this was a fairly routine call here for me with 3rd pair, weak kicker.


Villain shows T3 and mucks
Hero wins the pot with a pair of 7's

It should be noted that after I made the call in this hand my opponent here went on complete monkey tilt and handed over the rest of his stack within a few hands.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the fish are going to fight back. But it is important to make the distinction between the drunken Friday night maniac and the regular fish who is prone to tilt. 

Versus the former you should let them have the betting lead the large majority of the time and widen your calling range considerably. This allows them to keep doing what they do best, bluff away their stack.

However, versus the regular fish it is important to pound on them every time they limp if you have anything that is even remotely playable. You should follow this up with even more aggression after the flop as well. This will cause them to eventually snap and turn into an aggro donk just like their maniac brethren.

As we saw in the example hand above, they will start running ridiculous bluffs for no reason at all. It is your job to realize when that switch has been flipped and call down wider.

Let me know what strategies you use against the aggro fish in the comments below. Are there any specific scenarios which give you trouble?

If you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

How to get a tell on your opponent in poker.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Isolating the Fish: A Complete How To Guide

Raising up the fish.
If you read this blog regularly then you will know that I am constantly preaching the importance of playing with bad poker players or fish as they are commonly known. But once you find them and get the right seat against them the game doesn't stop there. 

Many people make the mistake of simply waiting for a "good hand" to get involved and win a big pot. This strategy will work of course but it is by no means optimal. The best regs will instead go out of their way to get in as many pots as possible with the fish in order to make sure that they get that stack before anyone else. 

They do this by continually isolating the bad players with a wide variety of hands both in position and out of position. So in this article I am going to show you exactly how I go about isolating the fish at the poker tables and winning the maximum against them. 

What Does it Mean to Isolate the Fish?

First things first, what does it actually mean to "isolate the fish?" When you isolate somebody at the poker table it means that you target them in an effort to get the pot heads up postflop.

The ideal situation is having the fish all to ourselves after the flop in order to exploit the myriad of mistakes that they are likely to make. 

Typically we will try to isolate the fish after they limp preflop (just call the big blind). This is of course something that they love to do. You will see many fish for instance with stats that look something like this:

VPIP: 53
PFR: 6

This means that they play 53% of the hands that are dealt to them but they only raise with 6%. So the vast majority of the time that they enter the pot it is by just calling the big blind. You should frequently raise up the pot when they do this.
  • I recommend raising it to 4x the big blind
A standard open raise is typically 3x the big blind and I recommend adding an extra big blind per limper. Hence the 4x the big blind versus one limper.

But isolating the fish can also refer to 3Betting them. Once again you are raising in an attempt to isolate them and get the pot heads up.
  • I recommend making it 3x their original open when you are in position (IP)
  • I recommend making it 4x their original open when you are out of position (OOP)
If the fish comes into the pot for a mini-raise (as they often like to do) then I would recommend making it 4x IP and 5x OOP. By increasing the size of our re-raise we force them to play a regular sized 3Bet pot if they wish to continue.

What Kind of Hands Should You Isolate the Fish With?

This depends on the type of game that you are playing in. One of the biggest reasons why the very lowest stakes online (NL2, NL5 and NL10) are beatable for such high winrates is because the regulars tend to be very passive. 

That is, they will essentially let you have your way with the fish unless they happen to have a good hand themselves. 

This is not the case at higher limits. The regs there think about the game on a deeper level and therefore they know how important it is to get the fish's stack quickly and they will fight you for it. 

But in this article I am going to assume that you play at the lower limits where you can get away with murder against the fish for the most part. 

In these games I suggest isolating the bad players with a range as wide as:
  • The top 50% of hands in position
  • The top 40% of hands out of position
What does this mean in terms of actual hands? 

Isolating the poker fish in position
Top 50% of hands marked in yellow
Isolating the poker fish out of position
Top 40% of hands marked in yellow

Now it is important not to get too hung up on the actual hands listed above. I just plugged these ranges into Pokerstove (link to this free program on my resources page) and this is what it came up with. You could take some hands out and include some others.

Also, it should be noted that I am talking about when the bad players limp here. I am certainly not 3Betting them with 40% or 50% of hands. It will be far, far less than this and include a lot of premium hands.

The real takeaway from these two charts is just how wide I am willing to isolate the fish when they limp. I will be raising them up with anything that looks even remotely playable.

Why the Difference Depending on Position?

Now you might be asking yourself why I isolate with a slightly tighter range when I am out of position. The reason why is because when you have to act first after the flop it makes it much more difficult to value bet and bluff the bad players. 

You are always going to win far more in poker versus any type of opponent when you are in position and get to act last after the flop. So in order to compensate for my positional disadvantage I will in fact "tighten up" versus the fish when out of position. 

But something else I will do is increase the size of my preflop raise. So instead of making it 4x the blind as I mentioned before, I will make it 5x or 6x instead.

By increasing the price that they have to pay in order to see the flop this allows me to take down a few more pots uncontested preflop. When we are OOP this is a perfectly acceptable outcome.

3 Reasons Why You Should Isolate the Fish This Wide

The reason why I isolate the bad players with so many hands (and sometimes even more) is because I understand that my winrate is directly attributable to how often I am playing against them.

As I have mentioned several times before, you aren't going to ever turn a big profit against the regulars. These are players who typically take the game seriously like you do. 

Even though this doesn't mean that they are necessarily good, they simply do not make the massive preflop and postflop errors that recreational players do. Therefore, your edge against even the very worst regs will never be close to what it is versus the fish.

So I want to focus heavily on playing against the bad players but I can't sit around waiting for the nuts either because good hands only come around so often.  

So here are 3 reasons why it is absolutely fine and recommended in fact that you play a lot of hands versus the fish. 

1. They Are in There With All Sorts of Random Junk Themselves

Have you ever really taken a good look at the kind of nonsense that fish usually show up with at showdown? They will regularly show up with hands like:
  • K2, 94, T5, 23, A4
They aren't exactly waiting for the nuts themselves! So why should we?

Even though we will be playing a lot of "trashy" hands (as you saw in the charts above) our opposition is playing at least as many bad hands. So therefore, we aren't putting ourselves at any sort of disadvantage.

2. We Have a Huge Postflop Edge

It isn't always about the actual hand itself though in poker. It is about the person playing the hand. The reason why the fish lose so much in the long run is because they constantly do dumb stuff like this:
  • Call down with bottom pair
  • Call down with ace high
  • Call down with a gutshot straight draw
  • Call down with two napkins
It is almost like they aren't given a fold button and a raise button like the rest of us. They just like to call, call and call some more.

Therefore they often end up calling down with too many losing hands and they rarely give themselves an opportunity to win the pot by bluffing. 

They also have no clue about the importance of position in poker and therefore they end up fighting an uphill battle all too often. 

Since we don't make these mistakes we already have a massive advantage over them postflop. This is why we can easily get away with playing a few crappy hands like they do.

3. You Have to Get Involved in Order to Win!

Probably the most important reason though why you need to play a lot of hands against the fish and isolate the crap out of them is because you can't win if you keep folding preflop. 

There is a reason why the top winners at any stake are never nits. You simply can't win big if you aren't involved in the action. 

The other thing (and I am going to talk about this a lot more next week) is that when you are constantly getting involved with the fish you are creating what I call a "dynamic" against them. 

This means that there is a playing history between the two of you. And the more that you are involved raising them up and constantly sticking a CBet in their face the more that they are going to view you as a maniac who is abusing them. 

There is absolutely nothing in the world that a fish cherishes more than his/her own pride. Fish literally live to make the big hero call and to show up the "bully" at the poker tables.  

So some of my biggest winners versus these players actually come from terrible hands like T5. And all I did was hit top pair and go bet, bet, shove. 

Someone looking from the outside might view me as a reckless maniac who just got lucky against a terrible player who could not find the fold button. 

Nothing could be further from the truth though.

What they didn't see is that I had been applying constant pressure for a dozen hands before this. I knew that the fish was absolutely fed up with me and therefore I could get away with massively overplaying what is normally considered a weak top pair hand. 


Isolating the fish on a consistent basis is an integral part of your success at the poker tables. It is not enough to just find them and get the right seat against them. In passive micro stakes games you should be going out of your way to get in pots against them by isolating them with as much as the top 50% of hands. 

But even when out of position you can still get away with raising the bad players up with a wide range as well. The key here is to get involved in an many pots as you can against them and utilize your superior postflop abilities. 

An added benefit of constantly hammering on the fish is that it tends to tilt them very easily and absolutely nothing is more profitable at the poker tables than a fish on tilt. 

Let me know how you go about isolating the fish in the comments below. Are there any trouble spots that you encounter when raising them up?

If you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

How to get a tell on your opponent in poker.

Monday, November 2, 2015

How to be a Poker Shark - Getting Ahead and Winning Big

Poker shark winning big
Poker is a lot more fun when you win big. I can tell you this from experience. My #1 goal in this game has always been to find out how to achieve the highest possible win rate. The top of the food chain. The poker shark.

The problem with a lot of poker educational material and training these days though is that it focuses on teaching you how to become a mediocre winner. And if grinding out that 2bb/100 win rate for years on end at the micros is your goal then by all means, have at it!

Keep burning the midnight oil studying "game theory optimal" strategies so that you can eek out another fraction of a big blind edge against strong opposition (in theory of course). Or keep crunching "SPR" numbers or counting hand combinations until you find the perfect bet size or play (again, in theory of course).

The problem with all of this is that most people don't want to study complex mathematical theories for years on end in order to go from a 2bb/100 winner to a 2.5bb/100 winner. They want to be a 5bb/100 or 10bb/100 winner and also, they want to do it now, not next year.

So in this article I am going to discuss a few of the main ways from a practical perspective to cut the line and start generating the big win rate that you actually want at the micros.

Modern Poker Theory is Backwards

Let's start by talking about the key problem with literally all modern poker theory. Most of it is based on what I call the "banging your head against a wall" approach to poker.

That is, it focuses almost entirely on how to beat solid thinking opponents. That is great and all but nobody turns a big profit against solid thinking opponents. These players simply do not make enough fundamental mistakes in order for you to ever gain a big edge against them.

This is why I constantly talk about the importance of finding the fish, tagging them, chasing them around, finding the right seat against them and so on on this blog, in my videos, books and everything.

I prefer to play against players who do in fact make big fundamental mistakes at the poker tables because again, my goal is to win big in this game, not to grind out a tiny win rate against strong regs.

I get a lot of flack for this. I have been called the "bumhunter king of the micros" among other things for instance. And that is fine. I actually take it as a compliment.

"Bumhunter" by the way is a pejorative term that some people use to describe people who focus almost exclusively on playing against the recreational players. In other words intelligent poker players who understand where the money actually comes from in this game.

The bottom line is that if you focus all of your attention on trying to beat the toughest opponents then you are simply trying to deny the fundamental rule of poker that nearly all of the profit comes from the weaker players.

You can keep banging your head against a wall by trying to outwit solid thinking opponents who take the game just as seriously as you do.

Or you can focus your attention on finding the weakest players, getting position on them and exploiting their bad play in order to truly crush the games.

I have already written the ultimate guide to table selection at the micros if the latter approach seems a little bit more effective to you. And yes it is completely free (although it shouldn't be).

Exploitative Strategy is the Key to Big Success

When I talk about exploitative strategy (which I am a huge proponent of) I am talking about finding the biggest weaknesses in my opponents and hammering on them. Everybody has weaknesses at the micros (even the good regs) and I am all about doing things the easy way in poker.

If I can see on my HUD for instance that my opponent plays well preflop and on the flop but shows significant weaknesses on the turn and river guess where I am likely to attack him? It doesn't make sense to battle your opponent where they are strong.

So the classic example is the weaker reg at the micros who folds to 3Bets too much. You still see them at the lower stakes all the time folding 80% of the time or higher. I won't ever be trying to "balance my range" against these players. I am just going to 3Bet the crap out of them, like literally every time I get a chance.

You will find many other areas where the recreational players and the weaker regs have huge leaks in their game by making effective use of your HUD. Here are just a few of them which I regularly exploit as well:
  • Fold to 4Bet is too high
  • Fold to flop raise is too high 
  • Fold to turn float bet is too high
Note that you can exchange the words "too high" with "too low" for any of these and I will simply open up my value betting range to exploit them in another way.

What if your opponents don't make glaring mistakes in some key areas? Refer to my first point above. I don't play in games where everyone at the table is a strong, well balanced reg.

Be a Little Non-Standard Sometimes (It's OK)

Another thing that holds a lot of people back is this idea that there is some so called "standard play" for every situation. Or even more silly, that there is a perfect bet size.

This is No Limit Hold'em. You can bet whatever amount that you want.

One of my favorite high stakes players to watch back in the day was Prahlad Friedman. Most people today have probably never heard of him but he had a big impact on online poker in it's early days. He played under screen names like "Mahatma" and "Spirit Rock."

His biggest contribution to the game was the massive over-bet on the river. He would regularly bet 10k into a 2k pot with a wide range of bluffs and value hands. It absolutely dumbfounded his opponents at the time and often put them on instant monkey tilt if they guessed wrong. This would allow him to win much, much more.

There are many more examples of players like this throughout the history of poker who ignored the "standard play" and revolutionized the game in the process. Sure, people eventually figured out ways to counter their strategy but for a time they reigned supreme and annihilated the games.

If you want to get the same results as everybody else (marginal winner at best) then you should go ahead and do what they all think is the standard play at that moment in time.

But elite winners and poker sharks know that the game is always changing. In fact it often swings back and forth from one extreme to another in cycles. 5 years ago when limitless aggression was at it's peak in online poker they called you a "donkey" if you called too much.

These days though the pendulum has shifted back in the other direction because everybody has finally realized that the answer to hyper-aggressive players is to call a lot wider. Now all of the sudden you can post your "donkey" hand histories again on the poker forums and get a virtual high five instead of ridicule.

Don't listen to the masses of breakeven players with their "standard plays." The game is always changing. There is no such thing as a standard play. The biggest winners are at the top of the curve and are actively creating the strategies to counter what everybody is doing right now.

The same people who laugh at them and ridicule them today will be copying them and praising them tomorrow.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the top, poker is really a lot more fun when you win big. Most people never get there though because they take things far too seriously and over complicate everything.

The biggest key to being a poker shark and a huge winner will always be in playing against the fish and to a lesser degree the weaker regs.

Many people choose to keep sitting in terrible games though trying to draw blood from a stone. Or they think that there is some secret mathematical formula which will help them crush solid thinking opponents.

Poker simply does not work this way.

If having a big win rate is a priority of yours then you absolutely have to change this way of thinking. You have to understand that game selection is a skill in and of itself. And in an era of poker like we have today when the games typically play tighter and the fish are harder to find, it is more important than ever.

Secondly, you need to focus on finding and exploiting the biggest weaknesses that your opponents have. Instead of spending so much time thinking about how to "balance your range" in all situations you should just hammer on them more often where they are weak.

Lastly, don't be afraid to try out new strategies and even unconventional bet sizing. Show me somebody who makes a lot of "standard plays" and I will show you a mediocre winner or a breakeven player. The standard play is a myth. Poker is always changing and those who truly crush the games are riding the crest of that wave.

Let me know in the comments below what you think it takes to really crush the games today. By the way, if you want some concrete numbers on what it means to really destroy the games I talked about that in a popular blog post located here.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

How to get a tell on your opponent in poker.

Monday, October 26, 2015

15 Smart Ways to Get a Better Read on Your Opponent at the Poker Tables

How to read your opponent in poker.
Everybody knows the power of reads or tells at the poker table. But sometimes it can be difficult when playing online to make a read on a player until the HUD data starts rolling in. And a few poker sites these days disallow HUDs altogether so what do you do then?

Similarly, when playing live there will always be an information gap when you first sit down to play. Furthermore, unless you are a really experienced poker player you might miss out on some important tells as well.

So in this article I am going to discuss 15 ways to help you gain a better read on your opponents even if you have just sat down at the table.

1. Stack Size Below 100bb

You can tell a lot about a player just by looking at the size of their stack. Good players who are confident in their abilities will always want to buyin for the maximum or cover everyone at the table.


Because if you believe that you are the best player at the table (which you always should) then having the maximum amount of money in front of you will allow you to maximize your skill advantage.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody with a short stack is a terrible player. There are a variety of reasons why they might be low on chips. They might even be trying to employ some sort of “short stack strategy” as well.

But by and large, when you see somebody at the table with a short stack it is likely that they are a weaker player. They may also have an insufficient bankroll and therefore be playing on scared money.

2. Number of Tables

If I am playing online and I am curious about a particular player one of the first things that I will often do is check to see how many tables they are playing on.

Some poker rooms will allow you to block yourself from being searched but only good players are likely to take advantage of this. The fish (even if they know that this option exists) likely won’t care either way. So if you search someone and they are blocked this is actually a player type tell in and of itself (it's a reg).

Most recreational players will be unblocked though and they will be on one or two tables at the most. While there are exceptions, most strong regulars online will be playing 8+ tables.

3. Avatar Selection

This might sound silly but there are dead tells in online poker based on the type of avatar or picture that someone uses. Common avatars that fish will use include:
  • Pic of their kids
  • Pic of their dog
  • Pic of a famous TV poker player
Again, there will be some exceptions. There have been some hilarious cases of really strong online poker players using this to their advantage as well. But by and large these are dead tells that it is a recreational poker player.

4. Age in The Screen Name

This is another online poker tell which might seem silly at first. However, it is surprisingly effective. Many people will put their birth year at the end of their screen name.

Now at the risk of sounding like I am age bashing here (I am not exactly a spring chicken myself) it is generally true that a lot of fish are older poker players.

This makes sense of course.

Middle aged men tend to have a lot more disposable income on average than younger guys. Also, they are more likely to come from an old school live type background and therefore they might struggle to adjust online.

Again, there will be exceptions but when I see “1962” at the end of a screen name this is usually the type of player who I want to be playing against.

5. The Super Quick Call

Timing tells and betting patterns are some of the top ways to get a read on your opponent whether you are playing online or live.

One of the easiest ones to spot is the super quick call preflop or postflop. This is almost always a mediocre hand such as a weak pair or a draw.

If they had a really strong hand or even total air it is much more likely that they would take some time to consider the best way to get value or to run a bluff.

So if I am getting insta-called the whole way this is a great spot to go for sick value on the river if I have a reasonable hand or to go for a bluff if all the draws missed.

6. Location, Location

Again, it might sound silly but there are certainly some real location tells online. There are a ton of Eastern European grinders these days for instance playing the lowest stakes online.

These are typically countries where the cost of living and average wage is extremely low and a lot of these players are grinding out a side income or even a living. They are often tight regulars who can easily be bluffed but if they fight back you should proceed with a high amount of caution.

Players from a country like the one I am from though (Canada) are much more likely to be fish. The same goes for many other prosperous Western nations. People from these countries tend to have more disposable income. Micro stakes poker is also much more likely to be a hobby for them since you can't pay the rent with your NL5 winnings.

These are sweepingly generalizations of course (just like the age thing) but the location tell is certainly something to consider in many cases especially at the lower stakes.

7. Sunglasses, Hoodie, Hat

The live tell for the internet poker player is wearing attire like this. Often they will have the headphones in as well and tend to keep to themselves.

If I am playing live I am not going to specifically avoid these guys. Just because someone is young and fits the internet poker player profile does not mean that they are necessarily good.

But I do expect to deal with a lot more online poker style aggression. Therefore, I will do my best to make sure that these players are on my right and not my left.

8. Limping

Limping isn’t something that good players really ever do anymore in a ring game online. As soon as you see somebody limp in almost any situation you can peg them as a weaker player.

Some decent regs at the lowest stakes might still limp behind or complete the small blind with a speculative hand especially after a limp parade.

However, even this tells me that they lack certain aggressive attributes in their game. I will peg them as a weaker reg and probably try and run some bluffs against them in the future.

9. Min Betting Postflop

It used to be the case that mini-betting preflop online was a sure sign of a fish. However, times have changed and the mini-raise open is now very popular and actually standard at higher limits.

However, no good player will ever make a minimum bet after the flop. A bet of $1 into a $15 pot for instance is only something that a recreational player would ever do. This is because it is a meaningless bet size which literally gives me mathematical odds to continue with any two cards.

10. The Delayed Turn or River Raise

There are very few players in small stakes cash games whether live or online who are capable of raising the turn or the river as a bluff. This is especially the case when they do the whole Hollywood thing (taking their time and pretending that they have a hard decision to make).

When you get shown the nuts enough times in these spots you will realize how easy it is to throw away top pair or even two pair when the nit raises you. Small stakes players are notoriously passive and they are bluffing much less often than you might think.

11. The Bizarre Buyin Amount

One of the easiest ways to spot a fish online is when they buyin for a bizarre amount. For instance, $17.23 at an NL25 table.

This is clearly their entire bankroll.

Having your entire bankroll on the table is not something that any good player would ever do. Somebody employing a proper bankroll management strategy would buyin full and have at least 20 more bullets behind.

12. The Big Table Talker

Live poker is of course a fundamentally more social game than online. So being a big table talker is not always a sign of a fish. Many good live players will in fact use table talk to their advantage.

However online it is almost always a sure sign of a recreational player. Most good players have the chat turned off altogether. They don’t have time to be socializing anyways with action on multiple tables going on.

If you are playing online and somebody is constantly yapping in the chat box it is likely that they are a weaker player. This doesn’t mean that they are a huge fish but they almost certainly are not a strong reg.

13. Isolating the Isolater

If you see somebody who is constantly isolating a recreational player (raising up their limps) then you can often profitably isolate them right back with a few light 3Bets.

Since I recommend isolating the bad players frequently you will know that I often have a less than stellar hand. So a quick way to pick up some easy pots against somebody who is pounding on the fish like this is to start re-raising them light.

It is important as always though not to take it too far and force them to start playing back. We aren’t specifically trying to start a war with the reg here.

Although, that is ok sometimes as well.

14. The 3Bet Monkey

3Betting up a storm has become all the rage in recent years especially online. Many people at the micros take it too far though.

If you see somebody 3Betting with a high frequency then you can take advantage of this by flatting lighter in position and playing back after the flop.

You can also toss in a light 4Bet or even a cold light 4Bet if you are extra sneaky from time to time. This works just fine in a live poker game as well.

15. Timing Out

If you see a player who is frequently running their timebank online just to fold 72o preflop this is a sure sign of a mass multi-tabling nit. They are usually playing on way too many tables and therefore they are often overly tight and easy to bluff.

Like with all nits though it is important to proceed with a high degree of caution when they start to fight back. They have 18 other tables demanding their attention. They didn’t decide to just pick on you out of the blue.


There are many ways to get a read on your opponent even when you have just sat down at the poker table and have no HUD data or history with them. Hopefully a few of the tips above will help you get a better read on your opponents in these situations live and online.

Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other ways to get a tell on your opponents when you have limited information on them.

Lastly, if you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

How to get a tell on your opponent in poker.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't Get Left Behind: How to Outplay the Regs and Win More Pots

Outplay the regs in small stakes cash games.
One of the biggest keys to success in today's micro stakes cash games is learning how to outplay the regs (the regulars who you see every day at the tables).

With the recreational players being fewer in numbers these days it is more imperative than ever that you develop strategies to beat decent thinking opponents.

Most people these days essentially still just "play their hand" against the regs though. That is, they just play a straight forward ABC game, make disciplined folds and never really get out of line.

This strategy leads to a lot of trading the blinds back and forth and ultimately a tiny winrate. If you want to win big then you need to find ways to start winning more pots against the regs.

So in this article I am going to discuss a couple of key ways to outplay the regs in today's small stakes cash games.

Outplaying the Regs - Know Your Enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In order to stop trading the blinds back and forth with the regs you need to know your enemy. Once you discover their weaknesses then you can start attacking them and turn the balance of pots won in your favor.

What are some of their weaknesses?

1. They Are Overly Aggressive When Small Money is Involved

Ever notice how crazy the 3Betting and 4Betting can get sometimes at the micros today even at very low stakes? You might have noticed a high amount of CBets on the flop and turn as well.

This is because most regs get over aggressive when small amounts of money (relative to the overall stacks) are involved. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.

The real problem is point #2.

2. They Are Overly Weak When Big Money is Involved

Most regs at the micros these days are like the little dog who is all bark and no bite. They put on a mean face and try to scare you out of the pot with frequent bets and raises on the small money streets.

However, once a significant portion of their stack is at risk unless they have a monster hand they can't find the fold button fast enough.

So there are a few different ways to exploit this.

The Turn Semi-Bluff Raise

One of the easiest ways to outplay many of the regs at the micros these days is to raise their double barrel with a wider range than normal.

Most people will only raise on the turn if they have a huge hand like two pair or better. The problem with this strategy is that every reg out there knows this as well.

Therefore, when you finally hit your set and raise them on the turn they just make the easiest fold in the world and you are left wondering why you never get any action with your big hands.

Well, the easiest way to exploit their tendency to double barrel frequently but then fold to further aggression is to simply open up your raising range in these spots.

So instead of only raising the turn with two pair or better try adding some hands like this:
  • Open ended straight draw
  • Flush draw
  • Middle pair
  • Bottom pair
  • Gutshot straight draw
Skew it more towards the quality draws and pairs but I think you get my point. Raise the regs more often with hands that have some reasonable equity but aren't the nuts.

By raising the turn with hands like this you will take down several more pots uncontested. This will also do wonders for both your winrate and your redline (non-showdown winnings).

And don't worry if you get called from time to time. This doesn't mean that you can't still win the pot on the river with another well placed bluff.

You could also simply outdraw them. This is why you should only make this play with hands that have some equity.

Lastly, on the rare occasion that they re-raise you they clearly have a monster and it is the easiest fold in the world.

The Double Float 

You don't always have to raise the turn though. Another line that you can take is to simply float them twice (call their flop and turn CBets in position) and then bet the river when they check to you.

Like I said before, most regs at the micros these days are all bark and no bite. This means that they will fire on the flop and the turn but if you can continue (even just by calling) they often won't have the heart to fire again.

So you can take many of the same hands that I listed above and instead of folding to their double barrel just call again with the intention of taking it away on the river.

This last point is extremely important.

Many people forget that the entire point of floating is to take the pot away. Floating and then not betting when they check to you is like getting the hot girl's phone number and then not phoning her.

Massive fail. Facepalm etc.

So when you double float the turn and they check to you on the river you should be betting with all of your missed draws and bluffing with many of your weak pairs as well.

Just like before on the turn, you will of course get looked up here from time to time. It is important not to let that deter you. Showing down a bluff or a bad hand on occasion versus a reg can actually be a very good thing because it gives you a bad image which leads to more loose action in the future.

Don't Bluff the Sticky Regs

It is important to note that you should look out for the calling station regs though. The WTSD% (went to showdown) stat on your HUD is a huge help in many situations like this.

If the reg has a WTSD% in the mid 20's or higher then I am going to bluff them less often with many of these hands. If on the other hand their WTSD% is in the low 20's or less then I will be bluffing them all day.

As I discuss at length in Modern Small Stakes I am often planning all of this ahead of time on the earlier streets though. I will often only double float a player who I know likes to barrel a lot but gives up easily on the river.

If I see that they like to triple barrel or call down wide though then I will be much less likely to try and run a big bluff against them. I might call down wide myself or just give up on the hand on an earlier street.

Final Thoughts

Devising strategies to outplay the regs is extremely important to your success in today's micro stakes cash games. After all, these are the players who you are going to see by far the most at the tables.

The biggest key to having success against them is understanding how they view the game, their tendencies and then creating counter-strategies.

And indeed, this is what winning poker is all about. There is always a ying to every yang. Your opponent is too aggressive? Call down lighter. Your opponent is too passive/weak? Bluff them more often.

It is important to understand that not all regs at the micros are created the same. But many of them these days do exhibit a tendency towards being overly aggressive on the earlier streets and overly weak on the later ones.

The turn semi-bluff raise and the double float are two strategies that you can use to counter-act this. Try them out yourself at the tables and you might notice a few more pots coming your way.

Let me know some of your strategies to outplay the regs in the comments below.

Lastly, if you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

Outplay the regs and steal pots