As I mentioned recently in my state of microstakes cash games article table selection in today's games has become vitally important. That is, making sure that you are always playing against bad poker players.
And table selection in today's games has very little to do with table averages anymore since fish are scarce and all the nits bring down the numbers.
It is important to know how to quickly identify the weaker poker players especially as you move up the limits. You could always just sit down at a random table and play a few orbits until your HUD shows you which players are playing way too many hands and not raising very often.
I typically look for players who are playing at least 40% of their hands. Anybody playing this many hands is definitely a recreational bad poker player (i.e. kind of guys that we want to be playing against!). They will also typically have a low preflop raise % as well.
But if you are playing live poker or even playing on the internet without the aid of HUD stats there are still several ways to identify the marks at the table as well. Below are my top 5 signs of bad poker players.
As most people who are serious about the game know by now, limping is almost always bad in poker. There are almost no situations where it makes any sense at all.
Having the initiative in the hand is just much more +EV (expected value) in nearly all spots. So if you see someone limping, especially open limping from MP, LP or the SB, there is no question that this is a bad poker player.
Some regs will still open limp from EP or perhaps over-limp or complete the SB with a speculative hand. I don't always note that. I am looking for chronic open limping especially from positions where it never makes any sense to do so.
2) Posting a Blind Out of Position
This really is another dead tell of a weaker poker player. Basically every regular in the world knows these days that you should wait until the big blind comes to you before posting your blind.
Since poker is a long term game and you can think of every session as just a continuation from the last one, it simply makes no sense to pay for blinds more often than you need to. This would be the equivalent of voluntarily paying your taxes twice. No sane individual would ever do that!
Some regs may post in the CO in a full ring game especially if there are known weaker players already at the table. I do this myself sometimes. But if you see someone posting their blind from ANY other position it is without question a bad player.
3) Buying in For Less than 100bb
Since Pokerstars got rid of the ability to buyin for 20bb a few years ago on its regular ring game tables and exploit the well known short stack strategy there simply is no reason to ever buyin for less than 100bb. There are some people who swear by some sort of "mid stack strategy" but in my opinion this is just leaving money on the table.
There were some legitimate strategic advantages to playing with a 20bb stack before such as being able to ship over regulars who open or 3bet too light. This is not the case with 40bb, 60bb or any other weird stack size though. These stack sizes require post flop play. And if you are going to play postflop why wouldn't you want the most ammunition on hand possible?
More specifically though as regards bad poker players, one of the easiest ways to spot them is a bizarre buyin with cents in it. Buying in for instance at an NL10 table for $6.43. This is clearly all the money that they have in their account and this shows a total disregard for proper bankroll management.
So these days I generally just mark anyone who buys in for an amount below 100bb as a bad poker player right away.
4) Under-betting the Pot Postflop
This is another pretty clear sign a weaker player. Especially when they are betting amounts such as a 1/4 of the pot or less. No good player would ever do that because it gives the other player(s) almost no incentive to fold at all and clear odds to call with basically any draw.
Even bets of 1/3 pot have very little applicability in a no limit hold'em cash game. Smaller bets certainly have merit in MTT's due to shallower stack sizes but in a cash game you should pretty much always be betting at least 1/2 of the pot in almost all circumstances.
5) Mini-Raising Pre or Postflop
A 3bb open is pretty much the standard at the micros these days online. There are some people who swear by mini-raising from LP and it has some merits. But anyone who is chronically mini-raising from other positions is almost always a weaker player.
The same goes for mini-raising postflop. There are some arguments in favor of it in certain spots but I think at the micros (especially NL2 and NL5) you should be raising much more for value most of the time. Mini-raising is just leaving money on the table.
6) One Tabling
I know I said the "Top 5" but here is one more way that really should have been included. Credit to Willian Mates in the comments. Most poker sites give you the ability to search a player and find out what other tables (if any) that they are playing. Bad poker players will be much more likely than regulars to be playing just a few tables and often just one. It is not easy to 24 table when you are playing 58% of your hands!
It should be noted that by tagging people immediately as a bad poker player if you notice them taking any of the above actions, you will sometimes find out later that several of them are actually nits. This is because many regs at the microstakes will do some of the things above also.
This is fine, just change the tag from fish to bad regular once you notice the low amount of hands played. Very few good regulars would ever do any of the above though and it is good to know who the bad regulars are because we can make lots of money off of them as well.
Lastly, the best thing about tagging your opponents right away is that these are stored on your hard drive and so literally any time you sit down to play on that site, your previous notes will be there. This will help a lot in knowing which tables to play at and which ones to avoid.
So there you have it! Let me know in the comments below any other signs of bad poker players that you know of.
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