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When they are running well, hitting every flop and nailing all of their ridiculous draws on the river it can be downright maddening to contend with.
If you have been following my advice to abuse the heck out of bad players in late position by raising up their limps with a wide range then this can actually multiply the frustration when they are running lights out.
It will seem like every single time the flop comes down you have nothing and they either make a donk bet into you or raise or float your CBet. Or perhaps you finally have something by the river but they still donk bet into you or raise your value bet. What do you do in these situations? I am going to discuss exactly how to deal with the "fish on a heater" in this article.
Don't Get Frustrated
The easiest thing in the world to do in these situations is to get frustrated. This will probably lead you to have one of two reactions, both of which are bad. Firstly, you may just assume that you can't win a hand versus this player and either leave the table or start passing up on the isolation raises with mediocre hands that you know are profitable in the long run. This is a form of minor tilt that is damaging for your winrate.
The other far more common reaction to this situation is to start bluffing the fish. This is sometimes also known as "fancy play syndrome." This is a form of major tilt that can have devastating effects on your winrate. Both of these reactions are wrong and here is why.
The reality is that your fishy friend here just happens to be running good right now (hitting a lot of flops and draws) and you aren't. This is something that can easily happen during an entire session or even a series of sessions against the same player. Nothing is rigged. Nothing is amiss. It is just a minor anomaly in the card distribution over a small sample size.
I bet I could sit here and flip a coin in front of you for 20 minutes and get it to land heads or tails 5 times in a row also. You probably wouldn't demand to examine the coin or accuse me of cheating. It's just a random (though fairly rare) event that will happen on occasion.
Much like somebody hitting their draw or out-flopping you 5 times in a row. When you think about it with a cool head it doesn't seem like that big of a stretch to imagine that something like this will happen from time to time does it? However, in the heat of the moment when playing an emotional game like poker it can seem preposterous.
Levels of Thinking in Poker
This is where something that is often referred to as the "levels of thinking" in poker is important to remember. If you are unfamiliar with this term it goes something like this:
Level #1: What is my own hand?
Level #2: What is my opponents hand?
Level #3: What does my opponent think my hand is?
Level #4: What does my opponent want me to think his hand is?
And so on. It gets confusing after that.
However, the only thing that you need to remember though is that many of the regs (and certainly all of the fish) who you are playing against at NL2, NL5 and NL10 are only thinking on level #1. That is:
The only thing that is on their mind when playing against you is what their own hand is and what they think of it.
What you could have or what you are representing is not something that they spend much time thinking about. This is why when you finally make a big hand such as two pair or better they will call you down the entire way if they have top pair and sometimes with worse as well.
Fish: Hmm, another bet eh? I don't care! I have top pair! Call, Call, Call!
This is the level of simplistic thinking that you need to understand in order to defeat the bottom feeders that abound at these limits. Forget whatever fancy plays you saw on TV or read on some forum or training site video.
Winning poker at these stakes is often like playing against an 8 year old. I don't mean to be insulting to my opponents when I say this but at these stakes I always assume that they have zero poker intellect until proven otherwise. I assume that they think on level #1 and I play against them the same way that I would versus my kid nephew who just learned the rules of the game.
It is important to make a distinction between poker intellect and real world intellect here. Many of the people who you play against at these stakes are indeed very smart individuals in other fields. Away from the poker table they might be business executives, managers, doctors, lawyers, grad students etc.
However, in this specific field of online poker their level of understanding is often very limited at these stakes. High intellect does not necessarily mean success in this game. In my opinion winning poker at the lowest stakes is just a very simple series of logical decisions. However, for whatever reason even many highly intelligent people struggle with this.
My guess as to why is because no matter how many times I (and others) say it they just can't believe that it is really that simple. There must be something more! I saw Phil Ivey bluff Daniel Negreanu for 100k on TV!
Ya well guess what?
This isn't high stakes heads up poker versus world class opponents. We are playing for the price of a cup of coffee here against people who are just learning the game. Your triple range merging GTO correct bluffs aren't going to work on them!
Fancy Play Syndrome (Death to Your Micro Stakes Winrate)
As I mentioned before the absolute worst thing that you can do against an opponent thinking on level #1 who keeps getting the better of you is to start getting "tricky" with them. Fancy play syndrome has been the downfall of many micro stakes players. It happens almost always when things aren't going their way. The flush card came on the river and once again your opponent makes a large bet into you. You inexplicably reach for the raise button with your middle pair. But why?
Most of the time it actually just due to frustration. I have done it enough times myself to know this! This play was not actually thought out at all. You didn't really think that you were raising your middle pair here for value. No, the truth is that it didn't really matter what you had at all. You were just fed up with this guy constantly betting into you and you wanted to show him who is boss. Unfortunately though, this is not how winning poker works.
Remove Your Ego
Patience will be a massive key to your success at these stakes. The ability to let go of your ego and make the correct fold for the 5th or the 18th time in a row is truly what separates the biggest winners from the rest at these stakes. This is because like I said before, the large majority of your opponents are only thinking about their own hand.
When that flush card comes on the river and they bet big into you again guess what happens when you flip out and raise them with your middle pair? They ponder for half a second, call and turn over their flush. Duh right? Now you will be even more tilted!
The correct approach here was to take a few deep breaths, look at the situation objectively, and calmly find the fold button. Yes, even if you have lost count how many times in a row this is against the same player. I am not saying that you need to become a Buddhist monk or something in order to succeed at these stakes.
However, you definitely need to learn to leave your ego at the door against bad players like this. This is especially the case if you play a lot of tables at once. You will see the long run much faster than other people and therefore you will see some of the craziest variance that this game can throw at you.
If I sat in front of you for a week this time flipping that same coin there is probably some stretch where I will make it land heads or tails 10, 15 or even 20 times in a row. In a vacuum an event this crazy would probably prompt you to want to examine the coin or even accuse me of cheating. But of course once again nothing is amiss here.
I just increased the sample size in a big way and therefore we will eventually encounter some truly unbelievable variance. Play a few million hands of online poker and you will also have your mind blown at certain points.
Patience Young Jedi
As I have said many times before I think at some point you just need to stop trying to understand it. Stop trying to logically understand or mentally process variance in poker. Once we start talking about sample sizes in the millions the stuff that will happen will not even seem real.
People who are relatively new to the game come to me all the time complaining about how horrible their luck has been for their past 10k hands.
When I tell them that I have had multiple losing stretches for 10x this amount of hands at certain points in my poker career they don't even know what to say.
Even the very best players in the world sometimes lose for days, weeks or even months on end. Heck, if they play MTTs (where the variance can be truly extreme) sometimes they even have losing years! This is just a natural part of the game. So a fish getting lucky a couple times against you is hardly anything to get all worked up about.
You need to learn to take it in stride and make the right decision regardless of the circumstances. Don't make the situation far worse for yourself by over-complicating things versus a very simplistic thinking opponent. Winning in this game, much like in life, is a just a long series of relatively small but good decisions.
Lastly, make sure you pick up my free ebook which will teach you the exact strategy that I have used to crush the micro stakes for some of the highest winrates in online poker history.
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