Saturday, April 4, 2015

How to Play Against the Fish Who Doesn't Fold Anything

How to Play Against the Fish Who Doesn't Fold Anything
We've all encountered them. The recreational player who does not fold to any bet. It is as if they do not have a fold (or even a raise button) like the rest of us. They just like to call with anything and everything. These types of players can be extremely frustrating to deal with when you are not running well. There are simply going to be times when you are up against this type of player and you can't hit a flop to save your life. It is very important not to get over aggressive here and try to bluff a player who cannot be bluffed.

You will see these players most often at the very lowest stakes with stats that look something like this:

64/5/1 (VPIP/PFR/AF).

These are the limits where a typical bet size often isn't even as much as the price of a coffee. Therefore, if they have any kind of a draw they are calling. If they have bottom pair they are calling. If they have ace high, king high (hell, sometimes even 8 high), they are calling! You need to remember that these players play the game in order to catch you in a bluff or make their long-shot draw to win a big pot. Logic and mathematics be damned. They get a thrill out of playing sheriff or making something ridiculous on the river.

There is no point in getting mad at these players, or even worse, trying to educate them. You need to accept them as they are and realize that their existence at the tables is one of the biggest reasons why this game is so profitable. If you look at long term win rates (loss rates in this case) these players pay a heavy price for their terrible play. Often they are losing at 20bb/100, 30bb/100, 50bb/100 or more! They are literally giving away their money (at a very fast pace) in the long run.

So since we know exactly how these players think about the game the only thing that we should be concerned with is how to most profitably counter it. There are two main points with regards to this that I want to cover in this article. The first one is mental, the second one is technical.

Do Not Get Frustrated

As mentioned it is extremely important that you do not to get frustrated when playing versus fish who don't fold anything. We already know that they are going call if they have any piece of the board so what is the point in getting annoyed when they go ahead and do just that? Let's be honest here. The only reason that it is frustrating sometimes is because either a) you aren't hitting anything or b) they are hitting their long-shot draws much more often than they should. It is important to remember though that neither of these two events are normal.

When you are playing fairly good cards like most regs do these days (I suggest about 15% of hands in full ring and 20% in 6max) then you are going to have a decent hand after the flop a good amount of the time. Statistically you will make at least a pair after the flop around 1 out of 3 times with a completely random hand. Since you are playing much better than a random hand you will hit the flop even more often than this.

Sometimes though you will have one of those sessions (or even a couple of them in a row) where you just cannot hit a flop, turn or even a river no matter what. On the other hand, sometimes you will have sessions where you literally knock it out of the park every single hand. Curiously we tend to remember the former much more vividly than the latter. That is a topic for another post though. What is important to understand here is that neither of these two events (hitting nothing or hitting everything) are normal.

Also sometimes you will experience a session (or a few of them in a row) where these recreational players will hit every ridiculous draw in the world. We call them "long-shot draws" for a reason though. We all know that mathematically you don't hit a gutshot straight draw very often for instance. It is roughly 11 to 1 with one card to come and 5 to 1 from the flop to the river. Same thing with bottom pair. Guess what normally happens when you call down the whole way with bottom pair? Yup, you guessed it! You still have just bottom pair on the river.

However, just like we discussed above, sometimes they will hit their ridiculous draws with a much higher frequency than they should. On the flip side, sometimes they will hit even less often than the odds would dictate. Once again, we tend to recall the former much more vividly than the latter. And also once again it is important to remember that neither of these two events are normal.

Value, Value, Value

So from a technical standpoint what is the most profitable way to counter the fish who doesn't fold anything? Well clearly trying to bluff them will be the worst strategy possible. We already know that these players love to call with anything and one of the very reasons that they play the game is to catch you in a bluff! Trying to bluff these players is pretty much like kicking the ball directly into your own net.

This is why I stressed above that we need to stay calm against this player type when things aren't going well. This is because the tendency can be strong to get over-aggressive and "make something happen." They can't have it every single time! I will show them what is up!


Their bottom pair is still way ahead of your ace high. And guess what? They are going to call the whole way with it. By attempting to bluff them off of their hand you will simply lose much more money than you should have and also manage to tilt yourself even more!

The correct and most profitable strategy versus the fish who doesn't fold anything is to value bet the living crap out of them. And then value bet them some more! Now it is important here for me to define what I mean by "value bet." The reason why is because this is a relative term. Betting the turn or river for value against most nits for instance requires a very strong hand. This is because these types of players often will not go past the flop without something really strong like top pair, a solid draw or better.

However, we already know that the whale described in this article will call you down with two napkins. So therefore we can lower our standards significantly when value betting against them. Any strong hand like top pair or better is an easy three streets of value. Middle pair can often be good enough for three streets as well versus a complete drooler with no fold button. There are even some spots where we could get some really thin value with hands as weak as bottom pair or ace high.

Super Thin Value!

One of my favorite spots to get thin value on the river versus this player type is on a double paired board like this:


I will always bet the river here with 99, 88, 77, 66 or 55. This is because they will never fold ace high on this board. I will also frequently make a bet here with ace high as well because sometimes they won't be able to find the fold button with king high either. We chop at worst.

Boards where there is an obvious missed draw is another spot where you could go for some super thin value versus a recreational player. On this river for instance:


You could often make a profitable value bet versus the doesn't fold anything fish with Tx, 6x or any pocket pair such as 99, 88, 77, 55, 44 or 33. The reason why is because this player type will often call down with a hand like AK or AQ the whole way here. And with the river pairing a low card they will be even more inclined to look you up. Sometimes they won't even be able to fold the most obvious missed draw here which is KQ. It is important not to bomb the pot in cases like this. We want to toss out that teaser bet of half pot or so which will make them just curious enough to hero call you with their ace high or king high.

Keep Calm and Value Bet On

So I hope this article helped prove useful to some of you guys battling these crazy fish at the lowest stakes. They show up all the time at the lower limits especially if you play at easy poker sites.

It is important to remember two things when playing against these player types.

1. Stay patient 

Stay patient when you can't hit anything and they are hitting all of their crazy draws. Remember that this is not a normal occurrence and these players pay a heavy price in the long run for their terrible play.

2. Full Value

Make sure that you are always getting full value versus these players with your big hands. My first book, Crushing the Microstakes, is also literally ALL about this topic.

But also make sure that you are getting that thin value versus these whales as well. This is about effectively countering their style of play. We often do not need anything close to the nuts in order to extract value from them.

Lastly, make sure that you look out if they ever do find the raise button especially on the later streets. We often have a tendency to dismiss the actions of fish altogether. But the fact remains that they get to hit their flush, straight and two pair sometimes too.

They get dealt strong hands just as often as we do as well. These players are typically about as passive as you can get. When they finally decide to wake up you would be best served to give them a little bit of respect sometimes.

Let me know how you approach playing against huge fish in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

How to Play Against the Fish Who Doesn't Fold Anything


  1. hi nathan :-)

    great article,as usual ! :-)

    i would call this 'the poker life of a table tennis coach/athlete in greece' lmao!!!
    its not normal....but it happens every single session AT LEAST 10 times lol at least 2 me...
    those huge 100k downswings r over but i can make profit coz if those things happen 10 times per session its pretty difficult 2 turn a profit so i m playing 10k hands of nl5 and nl10 per day just with the goalof collecting VPPs since i came 2 realize that its just the way it is for me,those things happen every day ALL DAY!!!not normal?nope...but i cam 2 accept it by now after seeing that this thing doesnt happen 2 any1 i know,and i mean ANY1...

    not in the 100+ videos/hrs i watched ur coaching videos and not in the many hrs of dusty's video or the few nanonoko videos i watched...

    so i came 2 the conclusion its just karma coz the long run is already passed and it still doesnt change,just that its not soooo horrible anymore...
    they hit their crazy hands 10 times per session and the rest of the session or day i can b happy if i manage 2 finish at least break even or with some mini profit...

    but i took ur last advice and m more careful with my bet sizing on later streets so the swings r not so big anymore but bottom line is still the same,that i m living in a situation day in day out which is not 'normal'....and i gave up on the 'longrun' 2 show up,i just accepted my karma,its just not meant 2 b...but still playing for supernova and the 5k $ this year which i should b able 2 achieve if i continue playing 9k hands per day...

    usually i follow all u say in this article just sometimes i also get in this 'i know he/she doesnt have anything,HE/SHE CANT CALL THIS BET!' and as u say...THEY DO!!!!LOL

    i also realized thats its not just the 64/5/1 player but its MANY more!!
    i cant even remember when i last saw a 64 vpip player but i do remember that the generally call lots of 1-2 outers and that the nits and super nits also dont fold coz they wait so long for their AK or big pair that they just wont fold it,specially if i bet small as u mention here...

    saw ur FB pics of ur new home in thailand..looks niiiiiice!!!
    hope u r having a great time there brother!!!!u deserve it all :-)

  2. Hey Dimi,

    Thanks and glad to hear that things are going a bit better for you. Normally I suggest against using the EV adjusted earnings in HEM or PT but you could check this with a large sample like you have to see how bad (or good) things really are. Not saying that this stuff doesn't actually happen to you but what I do know is that everybody on earth thinks they run worse than everybody else :)

    1. thx for the reply :-)

      i m doing that already every day and it confirms what is going on...

      but the thing with EV adjusted is that its not very shows just the times when all the money went in and i was a favorite at that time,which is rarely the case...

      and i m not talking about AA/KK and made hands all ins...there may b swings but in the end its all balanced out and i checked that out already...

      i m talking more about coolers and suck outs where u know u r in front and at the river most of the money is already in and u cant fold the rest...
      i m talking about loosing many times in a row with KK every single day when i have 2 fold on a raise on a flop containing an ace or when they call all the way and on the turn or river they hit the miracle draws...
      in the end i will still make money with AA and KK so the numbers r ok...

      but all that doesnt show on EV adjusted...

      i m pretty self aware and always try 2 find 1st the mistakes in my game...
      m not 1 of those people who try 2 find the mistakes elsewhere...
      sports dont run that way...if u always try 2 find excuses here and there then u will never become a good player,and i always tell that 2 the players i m coaching...
      i m 1 of the best players and coaches in greece coz i always work on my game and dont look for reasons in the world or people around...

      but i m not blind...

      as i watched many many hrs of videos,as i said all of urs,and from dusty and nanoko and m very aware of what is going on...

      and i never saw crazy stuff happening there which i experience EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!
      many times i watched videos again and again with the thought 'just check it out,maybe its happening 2 them also but u didnt c it'
      but thats just not the case...

      i remember seeing some small bad beats or bad situations and nanonoko was ready 2 'cry'!!!talking over and over again about this hand but all else went ok,and i thought 'oh boy,if u react like this for ONE bad situation,HOW WILL U REACT IF U LIVE MY LIFE???!!'

      and it looks even like a rhythm,i start a session and in 5 minutes i get 10 blows like that!!!i even asked my wife 2 sit next 2 me and count!!!
      'look,now they will have this and that 2% ,5%,10% possibility 2 hit and they do'
      so i m VERY objective about it!!!
      and i also realize and notice when things run well,and say 'ok,it happens also 2 me' but there is no balance AT ALL in it...

      and the thing that made me b 'sure' about it is when i made this video for u playing NL5 and NL10 and i remember thinking 'ok,now he will c how bad i run...lets c what he will have 2 say about it'

      funny thing,i was running bad as usual before i made the video,the 40 minutes i made the video everything went perfect,but PERFECT!!!and the VERY MOMENT i stopped the video and played 'for me' = same story again!!!!coincidence??!!!

      i remember my girl saying 'then make another video!!!'

      and i replied 'fuck it,cant u c what is going on??!!'

      and m now also following dusty's twitch = all normal...not even1 bad beat or suck out or cooler,NOT EVEN 1!!!

      i start my game and boom boom boom 1 after the other...

      many people may say the same but i know or believe its subjective,filled with emotions,but i m very objective in general coz thats how i generally approach life and situations plus i have an IQ of 166 last time i checked,so....

      and as i said,i WISH it would b my mistake coz then i could work on it!!!

      so i just accepted it...

      its just the way it is,its karma,or it will turn around...but i cant c that happening...
      anyway..that still doesnt stop me from playing coz even this way i can make profit in the end of the year through VPPs...

    2. funny thing just happened...
      after 'complaining' about my bad luck i started playing and for the 1st time in this month i started a session VERY good!!!
      so i stopped 2 write u about how objective i m!!!!LMAO

      and even funnier,when i clicked on 'sit out next blind' 1 of the last hands is this...

      i m in the SB with QQ (playing NL10 FR ZOOM - my stake 24.12 ,his is 5.65 so i already know he is probably a bad player with that stack size... its the 1st hand in 5 he plays so i dont have further info about him,just going with the flow and feeling)

      he makes it 30 cents from the BTN,i raise to 1.11,he calls...
      FLOP 34J with 2 clubs which i dont have any of...
      i CBET 1.46 into a 2.32 pot and he min raises me to 2.92,pot is now 6.70 ,i need 1.46 to call and he has 1.62 left so naturally in this situation and stack sizes i shove...
      and what does he have? KT of SPADES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! = 14%
      TURN 9,RIVER Q = runner runner giving me a set and him a sweet straight...

      and half of my 'good run profit ' is gone...
      this hand will actually show up in EV adjusted since we went all in on the flop...
      but suck outs like call call call will not...

      and this was a GOOD START!!!LOL

      usually it goes 10 like that and then i have 2 stay calm,play my game and win it back...
      how the F**** m i supposed 2 make profit like that??!!!loool

      anyway...dont wanna bust ur balls with that...
      enjoy the nice weather and grinding outside in the sun in thailand :-)

      here in greece its also 'summer' already...

      so i dont get angry anymore,i just accept it and follow 2PAC's words ' KKE YA HEAD UP' and stay positive ;-)


    3. Well Dimi what you are essentially saying then is that the poker sites are rigged against you in some manner or the mathematical odds that this game is based upon don't apply when you are playing. You aren't the first person to say this, nor will you be the last. If you truly believe that this is the case then I would suggest that you stop playing. All the best :)

    4. nope,thats not AT ALL what i m saying,not even close...

      its even the other way round,i dont believe that its rigged,otherwise i wouldnt b playing at all coz it would b like inviting some1 over and over into ur house knowing that he will steal from u,which is a stupid thing 2 do...

      i m the 1 who always says when talking 2 my brother for example who thinks stars is rigged 'i dont believe me the hands and we can check it out in PT4'
      he says 'can u prove its not rigged?' - 'nope,i cant but neither can u that it is rigged since all the numbers turn out 2 b ok,and if u r soooo sure its rigged,Y R U STILL PLAYING??!!!only a crazy person would do that!!!'

      i m not saying its rigged neither that it isnt,i m just stating the facts...

      for some1 2 do something like that there has 2 b a motive...
      in this case it could b 2 keep bad players in by giving them a bit more than they 'deserve' so they come again and again but that will anyway happen since mathematically they will win anyway here and there by playing bad,but here they could 'pump it up' a bit more which could b possible...
      but that would happen with ALL players,not just 2 me,and i didnt meet any1 who has such a large number of hands so much below EV as i do...
      and they dont have any profit from me not making money since i play big volumes which is always good for them,so if i believe its rigged i will stop playing and they will loose a customer...not a good idea...

      i m just observing what is happening over 600k hands...
      and its going like that right from the beginning...

      what i did say is KARMA,which has nothing 2 do with any site or person in this world but is the law of action and reaction which says that every1 gets exactly what they deserve in this life,not more,not less...

      2 people may have studied the same thing,being on the same level,opening the same business and using pretty much the same tools...1 becomes a multi millionaire,the other 1 gets broke...nobody did anything 2 make that happen,it was just meant 2 b...

      but all of this doesnt really matter....

      what matters is if i can STILL make profit with everything that is going on WITHOUT the math 2 kick in in the following months 2 come...
      math will ALWAYS balance out...the only question is WHEN!

      if it was just for the table winnings then i would probably play til end of this year 2 have a big enough sample size 2 b sure,lets say 2 million hands,and if it was the same and i cant find big enough flaws in my game which r 2 the reason for the bad results,then i would stop...

      but the thing is that with the VPPs rake back stars offers i can still have a decent profit even if i will b brake even at the end of the year or loose just a small amount...

      so as long as there is a way 2 make money i will continue...

      til now the picture shows that its the way it is at the tables,so i m accepting it coz thats the only way 2 stay calm and not throwing the laptop out of the window as i did so many times in the past!!!!5 laptops gone!!!loool

      and if math balances out til end of 2015 even better!!!
      if not but i still can make money through reaching supernova then i will still continue...

      but if it continues like that and i cant even make money through the VPPs and an analysis of 2million hands will show that its not my mistake,well,then there is no other way then 2stop...

      i guess we will now for sure on 31st of december 2015 ;-)

      still having a positive feeling about the whole poker thing and i will fight til the very end :-)

    5. but even if all goes wrong and i stop,which i dont believe,STILL i will not say its rigged...y would they rick 2 loose hundreds of millions of dollars which they make anyway??!!!

      i will just say 'ok,i played my best,i played pretty good poker but it was just not meant 2 b...cant beat bad luck or ur karma'
      as my spiritual teacher says 'do ur best in whatever u do but leave the result 2 god...maybe the mom of the other player - table tennis - had good karma which had 2 b paid off by her son beating u,so just do ur best and accept the results whatever they might b'

      all i can do is playing the best poker i can and try 2 always improve...
      logically it will all b ok,but if not...C'EST LA VIE '-)

    6. I understand where Dimi is coming from. I also do not believe the sites are rigged I just believe that my play is cursed. I now have a 100K sample and my Aces hold up less than 17% of the time. The last six times I have had KK another player has held AA. My last three full house have been beaten(twice by quads) and just ten minutes ago my aces were cracked by a man who called my PF 3Bet with 34o.
      I am not looking for sympathy here I am juse letting Dimi know he is not alone.

    7. I understand your guys frustration. Imagine what I have seen in 7 million hands! Believing such things like you are "cursed" or you have "bad karma" though is not going to help anything. This is why I usually suggest that people don't even pay any attention to EV stats for instance. You have to trust in the long term mathematical odds in this game or there is no point in playing. And yes, sometimes it can take millions and millions of hands to sort itself out.

    8. Thank you for your response. I am one of those that purchased your book and have internalised its contents. I am only playing NL2 and have lost 6 BI since I posted the previous comment. I have had AA twice that lost to a backdoor flush and K3o (he made a full house on the flop).
      It seriously is like I can do nothing right. All my plays are always mathematically in my favour. In hands where I am 95% favourite after river I lose 72% of the time. You can imagine how disheartening this is.

  3. Hi Nathan,

    A good article as always. It comes at a timely time because I have been hitting a bit of a downswing and it has hit spot on what I am going through. I have come to realise that the times I have been running good I have getting away cheap when the villian has one over me and I know that I am beat. (these are at the micros)

    I am starting to treat my poker sessions (six max 9 ring tables) like the market. It is in his very nature chaotic. In the markets I can employ measures to protect my my poker sessions I can do something similar which is that of a trailing stop loss. (You might understand this as Bankroll Management)....which means I only play games that are within my limits (in this case 1c/2c) and if I lose a certain amount I will get stopped out. If I lose a min of $2 over $4 I will get stopped out and if I gain $10 at these limits....I will have a short break (I figure I will need it as there will be a lot of adrenaline by that time as I only play 1.5-2.5 hours. Anymore I generally start to tilt.)

    Using this i can afford to have a few losing sessions without having to break my bankroll....
    I have started to realise that we should be table selecting a lot..I want to target a fish as they pay me off with ridiculous hands. Take for example a hand I was playing with a fish. I had KK and raised it up hoping to isolate somebody. The fish called and I just literally took him all the way to value town and he called off his entire stack with 10/4 suited spades.Other times I have stacked off ppl with sets/trips/full houses. Now if I don't see a fish or I am on the right of someone that is just reraising me relentlessly...guess what? I don't get mad...I just leave! I don't get frustrated because after your article on looking at poker in the long run every new session is just

    1. Thanks Weiyen. I think you have a great approach to the game and I agree that table selection is so important even at the very lowest stakes. No reg is going to call off his stack with T4.

  4. Nathan,
    great post. There is nothing more tiresome than the "expert players" at the micros who claim that "you can't beat the fish, because they never fold".
    Then they go on to say they have to move up to where the players are better so they can win!
    If you can't figure out how to exploit the worst players in the game, it seems unlikely you will be a winner against better players.
    The worse someone plays, the easier it should be to get their money (over the long term, of course).
    I'm in the USA, so I can't play real money on Stars, but I wanted to try Zoom, so I played it for play money for a few months on a tablet (one table). Playing 5/10 6-max, I won about 470 buy-ins!
    If there are any players worse than play money players at the lowest stakes, I'd sure like to play against them for real money!

    Dimi - it sounds like you are profitable enough that your "bad luck" still let's you finish ahead overall, and making the bonus should make poker worthwhile from a financial standpoint.
    But - if you think you are getting "doom-switched", I think playing may be taking a toll on your mental well being. And you will have to decide if the mental stress you are suffering is truly worth the financial reward you are seeking.

    1. yep,thats y i still continue...coz if i keep up with my plan for 2015 i will b 5000$ in profits through the supernova rake back...or maybe less if i loose at the tables...

      its not much for the many hrs i play every day but i c it as a stepping stone 2 bigger stakes where it will b more worth it...

      and did have quite a problem with bad runs coz i didnt wanna accept it...
      i guess that comes from my background as a professional athlete where those things r just not possible,LITERALLY there is no chance even 1 in a TRILLION that some1 beats me in table tennis who is not a professional himself or at least played many years himself or even herself and is at top level or a bit below,thats just not happening...

      so i had 2 work my way through that and accept the way it is...

      i remember an interview with phil ivey when some1 asked him if he could win a hand against him although he has no clue of poker...
      ivey's answer was 'OF COURSE u can!!!not even 1 hand but MANY!!!u can beat me a whole day or even for weeks but in the long run u will have no chance AT ALL'

      so if the best player in the world says this about some who doesnt know how 2 play at all who m i 2 go crazy about longer downswing or bad runs?!

      but it was very difficult for me coz i read many books,ca 30,watched hundreds of hrs of coaching videos - all of nathan's and some more - analyze my game constantly looking for ways 2 improve,and then 2 have some drunk russians beat me CONSTANTLY with crazy hands like the 1 i mentioned above or even worse,it just DROVE ME CRAAAAAZY!!!!lol

      and its not that i dont know the math...

      but in my case its totally out of proportion,at least til now... 200k hands of NL5 6max zoom being 130 buy ins down is just unacceptable!!!lol

      and i was thinking 2 just leave NL5 and play NL10 only coz there i do have profit after my last downswing...winning in NL10 but loosing in NL5!!!loool

      but i will not quit til i turn it around or til my money runs out...

      even if i m winning for quite some time now in NL10 i will continue 2 play NL5 to c the green numbers in PT4 ;-)

      and u r right about the stress,its not worth it if its every day like a nightmare,not 2 talk about the possibility of braking my hand every time i punch the wall after a bad beat and then not being able 2 play table tennis!!!lol

      but finally i find the way 2 deal with it...

      i just accepted that its the way it is and that i wont make money at the tables...thats the state of mind when i sit down so i dont react on all the bad stuff...
      just counting the VPIP HUD stat til it hits 50,then i take a brake,and again til i reach my daily 350 and when things go bad -which they do all day every day - i just imagine the 5000$ in the end of the year and m happy if i m brake even every day or just a small loss... :-)

      thats the only way i can keep calm and continue playing...

      and if it turns around,which mathematically it should,even better... ;-)

    2. i agree with u also on the 'If you can't figure out how to exploit the worst players in the game, it seems unlikely you will be a winner against better players.'

      and that just made me realize that its not me!!!not my mistake that i m loosing coz i had the feeling in my mind that i was winning for quite some time now in NL10 but loosing HORRIBLY in NL5 so i checked my PT4 stats,and what did i find out?

      played since 1st of march ca 30k hands each (NL10 & NL5) which is not a lot but i couldnt play more since i was always on the road playing play offs for my team,and we finished 1st,climbed up 2 next division ;-)

      and i won 176$ in NL10 but lost 123$ in NL5!!!loool
      which is 6.37 bb/100 for NL10 and according 2 this post of nathan > <
      is not bad since i play 8 tables zoom = 24-32 normal tables which in the article is 18+

      but in NL5 it was -8.57bb/100!!!! lol

      and even just checked since 19th of february (1 year anniversary with my girl lol ) its 200$ and 4.62 bb/100 in NL10 but -252$ and -10bb/10 in NL5 after playing ca 45k hands each!!!!

      chew on that 1 loool

      coz if it was mY mistake,bad play etc,then it should b the other way round,winning in NL5 but loosing in NL10 so some1 could say 'ok,u r not ready for NL10)...

      so what should i do?stop NL5 and play just NL10?

      nah,i wont accept that....
      dont wanna have red numbers on my PT4 coz it destroys the overall beauty of the green 1s loool

      so thx for ur reply coz this made me check and realize that my thoughts r correct and that its just CRAZY bad luck,or lets say variance since there is no bad luck in math,which hits me like a train for 600k hands now!!!

      motivates me 2 stay positive and hope for it 2 turn around before my money finishes loool

      thx again...peace ;-)

    3. just remembered a story nathan told in 1 of his videos i think about a very good player in mid or high stakes who was crushing it but for some months or even half a year he didnt make any profit at all but since he was a supernova elite his rake back kicked in so he was ok,and then the rest of the year he crushed them again and all was good...

      so...common fishies,give me some more bad beats,suck outs and coolers!!!til end of june,or another 400k hands but when i hit the 1 million hand mark START RUNNING coz it will b pay back time!!!lmao...

      lets hope for this kind of happy ending ;-)

    4. Dimi,
      there is a chance that you are not playing as exploitively as you could at 5NL.
      I can't say that you don't get drawn out on "too much" w/o analyzing all your hands, which I'm not really qualified to do.
      but are you doing everything you can to maximize the pots you do win?

      I joke sometimes with my own play: win small, lose big.

      you need to look to maximize your gains on the hands you do win, and that will help offset the losing hands. rake make it tough on this end too. If we're playing 5NL, 100BB stacks and go all in one of us will LOSE 100 BB, but the other player is not going to win 100BB.

      you may be snakebit with bad luck, but the real +EV thing to do would be to look for leaks you might have. you may be making "mistakes" in the 5NL games that are "ok" or even "good" plays in 10NL.

      you also have to learn to embrace the "luck" element of the game.
      you talk about how an amateur could NEVER beat you at table tennis, and I believe you.
      but you'd have to agree that you probably get no amateurs offering to play you at table tennis for money either, do you? they'd have to be insane.
      poker has a luck element. if it didn't, the bad players would come to realize that they are insane to play for money much faster than they do. in fact, sometimes they never do.

      so, don't curse their luck. it's the only thing that keeps them around.

      seriously though - before you blame it all on karma, review your play.
      and review it in the context of how your opponents play.

    5. Thanks ekw. Ya it is a ridiculous notion that it is better to play against good players. This makes such little logical sense that it is better to just shake your head and move on. LOL at 470 buyins also. Play money :)

    6. it always surprises me when people just make assumptions out of the blue just coz it fits their way of thought...
      so the ONLY way 2 loose at NL5 is bad play,right?
      i explained that i review my hands,check everything and dont find any leaks,at leats not big once...
      but has 2 b me ,right?
      coz i m stupid and i dont understand the game of poker...
      i watched hundreds of hrs of nathan's videos and even paused them before he made any desicion,made mine,and it was 99% the same...but STILL...
      just coz it doesnt fit with people's personal experience it has 2 b my this do that...not realizing that although u seem 2 mean well in reality u state that i m stupid and that i dont understand the game...

      i m stating over and over again that i c what hands they r playing,i get fucked badly,but STILL people try 2 impose their thoughts on me,and again,by this telling me that i m blind and what i THINK 2 b big ass suck outs and bad luck its just objective and that i dont see clearly,i cant do a proper analysis coz if i did i would come 2 the same conclusion as they do when they didnt c ANY of my hands,i analyzed so many of them but still they HAVE 2 b right with no evidence AT AL!!!
      i on the other hand have all the hands in PT4,ANALYZE them,but i m maybe a bit blind or stupid and cant tell the difference,right?

      not value betting enough? i made a video for nathan who was kind enough 2 offer some free coaching and when reviewing he said 'all looks ok but u should b more careful with ur bet sizing on later streets' coz he believes i was TO aggressive and i couldnt b called by worse...

      but hey...whatever...i just cant c whats going on ,right?
      watching all those videos and almost never such things happen but when i play it happens 1 after the other but its just an ILLUSION,right?

      what can i say....maybe in my next life i will b smarter...coz no matter how many times i say that i DO review my hands and that its NOT my leak,it doesnt really matter,right?

      we all agree that u cantbeat NL10 and not NL5....but when it happens 2 me then its AGAIN MY FAULT,RIGHT?

      and then people talk about being objective...yeah...right...

    7. I don't think ekw (who I assume you are referring to) was trying to be rude or condescending at all Dimi. I think he was just trying to help. Let's try to keep this above board here please. I understand your frustration with your results. We all face a brick wall sometimes in this game and often for long periods of time. ekw's overall advice about reviewing your play is spot on. This is where you will find the problems. I don't mean to suggest that you aren't already doing this by the way.


    I study all of yours but just don't write to you every time. They all are of benefit and thanks for taking the time to write them.

    I have been running into these types discussed in this blog so this really helps.

    I have finished studying Crushing and have outlined it and made myself a series of cheat sheet tables. As I gain experience I should not need these as much but they really help now. I am starting with NL4 on Carbon here in the US.

    I have also bought your second book but will wait to study it after I feel I have a better handle on playing as Crushing advises.

    I saw in a prior blog you answered some play questions so in conjunction with this article I have one. I find myself being bullied by players that have VPIP of 40+ and consistently make really huge bets pre-flop regardless of their position. If I have AA I stay, but anything below that for my pocket cards I then get concerned they really do have a good hand and I fold. I do use your pre-flop play chart by position, but I get skittish when I feel my hand may be relatively marginal.

    Guidance as to these situations? I feel they are the ones I should be winnng off of.

    Thanks! And hope things are well with you!


    1. Thanks so much Chris! It means a lot. I have heard from a few people of late that Carbon has decided to drop NL4 so you might want to check into that first and possibly play on a different site.

      Regarding your question when you say they make really huge bets how big are we talking? And how often are they doing it? I certainly would not be folding any of the premium hands TT+, AK and perhaps AQ also if they are doing this regularly. If there are less people left to act my range will be even wider.

    2. Thanks for answering!

      These type players seem to do this as much as 2/3 of their hands, pre-flop betting or raising in the range of $1 when the max buy-in is $4 meaning they still have as much as $3 for the remaining streets. Given they usually drive all of us others out of the hand I rarely see what their hole cards are.

      I have printed out the PokerStove range for VPIP's of 40 and see that their range is wide. But the few times I stayed in with less than premium hands and lost I got gun shy. In your book you do caution that your opponent will not always be holding the upper part of his range so I know I should not assume they always will beat me.

      When I do have the outstanding premium starting hand I have actually raised their large bet and they have folded pre-flop giving me their initial large bet. So based on your advice I need to widen my response range to them.

      I focus on this situation because I feel they are the fish you teach us about whose money I should be taking.

      In regard to Carbon, I found that low stakes game elimination yesterday. I had not been able to play in two weeks and was most surprised. Normally I play 5 days a week and those NL4 games were always very popular. I chatted and e-mailed with them yesterday about these changes but only received the "party" line. Their software update dialogue never mentioned the stakes changes, which I feel is poor customer service. Their limit game changes are even more draconian.

      Given I'm in the US my options are limited. You have me hooked on using PT4 for the HUD and my own hands/session analysis. Bovada, where I used to play, still has NL5 but their anonymous play and lack of interface to PT4 for my own hands negates using those valuable tools.

      Any other U.S. player accepted sites you would recommend?

      Do you think going to Carbon's NL10 would be dramatically different given that the NL4 players that stay with Carbon all are forced to move up in stakes?

      Thanks for your help!


    3. Hey Chris,

      If that is the case then I would not change much from my first reply. I would probably just flat with AA or KK because the money is going in after the flop no matter what. With QQ, JJ, TT and AK I would shove preflop just to avoid any tough decisions after the flop. The closer the action is to late position (less people left to act) the more I would be inclined to shove with some additional hands as well such as 99, 88, AQ, AJ.

      Regarding Carbon, If you are rolled for the NL10 games then you could probably do ok just staying there. You will probably be facing a lot of the same competition as all NL4 players are forced to move up. You could also consider some other sites such as Black Chip Poker or America's Cardroom which are both USA friendly and allow HUDs.

    4. "Rolled"?

      Thanks for the play advice, I will keep you posted!

      I will try the Carbon NL10 and see how it goes. My HUD will give me an idea how many NL4 players have moved up when I see I have a prior history on them.

    5. Rolled is poker slang for Bankrolled.

    6. Thanks!

      I do have suffice funds already with Carbon for NL 10 to meet your bankroll guidelines so I will give it a try!

    7. Nathan,

      I am working on Modern Small Stakes now and in both books you mention Rakeback a lot. I am having trouble finding a current source on Rakeback in the U.S. Do you have any directional guidance on this?

      I know Bovada and Carbon Poker where I have been playing do not have it. The other two you mentioned above seem to have it based on a few links I found but quite frankly I don't fully understand it and it seems to have changed over time.

      Since this seems to be important to winning $ I wanted to ask for help.


    8. Hey Chris,

      I am not really an expert on this and especially for American sites. I know that America's Cardroom offers the typical 27% rakeback though.

    9. Okay, that gives me some direction. Thanks!

      Loving your second book!!

    10. Glad to hear Chris, all the best at the tables! :)

  6. One thing I'd like to say is that it's so frustrating listening to players moan and bitch about the donks that 'always get there' People need to man up, stop bitching and accept the fact that we're all going to get bad beats and we're all going to have fish call us down and get there. I absolutely love the standard of play at my local casino because if I run well I know I'm gunna win heaps!! But if the donks never got lucky then we would never have the opportunity to get ridiculous value.

    When I hear players moan that a fish called them down with bottom pair when we made a 'good bluff' I laugh at them - you have nobody to blame but yourself!! You have literally given your money to them. You know how they play so why waste money bluffing them? Instead of looking at the donks bad play, take a look at your own play and realize in spots like that, yes they played bad BUT YOU played worse for trying to bluff them!

    They are very easy to overcome, 3 streets of fat VALUE!!!

    nice article bud, take it easy

    1. Thanks Nick and completely agreed on all points.

  7. Nice article Nathan, I was one of those getting frustrated at bad players that end up making a hand at the river to beat me up... I learned (the hard way) that sometimes simply it's not your day and it's time to take a break and come back the next day. As you said once (or maybe a couple of times), the tables will always be there once you cooled down. Thanks for all the work you're putting on this blog, it's nice to see a new post every week :D

    1. Glad it helped Jorge and thanks as always for being a loyal reader :)

  8. Hi All,
    I was just reading again this article (as fish generates my main income I try to become better and better especially again them). Last time there where not so many comment. I think what matters is what we consider long run. 100K, 500K, 1000K… ? Someone can be lucky or not for 100K or 500K and other players for 10K or 30K. What is very important for me (I still have to learn it) is how to loose less in bad lucky period and win the most when I have the lucky period (this party is even more important I think). This is what make the difference.

  9. Hello Nathan,
    The biggest problem for me against these kind of players or sometimes against regs it the flush draws. When there is a flush board on the flop, you keep betting and betting then the card completes flush and these guys bet back to you. And worse case, there is no draw on the flop, but completes flush on turn and river. I'm looking at HUD, noticing these guys playing 60% of the hands, not passive..I'm always assuming that they have continued with a weak kicker but at the end of they mostly they shows the flush! By the help of your books, i have leanrt to fold my top pair top kicker hands in these situations but when i have two pair or better, i simply cant fold them assuming that they dont have the flush and loose enormous money. What kind of strategy should we use ? If the guy is a huge passive one, may be i can fold. But when i see his aggression factor more than 5, i quickly conlude that they dont have the flush...

    1. Hi Kutay,

      You got it right. It comes down to the player type. You pretty much have to make the call against loose aggressive players because they will bluff so much or be betting a worse hand. Against most passive regs or fish though, if they make a reasonable bet when the flush comes in, you should consider folding.

  10. Really good article on how to exploit this player type and how to adjust to them. Unfortunately I got all caught up in the response after by Dimi. I realize that it is over a year old and probably not relevant anymore, but whatever.

    So I didn't have the mental strength to read the entire thing but read the first post in its entirety and a couple things stick out like a sore thumb. So it says you are playing 9k hands a day and only going for VPP. This is a very telling statement. This means you are playing Zoom on Pokerstars!! In another statement you say something to the effect that you do everything Nathan says and use all his techniques. I think everyone can see where I am going with this. Nathan has said numerous times that if you want to increase your win rate immediately, stop playing Zoom on Stars. So obviously you aren't listening to everything he says. I don't say that in a mean way either, but you have to understand that one of Nathan's core pieces of advice is to not play Zoom and you are, so I have to wonder how much other stuff are you taking poetic license with, where you believe you are applying the concepts you read or learned, but they have your own twist on them and aren't being applied correctly or in the correct spot

    You say you never see this player type and haven't for a while. Well you aren't going to, not Zoom. I played 2NL and 5NL Zoom for my first year. My win rate sucks. I go onto MPN and play reg tables at 10NL and I am winning close to 5bb/100, so not only is win rate higher, but I make more cuz I play higher stakes. I have players like this alllllllllll the time at my tables. Sometimes even have 80/20 and 90/30 whales. Stacking off with the most ridiculous stuff you could imagine. Yes there are still regs, but guess what, they suck too. So I have my choice and once I fine tune some of Nathan and other coaches principles 20NL won't be far away.

    Lastly you say at least 10 times a day these guys hit there long shot draws. Runner runner this, runner runner that. You are playing 9k hands a day. You out of anyone are going to see these long shot draws show up and hit more than anyone. The key here is to not pay them off. Like if you are seeing them 10 or 20 times a session and still paying the super passive player off everytime he shoves the river, then stop. Listen, they don't pot bet the river, or raise the river without a big hand, they call call call call. If they are raising you are in big trouble with your TPGK.

    I seriously think that if you have this much volume then you have a ton of experience to draw from. Get off of stars and play a softer site. I did and it works. My stats don't look all pretty and where they should be. I fold a ton of stuff that normally I might not, my red line goes straight down, but my green line is in profit to the tune of almost 200 euros on only 2.5 months of playing on a different site and on regular tables, not fast fold.

    Anyway, just thought it might be good for others to see how important, some of the very basic stuff that Nathan points out, is.

    Good luck at the tables everyone

    1. Hi Jon,

      I am glad that you found this article helpful. The comments with Dimi are old of course. I hope he is doing well these days!