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- If, after the first twenty minutes, you don't know who the fish at the table is, it's you.

How to Spot a Poker Fish
written by El Professor

Some Excuses You Will Hear After Suffering a Bad Beat

We all have been thru this rite of passage. Now that you've played enough poker online or at a casino, you've faced this situation probably more than you can account for. Most poker books will tell you that if you follow the pot odds you should be ahead of the school (remember, we are talking about fish in here). Still, a bad beat always leaves a sour taste in your mouth, in particular when it is clear that the fish in question was at her/his best.

For all of the following scenarios we will start with the same set of cards: pocket aces. In no limit hold'em you will be 80% favorite pre-flop with these cards. We will set the blinds at a medium level (probably an hour or two into a tournament), your stack at average size, and the fish with a similar stack. You will be seating in early position (a couple of seats left of the big blind) in a full table. Your move will be a bet four times the size of the big blind (while you want to play, you don't want any weak hand in).

The fish makes the first call. The flop brings one more ace and two other non connected cards. Even better for your hand, the three cards of the flop all have a different suit. You decide to raise half the size of the pot since there is no need to scare the fish away at this stage...

The fish makes the second call. The board does not show any promise, but his line of reasoning does not need that... there are two more cards to come! The turn (fourth card) brings another disconnected card, but this time the suit matches one of the flop cards. This is the time to finish the hand for you... you go "All in"

The fish gets into "thinking" mode... it is excruciating for him to fold a hand like that... you are actually not too concerned given what the flop is showing you. Even if he has the flush draw you are still at least 82% favorite to win the hand. Needless to say, the fish makes the call... and the magic card comes at the river (fifth card) and your face turns blue.

You just cannot believe it when you see his cards and ingeniously say: "did you make that call with that hand???"

This is when the fish looks at you (or writes if this is online) and says the magic words:

"but ... they were suited": Yes, he made the pre-flop call with Q3 of hearts. And then he called the flop since one more hearth showed up. By the time the turn came, if was really hard to let this great hand go.

"83 is my favorite hand": This situation is slightly different. The fish caught one 8 on the flop and there is no Ace showing up. Still there is a King showing as a top card. A Queen comes on the turn, prompting you to make the "All in" push. The fish calls again. The river brings the dreaded 3.

"I had the odds": Back to the original scenario. In here it does not matter what the fish has in his hands. He makes a 40+% call (4 blinds into your 4 blinds plus the blinds) with any two cards. Given your early position, average stack and the size of your bet it is clear that you have a hand. At best he is a 33% underdog. Once the flop is there he will feel as if he is "pot committed" (another poor excuse to keep waiting for the next card)

"this is a re-buy": There are a lot of people that play the first period of a re-buy tournament with a strategy of loose calls given the possibility of buying back chips in case of losing them. The problem with this situation is that the fish keeps using the strategy long after the re-buy period is gone... and still gives you the same excuse for the call!

"I thought you were bluffing": You bet hard pre-flop. The Ace shows up on the flop and you bet hard again. The board is still not scary on the turn and you go "All in". And the fish is still convinced that you are trying to push him out.

Hopefully you had the fish covered (ie. you had more chips than him). Otherwise, do like me: Take a deep breath and start over again in another tourney. You will still face plenty of fish. Just make sure you stay away from them until you have a large enough stack.