Winning Money From Bad Players

Jack Wilcox (Hoodlincs) Profile Photo

By Jack Wilcox

22 Oct, 2011

There are two broad player types:

  1. Regs
  2. Fish

Regs (regulars) are people who know what they are doing; they're playing multiple tables, and playing tight aggressive.

Fish are the bad players.

What makes the fish bad?

They play too many hands preflop. This leads them into tough post-flop situations where they have a marginal hand and dont know what to do.

The more tricky spots you put yourself in, the more mistakes you are likely to make.

Additionally, bad players typically:

  • Overvalue weak hands postflop.
  • Try to bluffcatch too much.
  • Don't adjust to their opponents.

Where can you find bad players?

When you log in to your favourite online poker room, we are looking for tables with:

  • High players to flop percentage. Fish usually play too many hands, whilst regs play too few.
  • High average pots. This indicates that players are splashing money around.

Also, start new tables rather than joining waitlists. It's okay to sit on your own. Regs want to wait, but fish just want sit down and play. If your table is the only one available, they'll be all yours.

Lastly, finding fish is much easier when you play at poker sites with bad players.

How can you identify bad players?

The first thing you should do when sitting at a new table is to identify the fish. If there isn't one, move to a different table.

If you can't spot the worst player at the poker table, it's probably you.

A few key things to look for:

  • A stack size of less than 100bb and no auto-reload. Regs always sit with the maximum amount in front of them.
  • Limping in. Regs rarely limp.
  • Showing down trashy hands. Regs are selective about the hands they take to a showdown.
  • Talking in the chat. Regs are too tired/busy to chat.

How can you make money from fish?

These are my most useful tips and observations:

  1. Take notes. Fish are predictable and play the same way with the same hands. Adjust your notes if they do something unexpected.
  2. Fish tend to lead with draws, but check-raise their strong made hands. They also min-bet (i.e. blocking bet) when they have weak showdown value.
  3. After a few showdowns you should have a good idea of a fish's range for both made hands and draws.
  4. Very few fish have the same betting pattern with both strong hands and bad hands. Regs know they have to balance their range by betting the same size with both strong hands and bluffs.
  5. If you see a fish take an action then fold, they have just shown you how they play their bad hands. For example, when they lead 1/2 pot on the flop, then check-fold the turn.
  6. We can play a wide range of hands against fish because they allow us to play well against them postflop. We know when they are strong, and we know when they are weak.
  7. Some fish will limp/fold a lot. This is free money. Make a note when you see them do it. When fish limp/call, they have a weak range and won't hit many flops. There are stats in HEM that can help.

Lastly, when facing a continuation bet, fish will either:

  1. Fold rarely.
  2. Fold too often.

It's not uncommon to see a fish with a 10-25% fold to cbets, or a fold to cbet of 60%+.

When players rarely fold to cbets we have good implied odds, so we can get value when we hit and can just check-fold when we miss. Conversely, when they fold too often we have high bluffing potential, so we can just bet and win the pot on the flop without worrying about hand strength.

How do you play against bad players?

Example 1: Isolating early-position limpers.

Preflop: A player in early position limps in. It folds to us. We are on the button.

Their HUD stats are 46/12, a 55% fold to cbet, and a 5% raise cbet. We have seen them limp/fold before, and we have also seen them limp/call and check-fold some flops.

We should be raising here with a wide range. I would recommend pumping it up to 4.5bb with any king, any ace, any two cards 7 or higher, and any pair.

Why?

  1. When you make it bigger it discourages the blinds from re-raising.
  2. There's 2.5bb in the pot, and we risk 4.5bb on our isolation raise. We need 64% immediate fold equity. We have some but we probably dont have that much.
  3. Because they are folding to 55% of cbets.

When they call, the pot will be 10.5bb in size. We can then make a 1/2 pot cbet of 5bb, and we will only need 32% fold equity in a spot where they fold 55% of the time.

This is where you make your money in poker — exploiting situations where your reward is much higher than your risk.

I play much tighter when I'm out of position, because it's less likely they limp-fold, and less likely they fold to a cbet.

Their range is relatively strong if they call on the flop, so I only double-barrel top pair or better, and check back everything else. If they check-raise the flop, I fold everything except an overpair (until they show me they can bluff).

Example 2: Dealing with donk bets.

Donk Betting — Betting into the preflop raiser on the flop.

Our opponent is a loose passive player who defends their blinds a lot. Their stats are 28/7, with a donk bet of 30%.

UTG: $100
MP: $100
Hero (CO): $100
BTN: $100
SB: $100
BB: $100

Preflop: Dealt to Hero Qs Jd
2 folds, Hero raises $4, 2 folds, BB calls $3.

Flop: Jc 7h 4s ($9)
BB bets $3.

We have seen them donk bet like this before with draws, weak top pair, and middle pair hands. We have never seen them do it with strong top pair or better.

What should we do?

We should raise. QJ is a long way ahead of their range in terms of equity, and players who lead with weak pairs or a draw will usually call once to see if they can improve on the turn.

On the turn we can continue betting just over 1/2 pot, because although we expect them to fold their draws when they miss, we have to give them a chance to make a mistake. If we check, we let them see the river for free.

If they call again, our river line will depend how often they like to bluffcatch and go to showdown:

  • If you think they are a calling station, bet about 1/2 pot again and try to get them to call with a weak pair. If you have a HUD, I'd recommend betting if their WTSD is 35%+.
  • If you dont have any reads or stats, I would just check.

Example 3: Isolating middle-position limpers.

Preflop: A player in middle position limps in. It folds to us. We are on the button.

Our opponent is a loose-passive calling station. We know they're the type who won't limp/fold, nor will they fold ace high on the flop, or any pair on the turn/river unless we bet huge. Their stats are 52/3, and their fold to cbet is 20%. Their WTSD is 45%, and their W$SD is 25%.

We don't want to isolate this player with as many hands as we did before. It's going to be impossible for us to win when we miss. Whilst we have good implied odds, hands like K2o or T7o just don't hit enough flops for us to make any money.

However, we still want to raise all aces, suited connectors and broadway hands because of the value we can get when we hit.

So, let's say:

Preflop: Dealt to Hero Qc Jd
Hero raises $4, BB calls.

Flop: 9s 5d 2h
BB checks.

We would usually continuation bet here. However, against this player we are going to check and give up, unless we end up turning a K,Q,J,T,8 to help improve our hand.

Why?

Because they aren't folding to cbets enough for us to show an immediate profit. We also can't double-barrel any turn cards apart from a Q or a J, because they are going to keep calling down with any pair.

If an 8 came on the turn and they lead into us, we can call knowing that our 2 overcards with a gutshot are in good shape, because we have implied odds and we know we can get some value when we hit.

On the other hand, if the flop comes:

Flop: Qs 7d 2h

I would bet all three streets, even if an A or K comes on the turn/river. I would be sizing my bets to around 2/3 of the pot simply because they are calling down with so many bad hands.

Jack.

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