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>> Beating the Fish at Online Poker - Preflop Strategy

How to Beat the Fish at Loose Tables

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


With the continuing influx of inexperienced players flooding the online poker market, both ring games and tournaments are getting wilder and wilder every day. Many new players flock to online poker from television advertisements. The only poker strategy they employ is what they have seen the professionals do in big televised tournaments. Inexperienced players often bluff, play any two cards, and are willing to draw against the odds for all their chips. In poker lingo, this type of player is typically referred to as a “fish” or “donkey”. I prefer to use the term fish, since it goes so much better with the poker cliché of the rock-solid shark. Strive to be the shark at your table who, naturally, feeds on tuna, swordfish, octopi, and any other aquatic life form in sight. Usually, the fish is exactly the type of player you want at your table and, of course, we’d prefer a half dozen of these to WSOP bracelet winners.


Most of the time, the fish go down smoothly with a couple tablespoons of tartar sauce and a healthy helping of chips. However, naturally studious and conservative poker players have become increasingly frustrated with the bad beats that seem to occur much more often in wild online games. Not only can fish frustrate you, but they can be deadly to your bankroll when they hit their miracle draws on the river. In the following article, I hope to educate you on how to extract the most money from online poker fish while avoiding the bad beats as much as possible. Even if you’re already a tight-aggressive player, I’ll show you how an even tighter and more aggressive approach will make you the most money online.


The first key to beating the fish is starting hand selection. Sure, the concept may be old hat to you and I’m sure that most of you read all about starting hand standards when you picked up your first Texas hold ‘em book, but how many of you actually adhere to them? It may be tempting to play any two cards after you see the table maniac get lucky a few times with his trash hands, but it isn’t profitable over the long run. You should stick to playing premium cards from early position and slowly expanding your range as you get closer to the button. While it may be boring to keep folding hand after hand, it’s the kind of discipline that you need to be a winning poker player. You simply won’t be involved in many hands. The few times that you may get lucky playing garbage hands won’t make up for the countless times you won’t hit.


One of the most important and profitable concepts of hold ‘em (and especially online hold ‘em) is: play the opposite style of the rest of the table. Doyle Brunson advocated this style of play 30 years ago in Super System and it’s still good advice. Since most online tables are wild and loose, that means that you should be playing even tighter. It doesn’t work to go into battle every pot with the fish. Pick your battles and get in the pot when you have the best of it. Again, you should drill this concept into your head: play the opposite style of the rest of the table. At a table full of fish, that’s going to be a tight style.


So what should you do when you finally pick up a premium hand like pocket Kings or Aces and want to get into the hand? You should raise, raise, raise against loose opponents… and then raise again! Not only should you almost always raise your premium hands against bad players, you should raise them more than usual. Why? Well, think about it. If online players are so willing to play any two cards, why should you let in 4 or 5 players cheaply with trash hands? Premium hands don’t play well against several opponents, and you don’t want to make it easier for your fishy opponents to catch a raggedy 2 pair on the flop.


Since the standard raise in no-limit is 3 or 4 times the big blind, raise to 5 or 6 times the big blind in particularly loose games. While many bad players will call a small raise, your substantial raise actually makes them think twice before they try to draw out on you. You should never slowplay a big pocket pair against loose opponents! If you limp into the pot with pocket Aces and lose your entire stack to a loose player who made two pair on the flop, you only have yourself to blame. You’re the one who played the hand badly in that situation.


While I mostly recommend that you stick to premium cards and raise them up at a loose table, there are a few situation where you can open up your starting hand requirements and limp in. If you’re in late position and there are already 3-5 limpers in the pot, you’re getting great pot odds to play any pocket pair or suited connector. If you hit a set on the flop, you should bet it strongly with this many opponents. In no-limit play, suited connectors play great against multiple opponents because of your draw to both the straight and the flush. I’ll play them down to 3-4 or 4-5 if I’m getting good pot odds. Throw in the minimum bet and try to flop a monster or a monster draw. Just have the discipline to throw the hand away if you only catch part of the flop or a thin draw. Remember, you should only play these speculative hands cheaply from late position with a lot of callers.


The key to beating the online poker fish and avoiding bad beats is simple: play an even tighter, more aggressive game than usual. You should only get into the pot with premium starting hands, and you should raise more than normal when you do play. You need to lay the foundation and thin the field preflop in order to do well and protect your hand postflop. Of course, the idiots will still occasionally call you down and draw out on you, but you’ll drastically cut down on that by making them think twice preflop. Finally, you should never get greedy and try to slowplay a big hand preflop. Don’t be afraid of raising and not getting called. You won the pot, didn’t you? That’s all that matters. It’s always better to win that small pot than risk losing a big one by slowplaying. In our next section, we’ll cover what you should do on the flop and beyond against bad players…



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