Bluffing Fish

Are we bluffing fish? We were taught many moons ago to never bluff fishy players. Also known as calling stations, recreationals, casual players and the rather unaffectionate term ‘Donkey’.  

Contrary to belief Fish can be bluffed. The old adage “bluffing fish is pointless” is a very generic and frankly out of date. Fish come in more varieties than regulars and just like those regulars, each one needs a slightly different approach. Some players of course can’t be bluffed, like maniacs, they just get valuetowned instead. But there some varieties that can be bluffed, you just have to be observant…

High fold to cbet

You’ll often have a very small sample size to go on for stats with fish. I’d say more than half of whom you’ll never see again, so it definitely pays to pay attention. There’s a particular school of fish that just want to see Flops and fold away when they miss. And they aren’t too hard to spot. They turbo-call your iso-raise and turbo fold when they miss. It’s not uncommon to see fold to cbets stats of 60-70%+ over 5 or 6 samples. In this case you want to make your preflop bets and raises much BIGGER so you can take down the extra bb’s on the Flop when you miss. And you don’t even need to bet big on the Flop, 55% will do in this situation. And obviously when you hit, bet small or even check back to induce bets.

Ex: You hold A♥T♣ on the BTN facing a MP limp from a 55/0 over 40 hands. You notice he limps then calls no matter what and folds 66% to cbets so far (4 from 6 opportunities). You make it 6x and he snap calls. The Flop is K♦5♦2♠ and he quickly folds to your 60% cbet. Easy money right?

These player types are rife at all stakes. Noticed you gained a lot more extra bb’s because you were paying attention. This Flop was 13.5bb because we made it 6x pre. Compare that to a more ‘standard’ Iso of 4x which would produce a Flop of 9.5bb’s. That’s a big difference. Don’t’ stop there either, keep experimenting with raise sizes to find his ‘cut-off’ point; that is the point in which he deems it too expensive to limp call with junk. These guys are sometimes hard to stack, so we have to find these little ways to milk them. This is also true of 3bet pots when they don’t fold to 3bets, but fold to cbets in 3bet pots, make your 3bets bigger!

Bet size/timing tells

A common fish line is betting small on the River with a weak hand that wants to see a showdown. They obviously do it on the other streets too but it is very prevalent in River situations. They donk the River in an attempt to block bet the other player as they don’t want to be bluffed. These bets are often quick bets too. Occasionally these small bets are to induce, but more often than not small bets are almost universally weak from fishy player types. Let me reiterate, until you find out otherwise, presume small bets are weak and raise as a bluff or for value.

Ex: You hold on the A♦8♦ BTN vs the fishy 44/10 in the BB with whom we’ve played 30 hands with and doesn’t seem to fold too much so far. You make it 3x and he calls. The Flop is J♦4♣5♠ and he calls your 60% pot cbet. The Turn is 2♣, he checks and you check back having not improved and having little information to go on. The River is K♣ giving us a board of J♦4♣5♠2♣K♣ and he quickly tosses out 1bb into the pot of 14.5bb. While the K may have occasionally helped him and he’s going for some kind of thin value, it’s more likely he has some kind of pair that wants a showdown for as little as possible. You might just call here to see what his deal is even though you know you are going to lose. I’d rather fold here than call. Why not raise? The K is a scared card and there’s the flush now too. 9/10 times this is a blocking bet. I’d fire a pot-sized raise and eat the result if he calls.

Now you might think this is kinda spewy vs an unknown. You might say”we don’t know what small or big bets mean from this guy yet” and that’s true. The thing is we might not have time to find these things out. I like this mantra the pokercapitalist taught me:

“Vs fish, assume small bets are weak until told otherwise”

That’s a very salient piece of information. Fish share many traits and this is one of them. If he snaps you off with A4 then guess what? Now we value town them with massive bets with any top pair. Information is power, so find it sooner rather than later and use it to your advantage before someone else does.

Fold to river bet stat

This is a rarely used stat in HEM and Poker Tracker that is very useful for short samples, which is great for fish with whom we have little info and often time on. Not to be confused with ‘Fold to river cbet’ which only takes into account 3 streets of cbetting, this stat is purely how often they fold on the River. But it will also take into account the river cbet for an all-round nifty little stat.

Ex: We have 60 hands on a 60/5 who limped UTG. You hold K♥J♥ in MP and iso-raise his latest limp. We make it 4x and he quickly calls. The Flop is Q♥7♦3♣, he checks, we cbet this dry board and he calls. The Turn is the 8♦, he checks again and we also check having not improved. The River is the A♥. It’s possible our King high is winning but unlikely given he called a dry board earlier, so we look for a way to take this pot down and consult our stats for any info:

( / ) denotes sample size

Fold to cbet: Flop  50% (3/6) – Turn 33% (1/3) – River 50% (1/2)

See how our later cbet stats are not really useful? With such small samples the Turn and River fold to cbet stats don’t converge quick enough and only relate to that situation specifically, plus they take 100’s of hands to mean much of anything, if indeed we get to play that many hands with him.

So we check out our trusty Fold to river bet stat: 70% 7/10

This is much more useful! We now have an Ace scare card and a decent stat to go with it. We pot the River and he thinks but folds. Remember, the stat converges much quicker because a) he’s in so many types of pots and b) it involves every situation:

  • When he raises preflop but ends up folding the river
  • When the flop checks through but he folds the river
  • When we bet 3 streets and he folds the river
  • Here when hero bet-check-bet the river and he folded
  • + many more!

Piecing this intricate puzzle together, it seems this is a guy who likes to see many Flops and Turns hoping for free cards and easy showdowns, but folds away vs resistance, being rather conservative when it comes to the crunch. He just might be the loose kind of fish that is so tight he’s only calling down strong 2nd pair type hands or better and folding the rest if encouraged to do so. You would not know this just looking at fold to cbet stats!

To summarise, be cognizant of the fact that fish come in many more species than regs and that not all fish are donating stacks on demand. Yes some are, even at higher stakes, so just be on the lookout for all player types, get your reads early and adjust accordingly!


Up next… Poker and Motivation

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