Spotting the Fish at Your Poker Table

If you have watched the poker movie Rounders you would be familiar with the young and wide eyed Mike McDermott (Matt Damon's character), a high stakes cash game player, that dreamed to some day play in the World Series of Poker, and eventually got that chance, when he rebuilt his bankroll playing very high stakes, even after he'd gone broke previously. One of the most memorable quotes in the movie was when he says " If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." In other words, Mike was saying you don't want to be the "sucker" or "fish" in poker because these are the losing players.

Any experienced poker player will tell you this. When you first sit down at a poker table against a bunch of unknown players, the first thing you want to do is spot the fish at the table. This is hugely important because you will be making most of your profits against these players since you will be profiting from their mistakes. When you are able to identify the fish with relative ease, you know who the soft targets are at the table and whom you should probably avoid confrontations with unless you have a really big hand.

There are certain things you can look for so that you can start making some assumptions about their play. As you would know poker is a game of misinformation and the more pieces of the puzzle you can put together the better judgments you will have that will influence what decision is best at the poker table. Once you know what you should be looking for you can better profile and read your opponents.

One of the first things you should observe at the table when playing in a new game is the stack size of all the other players. Is everyone playing with close to the maximum buy-in in front of them or are there some players who are fairly short stacked? In a low limit poker game, pretty much anyone buying in short to a No-Limit hold'em game is either new to the game or playing outside of his or her bankroll. Either way, they're likely not very experienced or very good and you should be looking to play pots against them to exploit their bad play. Experienced players would never buy-in for less then the maximum because they know they have an edge in the game and want to maximize their winnings.

You can start making some general assumptions based on the age of a poker player. Although this is pretty much impossible to know for sure when playing poker online, unless they include their age in their poker alias, but when playing live poker, it's usually not very difficult figuring this out. Generally speaking, young poker players can be categorized as being loose/aggressive with their chips, while older players tend to be much more likely to adopt a loose passive playing style, limping into pots instead of raising. Younger players will have the experience of playing online poker and will adopt the same aggressive style of play.

Although age is usually a pretty good indicator of what playing style you can expect to get, you can also start making some assumptions based on gender when you encounter female poker players at your table. A lot more women are taking up poker as a hobby or more serious occupation, even in such a male dominant pastime, and a lot of them will be fairly solid tight aggressive players.

Whilst it can be difficult figuring out how you expect a poker player to play when there is no history and you haven't played against this player before, which will often be the case in a new game, by using the general recommendations on profiling poker players in this article, you will be able to get better reads without even needing to play a hand of poker.

It also has to be said that whenever you are unable to get a good read on another player and find yourself involved in a big pot with a lot of chips on the line, it cannot hurt to take the more conservative option by folding until you get better reads on their play. Why risk your entire stack in a No Limit hold'em game if you are playing guessing games and don't know where you are in the hand, when you can quite easily fold, lose a small pot, and find a better spot later on in the session? Although you can start making some general assumptions about someone's play, you don't want to make the mistake of over generalizing, as it will no doubt force you into making a costly mistake for all your chips.