Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't Berate Fish

I've always believed that the better you become at poker, the worse beats you'll take. This is because you'll get your chips in as a significant favorite more frequently than your competition. At times you will play a hand so well, that your opponent could not put you on your hand and ends up getting all of her/his chips in as a significant underdog. This is how bad beats tend to occur.

If you're going to be a successful poker player, you need to learn to deal with bad beats, suck-outs and people playing less-than-optimally. You also need to accept that the greatest amount of profit comes from players that play poorly, lack fundamentals and are unable to adapt to the various situations encountered during a session. We'll call these types of players fish.

I'm making a universal appeal to all poker players [particularly profitable players] that you never berate, insult or publicly humiliate a fish. This may be the hardest thing you ever do, but I beg of all poker players to never discourage a fish's style of play or worse, suggest that something they do is wrong. You don't have to encourage them [don't worry they'll do that on their own], but simply say 'Nice Hand' or 'You Got Me' and move on. There are a several theories to support this argument:

1) They'll Play Better Against You - The fish may be aware that they are unprofitably drawing to flushes or straights, but they will anyway because making a strong hand may be more important to them than the money itself. If you were to insult a fish, they may decide to not pursue these types of common leaks.

2) They May Gun for You - Because the logic of a fish is so far from optimal, they may put you to some really tough decisions when they decide that busting you is more important than the money. This dimishes your edge against the fish and makes playing pots with them far more unpredictable and volatile. The reason why a good player has an edge over a poor player is that they have more opportunities and decision points to make correct decisions. Good players can stretch out hand past the flop or turn to outplay and out-think their opponents. Fish don't do this.

3) They'll Leave - Do you really want to grind it out in tough games where everyone is playing VPIP = 20 and PR% = 10? I seriously doubt it. Game selection is probably the greatest common factor in the performance of profitable poker players. If you drive a clear loser of the game elsewhere, your overall equity will be negatively affected.

4) They'll Push You off of Your Winning Style - What makes them a fish is the same thing that makes you a winning player. In the long-run you make decisions that are superior to your competition. This includes betting, bluffing and tilting. You know how to play against the various types of fish, so stick with that and don't be fooled by their short-term variance against you.

So the next time you're about to blow-up at a fish in Hellmuth-fashion, realize that nothing good will come from your speech and that you're only costing yourself money.

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