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Bad Traits That Can Make You a Fish in Poker

| June 14, 2022 1:05 pm PDT
Fish background, poker cards with dice, question marks, Are You a Poker Fish? text

A fish in poker is that most welcome of players. The fish is by far the one everyone wants to play against, and everybody wants to hurry over and fill that empty seat.

Why? Because a fish at a poker table is like chum in the water during shark week.

The poker fish can be counted on to make every possible mistake and continue doing so perpetually. They are the gift that keeps on losing.

Now, the people who play poker to win—to support themselves and their families—do not play social games. They’re not in this for the thrill of victory. They’re not in this for the story.

Poker is zero-sum. For you to win, others must lose. The fish is someone who has yet to learn this and, worse, is unaware of how easily he is identified as chum.

What are the telltale signs of a poker fish? Glad you asked. The significant characteristics and habits of this most elusive but highly prized animal, the poker fish, follow.

See Every Flop

The most obvious sign you are a fish in poker is that you find every hand you are dealt exciting and almost certainly a winning hand. Seven-two off-suit? Oh, yeah. Do it for the story.

If you’ve limped in for the last twenty hands, the odds are very high that you are a fish. Sure, it’s possible that you got dealt pocket pairs or suited connectors for all twenty of those hands, but it’s far more likely that you enjoy giving your money to others.

Good poker players play tight—by tight, I mean they fold about 80% of the hands they’re dealt. Also, some hands might be playable in late positions that are not recommended when your UTG (under the gun).

Common player range graphic

Failure to Use Math

As poker has continued to grow in popularity, it has become more evident to more people that it is a game of mathematics. While variance will slip you some unwelcome losses on occasion, over time, your astute and accurate mathematical evaluation of each hand and how to play it will pay big dividends.

I can’t emphasize enough that poker is a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t be the winner every day but will be the winner over time simply by playing quality hands wisely.

Here are a couple of the easier numbers you should be able to crunch in your head during each hand.

Pot Odds

This one’s simple—the amount in the pot divided by how much you must wager to stay in the pot. A call of $2 in a pot of $10 has 5-1 pot odds.

Drawing Odds

Use the handy (and simple) Rule of 4 and 2 to calculate your drawing odds.

For example, your flop has given you a 4-card flush. There are now nine cards in the deck that will fill your flush draw. At this point, the Rule of 4 is 4×9=36, so your drawing odds are 36%. If the turn does not fill your flush, then your formula is 2×9=18, or an 18% chance of filling your flush.

You may use the Rule of 4 and 2 applicable since most people find percentages easier to use when considering probabilities.

A good poker player uses math to calculate which move (call, raise, or fold) will result in the highest volume of wins over the long haul.

Incidentally, if stressing the importance of math in poker is, like, totally harshing your mellow, we’ve got a good poker math primer to get you kick-started.

Explaining Why You Lost

Women upset at losing poker

One of the most flagrant signs you’re a bad poker player is feeling compelled after losing a hand to spend the next five minutes explaining how every move you made was actually the correct strategic move.

There may be a valid excuse for your chips to now be sitting in front of your opponent, but nobody cares. There is no game more committed to “that was then, this is now” than poker.

Oh, and don’t give me that old “but I had pocket aces!” AA will win only 30% of the time against a table of random hands. Against a single random hand, AA win will 85% of the time. You’re in trouble if your pocket aces are against more than one caller. Knowing when to fold AA is a very hard lesson to learn, and not just for fish.


Virtually anything you say after losing your hand is useful information to the rest of the table. Better to shake your head silently, take a sip of your Barq’s, and stare wistfully off into space.

Showing Your Losing Hands

Losing hand in poker

This move pairs nicely with your debrief of why your perfect play, a fluke, derailed the last-hand bet nobody saw coming. Showing your losing hand is always a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong. Everybody at the table is overjoyed that you shared your losing hand with them. Why? Because data is power.

In poker, you get so little opportunity to acquire real information that you yearn for the guppy who shares his losing cards with everyone. Which you just did.

You are showing that 10-8 of spades three seats to the left of the BB tells everyone that you are an ATM and are open for business. Nobody will mention that fact to you. Instead, they’ll shake their heads in commiseration, and you’ll think, “finally, I found my people.”

A particularly egregious version of this shows the hand you’re folding to a player sitting next to you before the hand is finished. You’ll get scolded by the dealer (and probably the other players), and you’ll most likely be required to show your hand to everyone.

Fish Tells

Signs of Impatience, such as preparing to fold before your turn—OOP (out of position)—are loud declarations that you are, in fact, inexperienced. We get it. Poker is boring. But forgetting whose turn it is to call, bet, or fold is telling the world your head is not in the game but somewhere else (and let’s just leave it at that, shall we?).

Another problematic activity is counting your chips OOP. Sheesh, could you be any more obvious? I’m not even in the hand, and I’m folding.

While it could be a sign of impatience, counting your chips OOP probably signals that you intend to bet or raise bigly.

If you think the others at the table aren’t interpreting it like that, enjoy the swim. Seriously, though, why alert the other players to your intentions? There is no profitable purpose to such an action.

Learning tells a life-long experience, but you can somewhat shorten the learning curve by reviewing the various videos and books available about them.

Overprotection of Your Blinds

The advice years ago was to protect your blinds from late position attempts to “steal” them. News flash: Blinds are not yours.

Think of them instead as money you paid for a movie ticket. Once you’re in your seat, munching popcorn through the coming attractions, you don’t really care if somebody robs the ticket booth.

Sure, you feel sorry that the theater got robbed, but you’ll sleep easily tonight. It sounds callous, but the poker table is no place for generosity or sympathy.

Once you understand that the blind is not a choice you make but rather a built-in cost of playing poker, you can quit thinking of the blinds as something you must protect.

More Reasons You’re a Fish

I’ve discussed some of the obvious reasons why you may be a fish in poker, but let’s go on to look at more inexperience plays you may make during a hand.

Slow Playing

People slow playing at poker

Okay, you’ve tightened up your play, and now everybody’s afraid of you when you finally see a flop—so afraid that you can’t seem to get any action callers when you do come in.

So, what do you do? Well, your first impulse might be to slow-play your hand, hoping to fool more players into staying in the game.

Guess what? There are only two ways you make money in poker: Having the best hand or making everyone else fold.

If your pre-flop three-bet with pocket rockets makes everyone else fold, well, you just made some money. Maybe not enough to write home about, but then, your aces didn’t get cracked by the J-7 that limped in for a once-in-a-lifetime flop because you slow-played.

A small win is always better than a large loss. Did I feel the need to say that? Yes, I’m sorry to say I did.


Unless you announce it via chat, nobody online knows you’re hitting the Jameson’s at ten in the morning. But at a brick and mortar poker room, your re-orders of two fingers of scotch (water by) for breakfast will make your tablemates get thoughtful expressions.

And because I like you, I’m going to tell you what they’re thinking: Drunk equals lah-WHO sah-HER. This is not going to end well for you.

Posting Late Blinds

You just rushed across town to hit the poker room, and the only $1-$2 NL table has a single seat available. You sit down and notice the player to your left is the button. What do you do next hand? Well, a fish would post a late blind at the first opportunity.

Now, various poker rooms have different rules about posting late blinds. Still, whenever it’s done, it marks the newcomer as someone who’s at the very least impatient (not a good trait in a poker player, as I’ve already pointed out) or, at the worst, wholly unaware of the amount of information they are imparting to the rest of the table.

If poker room play moves too slowly for you, try the best online poker sites. Play is much faster, and while you don’t have access to the many tells of in-person play, you also don’t have long to wait for your first hand.

Wild Man

Wild poker playing

Everybody likes the Tasmanian Devil (well, the Bugs Bunny version, anyway). He’s incoherent, unpredictable, and funny.

Channeling your inner Tasmanian devil during poker play is not funny, unpredictable, or incoherent. It’s an admission that you hope to steal a few blinds and a bet or two somebody limped in with your wild strategy.

Online, this sort of player is typically a drive-by, using surprise effectively to startle a few folds over a brief period, then it’s off to the next table for more hilarious hijinks.


Frequent bluffing is counter-productive for many reasons. First, it diminishes the effect you want to achieve with a bluff. You’re also contributing more to the pot than you need to, which means that in the long run, you’ll lose more on hands than you would have otherwise.


A sure sign you are one of the faceless members of that school of fish passing through is getting caught chasing. Chasing is calling bets as the deal progress in hopes of drawing that one card that will make your hand the winning hand.


Man grabbing his hair in frustration in poker game

This isn’t so much a sign of the fish as a signal to any poker player caught up in its clutches that it’s time to take a walk.

It usually happens when a player has suffered a long string of losses, particularly those that could be considered “bad beats.”

Virtually all poker players have experienced at least one session of tilting—that moody period you experience as you desperately try to win back the money you’ve lost by barnstorming the table with aggressive bets.

Frustration and even anger can sometimes be instructive, but neither has any place at the poker table. And if you’re tilting, neither do you.

Don’t want everyone to see your tilt? Considering investing in some of the best poker sunglasses available.

Analyzing the Top Poker Sunglasses and Whether They Help Players Win

In addition to making you look as cool as an arctic fox on lead guitar, could wearing the best poker sunglasses also improve you as a player? Even the slightest jolt of the eyes could prove fatal in a game like poker. Experienced sneaks will read your...

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The Mills of Poker Grind Slowly


If I haven’t already said this, poker is a long-term game. A few of your wins might be owed to luck, but if you succeed in poker, you need to avoid all the n00b errors I’ve listed above.

You also may want to work diligently to master math and judgment skills necessary to transform you into a lean mean, poker machine.

Now that you know everything I’ve been doing wrong—I mean, everything YOU’VE been doing wrong, be sure to practice your skills at one of our best online casinos.

J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

More Posts by J.W. Contact J.W.



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