How to Go from Being the Fish to Being the Shark at the Poker Table?
The animal analogies have been around the poker world for decades, with players ranging from whales to fishes, donkeys to sharks, who all have a special place in the ecosystem. The fact is that most poker players start as fish, and very few of them ever get elevated to the so wanted status of sharks.
The good news is that even if you seem to be losing way more often than you are winning, there are ways you can turn it around. If you follow these simple poker tips, it will surely help you progress from being a fish and possibly even turn into a proper, fish-eating shark someday.
Learn the Game Fundamentals
The biggest losers in all poker games are those who have never really studied poker strategy. A fish is a player who learned his hand rankings and other bare basics rules and immediately thought they could beat everyone else.
These basic mistakes come from nothing but ego and are easily corrected. Learning just the basic concepts of poker such as position, equity, pot odds, implied odds, and how to apply them will be enough to elevate you from the deepest pits of the poker ocean and into the light.
Of course, just knowing these concepts won’t be enough to actually start winning, but you will be a step closer to becoming a poker shark. This way, you can make educated decisions and stop blindly guessing what to do in your games, so this is exactly the place where you should start your journey to the top.
Tighten Up Your Hand Selection
The fish are impatient players who don’t like waiting for hands or situations and love to get involved in every hand, so the biggest mistake they make is playing weak holdings.
When I say tighten up, I am by no means saying you should wait for pocket aces or kings. In fact, the sharks play up to 30% of all hands they are dealt, but they are methodical about when and how they get involved.
In live poker games, you usually see the fish limping in with 75% or more of their hands and then calling any raise their opponents throw at them. While it may seem brave and strong, this strategy is actually the worst way to play poker. Folding your cards is not a sign of weakness but rather one of intelligence and the desire to win.
You are not going to win by playing every hand you are dealt, period!
Instead, you should learn starting hand ranges for different positions, how to apply them correctly, and most importantly, why certain hands are chosen while others are not. This alone will put you ahead of most players in the lowest stakes.
Step Up the Aggression
Now that you are no longer playing every hand you are dealt, your opponents will know that you have a playable hand when you get involved.
With that in mind, you always want to represent having a very strong hand by entering with a raise, especially if you are the first player into the pot.
When you start raising instead of limping and re-raising instead of calling raises, you are going to make it infinitely more difficult for your opponents to play against you. Just think about the fact that there is no chance to win the pot right then and there if you just call, and you will realize that raising is almost always the better play than just calling.
The same goes post-flop. While you should remember not to overdo it, applying an aggressive approach and putting pressure on your opponents instead of letting them dictate the action will yield you much better results in the long run.
Use the Power of Position
Apart from having the best hand, there is no better advantage than having position and acting last.
Being last to act in a hand after the flop is dealt will give you a chance to control the size of the pot, win many uncontested hands, and make your opponents fear what you will do after they act.
On top of that, you will always get to see what your opponent does before making your decision, which gives you a lot of additional information to work with.
This is why you should be playing much more hands when you are on the button or the cutoff and way fewer hands when you are in early positions. Learning about what positions are favorable and why is relatively easy, but actually sticking to the game plan is one of the biggest problems for many players, and my next advice.
Stick to the Game Plan
You have learned all about position, which hands you should play, and how you should be raising and re-raising more often than calling. You are aware of the odds and other important concepts, but you simply aren’t getting any playable cards!
In live poker games, a situation like this will often happen, and it may go on like that for hours on end. I have had stretches where I would sit at the table for two hours without a single situation that warranted throwing in a single chip.
Of course, the same goes for online poker players, as they will also encounter bad stretches of cards and those in which not many great situations arise. The important thing to remember is that you have a game plan for a reason, and only by sticking to that game plan are you going to beat the games in the long run.
A true poker shark is not afraid to wait and wait until the right moment arises and then win the pots that really matter. Patience may just be the most important poker skill of them all, and the fact is that if you can’t learn to be patient, you are never going to become a true poker shark.
Learn Tilt Control
The last thing you will need to do before calling yourself a poker shark is to learn how to control your tilt and emotions when playing.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all go on tilt sometimes, but it looks different for every player. While some of us curse and want to throw things, others start playing every hand or chasing the losses, which is a clear sign of gambling addiction.
Neither of these will help you be a better poker player, so I highly recommend trying to identify ways you tilt, what triggers it, and how to control your emotions.
Probably the best to cool down is by taking a break from the game, whether it is just for ten minutes or a couple of days following a particularly frustrating session. Remember, a shark plays poker to win and will do anything necessary to make that happen. If that includes stepping away from the table, you should have no problem doing just that.
If you follow these tips and only play when you feel good and can control your decisions, nothing will stop you from becoming a true poker shark in your games!