By: Paul Hewson
What if I told you there’s an easy way to improve your poker game that requires no math, no study, basically no brain power at all? Okay, it does take some resolve – so why not make this simple one-step process your New Year’s Resolution for 2017? Here it is: Stop calling other players fish.
Many of the smarter poker pros have made it a point in recent years to change the language they use when referring to (possibly) less-skilled players. Even if you haven’t already made this change yourself, you may have noticed others doing it. The term “recreational player” has become the go-to description; “casual player” is another good one. Anytime you catch yourself saying or even thinking words like fish, donk, nit, or maniac, let alone anything with –tard at the end, use one of these other terms instead. Political correctness? Nope, just smart poker.
Don’t Tap the Glass
There are several problems with using these all-too-common slurs to describe your opponents. If you’re at the table and someone limps from early position, or 3-bets you with trash, or calls your turn barrel with very few outs, those are definitely things you want to make a note of. But they aren’t necessarily the signs of a weaker player. Maybe they’re trying to deceive you. Maybe they just mis-clicked. If you go after them with impunity, they could very well turn the tables on you.
It’s the impunity that you have to watch out for. When you label someone a fish, you’re de-humanizing your opponent, and in doing so, you’re cutting yourself off from truly understanding why they do what they do. There are no “non-thinking” players at the table. But there are recreational players. They want to have fun, so many of them open more hands than they mathematically should – but some open tighter, because they’re more comfortable sticking with premium hands. The more you can empathize with your opponents, the more accurately you’ll be able to profile and exploit them.
This is especially important in live situations. The last thing you want to do at the table is call someone a fish for making a sub-optimal play; they might get offended and leave, costing you a customer. Worse, they might wake up and start playing better. As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, he who exercises no forethought, but makes light of his opponents, is sure to be captured by them. Don’t be that person in 2017, or any year.