Ever witnessed a poker player berate his competitor on the table after winning; perhaps calling him a ‘poker fish’. Often, it is the worst player on the table calling the other player a fish. But ironically, it is that person who is the real fish being hunted by the poker sharks on the table. But what is Poker Fish vs Poker Shark talk? And why are we discussing the aquatic ecosystem here? Outside the water kingdom, fish and shark are terms used to describe players on a poker table. The critical thing to note is that many players don’t know which category they are residents of, making them oblivious to the worldwide Poker Fish vs Poker Shark phenomenon.

poker fish vs poker shark

Below, we have defined both types of poker players. Perhaps you’ll know your tribe, and also how you can make the necessary adjustments to your game to protect your wallet from getting a shark bite. 

Are you the Poker Fish on the table?

How many times do you fold your hand in a game? 10%? 20%? Reportedly, smart poker players fold hands 3 out of 4 times due to a bad starting hand, knowing it is not a winning hand for them. After all, winning a war is more important than winning every battle. And then, there are other kinds of players who think winning every hand is the motive of a poker game, and they do not want to lose even a single hand. Their strategy to win every battle rather than focusing on the big war led them to lose even more. By definition, a Poker Fish is a player who doesn’t believe in losing and will try to win every hand, occasionally betting a lot and then losing exponentially. Most amateur poker players fall into the Poker Fish domain because they haven’t attained the necessary experience to know the game better. 

“If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then YOU are the sucker”

-Matt Damon in Rounders

To sight a poker fish, observe how often a player is going all in. If betting ‘All In’ is his strategy, then chances are they are just passing a bluff. The primary traits of a Poker Fish are carelessness, betting too often, raising stakes too high, never knowing when to fold and blowing their whole roll very early. Poker Fish are often very progressive with their bets, making it an easy tell for experienced players. They lack a poker face, and their face tells the story about their cards. A nervous look pops up when the cards are garbage, and you can expect a bright smile when they have high cards or a pair in their hand. Fascinatingly, many Poker Fishes believe they are in fact, Poker Sharks and refuse to study games or tell as they think they are all-knowing and all-seeing.

Are you the Poker Shark on the table?

The shark, as they say, is an opportunist. While Poker Fish hate a Poker Shark, the latter loves to have multiple fishes at the table so they can slowly and steadily get their wallets empty. A shark does not feel defeated when they have to fold a hand due to unfavourable odds, after carefully calculating these odds and not just playing on their ‘gut feeling’ every time. Sharks believe in “Apna Time Aayega” and they only show their true colours when they know they have good cards.

poker shark

A shark’s primary traits include a calm mind and smart game, especially during losses and folds – they have their poker face on! They are calculative in nature, good with their maths as well as cards and keep a sharp eye on betting patterns of their opponents. Unlike a fish, they sell a bluff with systematic betting. In fact, their bluff is sold not only by bets but also by playing with the opponent’s minds. The Poker Shark can play both aggressively to induce folds from opponents or calmly gauging the Poker Fish by making less noticeable bets. The intention is to draw as many chips into the pot by making all players bet before the shark reveals his cards. Poker Sharks are the highly respected members of the poker community, having achieved their place after tons of hard work and a plethora of patient plays.

I am a Poker Fish. How do I change species?

A Poker Fish does not become a Poker Shark overnight, and to change your game, you need to play, watch, read and study poker. While many believe poker to be just a game of luck, it involves strategy, style, skills and a little bit of luck. When you start, all you enter with is luck and to gather the remaining three elements, one needs to work hard and play more. To gain a wide variety of experience, watch how other players play the game, read what poker experts have to say and, in the end, play a lot to sharpen your skill set.

Understand the fact that poker needs a strategy, and when you get your cards, your strategy should have a heading rather than just blunt force and extremely high bets. Instead of having a manipulative approach, have a calculative approach! Go back to school maths. Get the basics of probability, permutation and combination. Track your opponent’s game. Observe him; he might have a poker face, but not a poker body. Understand how his body reacts to good cards and bad cards. Comprehend how other players are playing and keep a note of their wagers and folds, to be able to tell when they have a favourable hand or not. The Poker Fish vs Poker Shark debate will go on forever, but in the end, practice makes a Poker Fish a Poker Shark.

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