How to determine a weak player without using stats?

Guides, instructions, Poker strategy guide

Restrictive measures on the part of poker rooms in the form of a ban on the use of auxiliary software during poker sessions are gaining popularity. All this is justified by the notorious concern for the ecosystem and people who just came to have fun playing their favorite game. Someone has concentrated on eradicating poker software focused on quickly and automatically finding weak players (Pokerstars and their successive bans Sharkystrator, Magic Seat, TableScan Turbo, Sharkyscanner), someone has gone to more radical measures and banned even long-standing HUD and tracking software (Unibet, Microgaming Poker Network, Pokerdom).

Some networks have not yet made a final decision, but have already begun to drift in a certain direction (Chico, partypoker). What should the average player do in such a situation, who is used to relying on poker software to identify the fish at the table? The answer to this question is simple and paradoxical: you will have to use the very thing that the security and technical support services of poker rooms will have to reach - our brain!

How did you select before?

Statistics have always been a key feature of finding weak players at the tables. In the poker world, a fair principle has long been established according to which we defined all unknown players as regular players and played against them accordingly.

The second recommendation in almost all WODs and some modern poker books has always been to overestimate the opponent after some time or the number of hands played. In some cases, it was enough to play 5-10 hands to make a logical conclusion about the level of a particular opponent at the table using the HUD.

A vivid example is the guys who managed to collect statistics in the form of 70/10 (VPIP \ PFR) during these 10 hands, which clearly signals us not only about the player's weakness, due to his looseness, but also the supposed characteristics of the player (loose-passivity, inability throwing even marginal hands, the need for tight value bets on our side, the obligatory folds in case of aggressive actions of the opponent even with strong hands) on the postflop.

Another example is bros with 60/50 stats, who managed to 3-bet three times in a short period of time. Here, too, seven spans in the forehead were not required in order to classify the opponent as a maniacs and adjust the game as needed: more slowplay with strong hands, let the aggressor punish himself, lower hand requirements for preflop exposures and postflop colddowns.

Without the involvement of the HUD and active multi-tabling, such observations, conclusions and subsequent exploitation of fish at the poker tables becomes extremely difficult.

Key features for identifying a weak player

However, even without the use of auxiliary poker software and with moderate multi-tabling, we can draw a lot of conclusions about the level of the opponents' play, which will play a decisive role during the session.

Let's go from the most obvious to the less obvious signs of a weak player.

  1. Voluntarily depositing money into the pot by calling the big blind or, more simply, an open limp. A huge neon sign instantly lights up above the player doing this preflop action, which reads: "Hi, I'm a loose and passive recreational player, isolate me completely!" This is not surprising - even such a player would open a strong hand with a raise and would not give up the initiative before the start of the fight. Occasionally we will encounter a limp / raise line, but this is an extremely rare occurrence for the game of poker, which can be neglected.
  2. The size of the stack with which the player sits at the table. This sign deserves to share the first place with the open limp and is practically equal to it. The only problem pushing it a little lower are professional shortstacks or MSS players. Sometimes with an equally incomplete stack at the table there can be both virtuosos of the game with an average stack and recreational players who are not able to auto-buy. For accurate identification, you will need to play a number of hands.
  3. Non-standard preflop and postflop sizing. Many players can play a more or less decent level of play, play acceptable ranges, avoid limping, and even enable auto-buy. Very often bet sizing gives out their disguise. Opening preflop with an archaic size of 4bb, gay 3bets (opening goes 3bb, opponent reraises to 5bb), knight 4-bets (3 times the number of the previous 3-bet) - all this obviously signals the opponent's weakness. Most often, beginner regulars or phishers will sin like this. More advanced regular players also often use auxiliary poker software such as PartyCaption, 888Caption, StarsCaption, which are able to make correct sizing in accordance with predefined templates.
  4. Unusual hands at showdown. Here, too, everything is simple: if we make 3-barrels at our opponent on a dangerous board (containing many possible draws), then his a cold down and a run to the river with a strong top pair shouldn't surprise us. If he shows us 3 pair without a potential draw, then this is already a good reason to draw a proper conclusion about his "hobby". Another example is placing preflop. 5-bet pushing in late position with pocket queens is the norm. But such an action with K9o deserves the closest attention and even the labeling of a "weak player" on the pusher.
  5. Nick \ Avatar \ Chat \ Country. More questionable ways to categorize opponents. However, some trends can still help us in the game. Regulators tend to be active multitables and do not have time to maintain an easy and casual conversation in the chat. Either they turn it off through the poker client, or using a special layout (auxiliary software, like iPoker Tools). But people who actively communicate in the chat room, in fact, most often turn out to be recreational players. Avatars and nicknames are very thin ice. Some poker authors have emphasized that people with avatars with children are weak. As well as users with the nicknames "Ferrarilover", "PhilIvey1" and so on. True, for every weak player with such a nickname there is always a “OMGClayAiken”. Regarding countries, reads are still relevant - poker players from countries with well-developed economies are ready to part with money in more marginal situations and with weak hands. Canadians, residents of Great Britain, Dutch are more inclined to gambling than citizens of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus.
  6. The number of tables played. In the lobby of some clients, a function is provided that allows you to use a search by player's nickname. In some cases, this allows you to determine the level of the opponent's play with a high degree of probability. A player playing 6 tables of the same discipline in parallel will almost always be a regular. Unknown, rolling one table or several tables of different disciplines, most likely a fish.


Even if the suddenly spinning flywheel of the fight against supporting poker software stops, the ability to recognize and identify a weak player in no time will still play an important role. For live play, the skill of identifying hobby players in general can be key. Due to the small number of hands played offline, the importance of very weak amateurs to a professional player's win rate cannot be underestimated. Since poker is a game of incomplete information against living people, identifying an opponent's weakness and holes in his strategy will remain the fundamental pillar of the game for the entire life of poker.

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