You may have picked up a few dollars in an online tournament here or there, or trounced some friends at your weekly Thursday-night game, but how good do you really perform against professional poker players? Are you really a force to be deal with, or just a fish just waiting to get caught? Let us find out.
You're a fish if…
…you don't adjust to the table. Poker strategy is often situational. Good players not only need a thorough understanding of the game, the odds, and their opponents, but they must also be comfortable changing their style to suit what's going on. For example, at a full, tight table, you may want to play more conservatively, while heads-up you'll need to play a wider range of hands than normal, or you'll be killed by the blinds. In addition, certain strategic moves may be unwarranted and even detrimental unless the situation calls for it. For example, shifting gears can be very effective at keeping your opponents guessing, but if the other players aren't on the ball and don't notice what you're doing, or fail to react properly, (calling too much when you're tight, etc.) then you're wasting your time and in some cases putting your chip stack needlessly at risk.
You yield to the aggressive player instead of being one. A lot of successful poker involves projecting the right table image. Timid players who fold too quickly or too often when confronted by an aggressive opponent will soon find themselves the target of the table.
Being bold, even when you're not holding terrific hand, will often be more productive then simply relying on the luck of the cards. However, don't automatically continue your aggressive stance when losing, as players don't generally feel threatened by a diminishing stack, and your normal value bets and raises may suddenly become too risky to be profitable.
…you fixate on weak hands and long shots. It can be very satisfying and sometimes very lucrative to take a weak hand and turn it into a winner. Playing a poor starting hand such as an unsuited 8-3 and hitting two pair, something that your opponent couldn't possibly put you on, can allow you to sweep in some huge pots. But adopting the philosophy of "any two will do" is a horrible strategy that will expose your limited skills to every other player at the table and ultimately prove your undoing.
The same principle also applies towards good hands that have turned sour. Let's suppose that you were dealt a pair of black sevens in good position. You bet, face a raise plus three or more callers before you see the flop, which reads A-K-Q all diamonds. Obviously, those sevens have shrunk quite a bit and it may be time to drop out. But some players absolutely refuse to give up on a hand that showed any sort of promise early on, hoping that somehow they'll still pull out a miracle. And that's the mark of a true fish.