A Guide to Fishing in Online Poker

Posted by Charles, March 6, 2013


fishing in poker

Over the years, Texas Hold 'em has taken the world by storm thanks in large part to the dramatic style of play and the booming online poker industry. The drama of the slow reveal has enraptured millions of players across the globe, and sent just as many to the rails without a chip to their name. One of the biggest strategic mistakes that players make at the poker table is fishing for cards. Continuing to commit chips to a pot with an incomplete hand is a surefire way to go broke. At the same time, there are some scenarios where fishing can pay off big. What follows is a list of do's and don't's for when it's okay to fish for cards and when you should toss them in the muck.

When It's Okay
Some of the best hands in poker have been made on the river, so naturally people with drawing cards may feel the desire to hang around in the hopes of improving their hand. While conventional poker wisdom might say to ditch your mediocre hand when facing a bet, sometimes players would be wise to call.

One time that it's okay to fish is while holding a mid to high pocket pair. On any given hand you have about a 5 percent chance of being dealt a pocket pair, but will only make a set (or better) on the flop around 10 percent of the time. The odds of improving your hand by the time all of the cards are dealt, however, is 20 percent, meaning it might be worth your while to fish on the turn (or river) if the cost is low enough.

Similarly, certain flush and straight draws can be worth fishing, provided the cost of the turn and river are within reason. If you are holding four cards to a flush and a bet is less than 10 percent of your stack, it may be worth it to see another card. Straight draws can be a little trickier to justify, but if you're looking at an up-and-down straight draw and the price is right, then give it a shot. Players would be wise to think harder about a gutshot straight draw, however, as this relatively weak draw only works out around 16 percent of the time.

Another concept to consider is being priced into a call. If you stand to triple your investment for the price of a minimum bet, statistics show that it is worth it to gamble on a losing hand on the off chance you catch someone bluffing or manage to improve your hand. At the same time, committing chips to a pot you expect to lose is among the worst things you could do at the poker table. Unlike in a live poker setting, the amount of chips in your stack as well as in the pot should be clearly shown on your screen, so you should be able to do some quick math to see if the risk you will be taking by fishing is worth your while.

When You Should Probably Muck
More often than not, fishing is going to be a bad idea, but there are several borderline scenarios that may be tempting to follow. Should your opponent bet more than 20 percent of your stack, you will definitely want to reconsider your call. This may not seem like a lot at the time, but that money would be better used in a hand where you have stronger cards, so stay disciplined and toss your rags.

Likewise, you will also want to rethink your strategy if you're facing multiple callers. In a one-on-one scenario, you stand a better chance of catching someone by surprise, but multiple calls could mean multiple draws or more than one made hand. More players can certainly up the profitability of the hand, but you'll probably have to commit more chips to the pot than will be worth the risk.

Position is also something that should be at the forefront of your mind when fishing. There is a very real chance that your hand will not improve, meaning the only way to win the pot would be a last-second bluff. As such, if you're in early position and driving the hand, you might want to plant seeds of doubt early on in the hand by placing a feeler bet rather than simply checking and calling your opponent's bet. If you have late position, however, you have a better vantage to watch how your opponents bet so you can better understand the strength of their hands. If they have consistently bet each round, you might want to fold your cards, if each of those bets is low, however, there is still a chance that you could scare them off the hand.


Fisherman image (photo credit: CC-BY-3.0 Kintaiyo, Wikimedia Commons).

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