Be A Better Fish – Rivers, Streams, and Poachers

Written by Joseph Wills  –

Welcome to our next installment of the “Be a Better Fish” series!  Let’s recap what we covered in “The Hatchery.”

  • Once you begin learning Poker, you have entered the Hatchery, thus becoming a Fish in someone’s game.
  • Beware the Sharks.  Though, not every Shark is an actual Shark.  Learn to spot the differences between a Shark and an aggressive player pretending to look the part.
  • Being a Fish isn’t a bad thing.  Learn how to use that persona to your advantage.
  • Poker Rooms are much more different/serious that the Home Game with your friends.

Poker is as fun or serious as you want it to be.  Making it a career or hobby, the trials and tribulations are essentially the same.  You will run into egos, bad players, players who always seem to have your number, and the most frustrating factor of them all… variance.

Variance is defined as: “…the natural statistical fluctuations or “ups and downs” that can occur in short-term results due to luck. Variance can cause a player to experience periods of both winning and losing, even if they are playing well or poorly.”

There has been much debate among the community as to whether Poker is a game of skill or luck/chance.  Bottom line, when variance is introduced, the game falls into the realm of gambling. Period.

Chess, basketball, and even Risk are all games of skill.  You can outmaneuver or outwork your opponent to victory.  At times you have the upper hand, other times your opponent may have the advantage.  In Poker, the best players or best Poker hands don’t always end up a winner.  Outcomes are determined by the randomization of cards stacked within the deck, thus making Poker a game of mere chance.

A Poker coach (and good friend) told me at the beginning of my first lesson: “Poker sucks.”  That is the unofficial Rule #1.  For the sake of this writing, we’ll rename that “advice to never forget.”

That said, here are some other rules never to forget throughout your playing career.

  • Rule #1: Variance will always be a part of Poker.
  • Rule #2: You cannot change Rule #1.
  • Rule #3: Don’t ever feel bad for taking someone’s money (if you’re playing straight-up).
  • Rule #4: Make your peace with Rule #3.  Everyone else at your table already has.
  • Rule #5: Beware the River!  This is where variance likes to rear its ugly head.


If you’ve ever heard the term “sucked-out” in Poker, chances are that happened on the River.  For instance, you’re holding pocket tens (TT) and the flop is 983r (rainbow, all different suits).  You and one other person are in the pot.  They think for a second, then go all-in.  You immediately (snap) call and your opponent is holding 98cc (Clubs) for two pair.  The turn is an Ace of diamonds, no help with one card remaining.  The River… A TEN for you to hit three of a kind and win the hand.  That, my friend, is sucking out on someone.

In most cases, if a hand goes to the River, one person is still trying to make their hand, while the other person is hopeful their seemingly better hand holds up to win the pot.

The River is where dreams are crushed and unlikely heroes are made.

Streams and Poachers

Depending on your level of obsession for Poker, you’ve probably noticed there are a TON of books, videos, and coaching sites out there.  All promising to make you a successful Poker player, all promising their methods are the most “up to date.”  There is no secret formula to easy success in Poker.  Like anything, you must work hard and avoid the Poachers trying to make a quick buck from those new to the game and may not know any better.

For players still trying to find their footing, there is plenty of free material on the web.  A lot of streamers upload their content to YouTube and other social media outlets.  You’ll know right away if a certain teaching style speaks to you.  Browse around, there’s something out there for you.

There are also streaming services out there for live and previous Poker events.  These streams are great for watching certain tendencies of players and how effective (or ineffective) their techniques really are.  If someone is charging $200/hr for coaching yet they never win an event on the streams you’re watching… something may not be adding up.

Don’t get suckered in with phrases like “cutting-edge techniques”, “game-changer” and “unique strategies.”  A good majority of training sites are meant to be flashy, using buzzwords to attract fish and sell subscription services or pricey training courses.  Don’t find yourself being shot at in the barrel of poker coaching sites.  Perhaps a site with like-minded Poker players (not self-proclaimed “Pros”) and discussion forums is the best fit for you.  Do your research.  It will pay off.

As with bankroll management, a learning budget is just as important.  Is that $999 full-access worth it?  What are the reviews?  What is the player’s reputation within the Poker community?  Free trials are a great way to sample what a site is selling.  Look for sites with free basic memberships and take advantage of what they offer.  Not all content is good content, and the most expensive content isn’t always the best content.

Now off my soapbox… but you get the point.

Be safe out there and we’ll see you for the next installment “Managing the Food Supply.”

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