Poker Fish

Donkey - Bait - Muppet - Donk

by Jesse Knight


Poker Fish
Fish – A weak player who loses money.

Poker is a game of dominance. For most players, the goal of the game is to win as much money as possible. You do this by identifying where your edge exists, and by maximizing your advantage. On any given hand, you may dominate your opponent by holding superior cards. You can also achieve a more general pattern of dominance by regularly outplaying your opponent, so long as you have the ability to do so. The difference in each player’s style and ability establishes a natural food chain among poker players. The best players are at the top of the food chain and tend to win money from everyone else, while the worst players are at the bottom of the food chain and tend to lose money to everyone. When the players at the top of the food chain engage those at the bottom, it is often a very one sided, unfair fight.

Because of this, the predator/prey metaphor is commonly used during a poker game. In the most commonly used metaphor of this type, the bad players are referred to as “fish,” while the good players are “sharks,” or “card sharks.” Obviously, when a shark engages a fish, it often turns out very badly for the fish. Similarly, when a player with excellent playing abilities engages a player with subpar abilities, it often turns out badly for the bad player.

While it is a compliment to be called a shark, it is also mildly derogatory to be called a fish. There are many derogatory nicknames for bad players, and “fish” is one of the most common. The term was popularized before the advent of online poker, and is therefore used more commonly in brick and mortar settings. Internet card rooms have developed their own lingo, and “donk” or “donkey” is the insult of choice there. The term “fish,” which is roughly equivalent to “donk,” is still used in the chat box, but it has taken a back seat to “donk,” which is now a very popular term. Some other unflattering terms used to describe players who play poorly include, “pigeon,” “muppet,” and “bozo.” A bad player can also be referred to sarcastically as a “genius.”

The predator metaphor can also be extended to other members of the animal kingdom. In addition to a shark, a good player can also be referred to as a “lion,” a “bear,” or a “monster.” A fish who plays exceptionally badly is often referred to as a “whale.” The term “whale” is also used describe any high limit gambler who tends to lose large sums, regardless of which casino games he plays.

Although a fish is typically a habitual loser, he will from time to time go on a rush and have a winning session. Usually when a fish wins, it not because he played any better on this particular day, but because he got lucky on the draw. Since fish often take the worst of it, they are often involved in large pots where they are a significant underdog. Sometimes they get lucky and suck out on a good player with a premium hand. Some good players get upset or offended when a fish beats them with trash. This is a bad thing for a good player to do, and it is bad for the game. It is important to realize that although you may have taken a brutal beat for humongous pot, in the long run it benefits you very much to have the fish in the game playing as he does. If you insult or demean him out of anger, he may not be as inclined to gamble, or worse, you may run him off altogether. If you criticize his play, you might be teaching him how to play better. You have to take a long term view, which means ignoring bad beats and focusing instead how to maximize your lifetime return against the fish. That means never criticizing and never teaching. The best response when a fish puts a bad beat on you is to say “nice hand,” and get over it. It will benefit you in the long run, and the other good players in the game will appreciate it if you don’t have the bad habit of running off the fish.

Usage: What a Fish, The Fish Donked Off Chips, Big Fish In A Little Pond

Previous Poker Term: Fire
Next Poker Term: Flat Call


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