Poker Shark - Card Sharks

by Jesse Knight


Poker Shark
Shark - A very good player.

Poker is a game which combines elements of luck with elements of skill. This means that in the short run, anybody can win regardless of how well they play. In the long run, however, everybody’s luck tends to balance out, and skill levels typically determine the winners and the losers. Since each individual player plays differently, and at his own skill level, a rudimentary food chain forms over the long run, with each player losing to those who play better than they do, but profiting from those who play worse. The players at the top of the poker food chain do very well and are often wealthy and famous. Those at the bottom of the food chain play very poorly, and so provide opportunities for everybody who is higher up.

The food chain metaphor is one that is commonly used in the poker community. Players who play well and are higher up the food chain are often referred to as “card sharks,” or simply, “sharks.” You may also hear these players referred to as “card sharps,” or “vacuum cleaners,” or as being “tough,” or “strong.” The weaker players who are closer to the bottom of the food chain are commonly referred to as “fish.” Fish are also known by a variety of disparaging names including “donks,” “donkeys,” “muppets,” “monkeys,” “bozos,” and many others. Occasionally, you will hear someone who is a really big loser referred to as a “whale.” The term “whale” usually connotes large losses at high limits, and can apply to either the pit or the poker room.

Many new, inexperienced, or recreational players do not like to play against sharks. There is a good reason for this. If one person is playing at a skill level which is significantly higher than the other players in the game, he can often win a large amount fairly quickly, leaving most everyone else in the game a loser. A shark may refer to a game like this as being a “berry patch.” Weaker players do not want to play against someone who dominates the game and they do not like feeling as if they are being taken advantage of. Many will shy away from a game if they spot a player with a reputation for being a shark. They tend to prefer a “friendly game,” where players are there to have fun playing poker and are not really concerned with extracting maximum profit. When you first sit down in a game, it is not always easy to identify the sharks and the fish. It is a good idea to watch the action, even when you are not involved, so that you can try to get a line on how everyone plays. And keep in mind the old poker truism, if you look around the table and don’t see the fish, it’s probably you.

The bottom line is that if you want to make a profit playing poker, you have to smart about game selection, and you also have to become a shark. Being smart about game selection means avoiding games where the potential for long term profit is minimal or nonexistent. This means avoiding games where not enough fish are present or the field is too tough for you. Try to seek out games with a high ratio of fish to sharks. Do not try to avoid every shark or every single player who is tougher than you. First of all, this will not even be possible unless you play very well, as there are typically at least a couple of decent players in every game.

More importantly, if you are to become a shark, you need to have the correct approach. Understand that becoming a shark is a lifelong process that is never complete. No matter how well you play, there will always be areas of your game that can be improved upon; there are always ways of doing things better. If you can accept this, then every time you play is a learning opportunity. If you are paying attention, you can always learn something, especially from those players who play better than you do. When you are playing against a shark, take the opportunity to watch how they handle themselves in various situations. Look specifically for spots where they acted differently from how you would have, and ask why. You can also develop your game by watching the fish. Being able to anticipate in advance how your opponent will act is a huge advantage. Look for area where they consistently play poorly, and be ready to take advantage of that. The best players are never satisfied with their level of play and are always hungry to optimize. That is exactly the approach it takes to become a poker shark.

*Card sharks is different than a "card sharp" or "cardsharp". Sharks use skill to win, while sharps are card manipulators or cheaters.

Usage: Shark On My Left, Seat 1 Is A Shark, Card Shark, Poker Shark, Table Shark

Previous Poker Term: Set
Next Poker Term: Shill


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