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Back in the early days of online poker, it seemed any solid player could make money at online poker due to the abundance of fishy players at the tables. Players were practically giving their money away to better players and many thought they could make a lifetime career playing poker.

Of course, the game changed and the games started getting tougher. The average level of competition has now increased to the point that many believe that the online game in general is drying up. “Where have all the fish gone” is a common cry by newer players and some have left the game believing that the game is no longer viable.

While the game is indeed tougher, there are still plenty of fish out there. The challenge is recognizing where they are and who are actually the fish. Today we look at what’s happened to the fish in online poker and why this dynamic has changed.

Read More: Where are the Fish At? The Softest Poker Sites

Today’s Fish are Not the Same as Yesterday’s Fish

When online poker first started, poker players had to rely on poker books, TV and a limited amount of online content as resources to improve their game. Nowadays there is a glut of online poker content available online in the form of articles, videos and much more. There are dozens of high quality poker training sites where players can pay to learn strategies to improve their game. In addition, there have been thousands of books and videos produced worldwide to teach players how to play every form of poker imaginable.

As such, the average competence of the average “fish” is much higher than it was at the turn of the century. In fact, the average fish in today’s game may actually win if they played 15 years ago. That’s how much the game has changed.

Many Have Been Forced into the Live Game Or Out of the Game

It’s no secret that Black Friday changed the face of online poker globally as the major sites were forced out of the United States. When that happened, a solid percentage of fish were taken out of the online poker economy.

What happened to these fish? Some were forced into the live game to continue chasing their dream. Those that could adapt to the live game continued to enjoy poker. However, not everyone lives near a brick and mortar casino. These players ultimately either have been relegated to home games or have left the game altogether.

Yes, some of these fish moved over to unregulated sites that still serve the U.S. but that number is a lot fewer than you’d think. The nightmares that were Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker / UB were enough to convince some to abandon online poker until it becomes regulated in their state.

Some Players Have Become Fish and Refuse to Admit It

Online poker continues to evolve and the caliber of player at low stakes is different from those playing in 2003. The same strategies that worked at the beginning of the Poker Boom now either don’t work or they generate significantly less income than in the pass.

Some players have been unable or refuse to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of online poker. As such, their skills have eroded and they have in essence become the fish that they claim are disappearing.


Are You Looking in the Right Places?

A few years ago, you didn’t have to hunt to find the fish. Login to a site and pick your limits and pick some tables to play. Then sites started trying to incorporate new ideas to attract new players. First, it was short-handed and heads-up games. Then we had Speed Poker variants like Zoom Poker and the now defunct Rush Poker.

In recent years, we have lottery style games like Spin & Go or Twister Poker games. As new variants home come out, fish have started spreading out to other areas and reducing the concentration in one specific area.

Presently, the recreational players are obsessed with Spin & Go tournaments. The prospect to win 800 to 1,000 times your buy-in by just beating two players is too good for most to pass up.

In other words, don’t just focus on one game or variant of poker when determining the number of fish on a site. There are many more games out there to distract the fish and you have to figure out where they are congregating.

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Sites Actively Work to Protect the Fish from Being Devoured

The online poker industry has shifted in recent years to cater to recreational players first and regulars second. Some sites offer anonymous or incognito tables that allow players to hide their identities. This prevents them from being pegged as a known fish and gives them a chance to play on the site longer.

Sites are also actively working to block data mining tools and HUD programs, effectively eliminating the majority of “bum hunting” that has been the bane of most fishy players. PokerStars is the leader in this movement, a movement that has drawn the ire of many players that depend on HUDs as a vital tool of their game.

The thinking of site operators is if they can protect the fish from being exploited at every turn, they will have a chance to play longer and will want to come back and deposit more money. If they are devoured quickly, they aren’t likely to return and this actually hurts the poker economy as a whole.

The Fish Are There – You Just Need Better Bait

Is there an abundance of fish in online poker like there was in 2003? Absolutely not. Does that mean that there aren’t plenty of fish available to grow your bankroll? Not at all. The difference is that you need to work harder to find and catch them.

The fish are out there and biting, but they are not as mindless as in the past. Your “ABC Poker” bait isn’t going to catch as many as they used to. Also, online poker operators are making it tougher to find some of the fish and they are limiting the types of bait you can use.

Lastly, the fish aren’t all congregating in the same spot waiting for a shark to jump in. You have to look around and find out where they’re at and adjust accordingly. The fish are there if you are willing to put in the work to find them.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.