For a game played with cards, there sure are a lot of animals in poker. From whales to fish to sharks to donkeys, there are more animals at a poker table than there are in your local zoo! Obviously, these aren’t real animals but metaphors for how people play at the table. However, just like real animals, we believe that a natural circle of life occurs at the poker table.


PokerDeals Circle of Life

The PokerDeals circle of life has been printed onto a limited edition t-shirt, which you can see above. If you want to get your hands on one of these fine-looking shirts, we’ll explain how to do that at the end of the article. However, before we explain our Poker Deals circle of life, we better define what each of these animals is.


  • Shark - A strong player who’s very familiar with the game. They’re often the biggest winners at the table.
  • Whales - Recreational players who have a lot of money to play with. They’re not good players, but they can throw their weight around.
  • Fish - A fish is your standard recreational player. They only play for fun and aren’t very familiar with advanced strategies.
  • Donkeys - These players are a whole different kind of recreational player. They’re not just bad; they’re outright awful! They make crazy plays all the time and are very hard to read.


Now that we’re all clued up on the players in our circle of life, let’s see how it works.


The Sharks Beat the Whales

It should come as no surprise that the sharks are at the top of our food chain. Their level of experience in the game means they have a serious edge over the other players at the table, and they particularly target the whales. The whales often have the most money at the table, and the sharks can smell blood in the water as soon as they sit down.

As long as the shark is on their A-game, whales won’t last long when they’re around.


The Whales Beat the Fish

While the whales are targeted by the sharks, they’re not completely helpless. They may not have the skill to match up with the sharks, but one thing they do have is size, and the sheer size and weight of their stack can bully the other fish at the table. Not caring about the money is a significant advantage in poker, as it allows you to bluff at pots with no fear. The fish, not wanting to go broke with marginal hands, often fold to the whales, which keeps the whales afloat for a little bit longer.


The Fish Beat the Donkeys

Even though the fish are beaten up by the whales and the sharks of the table, there is one player they can beat - the donkeys. Despite not being particularly skilled themselves, the fish are much better at the game than the donkeys. Their passive style of play means they can sit back and wait for the donkeys to donate their stacks when they’re making one of their patented donkey moves.


The Donkeys Beat the Sharks

However, the donkey can pack a hell of a kick if you’re not expecting it, and that’s exactly how they get one over on the sharks. The sharks are used to their opponents playing in a straightforward, understandable manner, but the donkeys are complete wild cards. They can have anything at any time, and this often trips up the sharks (well, it would if they had feet). It’s not an uncommon sight to see good players making bad call downs against donkeys, even though you’d think the sharks would be savvy enough to know what they’re doing.


And thus, the poker life cycle is complete.


Honourable Animal Mentions

These animals are ones that you commonly see in poker but don’t play enough of a role to make it into our circle of life. If you’ve ever heard someone use these terms used at the poker table and wondered what the hell they were on about, you can find out below.


  • Ducks - A slang term for a pair of deuces, used because the 2s look like little ducks.
  • Crabs - A slang term for a pair of threes, used because the 3s look like sideways crabs.
  • Rabbit (hunting) - Rabbit hunting is the act of looking through the deck to see which cards would have come next. This is commonly requested by players who want to know if they would have made their draw.
  • Horse - Most commonly spelt as H.O.R.S.E, it is a five-game mix comprising of Limit Hold’em, Limit Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or better.
  • (Rail)Birds - A term used to describe people watching a poker game, usually a high-stakes one. They’re called railbirds as they perch on the outskirts of the table (the rail) like little birds.



Pokerdeals, in partnership with BadBeat Clothing, are giving away two amazing t-shits showing the PokerDeals Circle of Life. To enter is really easy! Check out the competition on Instagram or Facebook, and follow the steps below! 



While there aren’t any real animals playing poker (yet), there are certainly some wild tables out there, so make sure your survival instincts are up to scratch! It’s always best to know your place in the food chain, so if you can identify who you should be targeting, you’ll give yourself a better chance of walking out of the jungle a winner.

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