Using comparative phylogenetic analysis, we analyzed the evolution of male alternative reproductive tactics (MARTs) in ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii). Numerous independent origins for each type of MART (involving sneaker males, female mimics, pirates, and satellite males) indicate that these behaviors have been highly labile across actinopterygiian evolution, consistent with a previous notion that convergent selection in fishes can readily mold the underlying suites of reproductive hormones into similar behaviors. The evolutionary appearance of MARTs was significantly correlated with the presence of sexually selected traits in bourgeois males (P = 0.001) but not with the presence of male parental care. This suggests that MARTs often arise from selection on some males to circumvent bourgeois male investment in mate monopolization, rather than to avoid male brood care per se. We found parsimony evidence for an evolutionary progression of MARTs wherein sneaking is usually the evolutionary precursor to the presumably more complex MARTs of female mimicry and cooperative satellite behavior. Nest piracy appears not to be part of this evolutionary progression, possibly because its late onset in the life cycle of most ray-finned fishes reduces the effects of selection on this reproductive tactic.