888 Poker have taken down all their heads-up cash game tables. This was to prevent specialists in this form of poker sitting at a long list of tables, waiting for a non-specialist to arrive while refusing to play each other. Known as ‘bumhunting’, this is a rational enough approach from the perspective of the players – though annoying for everyone else. This article takes a more general view, with some tips and tricks for avoiding bumhunters, smaller stakes Sit N Go grinders and even tournament pros.
Why You Should Avoid Specialists And Pros
I’ll start with a quick ‘why’.
As obvious as it is to many experienced players, newer people often do not realize a couple of important factors about online poker pros:
1) Just how many of them are out there!
2) The fact that they make a HUGE difference to your profits (or more often, help you to lose faster).
This article puts some numbers on the effect of winners in SNGs – the numbers might look slightly different, but the principle works for cash games and tournaments too.
Just for the record I am not anti-pro, in fact I wish them all the best. What I like to do is defend the corner of the recreational player / beginner now and again. Avoiding games with too many small stakes pros is the single biggest thing you can do to immediately boost your profitability. Second would be seeking a poker site with a lot of betting / casino cross over traffic, and only then do we get to things related to the cards you are dealt.
Bumhunters – Easy To Spot
Heads-up games are where the true Bumhunters lurk, they are waiting patiently for any players who are not specilists in this game – and believe me, they will have a big edge over them – however good at other formats their opponent thinks they are.
The screenshot below is from Full Tilt, this is a snapshot, the actual list is many pages long. You might think that with all these players waiting for games it would make sense to play each other – nope, they do not want to waste time with other specialists… they are waiting for someone like you instead!
I recommend that you look up the statistics for a few of these players using one of the many services like Sharkscope, OPR or Poker Pro Labs. While they are not all pros, they have a lot of heads-up hands and most of them will be winning players.
Note: Many sites including PokerStars (who own Full Tilt) are taking steps to stop Bumhunters refusing to play any opponent who sits down. This is great news, but I’d still like to get my warning out there to newer players before they lose their bankrolls very quickly to this particular kind of shark.
Sit N Go Grinders – How To Spot Them
Pro Sit N Go players rely on a high volume of games, they play a standardized strategy and will profit from each table using their superior bubble skills. My very own and completely free course teaches this strategy to help readers build a nice bankroll – see the preview page here.
One quick way of spotting who the multi-tablers are is to check out the Sit N Go lobby at your poker site. The example below is from PokerStars, and shows 4 of the same game, one with 6 players and the other 3 with 2 players registered in each. It will probably not surprise you to know that the players in the ‘2’ games are all the same, and that these players are also waiting for the game with 6 people to fill up. Looking up their stats – one is a big winner the other a smaller winner who seems to be playing a ton of volume… exactly the kind of people you should be avoiding.
I took shot at lunchtime, when the games are fairly quiet. Often you will find 4 or 5 players signed up to a long list of games. When this happens I recommend you go and make yourself a coffee, play a little zoom and relax for 10 minutes – you need to find a game with more recreational players, so wait for the pros to fill up their screen with 12 tables and only then jump in yourself.
Another way of telling who is multi-tabling is to use your site’s ‘find player’ system. Just make a note in play and look them up later, once you know who to avoid your ROI in the games will improve a lot.
Using Leaderboard Info: Here is another way of grabbing a list of pro grinders – this works great to get the ones with the highest volume of games.
Many sites feature leaderboard contests, these reward players with high game volume with extra cash and are great from the site’s perspective (more games) and the player’s perspective (additional money). By looking up the players in the leaderboards you can see who has the volume. It would be time consuming to look all of them up at many sites – so I recommend keeping a list handy and looking out for names at your tables instead. The screenshot below is from Carbon Poker – most sites have these, so make sure you check them out.
Sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt and Party attract a lot more pro grinders than other places – see the end of this blog post for my thoughts on the ‘softest’ sites in terms of recreational players.
Tournament Pros – Harder To Avoid, Though Still Good To Know About!
When it comes to multi-table tournaments you have a smaller choice of game, so even if you know some great players are registered – you will usually play anyway. Still, it is good to know who the pros are. You can avoid marginal spots with them in-game, where their skill edge might be a problem. You might also be able to catch them ‘making a move’, since you know they are thinking about the game differently and looking for spots to exploit the less experienced players.
To get a good list of who the pros are you will need to work a little harder in MTTs – using a combination of methods.
Leaderboards at various sites are useful, but less so than with Sit N Goes – since in any given monthly contest a couple of ‘lucky’ wins can put a relative novice up there. I suggest looking at yearly boards where you can find the more consistent winners. Stats services like Sharkscope and even the forum / training site Pocket Fives have their own leaderboards, which can be used to show the currently hot players across several different poker sites. You can also find names on bigger forums like 2+2, people dishing out strategy advice there will often show their own hands and thinking – so you’ll be learning while you are compiling your list.
Finding players in play can be useful. Novice players are unlikely to be playing 12+ games, especially those with mid buy-ins and above, so the player search can help (try this in the 180 SNGs at PokerStars). Some sites have player VIP display options (for example PokerStars VIP level). It might make players feel good to show you that they are Gold Star or Supernova level, they are giving a lot of information away though – you should look up their stats. My advice to SNG Planet readers is never to give away information on your status or knowledge level, there are simply no benefits!
Finally, some regular games, like the 180 player Sit N Goes at PokerStars attract multi-tabling pros who will give themselves away with quick-fire registering. When a game kicks off, bring up the next lobby immediately. I can assure you that the majority of the first 20 people to register (this will only take 1 minute!) are multi-tablers ‘auto-filling’ their next game. Check their stats and see who the winners are.
Summing It Up – Actively Seeking The Softest Games With The Fewest Pros
I have been banging this drum for years now, and hopefully have improved the bankrolls of a lot of you! I’ll say it in bold:
‘If you are lazily playing without thinking about who the other winners are, and / or not actively seeking the most profitable games – then you are giving up a huge amount of your profit, potentially all of it!!’
PokerStars is a fantastic site, it is also full of small stakes pros. The same for FullTilt and to a lesser extent Party.
I have an interactive widget here at SNG Planet which matches your location (US / Non), game preferences and bankroll level to the softest sites around. It is called the ‘Fish-O-Meter’, check it out now.
Submitted by Planet Mark on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 15:52