By Matthew "Yorkshire Pudding" Pitt
One of the first acts we perform as an online poker player is choosing the screen name that we will be known as for the rest of our careers; on some sites you can choose an alias, too. For some this is a simple task that requires no thought at all, but your alias and avatar can give off information to your opponents so you should choose yours wisely.
Games such as Texas Hold’em are played with incomplete information in that we do not get to see our opponents’ cards unless they are obliged to reveal them to us at show down. In order to win a hand we have to piece together snippets of information that become available to us. In the live arena we can also look at how the player bet, what the player looks like and what their posture is like and build a more accurate picture of their possible hand strength, but online we don’t have those kind of visual clues available to us.
Instead of being able to look at the 55-year old man shaking like a dog taking a crap in the cold winter air after he three-bet us, we have to rely on bet sizing, timing tells and other such aspects of the hand. Or do we? Because avatars and screen names can give away a wealth of information and can actually be used to put your opponents on tilt, too.
Think about when you created your alias, what were your initial thoughts? Common ones are your actual name, your nickname, your favourite sports team etc. You try to register “Smithy” but it is obviously taken, so what do you do? You add a number to it, and what number do you add? Your birthday or when you started playing poker – that is unless you are one of the morons who ends up with something like PhilIvey17 as their alias because PhilIvey 1-16 have been taken; these guys are complete fish!
Which leads us to our first point: Pay attention to numbers in aliases. A name such as Bob2 may not give away much information but Bob1953 suggests that our opponent is a middle aged gentlemen. Likewise, Dave2012 could mean that Dave has been playing poker since 2012 and is relatively inexperienced. As a general and sweeping statement, the older an opponent is the less likely they are to be playing a loose-aggressive style (more likely to be loose-passive or tight-passive) where the younger generation who have been fed a diet of Gus Hansen triple barrel bluffs with eight-high may be a little more inclined to try and push you from pots.
Other aliases to look out for are ones that are a mixture of numbers and letters like K3v1Nrule5 because these guys are trying to be tricky with their name creation and that is a trait that often follows them to the tables in their style of play.
Be observant and look for players sporting an alias that is a current or a past trend of something that did the rounds on popular forums. Names with BingBlangBlaow, with 350 in their title or a name such as TripleRangeMerger generally point towards a player being knowledgeable about the game of poker so you can approach them accordingly.
Likewise, names written in uppercase – shouting in the online world – can be aggressive players, although names such as AggroSpewMonkey or SuperNit generally play the complete opposite as their alias suggests.
On sites where you can choose your own avatar you should choose very carefully. Displaying the logo of a poker club you are part of can give away a ton of information about you and your playing style. Also, having images of things like a Ferrari when you play $2 sit & go tournaments shows you are a complete dreamer or a total liar!
Common images are of pets (why?) or of babies and both can be used against the player as long as you don’t mind stooping to new moral depths! By asking a player who is proudly displaying a baby avatar “what sort of dog is that?” you stand the chance of sending the now irate father into a spiral of hate and despair and that is great for you, but maybe not so much for your karma!
If you are to have an avatar, make sure it is not one that really stands out because people will remember you. You’ll sit down and opponents will be like “that’s that CheckRa15eBluff1ng with the picture of a lactating goat” and they will notice more of your plays than you would like to think.
Why did you choose your alias and avatar and what do you think they say about you? Let us know in the comments box over at Facebook.
Submitted by Planet Mark on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 15:11