Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

The Age of the Online Poker Grinder is Ending

There was a big poker news story last week covering the increases in rake and withdrawal of the popular Battle of the Planets promo at PokerStars. It is always a shame to see player benefits getting reduced, though this was not the main thing that stood out for me. Instead it was the response of the pro grinders which took my attention. On this occasion, I think they are wrong.

The argument goes something like this:

age of the SNG grinder is ending- Pro grinders play lots of tables, all day, and thus generate a lot of rake.

- They create liquidity, offering more tables and are thus 'rake creators' and not just contributors.

- Because of this, the poker sites should be rewarding them better.

My view is slightly different. Let’s get a disclaimer out of the way first. I’m not anti-grinder, and I respect anyone’s right to legally create profit for themselves. On an individual level, if someone wants to play poker all day and make a decent living multi-tabling, then more power to them.

Now that is out of the way, I do not get the ‘important to the ecosystem’ or 'rake creators' argument at all. In fact I would argue that grinders are a negative, once a site gets beyond a certain reasonable threshold.

It is the liquidity argument which I do not like, it reminds me of high-frequency traders on wall street. They argue that exploiting millisecond trade opportunities creates market liquidity, though the only people who really benefit the type of liquidity they generate are their algorythms.

The new and recreational players do not care whether there are 10 tables or 200 at their buy-in level. They are pretty much sitting in the first seat that is free anyway. They do not worry about whether the 18 man PLO knockouts are filling up (to pick a silly example), they will happily choose another game instead. They want to play, and as long as there are enough tables, then the extra ‘liquidity’ generated by the grinders makes very little difference.

No Time To Get Established

Here is my main argument why grinders cannot consider themselves the creators of rake.

New players come and try the game, they buy-in and sit at a table with 3 or 4 grinders. Their stats immediately single them out as an inexperienced player, and they become the target of isolation moves and other ‘simple’ exploits. Within 30 minutes, they have lost a couple of buy-ins. This repeats a few times (some may even reload), and then they give up.

I wonder how many new players have had exactly this experience?

They saw PokerStars on the TV, thought ‘wow that looks great!’ deposited, and *boom* their money was gone.

We are talking tens of thousands every year, maybe hundreds of thousands.

Some of these players would have won money, lost it slowly, enjoyed the experience and improved enough to hold their own in the games. Some would have become winners, though most would be recreational players who were net depositors. Enjoying poker to relax in the evening, or a quick mobile session here and there.

What the grinders are doing by ‘creating liquidity’ is spreading out a huge fishing net which kills off all the fish before they have a chance to get established. This becomes a negative in terms of the potential money deposited, forcing the poker sites to market harder just to bring more short-lived fish into the grinder’s nets.

This is not a positive for the poker sites or the poker ecosystem at all.

Add to this the *ahem* lower GDP countries, where individuals can grind the $2 buy-in games and still make a decent living in their geo, and you have a net wide enough to catch just about every recreational player who strays into the games.

The Sites Know This – The Age of Grinders is Fading

The peak for grinders has already passed. This was in the 2007 to 2011 period when poker was still enjoying a post UIGEA land grab. Things have got slowly more difficult since then as more sites focus on the recreational side of their games. Lottery SNGs, Missions and tables where you cannot multi-table are already in place. Even the extreme anonymous / no-tools recreational model of Bovada for US players has proven to be a huge success, Merge (Carbon) are now following suit by removing their loyalty program. Sure, there will always be room for a number of pros, as poker gets more recreational the games get softer, which makes it easier for those motivated to grind until an equilibrium is reached.

As we move forward many more players will be accessing the games on mobile devices. These will be recreational types, and they will need to be protected from sitting at tables with 3 experienced and tooled-up grinders and having their bankrolls stripped before they get started…

I’m more positive about the future of poker now than I have been for a long time. Following the age of mobile will be the age of VR, it should be a lot of fun!

Grinders, I respect your skills, only please – stop kidding yourselves that you are creators of rake and a positive for the poker eco-system, your arguments simply don’t stand up.

GL at the tables,


PS: In the interest in declaring my interest, I do have a SNG course which teaches the nuts and bolts of grinding sit n goes on offer here. Hopefully this has helped many recreational players avoid the traps over the years, and that many of them are still enjoying recreational poker sessions to this day!


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