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

Online Poker’s Eastern Euro Tax: You Don’t Have to Pay!

Small Stakes Grinders Can Suffocate Games

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ll have seen a lot of Eastern European players at the bigger online poker sites. They multi-table. I’m not just thinking about the central and Eastern EU countries…. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are all part of the same problem.

Here is what happens. These players live in low-cost places. For them, grinding the small stakes (as small as 2c / 5c cash games) is an easy route to a decent lifestyle. They 8+ table, drying up the games… taking $1 from each table per hour is more than enough to double the average wage of their countries.

If there were fewer of them, it would not be worth writing about, there are 10,000’s – maybe many more.

Some tables up to around the 25c / 50c level have more of these Eastern grinders than recreational players. A table with a few lively recreational players will soon have a waiting list. A great table can soon become yet another nit fest, with Eastern Euros all patiently waiting for the nuts or for a fish who will call down with 1 pair...

Paying Poker Taxes (Eastern Euro Grinders)

Why This is a Problem?

New players and those looking to give poker a try for fun are heading to exactly the stakes where the infestation of grinders is the worst.

Instead of an enjoyable time, they find nitty games – often with 4 winning grinders out of 6 people total… On top of this, these players are often slow. This could be internet connections not working well in the Romanian countryside for example, though more likely it is the 10 tables being played.

Once you add in that these players are often unpleasant in the chat – it becomes the kind of experience that new players are not going to want to repeat for long! No wonder they leave poker, and find more enjoyable ways of spending time.

For those trying to build a bankroll, improve their games and move up stakes – the grinders are an extra tax, above and beyond the rake.

They can be beaten of course, more on that below.

First – some words in defence of the individuals concerned.

In Defence of the Eastern Euro Grinders!

Now, before the liberal pack gets unleashed. I’d like to take the perspective of these grinders and defend their actions.

As individuals, they have found a solution to the low wages in their country; and are legally enjoying making enough money for a decent lifestyle. Outside of the major cities like Moscow, $1000 a month is often more than enough to rent a place and maintain a nice standard of living.

Sure, there are abusive individuals, those are a minority (though from certain countries, far too many (to be fair, this is not unique to the Easterners!))

It is not the individuals I am worried about or have a problem with. It is that there are now so many of them, that poker becomes less enjoyable for those with money to spend… which is exactly what ‘suffocates’ the games. After a couple of bad experiences with online poker, that rich fish that would have enjoyed poker for years to come has now shrugged his shoulders, and switched over to an online casino instead!

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m an expat in central Europe… there are many excellent people in this region. They are educated, smart and usually very warm hearted.

How to Beat Eastern Euro Grinders

Avoiding Your Eastern Euro Taxes

Nobody wants to pay extra tax, and that is exactly what the money being taken from the tables by the grinding hordes is. Here are some suggestions to lower your tax bill. After that, I have covered turning the tables and making money from these players.

Here are my suggestions:

#1 – Tag Them: As soon as you see a multi-tabler from any country, tag them. Some sites allow colour codes, others allow icons. If you can, take a minute to see what games they are targeting and what buy-in levels. Make a note, something as simple as ‘MT, 25NL, 50NL 6-max’ is a great starting point. We can add to that later (see ‘how to beat the grinders’ below).

#2 – Avoid Tables with Too Many: Two stages here. When you first play, you need to see how many colour coded players are sat down, and simply go elsewhere if there are more than 2 (6-max) or 3-4 (full ring). The same applies to SNG lobbies. Second stage is to keep reassessing your tables. You might have joined a game with only 1 E-E grinder, only for there to be 3 of them 20 minutes later. Reassess periodically, and leave if required.

#3 – Avoid Big Pots: This type of player generally wont play big pots without a big hand. Individuals differ, though if a nitty grinder enters a pot from early position, you’d better believe they are not getting out of line. With 10+ tables, there are plenty of hands to play. If you get strong action, assume they have it (unless you have a note or experience with an individual that suggests otherwise!).

#4 – Note Tendencies: This goes with #3 above and is especially important for players in a lot of your games. The Achilles heel of grinders is that they get into patterns, often playing mechanically. Subtle bet sizing tells can help you make money. For example, does a player click ‘half pot’ for a c-bet when they missed – while closer to 3/4ths when they have a made hand. There are a lot of variations on this, how do they play draws, will they try to check-raise with the nuts and so on. The better notes you have, the better you can exploit individuals.

Getting Your Revenge – Simple Strategy Considerations for Beating Grinders

Beating REGSA quick diversion into SNGs first. These grinder types will know ICM and will use it to their advantage. If they know you know ICM, they will be pushing super-light at the bubble. Mechanical any-two all-ins type of thing. You need a session on a tool like ICMIZER, and specifically work on your ranges against any 2. You’ll find some profitable spots!

Mechanical play has many guises, and as soon as you spot a pattern, you can take advantage. Insta-click raising the button when folded too is common. This can be with a super-wide range. You’ll need to be able to fold those times you get played back at…

In general, mechanical sizing tells are easiest to exploit when you are in position. If the only spot at a table has 3 grinders to your left, then you should definitely pass. If they are to your right, you should be more willing to play.

As you get more comfortable, make notes on the regulars on how they play monotone or coordinated flops. If you see enough showdowns you’ll be able to find how they approach this with made hands, draws and complete misses. Conversely, how so they approach dry flops? Will they c-bet with air into multiple opponents? How do they play high pairs when an ace hits the flop?

While the more notes you have, the better you can do against grinders – you’ll always find recreational players easier to beat. Avoiding playing too many Eastern Grinders is the equivalent to avoiding paying that extra tax.

I hope that we will see the poker sites addressing this issue in 2018. For me, poker is swinging back to being a recreational game. Caps on multi-tabling at the lower buy-ins (4 games) would be an ideal way to let people enjoy the games, get the poker bug, and hopefully stick around…

GL at the tables,


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