"40DD", "Hot Girl" & Her Friends - Poking Behind Poker Screen Names
What's in a name? And most importantly, for the online poker player, what does an opponent's screen name say about them, and how could this help you to win money? Well, in a recent survey funded by Svenska Spel, the operators of the Swedish National Lottery, 20% of female online poker players admitted to "swapping genders" whilst playing, against 12% of male poker players. Women who responded to the survey cited wanting to be taken seriously as the prime reason for adopting a male name whilst playing. As regards the male players, they stated that they felt posing as a woman would lull their opponents into a false sense of security. Think about those percentages for a moment, and you'll quickly realise that all is not what it seems in the world of online poker. All the stats suggest that far more men play online than women, so if 12% of them are using women's names then there's already a pretty good chance that the "PokerBabe88" who sits besides you is actually a 55 year old guy with a moustache. Now factor in the other percentage - 1 in 5 of the women who play online are using male names, not female names. That means the odds of PokerBabe88 being a man are now even higher, as only 80% of that already relatively small pool of female players use female names. Are you one of those players (male or female) that conciously or subconciously changes their game when facing a female opponent? If so, it is time to kick the habit. Do you play looser against someone called "JohnTheFish", do you fold whenever "TheRock48" raises before the flop? All of these could be costly mistakes. And what of your own screen name? What does it tell other players about you? Did you even think about that when you chose it? A lot of us just make something up on the spur of the moment when we're creating an account - but this might be the very first mistake a beginner poker player makes, and one that will keep costing that player money for as long as they have that name. Here's a quick insight into the different "types" of online poker screen names, and what those names might betray about their creators.
"Poker Chick" types.
We've covered a little of this already - you're either up against an out-going female, or a male posing as one. Don't go with the stereotypes - "Blonde" doesn't mean dumb, 40DD doesn't mean dumb, "College girl" doesn't mean naive, or young, "Shy babe" doesn't mean passive. Think of all these sorts of names as "Are you stupid enough to fall for this?" and you shouldn't go far wrong. If such a player flirts with you, ignore them. Or tell them you're married, or gay, or a eunuch. Or all three.
"Doyle Brunsun" types
Anyone using the name of a famous Poker Pro, or a mis-spelling of their name (Phil Hellmouth, Gus Hansun etc...) is likely to be an amateur who fancies themselves to be handier than they really are. The same goes for players who adopt the name of a famous fictional Poker player - TeddyKGB from Rounders for example. (If you can't currently beat newbie players, you want to check out our holdem cheat sheet or Poker Cheat Sheet before worrying about the nuances of poker screen names.).
"Homer Simpson" Poker types
References to popular culture might give you some clue to the age of your opponent - especially if it is a youth culture reference. Some people play poker as much for the socialising as the game, so if you're a fan of, say, The Sopranos, and you're facing an opponent with the screen name "Uncle Junior" you might be able to get their mind off their game a little by discussing the show. Just make sure you don't end up distracting yourself rather than them.
"Draw Poker Steve" types
Players who reference a particular type of poker (Omaha Mary, HoldEm Pete etc...) usually really do have an interest in that type of game. This won't help you most of the time of course because they are likely to be playing that game when you meet them - but it can prove to be useful information in tournaments, and especially in freerolls. Sometimes players will jump in and play their second strongest game if it is free, or if they can't get a game at their usual tables, or if they just fancy a change. You can use this to your advantage - Omaha players will be used to stronger winning hands at showdown than they'll find in a game of No Limit HoldEm, for example, so are more easily bluffed on the turn and river. If you are going to switch from your usual game, take a look at our page on Poker Rules For Beginners.
"I'm A Poker Fish" types
Not a fish (useless player), and not a poker beginner. Ever.
"Crazy Raiser" Poker types
Some people like to establish an aggressive reputation, and then live up to it. Others give themselves a "crazy player" name to try and cover the fact they are very tight players. Take notes on the player's betting patterns to establish which type you are up against. You can then change your style to maximise your profits (tighten up against a loose player, loosen up against a tight one). But! Above all, don't make the key mistake outlined below - do not overcompensate.
The Biggest Poker Screen Name Mistake Of All
After all this talk of what names betray about online poker players, here's a little thought to take away with you : a 2007 survey found that, on average, players who always swapped genders online were the least profitable players of all those who took part in the survey. The authors concluded that the reason was that the players who swapped genders over-estimated the advantage that hiding behind a screen name would give them. So the message is "the grass isn't always greener". If you're a female you probably over-estimate the number of males who don't take you seriously - or rather, you don't appreciate that males don't take other males seriously either. If you're a male, you probably think all the guys go easy on the girls, or play too aggressively against the girls, and you think you can benefit from that. But males play aggressively against males too - and some of those aggressive "males" you see raising "females" the whole time might very well be females posing as males, raising males posing as females! So try and ignore the screen names, and watch for betting patterns instead. It doesn't matter whether your opponent is male or female : what matters is whether they are passive or aggressive, tight or loose. Note these features, and ignore the rest.