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Online Screen Names:  Hidden Tells?
By Paul McGuire
Febuary 1, 2005

What's the significance of online poker screen names?  With the recent poker boom,  all the good online names are being snatched up quickly.  And if you have a common real name,  your chances of getting something unique on Party Poker or PokerStars are very slim.  Some online poker names make me chuckle.  Others make me shiver in disgust.

Most of the names break down into a few categories.  And I'll briefly speak about each.

Rounders' Characters:  You've seen those guys.  I call them the least creative group of the bunch:  Worm36,  MikeMcD14,  and JoeyKnish69,  to name a few.  It's sad.  So many players have adopted these names that if you try to ask Party Poker for TeddyKGB,  you'll end up getting TeddyKGB23145569.  Outside of the pokerati,  no one understands that reference,  but inside my apartment I poke fun at you and label you a big Rounders geek in my notes.  Hey,  MikeMcD14,  try slowplaying a flopped straight against me and I'll shove every one of Teddy KGB's Oreos up your least favorite orifice.  If you can't come up with an original screen name,  either you are lazy or you don't have a creative mind.

Poker Pros:  There are a bunch of online players in cyberworld who take on the persona of their favorite pro:  AnnieDuke1234,  TexasDolly210,  GusHansen72,  and Fossilman666.  Unfortunately,  sharing the same online name with a pro is about as close as they are going to come to making a final table at a WSOP event,  especially when they chase gutshot straight draws or call all-in raises with bottom pair.  I want to play against these folks.

Poker Terminology:  Some players use cool poker phrases as their screen name:  RiverBeat,  FloppedQuads,  and JacksUp.  Although a few of them are cheesy,  the majority of them are some of the more creative names out there.  Clever people tend to be more intelligent.  Watch out for these players.

Jumble Guys:  These are the folks who use an odd mixture of letters and numbers as their names:  ksiiik474kfoek or dhduggt2831142.  Good luck getting Party Poker support on the phone and telling them your account name if you ever run into a glitch and your table freezes.

Drug/Marijuana References:  For some of you older hippies,  you might dig on the vibes of the younger-drug-MTV-chic culture.  If not,  I'll clue you into slang that some slackers would use in their screen names.  Anything with  "bong"  or  "420"  or  "puff"  or  "blunt"  usually indicates that the player at your table is a proud pothead,  and usually  (but not limited to)  from the Northern California or Pacific Northwest area.  Chances that they are stoned while playing are... well... pretty high.  Take advantage of your opponent's inebriated state.  These are the players with names like:  FattyNugs,  PuffintheAM,  Bluntorama,  Wooderson69,  HighGirl420.

Fictional Characters:  I play under a name of a popular 70s TV character.  Lots of random James Bond references and a slew of literary ones are out there too.  The Simpson's references always make me laugh:  DuffMan765,  HomerJay765;  there's also AllyMcBeal4,  Frankie007, Frodo41,  and KilgoreTrout4.

Musical References:  I've seen a few Phish and Grateful Dead related names,  as well as a few titles of random Motown tunes and old jazz standards.  Younger players like to use rappers and other hiphop references to spice up their screen names.  If you are familiar with different genres of music,  especially popular music,  you might be able to guess their age based on their musical tastes.

Inside Jokes and Nicknames:  These are players using their real world nicknames,  like BigMike33 or SmellyEd or AlCantHang.  I like asking them the origins of their name.

Residence:  These are folks who can't come up with an original name,  so they use their city or state as part of their screen name.  AmarilloSteve,  JoeyTX,  HawaiiMary,  CincyLou.  I always ask them how the weather is.

Year of Birth or Graduation:  Here's a tip.  If you see a number after someone's name and it's the last two digits of a year,  chances are that person was born in said year,  or graduated college or high school in that year.  EdJones56 is either 56 years old,  or more likely,  born in 1956.  I'm willing to bet that some folks are too lazy to come up with anything else,  so they pick their year of birth to make their screen name unique.  AlexD82 is probably a college kid.  And CoolGuy07,  this is probably a frat boy who will get his degree in two more years.

Sure,  I could be wrong here,  but again,  I'm making a snap decision on the fly.  You have to attempt to size up online players quickly and age,  to me,  makes a huge difference.  Chances are older players play more conservatively than younger players and will trap you when they have the nuts.  On the other side,  younger players who have been influenced by television and the popularity of the WPT tend to play wilder,  looser,  and more aggressively than folks of an older generation.

Location,  Location,  Location

What's in a location?  It wasn't my intent to speak about a player's location,  but it's something I'll address for a few moments.  On both Poker Stars and Party Poker's skins,  you can see where someone is from.  Will that give you an edge?  Sometimes.  Here are some -- admittedly -- broad generalizations.

European cities:  Most European players are aggressive preflop bettors.  This is not to say that they are loose.  They don't play as tight preflop as so many of the Sklansky disciples out there.  I'm not telling you to call every single one of their bets preflop;  however,  if you see a city of European origin and the guy tends to raise a lot,  you might consider calling with one of your marginal hands  (especially in late position)  because you could have the best hand.

Las Vegas & Henderson:  If I see either place mentioned  (Henderson is a suburb of Vegas),  I try to avoid playing with them,  especially heads up.  Is every online player from Las Vegas a shark?  I'd rather not find out.

Canadian Players:  Our Northern neighbors breed some of the toughest and fiercest competition in the poker world.  There are some good players out there, so beware.  Canadian players make a living off greedy Americans who chase nut flushes and call top pair all the way to the river.  Knowing the big cities is easy.  But familiarize yourself with some smaller Canadian town names and suburbs,  like Carberry,  Moosejaw,  and New Glasgow.

College Towns:  Ann Arbor,  Pullman,  Madison.  Those towns are filled with bored,  inebriated college kids with tons of free time and Daddy's money in their hands.  Back to my generalization about younger players under the age of 24,  especially with parentally funded bankrolls... they are loose and aggressive types.  A young gun with a belly full of cold pizza and a six Jell-o shots from a college town is more likely to bluff with second pair or a gutshot straight draw.

Retirement Communities:  Places in Arizona,  New Mexico,  Arkansas,  and Florida are filled with bored and retired Americans looking to waste their time away blowing their social security checks on Party Poker.  Older players tend to be more conservative.  When a player from Jupiter,  Florida pushes me all-in on a flop that's all rags,  chances are he has a bigger hand than the hungover frat boy from Madison.


Again,  all these are just generalizations based on my online encounters over the last twelve months playing at various sites.  I'm sure there are fish living in Vegas who are playing online.  I'm sure we have WWII vets in college towns and Europeans abroad playing tight.  But for the most part,  you have to profile your opponents quickly if you wish to seek a greater edge.

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Paul "Pauly" McGuire is a writer from New York City.  He quit his job as a bond trader on Wall Street to pursue a career in writing. He is a novelist and screenwriter but became most famous for his poker blog.

The Tao of Poker  (http://taopoker.blogspot.com)  chronicles his daily poker thoughts from his late night forays into the online poker world to playing in home games and tournaments around New York City.  He also covers his adventures to casinos like Foxwoods,  Atlantic City,  and Las Vegas.

As an amateur poker player and an avid traveler,  Pauly often finds time to squeeze poker into his itinerary no matter where he goes.  He has played poker all across America and will track down a home game or drive miles out of his way to the closest card room or casino.  He has even played hold'em on a bullet train in Japan.  You'll most likely find him slumming around at the low limit tables on Party Poker.


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