STRATEGY

How to Spot and Avoid Online Poker Sharks

When playing online in a given format, you might begin to notice the same names pop up over and over again. This probably isn’t random chance. In fact, the players you keep seeing are likely to be regular players or professionals. So how can you spot and avoid online poker sharks?

Spotting Online Poker Sharks

Many poker sites allow the functionality of searching a username; this will tell you where you can find this player seated, players sat on multiple tables are more likely to be professional. Furthermore, if a player has opted to hide from the search function but you see them regularly they may be professional, this is so they can hide how many tables they are on and if you try to search for them they won’t show up.

Some poker sites have leaderboards or VIP systems; the chances are if the player you see is showing a top VIP level, or his/her name is plastered over the top of all the leaderboards, then they play poker for many, many hours a month, and it might be better to change table.

Websites (sharkscope.com for SNG/tourneys) exist that can be used to track profit or loss. Particularly for SNG’s and tournaments, but also for cash game in some cases. Just typing in the players name on this online search will tell you how many games they have played in their lifetime. What profit they have made over that period, and more. Once again if the player’s results are hidden because the player has opted to protect results, or reset the statistics they are more likely to be a professional player.

Examine the other players

A different way to work out if the player you are sat with is professional is to think about how they play hands. Do they appear to call with poor odds and buy in for less than the maximum buy-in? Then they are probably just a casual player playing for fun. However, if you notice they play in a tight, aggressive, ABC poker style and always auto top-up to the table maximum each hand, they are much more likely to be professionals. Auto topping-up means they have the maximum chips in play at all times. Since they can increase the size of the pots they can win. Noting, however, some professionals, especially heads up cash players sit down with less than the maximum buy-in while waiting

Noting, however, some professionals, especially heads up cash players sit down with less than the maximum buy-in while waiting
for a player to join so as not to appear pro. This can be easily spotted because they will be sat waiting on multiple tables in the lobby and as soon as you play a few hands they will top up to maximum and start auto topping-up!

Use tracking tools

If you have poker tracking software, such as Holdem Manager 2 or Poker Tracker 4 you build a database of all historically played hands of all opponents. You can look at this data to work out who is winning the most or playing the most hands. These are sure fire signs the person is a professional player. The players playing statistics are also likely to be much close to 24% VPIP ( voluntarily put into the pot) 17% PFR (pre flop raise) and 3-4% 3bet (raising a raise). As the stats start going to 35%+ VPIP or extreme ends of raising/ not raising at all they are probably going to be weak players.

Lastly because the player is probably on 6+ tables at once, the average professional player doesn’t talk much at the tables. They are unlikely to reply to your comments. Will rarely say anything about losing, they will just auto top-up and keep playing. So if you see this they may be a pro.

So, how can you avoid online poker sharks?

Avoid Online Poker Sharks

1) Play poker on peak hours. This means that the player pool will have the best ratio of casual players to regular players. This will in itself make it less likely you play vs. multiple sharks.

2) Use search functions to find players and establish whether they are likely to be professional so you don’t have to lose to find this out.

3) There exists some programs for the recently popular format of poker ‘jackpot spin and go’s’, called SpinWiz. It allows you to queue to avoid particular players, called SpinWiz. This means that instead of getting 2-3 pro player tables you get 1 pro and 2 casuals increasing your profitability. As far as I know sites have now started to ban these type programs, but look out for them and use them if you get the opportunity.

4) If you find a player difficult to play against or you keep losing to them, consider leaving the table if possible. Mostly for cash players only – and finding a weaker table to play and win on.

5) It is harder for tournaments or sit and goes because you have no direct control over who else gets seated with you. However, through a combination of playing at peak hours and playing stakes levels suitable to your level of skill ( proportionally as the buy-in goes up there are more professional players).

6) Consider playing on a site that offers anonymous tables. This means that no player can store long term hands vs you, making you harder to target. This type of site usually has a weaker player field also because it will stop the use of databases and this discourages pros.

7) Different sites have different ratios of casual to professional players. Some sites will be weaker than others so shop around to find a site that suits you and you find easy.

Avoiding Poker Sharks Conclusion

In summary, when you see multiple signs that the player you are sat across from may be a professional player it is time to take evasive action. Get the hell out of dodge! Lose the pro players or lose your money.


Greg has been playing poker for the last 7 years, you can currently find him on Cash Game tables from £20nl-£100nl under the username BarrattG1. He currently writes poker articles and does coaching of micro stakes Mtt and Cash players. He uses a generally sound mathematical approach to odds and poker and uses this in conjunction with meta-game to create spots to profit from.


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