Why all winning poker players fish (and why you should as well)

Do you bumhunt? Should you bumhunt? Should you be ashamed of bumhunting? Is it for weaklings, and real man battle regs? Let’s talk about bumhunting. I assume everybody is familiar with the term, but just for completeness’ sake, here is a definition from PokerKing.com:

A “bumhunter” is somebody who takes a seat at an online heads-up cash game table and refuses to play anybody that isn’t, in their opinion, a weak opponent.

Basically, to bumhunt means to refuse to play good players. And, as you probably know, it is a somewhat  polemical topic in the poker community. In fact, most of the community considers it as something negative. For example, PokerKing writes a bit further after giving the definition, that “Bumhunting has gotten so bad on some sites that new rules and policies have had to be developed just to deal with the situation”.

It sounds almost like a disease. It has “gotten so bad”… So clearly, the connotation is, that it is negative. Here’s more proof that the community is frowning upon bumhunting. This is from durrrrchallenge.com:

Over the last many years, there has become an all too common practice at online poker sites known as ‘bum-hunting’. It is essentially an unethical and extremely annoying practice wherein advanced poker players sit at moderately priced tables in an effort to prey upon less experienced players who may stumble upon that table looking for a cash game.

So, here we have a sharper condemnation of the practice, not simply an implied one. In fact, the title of the article is “Tom Dwan Applauds as PokerStars Puts an End to Annoying Bum-Hunting“, and the author goes on to quote Tom himself tweeting:

@TomDwan seems like stars is taking some steps to improve the bumhunting situation. pretty happy about this; should be good for poker overall

 

There are, however, also those who don’t shy away from the practice, and – strangely – don’t even feel THAT bad about doing it, though a hint of guilt is present in this article, which Katie Dozier wrote over at CardPlayer.com: Confessions of a Bumhunter.

“Confessions”… One “confesses” what one is embarrassed about, or feels guilty about. Now, make no mistake, Katie does not feel like that at all, and is honest about it. But… She is a woman. Doesn’t that further confirm that bumhunting is not, well, for real men?? Sure, it’s fine for a woman to admit bumhunting, but a respected player doing it? It would be like coming out of the closet…

Now, that said, change the terms a bit, and start calling it “table selection”, and thing suddenly started looking more positive. Everybody knows that table selecting is what a “good professional” does. Hell, there is even software out there, like TableScan Turbo, which helps you bumhunt! Ooops, I meant – “table select”. The tag line for them is “Professional Table Selection Software”. Interesting.

It seems there are not only people willing to do it despite the condemnation of the community, but there are actually enough of them that you can make a software and market it to them. There is a need for it on the market. So what is going on here? Where are the people on forums defending their practice of bumhunting? Sure, you might find the occasional crusader, but by and large they remain silent, buying TableScan Turbo quietly, in shame, with their heads hung down in shame… Or, are they?

Perhaps there are other motives for not speaking out on it? Like, for example, self-interest? Perhaps – it’s an interesting idea – they enjoy other people playing hard opponents, while they themselves scoop out all the remaining fish, whom apparently nobody wants to play out of pride? Who knows.

What is certain, is that things are not as clear, or at least they don’t appear to be. Should you bumhunt? Are others really not doing it? Should you do it some of the time, but then sometimes also not, so that you don’t feel like a total pussy? Is it all a matter of personal taste? To an extent, yes.

Namely, it is your decision, what you want out of poker. I say that, but of course, if I had to guess, 99% of people want money out of poker. One way or another. So, let’s dig a bit deeper.

What do you think – does Tom Dwan not want to make money in poker?  Of course, he does, we can agree on that. Now – here comes the interesting question: Will Tom Dwan win money in poker playing only better opponents than himself? (Let’s not debate about how good he is or is not, and just assume there are better players out there, not an outrageous proposition). So, will Tom win money in poker playing better players than himself?

Take a minute and think about it, if you have to.

You shouldn’t have to, really. The answer is a clear, bold, fat – no. Nobody will win money in poker playing better players than himself. All poker winnings (at the table, or via rakeback) come by beating worse players than you are. There is no other source of income at the tables – the ONLY source of income for you are worse players than you are.

So, let’s put 1 and 1 together. Tom wants to win money in poker. You can only win money in poker playing worse players than you are. So – by simple logic, we MUST conclude that Tom – wait for it – wants to play worse players than he himself is. …WHAT??!

What is going on here? Why is he condemning bumhunting, if in reality he too wants to, well, bumhunt. You can say, well, he doesn’t want to ONLY bumhunt, he also plays good players, which makes it OK. Sure, he busts the occasional fish or two, but he is all about battling the Junglemans of this world. Oh, wait…

The only way for anybody to ever win in poker (long-term), is to play worse players than he is. Every better player you play, will lower your income. You might say, well, but you can only get better by playing better players. Not true, far from it. You can observe other players (training sites), get coaching (BPC), analyse your game, read books… There’s tons of ways to get better. No need to play better players than you.

And in any case, that is never the debate – the debate is about the “ethical” principles of bumhunting. If you buy into that debate, you are being fooled. The debate itself is not a rational debate. You might as well debate about which color is nicer, blue or green. Who cares.

But what you should NEVER do, is start feeling bad about making money playing only worse players than you are. If there is even a hint of that inside you – your vision is fogged, and you are being emotionally manipulated. Poker is a business. YOU don’t have to treat it as a business, but that won’t make the fact that it IS a business go away. People play poker to win money. People offer venues to play poker to win money. People write, teach other people how to play, in return for – you guessed it, money.

When they play the world championship of poker, so to speak, and the guy wins – what were all those people playing for, what is the motive? The bracelet? I guess I can see it in that photo somewhere… I think it’s between his hands, I guess. Not sure… What I am sure about, there seems to be a lot of – money! – on the photo.

 

If you are still unsure, and perhaps in doubt to what he was playing for, check out his interview. You don’t have to watch more than 10 seconds of it, to get the idea. The first question the reporter asked him was – “what comes with the win” (or something like that, it’s ineligible to me). But the first thing that comes out of his mouth is very clear…

 

The sign overlaid in the video as he is being interviewed, spells: “Joseph McKeehen. 2015 WSOP Main Event Champion: $7,683,346”. Do you understand now? Why do they write the amount of $ he won? Where else do you see that? “Usain Bolt, 100 Meters Men, Olympic Gold Medalist: $2 000 000…” I don’t recall seeing that sort of signs anywhere but in poker. Usain doesn’t take a photo at the end with a bunch of money, he and 2 other guys get the medals, he stands on the podium and they play the anthem and take photos. They don’t bring a shit-ton of money and put it next to the podium for the photos. (Not that sports is not a business, don’t get me wrong.)

But, win a poker tournament – the first piece of info will be: how much did you win?? Why is that? Because we all get it – the players, the spectators, the producers, the journalists – this game is about winning money.

Now, there may be somebody who will say “But what about those millionaire type guys, who just play for fun and a challenge”? Yes, there are some exceptions, for sure.

Who cares?? Are YOU that millionaire?? If not, those are likely the sort of questions that will prevent you from getting anywhere near becoming one. Do you think that those millionaires got the money by finding the hardest possible opportunity on the market? Do you think they wake up and say to themselves “Today, I’m going to invest a lot of money into a company selling ice to Eskimos. Because I just like a good challenge, and selling them heaters is too easy.”

Hell, no. They bumhunt like crazy in their business, to make the money. Ok, full disclosure – I don’t really know if that is what they think to themselves, I didn’t make that sort of money in business – but I assume that’s not far from it.

Of course, if you do want to know what a real-life poker millionaire suggests you to do, you can get a free article out of his book below. 

Anyway, back to the topic. Don’t be fooled. This game is about the money. And there is nothing good or bad about it, it’s just how it is. So the only good reason to start feeling bad about how you approach your game, is if you don’t make money in poker. Because then you know you are doing something wrong, that you don’t get this game, not in it’s totality.

So, should you “Table select”? Of course. Should you bumhunt? That’s the same thing. It would be stupid not to do it.

I will leave you with an article by ThePokerCapitalist. It’s a great read, and goes also into the role of the pokersites in this story (hint: Pokerstars is not about making the games more “ethical”, they are about – making money). If you are one of those who is still on the fence about bumhunting, I really suggest you sit down and really thing about it. I certainly am not, and I made a video about my love for the fish back in January, after 4 months of my CFP, when I was still a full time BPC student.

I’m a true fish-lover. I like beating them, and, living in Malta, I also love eating them. In fact, I was eating one for dinner while writing this blog, no joke. Lampuki, the typical Maltese fish.

Anyway, read the article from the PokerCapitalist (I love this nickname he gave himself, btw). It just might change your game for the better. All those people making money in poker can’t be wrong. And they are not.

 

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  1. […] could your best strategy, if you want money in poker. I wrote about that in my bumhunting article – it’s a must read, if you haven’t seen it yet, and want to jump into some […]

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