Online poker sharks are growing in numbers and Nik Persaud knows why: “There are less instances of sitting down in a game and it being really juicy where lots of people are playing badly”

With more training sites, magazines and books than ever, Nik Persaud is worried that the fish may soon be extinct

There’s no getting away from it, poker is harder than ever, especially online. I’m predominantly talking about cash games but it’s also apparent in tournaments as well. There are less instances of sitting down in a game and it being really juicy where lots of people are playing badly. You go to the typical $ 2/$ 4 or $ 5/$ 10 six-max pot-limit Omaha or no-limit hold’em table and most of the players are playing quite well. I’m not sure if it’s happening in the lower stakes but from what I hear it’s happening across all levels. That was pretty inconceivable a year or two ago and for someone who’s trying to make money full-time, it’s quite difficult when there’s no one at your table giving money away!

So what’s going on? You’ve probably noticed that we’re in the middle of a recession which is why there aren’t people throwing money away. Secondly, the fallout from the US online gambling ban is really starting to hit us. People talk about the ‘good old PartyPoker days’ when there were a lot of bad Americans playing and the $ 5/$ 10 games were apparently like picking money up off the floor. Now a lot of the recreational players have probably stopped playing because they don’t rely on poker as a living and are more likely to adhere to the law. The ones remaining are the hardcore professionals and that’s pretty much who I’m having to face day in, day out.

Fish shortage

But more than that the gaps are getting smaller because of all the training sites, the wealth of information on the internet and articles in magazines like this one. I think it’s getting to a point where people are getting clued up about how the game works. They’re very knowledgeable in areas such as expectation, equity and hand ranges. Let’s take three-betting pre-flop in no limit games for instance. This used to be a move executed at the higher limits like $ 10/$ 20, $ 25/$ 50. Now even if you go down to $ 2/ $4, people are doing it all the time. They’re just so aggressive before the flop. You can sit down in a $ 2/$ 4 game for five minutes, raise a few hands and be three-bet every single time. This definitely didn’t happen even six months ago. Because of the aggressive pre-flop game, a lot of the pots are being taken down post-flop with a solid continuation bet.

Now, if you raise A-10 in late position and get three-bet and decide to defend they are almost forcing you to make a hand because they’ve three-bet you. If the board comes 9-7-2 and they lead out for $ 84, it’s pretty hard to continue. You can raise them or float but it just makes the whole game a lot more complicated. Basically, $ 2/$ 4 games are now like the $ 5/$ 10 games of a year ago. And there’s not that much point switching to pot-limit Omaha. I’ve started to notice that people are getting better at PLO as well – a lot of the skills required for hold’em are the same.

If you can’t beat them…

At this point, I’m going to have to hold my hands up. I’m actually contributing to the problem. Neil Channing and I are setting up, a site that is going to be more than just a training site. We’re trying to create a UK community of poker players that can bring the level of play in the UK up to where the highest American standards are. I believe that resources like twoplustwo, CardRunners, DeucesCracked and StoxPoker have helped to create that gap.

Obviously, anyone from the UK can access these, but I reckon a lot of British players are put off because they know it’s not a home-grown product. It’s very difficult for them to meet the people who run these sites in the flesh. So, we want to build a community that helps players think about the game in a good way and move the thinking forward. It’s going to be a mix of Facebook and CardRunners.

So I guess it’s hard to feel too sorry for me, but I have no hang-ups about the path I’m taking. I truly believe that being involved in the site, helping to establish new concepts, meeting and talking to other players can only help my game. I have to make it more of a priority to train myself and keep up to date with what people are thinking. Poker is about levels and you have to try and tap into how people are thinking about the game. At the end of the day, there are so many training sites out there anyway that you’d be left behind if you didn’t get involved.

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