Confessions of a Bumhunter
by Katie Dozier | Published: Feb 08, '12
Before I get a confused text from my Mom, bumhunting in poker is loosely defined as seeking out weak opponents to play against. It’s often slung at players as an insult, which has baffled me since the first time I saw the phrase used as a zinger in an NVG thread.
Poker is a game of outplaying your opponents, so wouldn’t everyone want to play against the worst possible opponents to maximize their edge?
While I did have a good (albeit stressful) time playing day 2 of the WPT Bellagio main at a short-handed table with Vanessa Selbst, Annette_15, Mark Newhouse and Tony Dunst, it is never a table I would have voluntarily chose to be seated at. One of the biggest downsides of being primarily a tournament player is that it somewhat limits my ability to bumhunt.
Of course, one can learn something from being at tables with the best players in the world, but even if someone is slightly winning against them, there are much lower variance seats to find. Someone that’s the best player in the world won’t have nearly the edge sitting with 8 world-class opponents versus 8 not-so-great players.
I started out in super-turbo SNGs, back when 3xraise/folding a 10 BB stacks seemed reasonable to most of the weaker players, and a high single-digit ROI was attainable. When more regs surfaced, and table selecting wasn’t leaving me with enough games to play a week, I transitioned to MTT SNGs, which were easy to glean a high ROI in. When more regs flocked to that format, I also added MTTs which tend to have a field that’s more diluted with novices. (Of course, bumhunting wasn’t the only reason for this—I love playing large tournaments.)
Sometimes, even from players I have a lot of respect for, I hear the complaint that they, “Don’t play well against bad players.” This also baffles me. Yes, it can take more effort to put a player on a range that only has a loosely defined concept of hand strength. But there are easy ways to combat that, such as utilizing pot control. Reads, and the ability to remember hands that a novice played become very important, but as a good poker player one should be paying attention at all times anyway (or at least have a HUD to partially do this for them).
Part of the reason good players seek out games with other regs is that they can make up the majority of the player pool at mid-high stakes. However, I think a lot of players willing to play at less glamorous stakes and/or be more flexible in format (to find softer tables) would often be rewarded with a higher hourly and lower variance.
Of course, sometimes playing against top-rated villains is not really a choice. Suppose there’s a turf battle for a player wishing to constantly sit the high-stakes heads-up SNGs. If one thinks they’re at least break even (including the rake) it can certainly be worth it to take the player on to maintain territory. But playing regs just because they have a couple of leaks is rarely the best decision if one can play against a more novice opponent—whose game will have way more leaks.
It’s not cool in poker to admit that my dream table is 8 deep-stacked “recreational” opponents that have just learned the rules and think top pair is always the nuts. But then again, I’m a confirmed bumhunter. :)