Names are important to us because they help make up our identity. Of course, we have little control over what our names are because it is usually our parents who choose them for us. But on most sites when you step into the online poker arena, you have full control over what your name is at the virtual felt.
Creating your alias is a simple task. You log into your new poker account, think of a name that you would like, type it into the relevant box, hope that nobody else has chosen this name, find out someone else has chosen that name, add a number one to previous entry, and voila — you have a new alias!
The process of choosing an online poker username is so simple that it is often done without a lot of thought. As a result, what someone chooses as his or her poker alias can sometimes give away information about the person.
Like all tells, you have to use all other information available to you before putting too much stock in the significance of a player’s moniker, realizing that in fact some players are clever enough to use a reverse tell on you to throw you off guard (more on that last point later). But you’d be surprised how often a player’s nick actually does reveal something of value.
One of the most common alias tells, and one that is usually quite reliable, are the numbers after a player’s name. Aliases such as “Tim1995” or “Kevin1973” hint at a player’s age. In these instances it would be fair to assume that “Tim1995” is a 19-year old while “Kevin1973” is probably in his early 40s. You can then make your own assumptions about the playing styles of players from these age groups and see if their play does indeed reflect those assumptions.
Numbers in aliases can also give a clue about how long a player has been playing poker or has held that particular account. Names like “Tony2014” or “Fred07” could be hinting that Tony is new to poker or the site and that Fred has been playing since 2007.
One thing to look out for when trying to pick up a tell based on the numbers in an alias is to look at the avatar on display. Someone with a picture of the Manchester United badge and the number 99 or 1999 in their alias is more likely to be reminiscing about their treble-winning season than anything else.
Oh, and anyone with 420 in their name is basically informing you that they are a fan of cannabis, so make of that what you will.
Moving away from numbers, be aware of aliases and avatars that hint at a recent craze or trend on forums or training sites. I remember an influx of “The Micros” avatars appearing in my games one year. I also recall encountering other aliases that would only be known to people who frequented poker forums and knew the inside jokes or memes. These type of players are usually stronger that your typical opponent due to the fact they are trying to improve their skills via the aforementioned forums and training sites.
Other popular alias choices are those that are funny, such as a pun, or those that are designed to be tricky. Players with humorous, imaginative names — e.g., “OJ Limpsin” — tend to be more creative than others with their playing style. It is almost like their name is an extension of how they approach the game of poker. Likewise, players with a mixture of letter and numbers to create their name such as “Y0uRcH1p5Ar3M1n3” can sometimes be tricky players who like to trap or take unconventional lines during a hand.
You do need to be aware of players who have created an alias with the sole purpose of throwing you off the scent. Aliases like “WeakPassive69,” “NeverFoldMS,” and the like are probably owned by players who do the complete opposite of what their alias suggests.
As mentioned at the top of the article, online alias tells are less reliable than betting patterns or other tells, but you can still sometimes use them to your advantage to gauge an opponent’s creativity, age, and/or experience.