Does Grimming in Poker Work?

Guy Wearing Sunglasses Using Laptop, Small Blind Button, Poker Cards
Poker is definitely one of the most-strategic forms of gambling. You need to have a strong grasp of poker strategy in order to outplay your opponents.

But some players don’t just rely on strategy to win. They angle shoot in order to boost their chances of winning.

Angle shooting isn’t blatant cheating. But it’s designed to bend rules and deceive other players, especially less-experienced opponents.

Grimming definitely fits into the angle-shooting category. This tactic sees players take full advantage of a loophole that’s available in online poker.

Keep reading to find out more on grimming, how it can help you win, and why others will hate you for doing it.

What Is Grimming in Poker?

The term grimming is named after an online poker player who goes by the handle ‘Grimstarr.’ He became famous in 2007 for a strong high-stakes run that saw him win close to $800k in cash-game profits.

Aside from his winnings, Grimstarr also gained notoriety for using a shady tactic in heads-up cash games. He employed the tactic so much that it eventually became known has grimming.

Here’s how it works:

  • Sit at an HU cash table.
  • Post the small blind.
  • Play one hand.
  • Leave immediately thereafter, so as to avoid posting the big blind.

You can see the obvious advantage here. Grimstarr theoretically gained half a big blind every time he pulled off this technique.

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Grimming is also referred to as “buttoning,” because an HU player in the small blind has the button. So not only did Grimstarr gain a small blind, but he also had the favorable seat for the hand.

Even with these advantages, buttoning is a tedious way to make money in low-stakes poker. Imagine how many people one would need to sucker in order to make any serious profits at $1/$2 NLHE or below.

Grimstarr employed this technique at higher stakes so that he could truly capitalize. At $100/$200 NHLE, for example, he’d gain $100 in value every time that he left without posting the big blind.

Grimming mostly relates to HU tables. But it can be used in slightly bigger cash games, such as three-handed tables involved in a story I’ll cover later.

Is Grimming Allowed in Poker Games?

Online poker rooms can’t program their software to automatically punish grimmers. Somebody might have to leave an HU game after one hand for various reasons.

Maybe their connection quickly drops, or they get an emergency phone call after starting the table. A poker room can’t be completely certain, which is why they don’t immediately penalize somebody who grims here or there.

Buttoning is allowed to some degree. You can technically get away with it off and on as long as you don’t become a habitual offender.

But make no mistake about it: dedicated grimming isn’t allowed by sites, nor welcome by the poker community!

Guy Holding Chin Using Laptop Computer

A poker room will ban you if others complain about your buttoning behavior. Such was the case with a successful high-stakes player known as ‘Jama-dharma.’

According to a 2013 TwoPlusTwo thread, Jama-dharma was grimming three-handed, fixed-limit hold’em games at PokerStars. He waited for victims at stakes ranging from $10/$20 to $500/$1,000.

He’d make sure to be in a specific seat that would guarantee him the button when an opponent sat down. Jama-dharma played shortly and left before having to post the big blind.

Multiple players shared their stories of Jama-dharma’s buttoning behavior in the forum thread. Some also complained to PokerStars, which banned his account.

Poker sites don’t cover grimming by name in their terms and conditions. However, they don’t take kindly to any type of angle shooting.

They reserve the right to ban angle shooters who ruin the game for others. Sites won’t hesitate to shut down the account of a grimmer if they have enough evidence.

Can Grimming Help You Win in Poker?

Yes, buttoning can definitely give you an advantage in online poker. It helps you win more money in two ways:

  1. You have the best table position.
  2. You only have to post the small blind, while the opponent must post the big blind.

This two-pronged advantage gives you a strong chance to collect profits. The only catch is that you need to be competent enough at the stakes you’re playing.

Even if you’re only good enough to play break-even poker with the button, you’ll still win long-term profits. After all, you’re paying less in blinds than opponents.

The difficult part is that you need to continue finding these opponents. Regulars will eventually come to know your name and avoid you if they suspect grimming.

Another problem is that you have to leave tables quickly after finding a game. You don’t get to enjoy lots of hands at the same limits.

This is where sitting at tables in multiple stakes comes into play. Jama-dharma did this so that he’d be virtually guaranteed of finding some action.

You’ll also have to spread out across multiple limits if you want to earn consistent profits. The goal is to collect steady action as players continue filtering onto the tables that you’re occupying.

Pros of Poker Grimming

As the section above indicates, buttoning can obviously lead to success. But I’d like to go deeper into the benefits below.

You Gain an Extra Small Blind

Cash games are set up to where players post the big and small blind at a roughly equal rate. However, grimming is specifically designed to help you avoid paying your fair share of the blinds.

You only cover the small blind and can leave before fronting the big blind. This trick leads to theoretical value as you only pay half as many blinds as opponents.

You Have Prime Position

One of the very first things that you learn though poker strategy is that later position is better. Acting after opponents gives you more information on their hands.

Computer Keyboard, Ace of Spades, King of Spades

Grimming coincidentally always leaves you in the button in HU tables. Therefore, you have the benefit of both more info and covering fewer blinds.

Buttoning Gives You a Strong Chance of Making Profits

Beating poker is hard, especially when moving up the stakes. Grimming makes this difficult process easier, though, by giving you built-in advantages.

You don’t have to be a poker genius to win when you’re playing from the button and not fronting the small blind. You just need to be an alright player at the stakes where you’re buttoning to earn profits.

Cons of Poker Grimming

Buttoning would be ideal if neither opponents nor poker sites were the wiser. It’s difficult to get away with, though, which leads to the following downsides.

Opponents Will Hate You

Grimming isn’t blatant cheating, such as colluding with other online players or using bots. However, it definitely works angles to provide an edge that your opponents don’t have.

Nobody likes working their butt off to become a better poker player, only to have somebody angle shoot them out of money. Fellow players will spit venom your way if/when they discover that you’re buttoning.

Poker Sites Will Eventually Ban You

The good thing about grimming is that you can get away with it for a while. Opponents have to catch on before you take any heat for doing it.

Once other players do notice, though, then you’ll be officially on notice. At least one player is likely to complain to the poker site, which will then begin looking into the matter.

Guy Sitting on Couch With Laptop, Red Banned Logo

Multiple complaints create the distinct possibility that you’re indeed buttoning. Some poker rooms may issue a stern warning, while others will immediately ban your account if they have enough cause.

No Guarantee of Winning

Buttoning definitely increases your odds of winning profits. However, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll become a successful player.

Chances are that you’ll be grimming at higher limits, where players are tougher. Having the button and paying fewer blinds helps, but these perks won’t matter if your skills are terrible.

Even Grimstarr met his match after a quick burst of success. He won hundreds of thousands of dollars within a few months, only to lose most of it in an equally short amount of time. So always, always be conscious of how you’re managing your bankroll.

Conclusion

You can see the allure of grimming. It helps you avoid paying the small blind and also gives you the button.

That said, it’s no wonder why players like Grimstarr and Jama-dharma rode this tactic towards fortunes.

Grimstarr experienced short-term success with this technique, while Jama-dharma was up around $700k by the time PokerStars banned him.

Their success stories might make you interested in trying out buttoning. However, you also have to be aware of the downsides.

First off, opponents are going to send all kinds of hate through the chat box when they catch on. Some of these same players might even complain to the poker site and/or take their story to the forums.

Once the poker room is alerted, they’ll be closely examining your activity. They may eventually issue a lifetime ban, such as what PokerStars did to Jama-dharma.

Another dilemma is that you need to be fairly adept at the stakes you’re playing. If you grim in higher limits, where there’s the most profit potential, then you at least need to be close to break even.

Even with the big risks, you may still be attracted to grimming. Just be aware that you can only get away with buttoning so long before you become notorious and eventually banned.