December 08, 2006

Article at Craig on Authory

Online Poker Spotlight: Nick Niergarth 's Prey

by Craig Tapscott, Special to

Keep a close eye on your children. When sliding chips into a pot against Nick Niergarth, don't look away; he will eat your young. 

Before you can blink, he will raise, re-raise, call you down with 7 high if he believes it's the best hand, check raise or simply steal and re-steal any and all chips from you and any other players who show any fear. No Fear is a sharp sword Nick wields against any weaknesses or doubts without mercy.

Online Nick is better known as gbmantis. He's a predator who can shift gears effortlessly. Distraction and humor are also powerful tools in his online arsenal of tricks. At a recent final table for the PokerStars Big Sunday tournament, Nick tried to put his opponents off their game with a little sleight of mouth before raising a pot. 


Dealer: Game #12345: gbmantis, it's your turn. You have 90 seconds to act

(Long pause)

gbmantis: Well ... 

(Longer pause) 

Opponent: Don't do it. 

(Warning gbmantis to be careful and not to raise his blind) 

Dealer: Action on gbmantis. You have 5 seconds to act.

gbmantis: Look ------------------------------->> Naked girls.

Dealer: Game #12345: gbmantis raises all-in

The railbirds could not stop "lol-ing". The other players were simply dumbfounded by an online maneuver they had never encountered. Lee Jones, PokerStars Poker room manager, was not entertained. He warned Nick to curb the chatter (Jones was surely snickering himself). Nick simply replied, "No problem Lee." With a combination of intuitive play and relentless pressure, Nick finished in 4th place for over $43,000.

Long before the big cashes and poker, Nick attended Delavan High School in Wisconsin, where he excelled in wrestling and golf. Upon graduating he went to the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, then transferred to Carroll College to play college golf. A passion he still enjoys more than poker. But the lure of big money and competitive poker glory would prove too enticing to keep him on the links.

"I first was introduced to poker after my senior year of high school," said Nick. "I had never really played much, but my brother had a home game at the house a few times a week and I would join them sometimes. Then at college, all the guys in the dorm would play for like $2 or $3 and I always played that. We would just drink and play some tourneys. It was good times but the level of play was pretty bad from all of us, myself included."

Nick's poker education continued. Not satisfied with breaking even in those games his competitive nature kicked in to learn, win and dominate. The discovery of online poker would begin his journey to a world-class tournament player. What were the first stakes you played in?

NN: I never played for more than $10 until I started playing online. I put in $50 or $100 into PartyPoker when I first went away to college; I don't remember the exact amount. Anyways, I would play the $5 SNGs, and sometimes I'd dip into the $25 NL or the .50/$1 limit ring games. 

I turned $100 into $300 fairly quickly, but then hit a plateau, and stayed around there for about 6 months, having swings of about +/- $100. Why play poker?

NN: I really just enjoyed the game. It intrigued me greatly. I could see that there was a ton of money to be made if you learned how to play the game right, and I was confident that I would be able to get to that money eventually.

I always had maximum aggression from day one, but I had some serious problems controlling it. I would go all in on straight and flush draws, and I would really overvalue top pair, especially in the no limit ring games. Although that would lose me money, I would win it all back, because I would get TONS of action on my premium hands because people thought I had no clue what I was doing (and I probably didn't).

There was one moment from my early days of playing online when I knew that I could make some serious money in this game and that I had some potential. I was playing very LAG (loose aggressive) at one of the $25 no-limit max buy-in tables at PartyPoker, and I ran the $25 up to about $380. 

Later that year, with about a $900 bankroll, I sat at two $100 tables very late on a Saturday night and got them both at about $900, which was fairly impressive.

I then took all of that money and joined a site that teaches you how to play limit poker, in exchange for your rakeback. I learned limit fairly quickly and I built a roll playing eight tables of 2/4 and 3/6 Hold'em. If you're good, you can make about $50 an hour just playing 2/4! Multi-tabling is crazy man.

So anyways, I had about 5k in my roll come the summer of last year, and I started to play tournaments full-time. This is when the aggressive parts of my game really took over and I found my niche. When did it all begin to click for you?

NN: I've read all the books a few times, and they definitely helped a lot. But a few players kind of took me under their wing and showed me a few things, including Eric Haber (sheets) and Josh Field (JJProdigy). I guess they both saw some talent in me, but it was very raw, and I would go way overboard with the aggression at times. I learned how to control my aggression by watching sheets play. JJProdigy taught me a lot about the late stages of tournaments. When did you realize you could really compete with the best tourney players?

NN: Earlier this year, when I won the Bodog 100k for $25k and took 4th on PokerStars for $43k in a big event. Stupid question. But I have to ask. Describe your style of play.

NN: Loose aggressive, the loosest around. BeLOWaBOVe (Kevin Saul) and I are the two craziest, most LAGGY players around. If you didn't see all of our successes, you would probably think we were retarded. Please list your achievements in poker that you would like to share.

NN: Winning Bodog $100k for $25,000, 4th place PokerStars $215 for $43,000, winning the $109 rebuy against the strongest field online. Winning the $300 Atlantic tourney on ParsadisePoker 4x in one month. Cashing in 2 WCOOP events - all before my 21st birthday.

Side Note - In May 2006 gbmantis had a stellar month:
PokerStars 5.00 rebuy 1st place 7k, Paradise 30.00 Rebuy first place 13k, Pokerstars 150.00 Freezeout 1st Place 19k, Party Poker 300.00 Freezeout 1st place 18k, Paradise 100.00 Rebuy 1st Place 12k, Bodog 50.00 freezeout 1st place 6k. $75,000 in first place finishes alone. What part of your game do you feel needs to improve the most?

NN: I think that right now my game is right where I want it and the challenge comes in maintaining, not improving. That might come off as cocky, but I'm playing perfect poker right now, world-class in my opinion. What do you think your personality is at the table?

NN: Very friendly, very talkative. My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes, but that's okay. I like to have fun at the table, and I talk a lot. Sometimes that will put people on tilt, but it almost always gets me a lot of loose action, and that's what I'm looking for. How do you deal with the bad beats?

NN: That's an easy one. I don't even think about it these days. All you can do is smile and move to the next tourney. When you have 10 tourneys up, and bust one, it's really not that heartbreaking to be honest. Back when I played one table it was a lot more frustrating though, because I put much more emotional investment into each tourney. I've played so much poker in the last year that I'm pretty immune to bad beats by this point. What do you focus on outside poker for fun and entertainment?

NN: I'm in college, so I like just hanging out with my friends or going out drinking sometimes. But I really love to play golf. I play for school, and that takes up a lot of time, especially in the summertime. I enjoy playing golf much more than I enjoy poker. What are the main differences for live vs. online play?

NN: I don't play live (YET!!!), but soon - watch out world... Do you play cash games and how do you approach them as compared to tourneys?

NN: I do play cash games, but only shorthanded. I won't play NL ring games and only limit and usually 30/60. I can't handle the swings of NL ring. I don't like the idea of losing $2,000 or more on one hand. Just makes me nervous. Can you share your thoughts during a hand? What you are looking for at the table?

NN: To be honest, by this point, everything is just automatic. I don't really think at the table, I just "do". I'm on autopilot. It's like if you asked Tiger Woods what he's thinking during a golf shot, he's going tell you he just visualizes the shot and swings. He's not thinking about mechanics. He's done it so many times, its just natural to him. He knows what to do. He goes by feel. When you've played over 1 million hands like I have, you have pretty much-seen everything, and you know what to do in most situations. You mention JJ as a mentor. Can you share some of the main things that he helped you with that improved your game?

NN: First off, back when I had a limited bankroll, JJProdigy saw talent in me and put me in a lot of bigger tourneys, basically anything I wanted. I never really made him any big money, but he taught me a lot of stuff during that period and basically taught me how to play the game right. 

JJ taught me that it is ok to push all in with any two cards. Late in tourneys, your cards don't matter. He taught me the art of the re-steal. That's probably why I win so much these days. The re-steal is such a powerful move and one that every great player has in his bag of tricks. You have a poker blog on Can you expand on your thoughts about table images and using that in your favor?

NN: Every player has a certain style. If you are loose, you need to portray a tight image. You need to be aware of what other people perceive you as and then do the opposite. If the players you play against think you are tight, then loosen up! If they think you are way loose, then wait for big hands and value bet the hell out of them. Do you hate middle pairs UTG (under the gun)?

NN: Ha!!! Middle pairs are a premium hand as far as I'm concerned. I play any 2 cards from the middle to the late position in unopened pots. Seriously though, yes I do. I love the under-the-gun steal, especially in the mid to late stages of tourneys. It gets so much respect. Even if you don't take it down pre-flop, it's all yours for the taking on the flop or turn. Tell us more about your work and the site.

NN: This is what Poker Mentors is all about: Where most sites rely on monthly membership fees, Pokermentors is free to join, and prides itself on its vast array of mentorship talent. With mentors ranging throughout all levels of play/style, Pokermentors caters to the loose-aggressive MTT specialist, and the conservative SNG novice alike. And the quality of instruction on this site can truly be described as 'hands-on.' Students can talk to each coach, ask questions, and truly find out if a mentor is 'right for them' before booking a lesson.

I'm a mentor on the site and give private lessons by having students "ghost" (rail) my play, or I ghost their play. It's a good arrangement. Many of my students have had some great success, and they have really improved their game. My rates are very expensive but every student I worked with said it was worth the price. Thank for your time, Nick. Currently, gbmantis is ranked 4th at the TLB at PokerStars for June and ranked 6th overall for 2006. 

WSOP Update 
Nick finished in the money in the $2500 NL event. He offers a blow-by-blow account of his thinking during some crucial hands at

Craig Tapscott is a frequent contributor to Poker, Card Player & Card Player College magazine.