Sunday, December 01, 2013

General Updataments

Nothing too exiting to read here, I’m really just updating to keep this blog just a little bit better than completely dead and to link to my latest and greatest over at SNG Planet. That is where I am blogging nowadays. Still have fond memories of the innocent days which went with the start of this blog… poker was shiney and new and not bastardized by business for me back then. Now the fact that I have to think about it every day, and face the brutal realities of how dirty a business it is, taints the enjoyment so much that I sometimes wonder if it is worth bothering!

Sorry, bit gloomy.

Actually, I still enjoy my occasional tournament nights.

Find Zoom PLO to be very relaxing (3+ tables required to properly shut out the outside world).

Latest Innovations Over At SNG Planet

Newest of all is a fantastic new widget. This is our Poker Loyalty Program Calculator, and it compares the loyalty points-collection type schemes at different sites. At the moment we only have the non-US sites in there (Party, Stars, Tilt, Titan, 888 and OnGame’s Red Kings). Phase 2 will follow in the new year and add in the US sites… speaking of which…

US Sites

Lock, ah Lock, I had such high hopes that you would genuinely shake up the US market back towards the start of the year. 

After breaking off with Carbon and becoming their rival, after recruiting some ‘C’ level poker celebs to represent your brand, after showcasing the Stadiums Tour… after all those claims that ‘this time it would be different’.

Alas, it appears it was not to be.

Cashouts were the killer.

Calling it a ‘backlog’ does not really do things justice. It makes this sound like some niggling minor issue, when in fact there are players waiting 6+ months for their poker bankrolls to come back. When there are people who trusted this site with their money who have been left in limbo.

Now Lock have left the revolution network (with some drama) and are attempting to go it alone.
They just lost 3/4ths or more of their players, and are still not paying back the huge majority of people.

I was patient.

I wanted Lock to succeed.

I wanted to write about the payment issues getting solved, and a real rival to Bovada (now the biggest US site) and Carbon (Merge Network, my favorite, with their bigger tournaments / sngs focus).

The reality is that if Lock survive at all it will be as a shadow of their promised self. Just another US site scratching together a few players to get by.

What a shame, a damn shame.

Quick, Cheer It Up Mark – There Must Be Some Good Stuff Going On

Lots of promos in December, as the poker sites bring out their festive best. Some great ideas too Winter-Warmers, turbo SNG races and more… then along come PokerStars.


As far as December promos are concerned, PokerStars climbed up a stepladder, took down their pants and shat, hard, on everyone’s head.

Yep – their ‘December Festival’ is that good!

I will not turn this post into one of the many so called blogs which just mimic the poker news and promos. A couple of words will surely suffice. $5m Sunday Million, Golden SNGs, Missions, Milestone hands and a ‘mini’ tournament series with $10m in gtd prizes (which is far bigger than the biggest events which their rivals can offer!).

I’m going to have my last major blow-out of the year on the 8th Dec, when the $1 million Sunday Storm and $5 Million Sunday million both run… wish me luck! (or even better, check out my PokerStars Review Here, sign-up, and then lose your stack to me at the final table!).

GL at the tables, Mark

Friday, March 15, 2013

Best Online Omaha (PLO) Players

Found this li

Passive Income - A Grand Illusion??

One of the driving ideals behind my poker business is the goal of a 'passive income', that is to have cash coming in while I sit on the beach somewhere nice*. In todays post I will air my concerns that there is actually no such thing - that, in fact, my successes will only lead me to work harder and longer hours to achieve even bigger and better future goals.

* actually get quickly fed up sitting on beaches... but you get the idea!

This thought had been floating for a while and always comes to the forefront when I see some minor poker 'names' writing for other websites when they could have made a killing by now by creating a site or two of their own a few years ago. Sure it is nice to get paid for an article, or a training session (or to play poker!), the problem I always have with this is that as soon as you stop (writing / coaching / playing) so does the money. It is like working for a corporation, only without the benefits of a fat salary and company car - to me this is a lose / lose. Sure, some people enjoy what they do, but it is more like a builder who 'enjoys' making brick walls than anything else to my mind...

Anyway, so I'm mulling this over my morning coffee... and in one way I am convinced that by stopping writing for cash and focusing on building my own 'empire' (thanks for coining the phrase for me Scott!!) that some of the 'waste' that I see others partaking in is avoided. If I wanted to leave the poker business tomorrow then they would probably fetch a decent price tag - far more than the total of payments from p5's / Cardplayer et al would have reached. If I stop working on them now then the player base and continua

Here is the rub for me - my mind is 100% focused on making money long-term, on financial security for when I stop writing / creating / translating / expanding those websites. I have aggressive plans underway that will reap huge rewards this year and even bigger more aggressive plans outside of poker for later which are just starting to become a reality now.

Now I am starting to wonder if I will really ever be able to stop for long enough to enjoy the passive side of the income - or whether this is in fact an illusion...

A Question Of Balance And The Great Rakeback Debate

Rakeback is one of those 'issues' in the poker community which will

New SNG Planet

Almost forgot to come back over to PG Poker and announce the all new SNG Planet!

Yep, a new look, a new back end… and a ton of new material. As well as new languages on the way.
We went with Drupal (for any techies out there), a Content Management System which means we can add articles directly to the site without having to go through the creating in DreamWeaver then uploading with FTP routine which has been part of my process for a long time.

The design was created by a Mexican gentleman who works on a lot of gambling sites (I’ll pass his details if any webmasters are interested) and looks much cleaner and fresher than the old style. There are still some parts I am not yet happy with… small things like blockquotes and some tables. These are the minority though. Overall I am very pleased with the new look and hope that this new template will be with us for a good few years.

One of the side-effects of a very intensive couple of months transferring all the pages and testing the new design is that I got a little behind on my writing.

This has now been addressed, and we have a backlog of strategy pieces going up at around 1 page per day. We had to go through the articles one-by-one while changing the site, and identified a lot of pieces which were glaringly out of date.

I recently put up a list of new articles on my SNG Planet blog (my main blog these days) so will not repeat the whole list here.

Be great to see you over at the new SNG Planet… There is lots more planned, including a new widget, Spanish, updated French versions and more.

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

End Of My Old PokerStars Account ;(

Thought I’d return here to mark the end of an era, my original Pokerstars account, which was the subject of most of the early blog posts here – is gone.

No big scandal, the Stars affiliate department asked me to create a new one which was not linked to my commercial activities and then transferred my balance to it. The old account will just be for payments / cashouts of my affiliate income and can no longer play or chat.

While half of my brain knows it makes f all difference, the other half is still feeling a little sad… I kind of got attached to that Id, it played a good half of all of the poker hands I have ever been dealt and grew with me from shaky beginnings to actually building up a bankroll!

I should mention that time when I sat at the kitchen table playing just one SNG, a $16, losing would have left just $1 in my account… Sure, the glorious tale of winning the game and building back up from there would have sounded cool. Win I did, but to be honest I was a corporate slave at the time and $16 was no big deal, story does not sound quite as dramatic when I mention I would probably have had another deposit after a couple of weeks.

When I think of the people I knew through poker back then it is remarkable how few are still active. Poker got too serious for many, lost its allure as an entertainment activity. Others probably changed their lifestyle, graduated from college or were simply thrown out of the good games by different laws.

So, farewell to my old Id, and I can only guess that my Full Tilt one will go the same way once there is an affiliate program in place for that site.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Penultimate Nail In The Affiliate Rakeback Coffin

I have never been a fan of rakeback, well, at least the flat-rate affiliate-administered deals which were all the rage a few years ago.

With Pokerstars announcing that Full Tilt will scrap rakeback and combine their old in-house rewards (Iron man / Black card) into a single rewards program when they re-open – I am happy to be declaring rakeback (almost) dead!

Now, before you all write (as many of you do whenever I blog on this topic!) the reason I never pushed the demon RB on this site was simple: I saw this system suck the love of poker out of so many people, that it no longer sat comfortably with my idea of SNG Planet as a site for beginners / improvers – the niche that includes players in that initial enthusiastic burst of loving the game.
Rakeback rewards volume, it turned people who loved poker as a hobby into robots, they suddenly discovered that playing 12 tables reasonably tight and mechanically earned a nice return.

No objection to this in principle.

At this point many people stopped striving to hit the big time, stopped going for that big tournament score, stopped working on ways to see through the competition… and essentially learned a defensive, math based style aimed at making just a couple of dollars from each table per hour, minimizing swings and collecting a portion of their rake at the end of every month to show a profit.

‘And Why Not!!’ I hear you all cry.

I’ll tell you.

Because 3 months later the hours start to drop, by 6 months playing poker becomes a chore and not a pleasure, by 9 months poker is painful rather than fun… and in 12 months the majority have given up.

For me, the path of rakeback grinding was a path to turn a game you love into a game you hate.
If you have the discipline and willpower to turn the game into a job, or for that matter to learn while 12 tabling and move on up the levels – then more power to you. I have nothing but respect for the small percentage of people able to maintain this lifestyle.

At the same time I represent the majority of recreational players here at SNG Planet. I want to ensure you see both sides of the coin, that you understand that rakeback is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – that it at the same time as boosting your bankroll, it will ultimately kill your love of the game.

Right, with iPoker segregating their grinders (with their recent split - Titan are still the place to be!), Merge handling rakeback through their own cashier and the Entraction network on its way out – I had better decide to do with my now-defunct site, rakeback-planet, haha.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Reasons For US Players To Be Positive As summer 2012 Ends

I just did a general positive post over on my SNG Planet blog. Noticing the lack of updates here at Plan3t Gong for a few weeks – it seemed like a good time to continue the optimism here.

The title is 5 reasons to be positive for US players – and I wanted to add a quick caveat to this before I get going… I know things are not the same for my friends across the pond as they were before Black Friday! Things are looking up though, green shoots have appeared and online poker in some kind of regulated form is making its way towards us. Once your contest to see who has the most financial backing (you call it an election even though hardly anyone votes, right?) is over, then there is a real chance we could see some movement at a Federal level, we’ll have to wait and see!

#1 – You now have 2 rival networks.

A little while ago it was Merge (Carbon Poker) and the rest… now at least you have the new revolution network giving a choice. Just check the bonus amounts, Sunday tournament guarantees and cool new promotions… the effects are there and the fall should see this battle escalate – great news for players!

#2 – Payment Processing

Deposits and withdrawals, particularly using Visa cards and paper checks (for withdrawals) are going well… it seems like (for the time being at least), the authorities are focused elsewhere. See my dedicated deposits for us players article here.

#3 – Tournament Schedules And Guarantees

US players can now get a decent amount of games running at the lower to mid buy-ins by combining Cake and Carbon Poker’s tournaments. Both of these sites are also offering satellite qualifiers to live events, many of which pay their prizes in cash (hint hint!)

#4 – Nevada Legal Sites

This is just a matter of time now… with operators being awarded licenses. Sure, you will need to be a resident of NV to play – however the effect of the states ‘doing it for themselves’ should not be underestimated – this may well be the catalyst to bring forward some federal legislation a little faster in 2013.

#5 – Full Tilt Money Coming Back

I know many players who have had some large sums of money locked up in Full Tilt. These funds should be coming back soon, with the start of November highlighted as the latest date. Since they have your records anyway, you might as well claim what is yours.

Enough optimism for one day – I am off to make nice cup of English tea!

GL at the tables, Mark

Friday, July 20, 2012

5 Reasons I Am Tipping 888 Poker For The Top

Well, ok, I will admit that 888 probably will not be toppling Pokerstars any time soon… however there are some very good reasons to believe that the fastest growing poker site are going to keep on growing – and could be knocking some well known sites off of their ranking spots along the way.

888 were previously branded as Pacific Poker, the rebrand has been gradual, and in 2012 the references for Pacific finally disappeared for good. It is the same site, and same team behind the scenes, this is great news – as their experience goes back more than 10 years.

Another thing to note is that this site is owned by the group who run the 888 Casino, which used to be called Casino-On-Net. This is the biggest online casino. The reason for mentioning this in a poker blog is that there is a lot of traffic  crossing over from the casino into the poker site. If you think that this makes the poker tables soft then you are right – the profitable games are one of the biggest reasons to move to 888 poker!

Ok, enough in the way of introductions – here are my 5 great reasons to check out 888 Poker for yourself!

#1 – Cool Software

The software is a hidden gem, it looks great and plays even better. If you are used to iPoker, Party or OnGame then this will seem like an amazing advance. I’m going to go as far as to say that this is a match for Pokerstars when it comes to the client.

#2 – Innovations

888 Are not sitting still, in addition to 3-d effect tables they have introduced private games, webcam tables and even team-poker. 

#3 – Effective Promotions

Many poker sites these days seem to need you to play 80 hours of 10 tables a week to score some cash in their promotions… great for the 2% who are grinders, but what about the rest of us? 888 offer more fun promos, tickets to live tournaments, sporting events and give-aways of gadgets… in addition to many ways to keep that bankroll topped up. Keep an eye on their website for the latest offers.

#4 – VIP and Welcome Bonuses

You’ll get a fast-clearing 100% match on your first deposit (max $400) + some great ongoing rewards through the player loyalty scheme. Points can be spend on bonuses or tournament entries… a great way to keep that bankroll growing!

#5 – Fish

This is the main reason to play at 888Poker, the fish come over from the casino, players loosen up in order to play more hands against them… and the games become super-soft compared to the ‘grinder’ filled tables at other sites. Once you see the games for yourself, I am making a strong prediction that you will never go back! Check out 888 Poker for yourself now and see the difference!

For more info you can see my detailed 2012 888 Poker review over at SNG Planet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ramblings On Quitting Poker!

Here is a question which is very relevant to me at the moment… since my Poker mojo has well and truly gone. I do not have a plan for this post (usually I know what I am going to write before typing a word, this will be more free-form): Why Do People Quit Playing Online Poker?

Now, most people reading this will probably not know my ‘story’ of finding myself in the poker business… if I had not quit my corporate job, travelled the world, discovered poker and blogging, been paid to write some pieces for other webmasters, realized I could make much more using the material myself …. And then made some websites – then I would have quit poker a loooong time ago.

Probably around 2007, and almost certainly by 2008.

Yet here I am in 2012 still playing now and again, keeping up with the new games and strategy adjustments…. Oh well.

I would have followed a very normal path had it not been for my business.

Discover the game, lose money.

Try and get better, study and understand.

Start winning, get seduced by the possibilities.

Add more tables, watch my bankroll grow.

See the game turn from a fascination into a grind.

Start to lose the love of the game.

Next downswing kills the passion further.

Switch games, switch strategy, switch sites… try and get that mojo back

Slowly but surely play fewer and fewer games

Even without noticing… quit.

Giving up on poker is not like giving up the booze or smoking, there is no cold turkey for most people. It is more a peak and trough of passion for the game. The funny thing is that even big winning players seem to follow this path. I have known people who crushed the $2 / $4 for a very juicy hourly rate suffer exactly the same slow and lingering death of their poker passion. In one case taking a job at way below his previous hourly rate to get his life back to a normal balance.

I have become a little jaded about the whole subject.

Most people involved (with honorable exceptions) are ugly unbalanced characters. The business is dirty and risky, and even those who keep their noses clean and mouths shut are tarnished by the reputation. 

I must have mentioned the half-life of 6 months thing many times – from a personal perspective I would have lasted 3 years, putting me 3 standard deviations away…

Of course, most people quit quickly. They lose their cash (very easy to do today with hordes of sharks just waiting for new players to sit down). They feel that online poker is rigged, usually due to misunderstanding the huge variance involved or bad bankroll management. They move up levels too fast, or just get fed up with people insulting their play in the chat and decide that other forms of entertainment are more, well, entertaining.

All very well pouring your heart out Mark, but what happens next?

Fortunately there is an end approaching for me.

Not a clean one – yet.

I’m working with a colleague to exit myself from the business by the end of the year. Delayed once already… but the pieces are definitely coming together now. Eventually I will direct and monitor my network – but the day to day running of it will be in the hands of someone who actually likes poker!

Then of course there is the decision on when to sell up. There is still more potential to be realized from my network of sites, and I really do not want to sell up and be left with the feeling that I would have got more if only I had done X Y and Z… There has to be some compromise here of course, since I am an ideas factory and there are always new X’s Z’s and Z’s coming along.

I just no longer feel the urge to log on and play poker.

Even when I have a winning session, the whole thing just depresses me.

Here is looking forward to the day when I can live my life completely poker-free!

Thanks for indulging yet another of my Plan3t Gong rants… quite enjoying using the blog where I started writing about poker to get stuff off of my chest concerning the end.

GL at the tables, Mark