Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SNG Strategy - Tight Tables + Varience + A reload!

Back into the pokering swing of things after my break... managed 4th in a PLO tourney on Stars as a welcome back to the tables.

Going to have a look at the scenario outlined by Joel via e-mail - what to do when your SNG table goes into super-tight mode.

Of course the answer to everything in poker is 'It Depends' (!), but what does it depend on in such a situation? For me the #1 factor would be the blind levels, if these are a tiny proportion of your stack (and thus not worth the risk of stealing) then the correct response would be to remain tight, play position and avoid the easily dominated hands outlined in 'A comedy of Errors'.

Reads on the other players are important here too... if the table has gone tight it is usually only a matter of time before one or more opponents figure this out and start raising to steal the blinds or take the pot from limpers. Where these opponents are seated in relation to you will become important - if you get a premium hand it may be better to try and limp-reraise if they act after you, or resteal with a good but not great hand if they act before you.

Once the blinds start to go up (average stack <10bbs>have to push any 2 when folded to in the SB against all but the most mainac oppponents - you need to put opponents on push ranges and know your calling ranges as a response.

There is only 1 way to get to know these ranges accurately - running Hand Histories through an ICM Calculator such as SNG Power Tools (recommended) or SNG Wizz (latest and greatest ICM calc - link here The SitNGo Wizard). Each will cost $80ish - but if they help win a single game you would have bubbled at the $20+ level it is paid for already!!

Another question via e-mail concerned downswings - in this example a loss of 20 buy-ins over 90 games in one day. The question was whether this is normal varience or a problem?? Firstly going to link to an old 2+2 post on this subject by a genltleman called Ireguy - he looked in depth at ROIs / Varience etc... link below *should* open this in a new window (technology is not my strong point!!)...

Ireguys 10000 SNGs of Data

From this, and from personal experience 20 buy-ins is certainly possible. To be honest I do not let things go so far - 10 buy-ins is annoying enough for me to take a break. This can be a complete break from poker, but more usually means switching to cash (often Pot Limit Omaha) or changing sites for a few days and playing in some MTTs....

The bad-run in question was on Poker Stars which leads to another point - table selection. It is getting increasingly difficult (especially during the week) to find a table which does not have 3 or 4 winning multi-tablers on it... this is very bad for your ROI and as a consequence your standard deviation (the lower your ROI the bigger chance of a run of games out of the money). There are a couple of solutions here - firstly use Sharkscope and identify those winners, and avoid them. Secondly find a new site to switch to when it is not possible to find a table not full of winners. A combination of those 2 might be even better... I did a small series of posts looking for alternatives to Stars, links below and a couple more to follow in the coming days / weeks.

Good luck to the reader in question in getting back on track - was pleased to hear that decent bankroll management was being practiced!!

Finally, Absolute Poker have announced a reload bonus (20% up to $200), check them out by clicking on the link below....

Online poker

Cheers, Mark

PS; If you enjoy reading please click the small envelope icon below and e-mail to a friend!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back in Budapest - Looking Forward to Feb

Rome, what a fantastic city - Style, History, Great Food and - erm - shopping all in one place. Will spare you the details (its a Poker Blog after all!) but definitely worth a visit... especially for the 1 EUR + tax we paid for the flight! Next stops UK + Amsterdam in March, these cheap flights are out there and available to all... go get 'em!

Taking a break from poker actually felt great - as much as I love the game 4 days off feels like it has refreshed the old grey matter a great deal, really looking forward to hitting those tables again.

A couple of interesting questions via e-mail... firstly from Joel, after reading 'A comedy of errors' he has asked how to deal with tables where your opponents go into lockdown (or super-tight) mode themselves... interesting one, as with everything in poker 'it depends' (!), will have a look into this either later today or tomorrow and make a blog post of the results.

Secondly, Martin asked about my New Year idea of taking on an apprentice for SNGs. This is still in plan for Feb but I am still unsure of the exact form it will take. Original idea was to take someone brand new to SNGs and move them up the levels. Will report back on this one over the next few days... I have many projects on the boil right now (some poker and some not!) and need to organise myself a bit better first.

Finally I hear that Titan are moving their server clock to GMT (they closed to US players some time ago now so makes sense) hopefully this means more MTTs early evening EU time and less in the early hours of the morning... check them out here;

Will be back with some more strategy very soon!!

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SNG Strategy Jump Off Page

This is now permanent 'Jump off page' for the various article themes relating to SNG Strategy, ICM and bubble strategy. There are even more in the achives which can be found under 'previous posts' on the bottom of the left hand column.

Each of the links below will open a single article in a new window

SNGs / ICM Series:

Keeping the Bubble Alive - Part #1

Keeping the Bubble Alive - Part #2 - Defence

Equilibrium in Push / Call Ranges

20 Ways to Help Define Opponents Calling Ranges (Light Hearted)

Poker Stars SNGs - Quantifying The Value of Missing the Small Blind

Calculating the Extra Value of a Bubble Big Stack

Continuation Betting vs Players who love Ace-Rag!

ICM for SNGs - Rules of Thumb (About putting people on calling ranges)

SNG Bubble Play #2 - Big Stack Play

SNG Bubble Play #3 - Small Stack Play

SNG Bubble Play #4 - Defending Against 'Any-2'

SNG Bubble Play #5 - When to Ignore ICM

ROI Expectations vs Winning Players

SNG Strategy VS Super Tight Tables

The Death of Pushbotting??!

Titan Jackpot SNGs - worth the extra rake? (Non US Friendly)

'Beyond Table Selection' Series:

Beyond Table Selection #1 - The Problem and the Solution!

Beyond Table Selection #2 - Absolute

Beyond Table Selection #3 - Titan (Not US Friendly)

Beyond Table Selection #4 -

At least 50 more articles on SNGs, MTTs and Satellites over at SNG Planet - Check these links for...

Poker Tournament Strategy

or: Sit And Go Strategy

Finally a second list - this one contains ROI and Bankroll Management Articles.

Beyond Table Selection #4 - The Third Candidate!

In this series of articles we are trying to address a fundamental question that has been highlighted recently by observations that the bigger poker sites (stars / full tilt etc) have seen the games get tougher... the question is this;

Why be a small shark in a big pool when you can be the only shark in a pond full of fish??

Our approach is from the bottom-up, we first set out a set of criteria that a new site should be judged on.... and only then we started the process of comparing the sites to our needs.

We already looked at 2 candiates - they can be found through the links below (will open up a new window)

Beyond Table Selection #2 - Absolute

Beyond Table Selection #3 - Titan (Not US Friendly)

The next candidate is US-Friendly,, here is how it fares against our set of criteria:

1) Bonuses; Score a 'Good' here, new signups get a 100% match up to $100 + a free ticket to the WPT Borgata Freeroll (1st prize worth $12,500!!). There are also regular reload bonuses over the last 12 months thet were worth $1200 (ok then we change the rating to 'very good'), you need to use the bonus code WPTFREEROLL when signing up to get this ticket.

2) Game Selection; Fine fine fine, the N0-Limit and Limit Cash Tables both busy, especially at the lower levels (2/4 and below) plently of SNGs too! Less PLO tables but should be enough to choose from at the $1/2 and under limits.

3) Weak opposition; Gets a very good, this site was rated by a well known bonus website as being 'excellent' for most games in terms of the opposition... this means they are very bad. Had a quick look at some $20 and $30 SNGs - a comedy of errors no less!

4) Tools Compatible; Oh yes - software the same as (Paradise Poker) so all good here.

5) MTT Selection; Have only played a couple but seemed like a decent selection of tourneys, mostly freezouts with many freerolls (need to collect points to enter) and satellites to major events. Fair to give this a plain old 'Good'

6) Loyalty Programs; Just mentioned the points freerolls, the weekly 2000 point entry having a $20,000 prize pool so not too bad. There are also completely free-freerolls (!) with smaller prize pools every 3 hours and a daily $500 depositors freeroll which should be great for the reload bonuses.

Overall a pretty darn good site - reasonably large player base, terrible standard of play and decent incentives in terms of freeroll entries... check them out right now using the link below and don't forget the code WPTFREEROLL for your free satellite ticket!

Cheers and GL at those tables!


SNG Bubble Play #4 - Defending Against 'Any-2'

Next in the ICM for SNGs series - this time looking at the correct SNG Bubble Strategy for defending against someone who is raising 'any 2 cards' into you! The strange thing about the independant chip model when it comes to sit and go tournaments is that it is often correct to fold even when you know your opponent could be pushing 7 2 off suit into you... hmmm.

Before we look at the mathematical part we need to answer an important question - how do we know that our opponent is pushing with any 2 cards? The short answer is that we can rarely be 100% sure, but there are signs out there to assist;

A very big stack pushing when folded to every time, especially SB -> BB or from the button is likely to be pushing 100% of hands... in fact if he raises 3 or 4bbs and that is 65% of your stack or more he will always have the odds to call you - so you may as well treat your raise as a call from an all in push from any-2.

It does not have to be a big stack, if you identify an opponent as understanding ICM by their actions throughout the game and you have been tight then you can be pretty confident they will push any 2 from the small blind into you.

Lastly, when the blinds get huge in relation to either your stack or your opponents stack you can widen their range out to any 2 - for example you and an opponent both have 1500 with blinds at 600/300.

ok, here are some common scenarios and your calling ranges;

C/O - 800
Button - 6000
SB - 1200
You - 2000

Here the C/O folds and the Button pushes, he has pushed each of the last 10 hands (!) and you confidently put him on a range of 100% - the SB folds, Blinds are 400/200 with an Ante of 25... what do you need to call??? The answer is a pretty good hand!! I would call with KK and AA only here, the reason should be clear enough - even though you 'know' that your AQs kills the buttons range you can not gamble your equity with the next big blind + ante taking more than half of the C/Os stack - not only is he effectively all in via the blinds but the current SB will blind away half of his stack before you as well!! My opinion here does not agree with ICM calculators which say 99+ / AKo+, there is just no need to gamble your nice pile of equity here once you account for the plight of the smaller stacks!

Scenario #2

CO - 2000
Button - 3000
SB - 1500
You - 2500

Blinds again are 400/200 (stack sizes before posting) with Ante 25. This time it is folded to the SB who pushes, you have been super-tight and blinded down from a bigger stack, the SB - an observant opponent thus thinks he has a +ev shove against your range with any-2. What should you call him with???

There are in fact 2 keys to this question... the first one is not ICM at all but concerns pot-odds! Here the pot is 700 before he pushes another 1275 - you have already posted 425 and so need to put in abother 1075 chips to try and win 1975... you are getting almost 2/1 on your call against a random hand... and whats more you can not be busted (though admittedly losing the chips would not be good).

The SB made a mistake - his push would be correct only if your 'normal' range of calling with 10 10+ was in place... here ICM says your calling range can be a huge 65% of hands - that is any Pair, Ace, King or Queen, most jacks and tens and most suited connectors.... but here is the real question: If your assumption that the SB was a thinking player is correct would he really be pushing any-2 into you in this situation?? I like a margin for error here - the saying 'better to be the raiser than the caller' comes to mind... no Mr Super-tight from Plan3t Gong is calling only with 40%!!!

Enough of examples. The thought process is what is important here, high blinds were used deliberately here - to make the pots big enough so that there is some kind of calling range to discuss.... where the pots are smaller - say 200/100 blinds and the SB who has you covered pushes into you then you need to ask a serious question... even if he is pushing any 2 cards is my current equity in the prize pool and the potential gain in equity worth the call? The answer is often 'no' here because of the inbalance in the risk / reward - it is no good being a 65 / 35 favourite to win the hand if your equity only improves by 25% (see earlier articles in this series).

We have highlighted another factor by mistake - you can push any 2 cards into smaller stacks, but keep an eye on the pot odds and the blinds, you might find that their calling range gets so large that your push was a mistake!

Cheers, Mark

Beyond Table Selection #3 - The Second Candidate!

In this series of articles we are trying to address a fundamental question that has been highlighted recently by observations that the bigger poker sites (stars / full tilt etc) have seen the games get tougher... the question is this;

Why be a small shark in a big pool when you can be the only shark in a pond full of fish??

Our approach is from the bottom-up, we first set out a set of criteria that a new site should be judged on.... and only then we started the process of comparing the sites to our needs.

We already looked at Absolute Poker - this can be found here (will open in a new window)

Beyond Table Selection #2 - Absolute

This time it is the turn of Titan Poker, unfortunately this site is not US friendly - I will look next at so as to include my US readers.

1) Bonuses; Scores a 'very good' here, not only the initial sign-up bonus of $275 (goes up to 100% up to $500 with our bonus code 'POKERPOINT'), but regular reload bonuses, these totalled $1900 in 2006 and there has been one already in 2007.

2) Game Selection; Will say 'Very Good' again, plently of cash games - both limit and NL, PLO, 7 stud and SNGs at many levels (tend to be 6-person after the lower limits). Traffic is high in the European evenings so plently of tables to choose from.

3) Weak Opposition; An 'Excellent' score here without any doubt, words such as terrible and 'so bad its funny' spring to mind. This is the main reason I currently spend time at Titan. You actually have to see it to believe it!!

4) Compatible with Tools; Yes - PokerTracker is fine here.

5) Good Selection of MTTs; Again a 'Very Good', there are freezouts and rebuys at various levels to choose from, Satellites to EPT / WPT events and big buy-in tourneys - and many Gtd prize pools including nightly $10k guarenteed games...

6) Loyalty Programs; Great for freerolls, including tickets to no less than 4 when you first sign up. There is a weekly depositors freeroll with a decent prize pool (handy for those reload bonuses) and many 'points' freerolls too. There is a VIP club with different levels which determines the size of your reload bonus too.

Overall Verdict; One thing stands out about all the rest here... the poor standard of play! Combine this with the reload bonuses and many freerolls then Titna looks like a serious contender!!

Take Action - check them out via the link below - your wallet will thank you very soon indeed!!

(Remember you get almost double the initial bonus with the code 'POKERPOINT")

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BlueScouse Giving up Blogging

Some sad news for the Blogging world - BlueScouse has decided to give up blogging! His blog 88% Concentration (link on right) has had many thousands of us captivated for a long time now. His tales of poker glory followed by the long slide into going broke kind of summed up the broken dreams of many young players trying to become the next big thing. He summed up the passion and the frustrations of the game very well and will be a loss to the Poker Blogging world. If nothing else he has highlighed the importance of bankroll management (will post on that subject soon).

Looks like he will continue playing and I wish him the best of luck in rebuilding that bankroll.

Cheers, Mark

Monday, January 22, 2007


Some interesting links;

First one is for the UK National Poker League - found it via someone on Titan who put the URL as their city. Had a look around and definitely worth a visit for UK players... the league is divided into regions and info on venues is easily searched. There are links to poker articles and tips but not too much there at the moment, site also contains a gallery and forum as well as details of the leagues online tourneys... the URL is , I plan to check out some southern venues when next in the UK in March.

Next a blog - Hard Boiled Poker - a great read, liked the way that ' Short-Stacked Shamus' summed up the frustration of US players with the payments / deposits issue without the panic or strings of expletives often seen in such pieces.... there is plently more of interest to read and also a list of Podcasts... will add the link to the list on the right shortly - its at

Finally one in Spanish! Unfortunately I can not read it, however I recognised the name from Poker Stars, his blog mentions SNGs and - well - he left a nice comment on an earlier post! Check it out en Espanol at

Also updated the Titan post below to let people (non-US - sorry!) about their depositors freerolls.

Cheers, Mark

General Life 'n' Poker Update

Happiness in a supermarket here in Budapest yesterday - found Marmite!! All I need now is PG Tips and life will be complete...

Some more random facts about Hungary through the eyes of a Brit...

- The women here spend more pro-rata their earnings on fitness and beauty products than anywhere else in Europe (and it shows - but don't tell my fiance I said that)
- The Hungarian for 'Hi' is 'Szia' and their 'cheerio' is 'Hello', so it sounds like they are saying hello and goodbye backwards...
- The smallest coin here is the 1 forint piece - worth approximately 1/4 of a penny - or 1/8th of a cent.

Taking a small break from SNGs, varience reared its head on Sunday and 1 bubbled 8 SNGs within an hour (27s and 16s mixed), not unhappy with any of the plays, just one of those things - going to be playing PLO and NL Holdem cash games on Titan for a couple of days for a change of scene... has started its redevelopment - going to be a mix of bonus info and strategy artices aimed at novices - will keep the ICM etc here on Plan3t Gong. Plan to have it up and running by the end of the month.

Going to continue the 'Ego Players' theme this week with an article about showing.

GL at the tables,


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Quick Reminder for non-US players - Titan Reload Ends at Midnight Tonight

EDIT 22nd Jan: Well the reload has finished for the time being (should be another one along very soon!). The good news is that a little box popped up today saying that new depositors will get entry into no less than 4 freerolls... not sure of all the prize pools but the weekly depositors freeroll is $1.2k gtd!! Right I'm off to try and qualify for the WPT Carribean Cruise!

Just a quick reminder - last day for Tytan Reloads (Sunday Jan 21st) ends midnight EST (thats GMT+6).

If you are not already a member of Titann then check them out very soon - soft players, jackpots. gtd MTTs and plenty of bonuses including 100% up to $500 for the first signup with the code 'POKERPOINT'.

Cheers, Mark

SNG Bubble Play #3 - Small Stack Play

Here is the next SNG Bubble Guide on how to use ICM to improve your online Sit and Go results... last time we looked at the scenario where there was 1 big stack and 3 small stacks at the bubble - same setup for this one, except we are going to look at it from the perspective of the small stacks.

Here is the setup along with current prize pool equity based on a $100 pool and not accounting for the blinds:

Biggy: 5200 - Current Equity = $37.71
Smally 1: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76
Smally 2: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76
Smally 3: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76

The first point to make is that smally 3 is actually in a bad spot here. When he is in the SB the big stack will be in the BB, the biggys looser calling range means pushing profitably from the SB is more difficult... one 'rule of thumb' I use is to try and spot these situations in advance, if the stack to my right gets big early on in the SNG this should act as a trigger to loosen up your play - especially with the other medium-small stacks. The reason for this is that having the big stack to act after you is a major disadvantage at the bubble - so you should be more willing to gamble early to try and offset this.

Now, calling ranges of course are player dependant (see article #1 in this series) so what can a small stack profitably shove into another short stack here? The twist on the dynamic is that all of the short stacks are both desperate to double and deparate not to bubble... for me the questions to ask before you decide to shove are:

1) What is the big stack doing, is he (correctly) pushing / raising a lot of hands?

2) How about the other smallies - are they aware of stack sizes? Are they likely to confront the big stack or get all in against each other?

3) Are one or both other smallies attempting to fold into the money or waiting for premium hands?

4) Do the other players at the table understand bubble play in general??

An example; Biggy has folded UTG, you are next to act with the blinds at either 200/100 or 400/200 from the button. What can you profitably push here in the following scenarios?

Scenario #1; Both small stacks looking to fold into the money.

Blinds 200/100 - We will give them both tightish ranges (they are too small for super-tight so 66+ A10o+ would be reasonable here), you can push a wide variety of hands in this situation something near 60% - any pair, ace, king, Queen-6o +, high jacks and most suited connectors.
Blinds 400/200 - Now we need to loosen their ranges a little - not too much, although the blinds are huge in proportion to their stacks they will be through them soon. I think 44+ A6o+ and KJs+ would be fair here). Your pushing range is 100% - yep, the pot of 600 is so valuable to you that any 2 cards are good enough here.

Scenario #2; One looking to fold into the money and the other one not understanding bubble play.

Blinds 200/100 - So we keep the ranges the same for one opponent and loosen up the other, the guy who does not understand the bubble will be calling you much ligher here, especially if you have shoved into him a lot lately! We will give him any pair, any ace, any 2 broadway cards and high suited connectors such as 910s. This guy changes the dynamic considerably - you now need a decent hand to shove the button - I would use 66+ A10o+ here as a guideline. This seems tight but to make up for it you have an increased chance that this opponent will fight with one of the other players without solid values (hopefully the big stack!!).
Blinds 400/200 - Same ranges as above - but now the pot is big enough to be worth taking some risks over... here you can push 46%, any pair, any ace K3s+ and most high card / suited connector combinations.

Scenario #3; One smally is a maniac, the other is next to the big stack and so looking for a fight with any decent holding.

Blinds 200/100 - Be careful here, the looser ranges are important but so is the fact that these guys might well end up fighting each other or the big stack and getting you into the money by default. We will give the maniac top 50% of hands (he thinks you are bluffing!) and the other guy the same range as the guy in scenario 2 who did not understand the bubble - Pairs, Aces and broadway / connector combinations. Now you really need to tighten that pushing range - 88+ a10s+ only - far to likely that you end up gambling your $20 equity here.
Blinds 400/200 - Loosen the pushing range a little, but not too much - we need to balance the size of the current pot with the high risk of being called. Push 55+ A5s+ and KJs+ from here.

Still another factor of the same setup is where the big stack and button fold and you are next to act in the SB with another smally in the BB. Here your read on the player is important, but not as important as awareness that the other guy has to have a hand of some sort to call you. Your pushing range should be very wide here... any 2 against tight opponents, any 2 against average opponents when the blinds are up to 400/200 - against loose opponents you need some sort of a hand, but top 40% should be just fine. The point to make is that you are unlikely to have a better opportinuty to add chips to your stack than this - so make the most of it!!

Next time I will look at a slightly different setup - 2 big and 2 small stacks.

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Couple of New Blog Links

Read a great article on the blog Riding the F-Train about chasing losses. Nothing I could add here as this is an excellent piece and sums up the subject exquisitely - link on the right hand side as normal.

Another newish find that I enjoyed reading today was Animal Poker. Current post covers playing after drinking... always dangerous and something I am guilty of (usually MTTs syeadily drinking until the final table gets fuzzy). Link on the right!.

Cheers, Mark

Friday, January 19, 2007

Poker Psychology vs Poker Maths...

After 3 years here in Budapest I have finally bitten the bullet and signed up for Hungarian lessons. Will start next month 2 evenings a week, they have 48 letters in their alphabet and a grammar structure that supposedly boggles the mind... should be fun there then.

Ah yes, Psychology and Maths. Read an interesting post over on the 2+2 forums. The original post was about running bad - hypothesising that there is no such thing, ie past events should not influence future games... it was well written and in a perfect world I would agree. Hang on though, this is not a perfect world and poker players are not perfect people... my view is that ones mindset does influence future play - that a bad run of cards can cause you to lose next time you play due to changes such as playing to tight or weak etc. Something many people (myself included) could benefit from working on!

The discussion then moved onto varience in SNGs, this was the really interesting part for me. Say you are a winning player with a 9% ROI (decent over the long term for the medium to high buy-ins) and a friend offered you a prop bet at 50/50 that you would be ahead in cash terms after 10 Sit and Goes - should you take it??

The answer is acutally fairly close, you would win this bet only very slightly more often than you would win it (51.4% of the time) not close enough to take a large bet as a one-off but still a profitable proposition long term...

With SNGs the difference between a positive ROI and a negative one can be just a few coin flips at the bubble... imagine you have played 100 $10 SNGs with a 20% roi - so $2 / game or $200 profit after 100 games. Now take 3 flips you won and change their outcome to a loss, we will take it that you went on to get one 1st, one 2nd and a 3rd - $100 less - suddenly your ROI is 10% instead of 20%. Big difference! Opinions differ about how many games you need to play for the chance factors to even out, there is a consensus that 500 at any one level is a minumim - not sure here, I think it should be higher....

Planning on returning to the subject of ICM tomorrow - will look at the 1 Big / 3 small Bubble scenario once more - this time from the perspective of one of the small stacks.

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beyond Table Selection - The First Candidate!

First thanks to Yorkshire Puds for the suggestions on where to get info for our analysis of candidates for this series of posts. He has a great blog, you'll find the link in the list on the right hand side... if you missed the first post in this series, where the need for change and criteria were discussed then here is a link to it...

Ok, the first room I have been checking out is the question is - does it fit our criteria???

1) Bonuses? Yes and how... there is a sign-up bonus of $750 which is a 100% match on your first deposit (bonus code = AP750). The thing to note here is the almost limitless amount of reload bonuses - something daft like $37000 over the past 3 years. Realistically we would not be able to clear this amount, but has to be a positive sign.

2) Game Selection... Good, according to Bonuswhores this is the 8th to 9th most popular site and has a good player base. At a quick glance the SNGs were going off pretty fast and there were plenty of NL cash games at all levels on offer... PLO and Stud only had a few tables of each level (then again it is early morning US time at the moment so far from peak hours).

3) Weak Opposition. Give this one an 'average' score, the big bonuses apparently attract lots of 'rocks' in the limit games particularly... however the SNGs I browsed looked very soft indeed(then again I have an eye for mistakes!!). The low level (up to $2/$1) NL was a limpfest too... has to be a good sign!

4) Tools Compatibility. Fine, PokerTracker compatible and possible to download Hand Histories.

5) MTT Selection: Harder to judge without playing there for a while... looking at their website the signs look good. There is a weekly 100K gtd, Deepstack Tourneys, Rebuys and plenty of satellites... also a number of freeroll qualifiers available.

6) Loyalty Programs. Good again, a points system, refer a friend, freerolls (some regular, some satellite and others for merchandise), they also run a generous VIP program.

Overall this could be a likely candidate, very rarely see this site mentioned by the sharks in the 'big' forums such as 2+2, P5s etc which is another good sign.

Click on the link below right now to check it out for yourself - you can start clearing the $750 bonus today!!

Online poker

If anyone is already a member it would be great to see some comments and let other plan3t Gong readers know what you think.

Cheers, Mark

What are the Alternatives to Neteller?

What a difference 48 hours makes. No more gambling transactions through Neteller. Still - no need to panic just yet. There are plenty alternatives still available for US players...

A Selection (came from Absolute Poker)

InstaDebit – Just like NETeller

ePassporte – Like NETeller

ATMonline - Easy to use

Click2pay – Safe and Easy

Central Coin – Easy

UK Debit Cards – Reliable

Moneybookers – Great

Others include Money Orders and Western Union.

So Poker-life gets more difficult once again for US players, the question burning in my mind is whether the recreational players (aka the fish!) will bother looking for alternatives once they blow their current bankrolls. Was planning on looking for alternative sites to Stars etc over the coming week... now feel that the need to do this is somehow more urgent.

Did not want to get political in this blog, but sometimes the US government, well - they baffle me!

Will do a regular update later - this one was just to keep people updated on the latest news.

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beyond Table Selection #1

Another forum post at The Fool got me thinking. Only a short post, it concerned clearing bonuses and mentioned that the ring games at the bigger sites (Stars / Full Tilt etc) are getting tougher... the pearl of wisdom here was that the future of profitable poker might be the smaller sites where more recreational players are to be found....

Fine logic - the real benefits of the bigger sites were the fish, now party etc have closed to US players there are more 'pros' congregating onto the likes of Stars. Personally happy that I can beat the lower level SNGs there - but as mentioned in my post on Bankroll Management - why fight with other winning players for a slice of the pie if you do not have to!!

It comes down to this: Why be a small shark in a big pool when you could be the only shark in a pond of minnows?

So, this leads us to a question - what are the alternatives out there?

Wanted to approach this from the top down, rather than look at the sites available and ask the question "is this any good?" I will first look at what the criteria would be and then look at the sites and see if they fulfill these criteria....

So here is a list of what I would look for in a new site (in no particular order);

1) Bonuses and / or rakeback. Not just a one-off bonus, regular reloads and decent rates for clearing them.
2) Game selection. No good if you have to wait 20 minutes for a SNG to fill up or only have 2 ring games to choose from at your level... has to be a decent selection to choose from.
3) Weak opposition. This is a subjective measure in some ways, then again things like average pot size and number of players to each flop should give us a good indication.
4) Compatability with tools such as pokeroffice or PAHUD, less important for some people but others like to track their play with these.
5) Good Selection of MTTs. Prefreably with overlays or guaranteed prize pools.
6) Loyalty Programs. Again less important but could make the difference if the other criteria are marginal. Guess other promotions such as jackpots and freerolls could fit in here.

OK thats it for now - please let me know if you play at a site that fits these criteria, over the coming days I will have a look around and make some suggestions.

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Netteller, Min Raising and Table Update.

Mixed post today, did not want the blog to get too dry and strategy-based...

Much talk on the forums about the arrest of 2 shareholders in Netteller. Seems to have made people nervous. Lots of opinions on the forums but reading between the lines the facts seem to be these;

- They are still trading as normal.
- The US Government is currently sorting out the regulations concerning the 'unlawful internet gaming act'.
- Once this is completed we will have a clearer picture on the future of e-wallets including Neteller.

In short it appears nothing much has changed!

Have been playing some Pot Limit Omaha over at VC Poker, wow thouse tables (up to $100 buy-in) are crazy!!! One thing I will never understand, min-raising in PLO??!? If anyone can explain a strategically good reason for this please let me know... meanwhile I will continue to take their money!

Good run in the SNGs (mix of 16 and 27 Turbos) over the past few days has seen my Stars 'roll move up to $3.5k, have tried a few multi's too but yet to get anywhere near a decent score this year. Still not too bad - especially accounting for the cost of my disconnect!

Finally, will sort out my blog-links later today. There are a few great blogs on my regular reading list not yet added and a few of the existing ones seem to have died. If any bloggers out there would like to exchange links then drop me a mail.

Cheers, Mark

Quick Reply To Comment... eBook

Ok, good point, my bad.... the eBook referred to in the posts below is available via the sign-up box at the top right of the blog... will change the wording soon to make things clearer!

I have a no spam policy which works both ways - I will not pass on / sell etc anyones e-mail address, the other side is that once you request the book you need to click a link confirm when sent a mail (this is to protect me).


Cheers, Mark

Monday, January 15, 2007

SNG Bubble Play #2 - Big Stack Play

Sit and Go Bubble play is where the $$$ comes from! This is part #2 and will look at what adjustments to make when there is a big stack at the table. You might be that big stack so we will have a look at this too...

First a bit of ICM - looking at the prize pool equity of 4 players with a 50/30/20/0 payout and a $100 prize pool...

Biggy: 5200 - Current Equity = $37.71
Smally 1: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76
Smally 2: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76
Smally 3: 1600 - Current Equity = $20.76

Ok, will start by looking at things from the big stacks perspective. The thing to note here is that the equity gained by knocking out one of the smallies is actually less than the equity lost by doubling one of them up, not by much but still significant...

So - Biggy calls and wins;

Biggy: 6800 - $42.99 (increase of $5.28)
Smally 1: 1600 - $28.50 (increase of $7.74)
Smally 2: 1600 - $28.50 (increase of $7.74)

Biggy Calls and Loses

Biggy 1 - 3800 - $32.19 (decrease of $5.52)
Biggy 2 - 3200 - $29.64 (increase of $8.88)
Smally 1 - 1600 - $19.08 (decrease of $1.64)
Smally 2 - 1600 - $19.08 (decrease of $1.64)

For me the really interesting number, and one which should be accounted for whenever there is a bubble decision to me made is the change in equity for smally 1. Assuming he has called an all in from the original big stack here and won - thus increasing prize pool equity by $8.88. This is fine until we ask what did he risk to gain these dollars? The answer is in the starting equity list - he risked his current equity of $20.76 to win an additional $8.88, basically he way laying odds against himself of 2.3/1...

So we change perspective for a second and look at the biggy before the hand... yes he stands to gain less than he would lose if he is called and loses the hand... but hang on - the smally can only call if he is sure that he is better than 70% to win the hand (that is breakeven - in reality he would need to be 75% to 80% here). How many hands can he actually profitably call with here???

So the biggy is not pushing because of the increase in equity of winning the hand - he is pushing because it is so unlikely that the smally can make the call that he picks up the blinds uncontested so often as to make the push a profitable move!

There is the maths, but that only helps so much. What we need to do is look at how this affects real-life situations in a low-level (<$30) SNG.

First a vitally important question to ask at every bubble: Which (if any) of my opponents understand what is really going on here???

Not as easy to answer as you might think, known regulars have a better chance of understanding. Someone who has gone from being tight early to open-pushing at each opportunity is likely to understand.... while an opponent who is min raising (or worse flat calling raises) at the bubble likely doe not.

Next we will give some 'average' smallies calling ranges: Here we are assuming your opponents do not understand bubble dynamics;

Tight Smally: 66+ A10o+ KQo+
Average Smally: 44+ A8o+ K10o+ QJs+
Loose / Desperate Smally: 22+ any Ace, K6s+ Q9s+ and J10s+

From the big stack perspective what can you push into these guys, assuming blinds at 100/200 with a 25 ante?

- Against 1 opponent: Any 2 cards regardless of their range
- Against 2 opponents:
- 2 Loose = Top 15%, thats 33+ A7o+ and KQ
- 2 Average = Top 63%!! thats a lot of hands!
- 2 Tight = Any 2 Cards
- Against all 3 opponents:
- 1 of each type = Top 19%, thats 22+, A2s+, JTs+
- 3 Average = Top 13%, 44+ A10o+ etc

A question - what do you think would happen to the range against all 3 'average' opponents if we put the blinds up to 400/200????

An answer - The range becomes 'any 2 cards' again!!

Hmmm, this post has got a little longer than I anticipated so we will have to look at how the smallies should push and fold when biggy is not in the hand another day.

GL at the tables - feedback (good / bad or ugly) always appreciated!

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Joy of Disconnects!

Yesterday I broke a personal record! Unfortunately it was for the most money lost due to a disconnect...

Playing 6 * PokerStars 16s and 'poof' my connection disappears, mixture of small and big stacks with the BB at 150 in some and 100 in the others. By the time I get the connection back only 1 left - BB600 and me UTG with 725 chips - shoved my King high but to no avail... $96 down the pan. Ah well, could have been 12 tables I suppose!

Previous disconnect loss record was a mere $88 - last year in the Peoples Republic of Laos no less, sat in an internet cafe and just started 4 of the Party 22s... internet goes, not just for the cafe but for the whole damn country! Cafe owner, a very sweet Lao lady, assured me that it is usually back within a few hours and a day at the most... not much good for a 40 minute SNG there then. Could not be too annoyed - those Lao people are just so chilled and relaxed about life, appearently part of their 'national ethic' is that too much work is bad for the brain. Maybe they are on to something there...

No strategy today - tomorrow I will look at Bubble play again - this time looking at the scenario of 2 biggys and 2 smallys at the bubble.

Cheers, Mark

Friday, January 12, 2007

ICM for SNGs - Rules of Thumb

Interesting little debate over on about pushing / spite calls / situations where you can not call... reminded me that I promised to look deeper into push and fold ranges for SNGs here.

While my push / fold game is not yet perfect (if anything a little on the tight side once I have chips) it is better than most non-regulars at the 16s. There is a key point to make here - you can not 'memorise' push / fold ranges on their own, the 2 big keys are judging the situation (blinds / stack sizes / location of big and small stacks) and accurately putting your opponent on a calling range.

Will start with putting people on calling ranges; First some questions to ask...

1) Does my opponent understand the nature of the bubble? Vital, someone who understands the distribution of prize pool equity has a tighter calling range and a looser pushing range than someone who does not. Someone who understands what is happening will take account of the presence of a micro-stack / big stack at the table and adjust... again if they do not understand they will play only their cards.
2) Are there 2 (or more) people who do not understand the nature of the bubble? Have seen the 2 biggest stacks go to war on numerous occasions, spewing equity to the small stacks!! If this is the case then you can tighten your ranges a little, as there is an increased chance of folding into the money (only a little though - always a risky strategy!).
3) Do my opponents correctly understand pot odds? Horrible players at the 16s sometimes fold getting 3/1 or even 4/1 with chips when a shorty pushes - makes me cringe to watch it! If this is the case then we can safely loosen our pushing range against this opponent - but tighten the calling range, he is not playing any 2 cards here.

So, lets try and put some calling ranges on opponents from here; For now assuming even stacks and not factoring in "the situation".

Tighty - Will give this guy pairs above 1010, aQs+
Mr Average - Pairs above 55, a8+ and KJs+
Mr Loose - Any Pair, any Ace, K7s+ K10o+
Mr Maniac - Any Pair, Ace, King, Q6s+ and suited connectors such as 910s.
Mr "Any 2" - any 2!

OK, so its folded to you in the small blind - what can you profitably push into these guys as a one off event??? Will assume 200/400 blinds and even stacks of 3000 after posting.

Tighty and Mr Average - 100% (yep every single hand!!) even 72o here is profitable - if Mr Tight is only calling with top 7% you will pick up the blinds so often that the % of showdowns won becomes secondary....
Mr Loose - Top 28%, thats a lot of hands!! 22, A, K9s+ connectors down to 87s, here you are going to get called often enough to need a little something to show-down.
Mr Maniac - Top 12%, 66+ a9o+ you need to risk your equity often enough to need a solid hand for pushing here.
Mr Any 2 - Top 6%, 77+ AQo+, got to be tight now - an assured showdown is not something you should be welcoming here without a hand!

Well there is the basics - what I wanted to do here is to give some 'rules of thumb' to use at the table.

- Opponent does not understand bubble dynamics. Assume Mr Average for the first push and Mr Loose for subsequent pushes.
- Opponent is a regular who understands push / fold play. If you are a known regular assume Mr Loose, if you are unknown to the regular assume Mr Average for first 2 pushes then Mr Loose from then on.
- You have pushed the last 2 hands when folded to in the SB and it is folded to you again for the 3rd time... if you are going to push here assume Mr Maniac calling range, if you give the guy the occasional walk then go back to Mr Loose.

Next we turn the tables - it is your Big Blind and the SB has pushed into you... what can you call with? again this depends on the range you give your opponent for pushing...

Mr Tight will only push 77+ A10s+ and maybe here - against this range you need top 1% to call, that is Queens or better! (note: situation may make this tighter still!)
Mr Average will push 55+, A8o+ and KQ - you need JJ+ (top 2%)
Mr Loose will push any pair, A5o+ and KJo+ - you can now call with a huge 4%!! 99+ / Aqo+.
Mr Maniac will push any Pair, Ace, King or Queen and connectors down to 98s - feel free to call with 88+ AJo and A10s - fold everything else.
Mr "Any 2" will push, erm, any 2! Now you can widen that range to 14%, thats 55+ a7o+ and K10s+

The important point here is that you calling ranges - all else being equal - are very tight. At the 16s here is are the rules of thumb I use for calling....

- Assume Mr Loose in the absence of any other information.
- Assume Mr Maniac for regulars (specific people I will call vs the ' any 2' range - and no I am not going to tell you who they are!).

Wow, so many words and we have only scratched the surface; We need to factor in many more things including; stack sizes (the presence of a micro (1 or 2* BB only)) stack or 1 biggy and 3 equal others, Position of those stacks relative to you, effect of blinds being higher or lower and the effect of the willingness of the other players to get in against each other.

I have looked at what happens to your prize pool equity if you call too light at the bubble in my eBook - 'A comedy of errors' - grab your free copy today!

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quick Table Update + Possible Bots - Part #2

No table updates for a while... strange how the motivation to write these decreases during a 'bad run'. Feels like every coin I flip has 2 tails at the moment - still managed to get the stars 'roll up to just over 3k though, funny really - totally normal varience, still winning money and it feels like a bad run... hmmm, well I have had real downswings at times (will show my sharkscope graph one of these days!). Should stop complaining then, right.

The 5-Card draw Bots issue continues to bug me. Sure PokerStars reassured etc but it just does not feel right. Counted 8 Ids from Kiev today, one (and only one) on every pot limit 5 draw table; here they are if anyone wants to check... LOLTY, Ripall, Perun, Barbosyan, Hronyaka, Sheva1982, BokoPor and Zarplata. At the time I wrote to Stars there were 2 more - can not recall them now.

Each play 5 pr 6 tables and fast, I mean too fast... ah well maybe it is paranoia - might Stars again some time - for now avoiding those tables seems like the best move!

Cheers and GL at the tables,


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

WPT Satellites - A Review

Thought it was time to have a look at something different - WPT Qualification. Different sites do this in different ways. Today will focus on Titan Poker - they not only have a wide range of options for getting into their WPT Satellites, but also have a very large number of bad players... check it out for yourself!!

Side Note: Apologies to my readers from the USA, Titan have short-sightedly stopped US players from joining. I will make ammends very soon - a draft post is already in progress discussing some of the pro's and con's of the sites still available.

Ok, so imagine this - you are sitting down at the televised final table on a World Poker Tour Event (somewhere hot and by the sea would be a bonus), across the table is GusHansen, Phil Ivey and the Milkybar Kid (check out his blog!) - you already have 100,000 Dollars in the bag and are playing for that elusive million... Wake Up! Nice thought huh? First you need to get over to Titan and qualify!!

- First thing to mention is that Titan are allowing you to pick which tournament you attend. Rather than specific satellites for each tourney they are having 2 'Super Satellites' one on Jan 14th and the other on Feb 11th. This is good news - bigger fields should mean more places available, a final table - rather than a win - being required toget the dream ticket.

- the schedule is diverse with SNG WPT Qualifiers as well as MTT ones. Here is how they work;

SNGs; There are 3 stages to get through for your ticket, the buy-ins and number of
players vary slightly - PYT (Pick your tournament) stage three with 8 players is $1+20c, one player goes through to stage 2. If you buy in direct for stage 2 this is $9+90 with one player going through to the $64+6 final stage where one of 5 players get a ticket to the super satellite.

MTTs; Again these work in stages starting at stage 3. There are almost too many options to list here! These run every couple of hours and the number of qualifiers for the next stage is based on the prize pool. Like the SNGs they start at $1.20 and go up to $44 for the stage 1 event that gives the seats. As I said above, the number of novices at Titan make these juicy games - bubble play in a satellite is a big subject in itself, having several opponents who do not understand this is very nice indeed.

In addition to the $10000 entry fee Titan are giving $2000 towards the travel and
accomodation... so even if you somehow miss the final table of the main event you get a great holiday for a potentially tiny investment!

Titan also offer a good signup bonus - which Plan3t Gong can double - if you use the
bonus code 'POKERPOINT' when signing up you can get $500 free (100% match on 1st deposit).

Click on the Link below now... and I'll see you on the WPT!!!

Titan Poker

Cheers, Mark

Monday, January 08, 2007

PokerStars SNGs Getting Harder? Follow Up Concerning ROI

And still the 'Sit and Goes getting harder' debate rages in the forums, seems that there are new posts every day on pXf and 2+2! Thought it was time to look a bit deeper into the need for table selection... the reason it pays to be a little selective is that there are a good number of winning multi-tablers out there, check their stats out on sharkscope and you will see.

Ok, the question is - what would be the effect on your ROI when there are 1,2 or even 3 winners seated at the table?

To keep it as simple as possible let us take a $10 SNG with 10 players and ignore the rake (this is part of your ROI calculation anyway). The prize pool is thus $100 and the example expectation - for a moderate winner - is of a 10% ROI per game. For every one of these you enter you can expect to take home $11 or $1 in profit.

Now we can look at the effect of having known winners at the table in 2 ways - firstly the effect on the prize pool, and secondly your 'new' ROI when matched against the winning players.

So, lets imagine 3 winners join - each have a healthy 20% ROI over a large sample. They each expect to take home, on average $12 for every $10 invested. The effect on the prize pool is not that marked - there are now $96 available. Not the whole story then.

What we need to do is to look at your ROI against these winning players. Against random opponents you have 10% - but against winners????

Start by looking at what happens if we imagine you are equally skilled - your expectation against these guys is effectively zero - now for the whole table you have 10% ROI against 6 opponents and 0% against 3 - your expectation has been reduced by 1/3rd to 6.667% of the smaller prize pool.

But what if, in reality these guys are better than you? You may in fact have a negative expectation against them... now we must reduce the money you take per game still further since you are actually losing to 3 or the 6 opponents!

Finally back to my favourite subject - opponents errors!!! Some of your edge comes from knowing correct bubble push and fold ranges and general bubble strategy. This is only an edge for one reason - that your opponents do not play the bubble correctly! Now we introduce, on average 1 or 2 of the winning players who know this part of the game... oops - we have turned from a reasonable winner into a losing player.

Of course, there is a solution - in fact there are many - get to know the winning players at your level and watch for them joining the tables. If they are signed up for the next 6 games go and make a coffee and come back later - your bankroll will thank you for it!!

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, January 07, 2007

10 Ways Pot Limit 5 Card Draw Can Improve Your All-Round Poker Game

Have been playing a fair bit of PL 5 Card Draw this weekend, as posted before my belief is that this game exaggerates some of the aspects of poker relevant to all games. Do not believe that the game is in any way 'superior' or 'pure' poker - more an enjoyment of the game dynamic, the lack of information available that forces you to play the players! Also love the fact that your opponents mistakes are magnified by the nature of the game - what could be better!!!

Here are 10 ways I believe PL 5 Draw can improve you as a player. PokerStarshave a good number of tables (usually with their fair quota of novices) - go take their $$$!

1) Teaches the value of good starting hand selection;
- This is table dependant but you will find that those players who play any pair, premium pairs with a raise ahead or chase thin draws will quickly lose their money. Good starting hand selection is important in all games, in 5 Draw it is vital!

2) Stresses the value of position;
- Again important in all forms of poker, the button becomes more valuable in a game where the information available is limited. Especially when combined with good reads on your opponents. Position in relation to closing the betting action is also important, for example you can decide whether to play those 2 small pairs by closing the betting - if there is the danger of a reraise ahead you could instead pass.

3) Exaggerates the importance of pot odds;
- You will see many examples of people chasing flushes and straights without the correct pot odds and implied odds to do so. Calling a small raise with a flush draw can be a good play, but if your opponent is the type who will not call a raise after the draw without a monster then this is a waste of money. People who limp open ended straight draws out of position are another example of this - now there is the risk of being raised out of the hand pre-draw combined with the danger of making a second best hand after the draw... just fold! There are also many errors made after the draw, if you have an opponent who always bets when checked to in last position then you may be getting 3, 4 or even 5 to 1 on the call - comparing your hand with the range of your opponents holdings can make a call worthwhile on many occasions here.

4) Forces you to play the players;
- In a limited information game playing the players is critical. You need to have reads on what people raise with, whether they bluff, whether they will bet more hands on the end than they will call with or vice versa, and how much they will call on the end when you are the one betting. This is good discipline for all games, if you combine this with pot-odds then it is possible to bet 1 pair on the end into a tighty knowing that over time he will fold enough to make it profitable!

5) Teaches you correct bluffing strategy;
- Here is the dialemma in many games, if you bluff too often people will pick up on it and you will lose too many pots. If you never bluff you become easy to read and will not get called often enough when you value bet. The best path, as in most forms of poker, is the occasional semi-bluff. Raise with a 4 flush from the button for example. Obviously you have to combine your bluffing strategy with the pot odds and player reads - if you bet half the pot in last position will that pair of aces call you more than 1 in 3 times??

6) Stresses the importance of aggression;
- Callers will not win much in this game, they are relying on hitting cards too much. Raisers have another way to win the pot, particularly against tight opponents. A mistake you see often is to limp with 2 small pairs - giving your opponents with 1 high pair a free chance to outdraw you from the blinds. Raise instead, taking the pot pre-draw is not a disaster with a mediochre hand!!
Combine aggressive play with reads, pot odds and position and you are well on the way to beating this game.

7) Table Selection;
- Mentioned the guys from Kiev in previous posts, well these are just one example really. There are strong players out there so why sit at a table with them? Think of it this way, your hourly rate is a product of your opponents errors, if you have an 2 strong opponents out of the table of 6 the number of errors has gone down by 40%, not only that but the share of the remaining errors is now divided by 3 people... not good! Reads and good notes on the strong players will allow you to avoid them, make sure you do this!

8) Teaches the importance of correct bet sizing;
- An extension of some of the concepts already covered really. Here it is important to be aware of what size of raises are being called by multiple opponents and what size is thinning the field to a single opponent. With a monster you obviously want to get as much money in the pot pre-draw as possible, with a vulnerable hand you want to thin the field. Reads are dependant on bet sizes, if someone who normally limps / calls suddenly bets the pot then fold those 2 small pairs - you can be pretty sure he has trips or better.

9) Stresses the importance of deception;
- If you raise consistantly with your hand each time then even a novice opponent will eventually adapt. If you discard cards consistantly you are giving your hand strength away to anyone who is closely watching. Occasionally you have to adapt your game to avoid becoming prediactable, an example is discarding 1 in 1st position while holding trips - an opponent with 2 high pairs may be more likely to call a big bet after the draw if he believes his hand is good.

10) Exaggerates the importance of opponents errors!!!;
- More a summary of the points above here, but had to include it as it is my favourite topic. No other game that I have seen exaggerates errors like 5-draw, once you have spotted and noted a pattern you will be able to take that players money again and again - he will sit there wondering how you go so 'lucky'!!!

Good luck at the tables,

Cheers, Mark

Online Poker Tournament Strategy

Links to some great online poker tournament strategy articles and Poker Bonus Information (will open in a new window)

Online Poker Tournament Strategy Great Articles for Sit n Go, MTT and Online Satellite Qualifiers

Poker Bonuses Big new deposit and no deposit poker bonuses.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

SNG Tactics - A Heads-Up Story

Interesting heads up match at the end of a PokerStars 16 yesterday evening. Unfortunately I placed 2nd! At the same time I was happy with all my plays so no worries.... there were 2 aspects to this match that caught my attention....

Firstly the guy who finished 4th was not happy!! OK he did have his aces cracked on the bubble, but the push was good from the guy who cracked him and the rest is just how the cards fell. He was getting abusive towards my opponent and rooting for me every hand! Did not respond, not my style really anyway, but also had several other tables on the go...

What was good about this match was that it was a great example of 2 people both playing thinking heads up poker. The blinds were already 600/300 and our stacks about 7000ish at the start. No room for post flop play left, it was either push or fold. My opponent was another multitabler and my read from the game was that he is a good player who knows his push / fold ranges well.

From that starting point there are 2 decisions to make, what can I push and what can I call his pushes with. Now if he is a competant player I know he is pushing a wide range here, something along the lines of top 60% - maybe more. This is equal to 87s+ any Pair, Ace, King or Queen, J7+ 108+... quite a wide range! So Q1; what can I call with?

Well the range here is in the region of 30+ (just over in fact), Any Pair, Ace, K7o+, q9o+ or J10s.

Now we reverse it, the answers are the same, I can push around 60% and he can call with 30%.

Next we decide what to do with the rest of the hands... those below the 60% mark.... this is read dependant - will this player let me limp? in this case a definite 'no' so just folded anything <60% while the stacks were equal.

Side note here: Whether an opponent will let you limp is a crucial piece of information in these situations... find out as early as possible, especially if it is relatively cheap to do so!

Anyhow along the match went - push / fold / push / push / fold. We had about 5 showdowns which resulted in one or the other of us becoming short stacked.... so, what do push and call with a short stack??

Well the calling range goes up, but not as much as you might think! Of course we have to adjust our opponents pushing range - he will likely want to end the match quickly yet not be pushing any 2 just yet, I think 80% is fair here... if this is the case I can now call with the full 60% with a 4/1 chip defecit. For pushing we get a similar story in reverse.

So on it went, the last hand I pushed Q10o and was called by K8s - these were well within the ranges. My 'fan' on the rails must have been disappointed... I was not, and in true gentlemanly form both my opponent and I typed 'gg' in the 2 seconds before the pop up box signalling the end arrived.

Heads up on the end of an SNG is a complex area - it is really about adjusting those ranges to your opponent and the example above was simplified by having 2 thinking players matched. I will look at HU play with tighties and people who do not understand what is going on in future entries... oh and explain 1 trick I use on less experienced opponents too!!

Cheers, Mark

Friday, January 05, 2007

Reply to Mails / Comments and Future Post Plans

Firstly, thanks for all the positive comments on 'A Comedy of Errors', very happy to hear that my work was not in vain!!

One other comment I'd like to reply to was a request for more detail on the push / fold ranges outlined in my 'Ego Players' post. I would be happy to go through this one, calling ranges is critical to SNG Bubble play and determines what you can profitably push. Will save this reply for another day though - it is a complex area with so many variables attached and I would like to do the subject properly!

In fact this blog has become a little too SNG-based than originally planned, so I will tackle some other areas first. Not sure if this was mentioned before but my first degree was in Psychology, even many years on this is still a personal passion and its relation to Poker is at a relatively early stage. Over the coming weeks / months the number of Psychology posts will go up and the SNG ones, while still being here, will go down.

Keep a little notepad by my PC to list future posts on... the list is growing faster than I can post at the moment and includes;
- Satellite Strategies
- Follow up on Ego Players (several sub-topics here)
- Follow up on Multi-Tabling
- Focus on AK and when / when not to fire a second bullet
- Discussion on 'showing'
- Betting tells (not the main ones, a couple of my own!)
- Dangers of 'overthinking' in low-limits poker
- Follow up on 5 card-draw and how this helps with other games
- MTTs with overlays (review / summary of where to find them)
- The apprentice theme
- Some book reviews.

So many subjects - so little time!! If there is anything else anyone would like to see here then please drop me a mail or a comment.

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sit and Go - The Death of Pushbotting??

All over the poker forums at the moment are posts along the lines of 'SNGs are so much harder', and 'Everyone is using the same strategy'. These posts are (prematurely IMO) declaring that the tried and trusted 'Pushbot' strategy is dead...

What we are describing is the super-tight early and super aggressive all-in or fold late game that the members of 2+2 and have been using for many years.

There is a simple reason why I do not think this strategy is dead - this is that the strategy is sound at the lower levels because it maximises your ability to take advantage of your opponents mistakes! It conserves chips for when you need them (mid-to late stages), it avoids tricky decisions after the flop and it allows you to get to the most important part of the game (the bubble) where the real money comes from!

Will not go into more detail in this post, the concepts I have outlined are discussed at length in my eBook 'A Comedy of Errors' available free on the top right of this blog. BTW, if you enjoy the eBook please recommend Plan3t Gong poker to a friend!!

Now back the main hypothesis in all these forum posts - that SNGs have got harder over the last 6 months or so... is this true?

Well the closure of Party etc to US players means that PokerStars / Full Tilt now have more experienced players at the tables (assuming the winners moved over and the losers did not bother). This argument may work at the higher levels, but at the 16s / 27s and below? No - not really, sure there are multitablers / big winners out there - but most tables are filled with novices most of the time. Add to this the fact that there are simply so many games filling up that it is easy to avoid those winning players if you feel that would negatively affect your ROI.

I think the reality is that there are a group of people, prolific forum posters no less, who are experiencing the joys of varience for the first time! They see their ROI going down from 20% to 10% and have to blame it on something!! Of course every poker player thinks they are more skilled than their opponents so it must be something else.... now thinking this through, with a relatively small sample size of a few hundred SNGs it only takes a few coinflips, a small run of good cards and a couple of lucky suckouts to make a big difference %-wise to your ROI. If you are averaging $2 per SNG at the $10 level, 3 preminum pairs at the bubble over 200 SNGs could mean the difference of 3 1sts ($150) vs 3 4ths ($0)... thats a 40% swing!

I personally feel there are a lot of players out there that start off on a winning streak and assume it will last for ever. For these types it is easier to blame something else than work on their game and fix leaks. I'm not going to be one of them, are you??

BTW, If you are not already playing at PokerStars then I have to ask why not!!! SNGs there fill up so fast you have to be quick to register for them, they are so full of novices that a thinking player has a real edge - and (importantly) if you play the Turbos the rake is significantly less than at most other sites ($6+50c and $15+1 etc). There really is no excuse not to sign up today!!



Wednesday, January 03, 2007



Ebook Project - + Table Update!

Mentioned a week or so ago that I was working on an eBook for the start of Jan, well after many hours of writing, re-writing, spell checking, redrafting, formatting and re-re-re-writing it has made it as far as final draft and will be available 100% free to Plan3t Gong readers either this evening or tomorrow morning.

The book is called "A Comedy of Errors" and looks at how to beat low-level SNGs by exploiting common mistakes make by opponents. As well as going through the typical stages of a game it looks at areas such as ICM (The Independant Chip Model), 'Unexploitable' Heads-Up Play and Bankroll Management. The hope is that this will give some people learning the SNG game some valuable pointers to improving their play.

All that remains now is a final proof-read, to change the document into pdf and to set up a way of sending this book that is spam free (for me that is! via a 'confirmation page') I will comitt 100% to not passing on / selling anyones e-mail address, want Plan3t Gong to become a trusted source of information as we go through '07!!

Quick table update; Year-to-Date total +$100, slow start mostly at SNGs with a little PL 5-Draw (where the Ukrainians have somehow disappeared!). No MTTs as yet.

Cheers, Mark

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sit and Go Strategy Tips - Ego Players #1

Said a while back that I would look at SNG Strategy Tips for playing against 'ego' players. The kind of opponent who is not just playing for the $$$ but actively wants to appear smarter / more skilled and all-round superior to you!!

Once I started looking at this area it became apparent that it is a huge topic, here are a few of the sub-topics to cover over the coming weeks' Spite Calls (today!), Showing Cards, Showing Junk BB when given a walk, unsolicited 'Thank You' when winning a big pot, Table Coaches, chasing draws against the odds, and crying when better hands get outdrawn. There are a lot of these players around!!

Going to move over to the new Blogger version some time this week - hopefully this will allow the posts to be grouped for easier search.

So, Spite calls. They happen at or near the bubble in low level SNGs all the time, you have (correctly according to ICM) been shoving pretty much any 2 cards when folded to in the small blind and picking up a good number of pots that way.

Just the other day in this situation the following happened, I had an Ace-rag - more than good enough for the job with a bigger stack than the BB and blinds at 400/200 A25. I push my SB all in and the BB calls - with J8 off!!! The result is irrelevant, the point to make is that this was a simply horrible play... not just for me but why on earth would the BB choose to make a stand with such a junk hand??? The net result is to take my equity and his own equity in the prize pool and hand it straight to the players not in the hand!!

But looking under the surface we can see what happened, I was taking this guys blind each orbit for the last 4 or so. He was getting more and more frustrated and wanted to show me that he 'can not be pushed around' any longer. The question here is - Could I have spotted / predicted the spite call??? After all - you can not control the actions of the other players, becoming a winner is all about adjusting your own moves.

In hindsight I could have seen this coming and given the guy a walk or 2. He started the bubble as a big stack and was folding his SB and folding to any action, he did not understand how to use his big stack to pick up blinds in this situation and was equal smallest by the time he made his stand. His frustration, together with his ego caused him to make a horrible call - but in hindsight I should have observed these traits and given him a timely walk.

Spite calls can happen at any time, the thing to watch out for is whether by choice or due to the cards / siutation you have been shoving on one player in particular several times over. I would suggest giving these guys a walk, say once in 3 to make sure your keep their egos happy!

Winning in low level sit and go games is all about assigning correct calling ranges for your opponents at the bubble. This is just one more aspect of this, make sure you make notes when you see this happen and adjust your pushing range accordingly.

Comments / mails on this subject welcome!

Cheers, Mark