Wednesday, February 28, 2007

SNG Middle Stages - Part #1

Promised to look at the middle stages of SNGs a while back now after some reader requests... actual post was prompted by a pair of queens!

I was in the SB with said queens, the BB was 50 with 7 players left - UTG+1 makes it 200 (he has me covered 2200ish to 1800ish) and folded to me... to cut a long one short the guy was loose - enough for me to kill his likely range - and I shoved, he folded and on went the game... but things are not always so straight forward!

Imagine this scenario - BB=100, 7 left and you have 1500 (starting stack) you are UTG with those Queens... what is the best course of action here? Well, you obviously need to raise - somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 the BB works depending on what is standard for this table... the real issue comes with a flat call from someone in position - this can end up being a tricky spot!

Now the flop comes 2 A 7 of 3 suits - a classic way ahead / way behind situation, either you are drawing to 2 outs or your opponent is... should you be CBetting this? If you do Cbet and get called what is the best course of action? What happens if you cBet then get reraised all in? Would a delayed Cbet be better?? Difficult spots and quite common ones...

CBet or not? Mostly yes, sure that Ace is scary - but you raised UTG and were only called, you have represented that ace and would more or less be giving the pot away if you checked. There are 2 important factors here for me - the size of your initial raise and your read on the opponent.

Your initial raise makes a huge difference to the size of the pot and Cbet size here, if you raised 3.5 the BB then the pot is 850 here, you would need to put in 400 to 500 to get a fold, if you do not get one your stack just went from 1500 to 650 with the blinds approaching - you have almost certainly committed yourself... now a smaller 2.5x raise makes life eaiser, the pot is 650 and here 300 should get a fold if your opponent has no ace... but if it all goes wrong you still have 950 chips to play with - not great but some fold equity in there at 100/50 blinds.

Your read on your opponet is important here - will this player always bet? Will this player bet with the ace but check behind without it? Is this the kind of player who will call your bet with something other than the ace? Against and unknown I mostly fire off the cbet, against someone I have labelled as tight-passive a cheaper alternative is to check and see what they do - if they check behind fire on the turn instead (the delayed cbet).

If you cbet then get reraised all in you are likely drawing to 2 outs, fold here and live to fight another day. If you get flat called... now try and get to showdown as cheaply as possible... a flat call could be a weak ace or could be a pair between the 7 and the ace - there are some opponents out there who will usually call the flop bet and then give up on the turn (I make notes on these types as '2 barrels required') here is not the spot for firing no.2 though - check the turn and check / call a small bet on the river instead.

Well there is no right or wrong answer to this one - hope to have provided a little food for thought on what to think about though! On my 'middle game' list are smaller pairs, restealing and my personal chip building method - the push over limpers!!

Strongly suggest that any non-US players out there check out Titan Poker (link on top right)... it is not called 'the new fishtank' for nothing!!

Cheers, Mark

PS: Video giving me trouble - completed one only to find I have overwritten the first half with the second and then completely messed up the next by having a tourney keep popping up during the game. Serves me right for trying to use a free trial version of the software - will have another go this coming weekend (going to buy the software this time and close all my other games down!!).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

David Sklansky And His Oversized Ego!

David Sklanksy, author of the excellent 'Theory of Poker' has confused me for some time on the 2+2 forums... his posts range from mildly interesting game-theory poker puzzles to blatant egotistical nonsense!

Now he has a board (the 'Special Sklansky Forum') all of his own on 2+2 - right at the top of the list - and reading it made me realise just what an inappropriately high opinion of himself this man has... posts on racism, suggesting that his son has saved online poker and even on aspects of the bible are just plain bad.

Real shame when someone who has undoubtedly made a great contribution to the game (albeit many years ago now) feels that he can now preach to people on this range of subjects - its time to shut up Mr Sklanksky!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, February 26, 2007

Poker Stars - WSOP 2007 Satellites are here...

Hold on to your bankrolls... WSOP 2007 Qualifiers are upon us - looking at the 'Tournaments' tab on pokerstars you can not miss them... here is a quick rundown of what is available.

$2 Rebuys - cheapest option but probably not the best - they give places in $33 rebuys, so unless you get very lucky you'll be needing to add at least $60 for the initial stack-booster + add-on.

$5+1 Rebuys - Seats in the $160 double shootout given, number depending on prize pool. Will have a closer look at these, not so sure that the $160 DS is good value - will be many good players buyin in directly and only 1 seat gtd... on the other hand if the rebuys are as soft as the Sunday Million ones then this could be a good source of W$ (satellite dollars) which can be used for other types of sat or sold (Cashman Brian et al) for about 70% of value.

$16 Double Shootouts - When full (100 people) these give 2 seats to the $650 MTT qualifiers and some cash for 3rd to 5th. Might be a good bet (using my recent strategy guide!!?!?) in fact I will give this a go as soon as this post is finished! Come in Turbo and non-turbo formats,

$27 + Rebuys - This one giving seats in the $650 direct qualifier (latter seem to be at the weekends).

$33 + Rebuys - This is a direct qualifier with 1 seat gtd... need to budget $100 min here otherwise you'll really just be dead money... on this basis there will be 1 seat for each 110 people, not a great ratio but certainly a cheapish way of having a shot!

$160 Double Shootouts - Last year these had a reputation as being very difficult indeed, with many large-bankroll Pros playing after they had a seat for the $11k in cash... thoughts are that they might be softer at the start, with many novices giving it a shot.

$650 Main Event Qualifier - These are the big weekend tourneys with one place per 11k the seat to entrant ratio is not too bad (even if the entry fee is huge!). Will be a close call whether to play or sell the w$ if and when I get a ticket!

There are also various options for FPPs - before you shell out 4000 if these make sure you check what can be bought with them in the store!

Cheers and GL!


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Lose Poker - Videos Ahead!

Just a quicky post today as I am v. v. v busy with some non-poker projects... firstly video making!! Decided it was time to bring the 'A Comedy of Errors' eBook to life with a SNG video!

There are plenty of these already available so mine will try to be different - going to focus on the errors others make (and how to exploit them!), putting people on ranges ahead of the bubble and on ICM play... tried it twice today, once failed for technical reasons (ok then, incompetance) then had pocket Kings cracked by Jacks in 6th place - doh! Run out of time now so will try again tomorrow.

Other new plans include looking at aspects of Poker Mathematics (Maths to me - might me Math to you!) other than ICM - including the SAGE System and some Pot-Odds errors that people who really should know better make.

Since the article list is getting longer I will also do a bit more organisation with a jump-off page for the Sunday Million Satellites series.

If anyone has any suggestions for future articles please drop me a mail or a comment.

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #3 - Double Shootouts, the 2nd Table

Not the best timing for this one - it is the end of the month $530 entry Sunday million this week, but hey - at least I am posting on Saturday and not Monday.

The 2nd (or Final) table of a double shootout... 10 players, on a regular week 4 x $215 seats and a $35 runners up prize for the other 6 players. So what should we be thinking about before the first cards are dealt?

- Equity / ICM will play an important role in our decisions later in the game (at the start the total prize pool = $1070, so thats $107 each... 1500 chips each worth approx 7 cents!

- Your opponents will be a mix of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. Do not expect the same donkfest as table #1 but be aware that some bad players will make it through each time. Also be aware that the number of players who understand bubble strategy and can adapt to the prize structure will be small... understanding these concepts will give you a huge edge!

- The fact that a seat is so near will usually tighten up the play, at least for the first couple of blind levels. You will see the usual 'Comedy of Errors' in the play - over-valuing ace-rag / entering multi-way pots with meduim hands and calling rather than raising (eBook still avaliable BTW - link in top right corner).

Will have a look at the bubble in a moment, firstly what about early game strategy?

For me this is more like a 'normal' SNG than the first table, your objective is to get to the bubble where it is possible to use your superior push / fold skills and understanding of ICM. I use the first few levels to observe opponents and ask myself the following questions:

- Who understands bubble concepts?
- What are their likely calling ranges later in the game?
- Which players will fold after comitting money to a pot?
- Any cash game players who defend / raise their button too much? (great for restealing from later in the game)
- Who overvalues hands such as top pair with kicker?

So, like in a normal SNG, stay tight - observe your opponents and play good hands with a raise. The objective is to conserve that fold equity because at the bubble this becomes very valuable indeed!

ICM at the bubble: Here is a typical example of stack distribution along with prize pool equity, at this point the total pool os 4 x 215 and one $35 runner up spot = $895

Player 1 - 5000 chips - Equity = $212.65
Player 2 - 3500 chips - Equity = $201.2
Player 3 - 2500 chips - Equity = $184.1
Player 4 - 2500 chips - Equity = $184.1
Player 5 - 1500 chips - Equity = $144.1

A couple of things to note - firstly the flat prize pool structure means that the $ equity values are a lot closer than you might expect, the small stack does not need to be too desperate just yet... Conversely look at the big stacks equity - he can lose half of his stack and this equity will only go down from $212 to $184 (assuming losing to player 3 or 4).

The key to understanding and to using ICM here is that the risk / reward does not balance in terms of gaining more chips. At the same time losing your stack is a disaster! Will clarify by looking at some examples:

Players 3 and 4 fight over a pot... (all examples ignore the blinds to make the maths easier!)

Take it as folded to the SB (player 3) who shoves on player 4 in the BB. Player 4 knows that player 3 understands the bubble and vice versa - so P4 knows that P3 should be shoving here with any-2 cards. Whats does P4 need to call???

The equity risk for P4 is $149.1 (he gets $35 whatever happens), the potential gain is only $30.9 (he calls and wins then his current $184.1 becomes $215 for the seat). Thus he needs odds of around 4.8/1 to make the call - what hands have over 85% equity pre-flop against a random hand??? The clear answer is no hands do - not even aces.

Player 5 and 1 fight over a pot...

OK so player 5 is desperate, unless he has looked at the numbers he is probably very desperate! he shoves on player 5 the big stack who wakes up with a pair of 5's.... should the big stack call?

No. Here is why, the potential gain for the biggy is actually less than $3!!! While the potential loss is closer to $11. Are his pocket 5's more than a 3/1 favourite vs a random hand... nope. From the big stacks perspective the ideal is to be the one shoving, and for me shoving every single hand - nobody can call!

Now back to real-life!

The scenarios above are not realistic for one important reason - the people in the game will not have a mathematical understanding of what is going on! Even if they understand some of the theory the reality is that calls will be made with a range of hands, even though these calls are -$ev in the long-term - we can not control what people are calling with... so to win a seat we must do the only thing we realistically can - adapt our play to the reality of peoples calling ranges.

For this information I will refer you to my earlier articles on such ranges they are available vis the "Jump off page" Link on the right hand side- the difference is clear for double shootouts and can be summed up as follows:

The equity risked is huge compared to the equity gain in any double shootout bubble situation. The single most important question to ask is "Does my opponent understand this?" if yes then shove with any reasonable holding - if no then tread very carefully indeed!

GL at the tables, if you are not already a Poker Stars player then please use the link under @Poker Rooms@ on the right hand side to check them out!

Cheers, Mark

Friday, February 23, 2007

Poker News... Full Tilt Poker Bonus for PPA Membership

Appears that Full Tilt Poker have but their bonus (and freeroll!) money where their mouth is in an effort to recruit members for the Poker Players Alliance... this is a quick run-down of whats on offer - back to normal articles soon!

1) What is the Poker Players Alliance (PPA)... in a nutshell it is a non-profit pro-poker lobbying / media organisation seeking to protect the rights of US (and thus by inference worldwide) poker players. The PPA is in the process of recruiting Alfonse D'Amato (apparently a Washington 'heavyweight') as chairman to improve its political clout. The PPA is, the only organisation fighting politically to exempt poker from the UIGEA legislation at the moment. Check them out at (right click / open in new window please!).

2) What Full Tilt Poker are doing... well recruiting really!! But they are bribing players with bonuses in order to get them to join, its basically free money in the form of reload bonuses which are worth more than the membership fees; Here is the schedule;

Join the PPA as a free member - Entry to Full Tilt Poker Freeroll
Join the PPA as a $20 member - $50 Bonus after clearing 1000 Full Tilt Points
Join the PPA as a $40 member - $100 Bonus after clearing 2000 Full Tilt Points
Join the PPA as a $100 member - $200 Bonus after clearing 4000 Full Tilt Points
Join the PPA as a $1000 member - $1000 Bonus after clearing 20000 Full Tilt Points

This bonus is separate from their usual 100% match up to $600 for new members... I know most savvy players already have an account here (after all it is the US #2 site) but if not you can check them out via the link below.

play online poker
Play Online Poker

Cheers and GL at the tables,


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sit and Go - ROI for regulars vs turbos

A common theme, particularly for new players on the forums concerns ROI expections for regular SNGs vs Turbo or Speed SNGs. The general consensus among the more experienced players who reply is that you can expect a higher ROI (Return on investment) for regulars but can play more games per hour on the turbos / speeds.

This is fine but I would like to argue that there is slightly more to it than that....

Hourly rate is, of course, important to anyone playing online poker for profits only (whether we admit it of not there are many other reasons for playing other than this: A challenge, Liesure, mental stimulation or just to pass a couple of quiet hours etc... ). If we take the turbo SNGs as averaging 30 minutes (longer if you win of course but as an average of all your games) and the regulars as 45 minutes we can play many more turbos - and thus make more money even though your ROI might be 4 to 8% lower...

To me it comes down to your style of play more than hourly rate, my preference - as outlined in "A Comedy of Errors" (free! link top right), is to play the pushbotting SNG game... super-tight early and super-aggressive late. This means a lot of folding, especially at levels 1 to 3.

Now in a regular this can mean many more trips through the low blinds and many more of those difficult mid-game scenarios with 12-17BBs. This is not good - while I am generally comfortable with post flop play the whole concept behind the pushbot model is to avoid this and instead use ICM + opponent Ranges pre-flop at high blinds. Regular SNGs force you to play post-flop, to read hands and to make 'moves' for smaller amounts of your stack... this is fine playing 2 or 3 tables at a time, once you get to 8+ it becomes a nightmare!!!

Conversely the turbo or speed SNGs get to the higher blind levels quickly and allow you to get into push fold mode... ideal for me, how about you?!?!

One small tip for pushing that I use in 50% or so of games - since I often fold the first 20 hands in a row this gives a 'super-tight' table image. Choose the tigher blinds and push them light the first time you go all in. Sure they might wake up with a hand - but their tight range will often be even tighter for push number #1 from someone perceived as a rock... nothing worse than getting aces for that first push and then having everyone fold!!

Gl at the tables,


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

General Life 'n' Poker Update

Bit worried that this blog may become too 'dry' with all the maths / strategy all the time, so a quick personal update today for a change!

I have started mixing in some $55+5 SNGs to my usual 27s / 35s on PokerStars - so far so good on these, they seem a bit more aggressive, particularly with cBets being reraised but still have their fair share of horrible players - my Stars roll is just short of the $4000 mark, the plan is to start playing half and half 27/60 at 5K and then move to the 60's full time once I reach 6K.... we will see.

As regular readers may know I am an Englishman living in Budapest, Hungary - here are a couple more random observations about the Magyars!

- They count using the thumb as number #1 (minor difference I know but can be confusing!).

- They do not differentiate 'he' and 'she' when describing someone (there are words for this but they are not used in most descriptions of what people did or things about them). This means that when speaking in English people can often miraculously change sex in mid-sentance! General mix ups can be funny "His Boyfriend" "My father is called Fred, She drives a BMW" etc etc

I'm learning the lingo right now and having great difficulty - so I'd best not be the judge eh?!??!

If anyone, especially cash game specialists (SNG Players welcome too though!), would like to do a 'guest post' on Plan3t Gong please let me know...

Finally I am looking at moving away from Blogger in the near future and getting my own domain, should be better for organising the articles etc. Plan on visiting the UK next month and will discuss what needs to be done with my IT specialist (ok then, brother!).

Cheer and GL at the tables, Mark

PS: Did I mention how fishy Titan Poker is recently?? (link under 'Poker Rooms' on the left) !!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #2 - Double Shootouts, the 1st Table

Going to look at strategy considerations for Double Shootout tournaments today, for those who missed the last post on PokerStars Million Sats these are a common way to win a seat - costing $11.70 to enter. They comprise 2 SNGs, if you win the first then you get to the second where up to 4 players get a seat (depends how many enter) and the remaining players get $35.

I already mentioned that the standard in these is generally horrific, check out the sharkscope results of a few entrants to see what I mean!!

The first thing to cover is expectation, when full (100 players) you are risking $11.70 to win $215 or a runners up $35 so an average player can expect, in 100 attempts at return of $10.70 per attempt (215 x 4 and 35 x 6 - 10 man tables). But what about a good player? Here is the difficult part - since you have to win table 1 your expectation is reduced (realistically it is just not possible to come 1st all that often). If you are skilled you may have a 20% chance instead of the average 10 to win table 1, doubling your expectation to $21.40 per attempt if we exclude skill differences from the final table... the reason for writing this is to get things in perspective, these games are a minefield and thus it is important to be realistic about what your expectation is before starting!!

Ok, so 10 players on table 1 and we are off - what are the main strategy changes when compared with a normal sit and go?

Here are my observations - next section will be thoughts on what adjustments to make;

- The 'super-tight early vs pushbot late' standard SNG strategy is not ideal here. The reason this works so well is that skilled players can exploit opponents bubble mistakes, the whole reason for this strategy is to cash and then go for 1st. On the 1st table of a double shootout (DS) there is no bubble, the winner is going to take all.

- The reasoning for pushbotting is that you can play on opponents fears of not cashing at the bubble to accumulate chips, that simply does not happen here - with 4 or 5 people left people will often 'accidently' call you correctly, mathematically speaking, due to the loose nature of their play.

- You will find that the other players gamble a lot, top pair no-kicker is plenty enough to get all in on level 1. This means that people exit quickly and by level 4 (100/50 blinds) you are likely to be short handed with 1 or 2 big stacks at the table.

Thoughts on adjustments;

- Speculate Early; While in a SNG folding would be the correct play with a suited connector or AQo in middle position in a DS I loosen upwith these hands - even calling a small raise. The logic here is that your chips are not as valuable later in the game as they are in a normal SNG so the reward for hitting a flop vs the risk in equity is better for speculative hands.

- Use the Gap Concept - and not ICM to decide on late pushes. Your opponents will call you light in the late stages so you need to make sure that your pushing hands can stand a showdown. This means looking at things differently - instead of the range of hands your opponent can call you with assume any pair, most aces and 2-broadways as their range then calculate your chances of winning a showdown vs that range (remember to include the current pot in this). 'Any-2' pushes may still be good when the blinds + antes are very large, but your FE is much reduced so be careful!!

- Avoiding confrontations with another big stack is ideal on the bubble of a SNG, in a DS first table this is not necessarily the case... waiting for the smally to bust will not help you. Remember that someone with chips will call your raises with lesser hands and try to take advantage of this but do not shy away from such confrontations.

- Many of your opponents will be cash game players who try for a million seat once a week and not SNG or MTT specialists. Watch for players who defend their button rather than their blinds, this info can be valuable later on in the game, if you are in the blinds you can resteal lighter, if you wake up with a hand and act before them limp and then reraise steal when they defend their button with a raise.

- Hand values, the poor standard of play can change relative hand values pre-flop. Since many players see ace-rag or even king-rag suited as premuim holdings then meduim pairs go up in value. I am usually happy to shove over a raiser and cold-caller with Jacks in a DS where in a SNG these can often be folded... 70% is plenty enough to get your money in when only 1 spot moves up!

- Heads up play, it is very unlikely that your opponent will understand correct heads up strategy (nash equilibrium etc). They will still over-value ace-rag hands etc (accidently correct play!) but probably underestimate the range that they should be shoving into you. You can exploit this in a couple of ways - shove slightly lighter than in a SNG (but avoid A-small hands more) and call tighter. Find out as early and cheaply as possible how they react to limps from the SB and to smaller raises.... if your opponent folds to 2.5xBB raises then keep on raising until they play back, if they raise often reshove with a reasonable holding early to keep them on the defensive.

Ah well, just a collection of thoughts really - feedback appreciated as always! Going to do some more 'linkage' and my promised review of 'The Psychology of Poker' next - will look at strategy for the second table later in the week.

Cheers, Mark

Monday, February 19, 2007

Squidoo Lens - SNG Central

Discovered by accident - it is part of this web 2.0 thing (social bookmarking and other terms I do not really understand). Anyway I have experimented with it by putting together my own 'lens' (=page) called SNG Central... link below (right click and select 'open in new window' please!).

My thought is that there is potential here to make a useful resource for the SNG players and bloggers out there for free... Now in the interests of full disclosure etc this contains my affiliate links to 3 pokersites and I have put Plan3t Gong in first place for the resources!

So, if you know of any good resources / guides / websites that would benefit SNGers or would like to have your blog added (will put a separate list for this) please pop over and give it a rating then drop me a mail or blog comment. Its pretty basic at the moment - half an hours work only - but if it seems useful I will spend some more time updating it as we go along.

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Breaking News... BeLOWaBOVe Chat Ban

Online tournament pro BeLOWaBOVe has had his chat permanently banned on PokerStars today following a complaint from a fellow player. Apparently he told someone to "Get AIDS" after being busted and someone objected strongly enough to report to another player.

Next the complaintant tried to reconcile the situation via a PM with the following...

2.13.01:59 by MC64 [Reply] Kevin, I just wanted to let youv know that I was the one who reportedyou and got your chat banned. I had a cousin die of AIDS not too longago and when you say something as ignorant and insensitive as 'get aids'to someone because they bust you out of a tourney....well all I can sayis you need to grow up and be a little more mature about the kind ofparting comments you make. Considering you are a supernova player not tomention a top player on P5's...well you should consider learning alittle common

the rest was cut off in 2nd pm which i cant acces anymore.. oh well


From the debate on the forums this was not enough to resolve the situation and after getting a good 'seeing to' on the message boards MC64 has now written to Stars withdrawing the complaint!

Whether this results in the chat ban being revoked I have no idea!!!

Personal thoughts are that a ban is a good thing here - at least for a time, making an example of a high profile player might make others think twice...

Cheers, Mark

Into Online Poker? Before you spend your hard earned cash on Daniel Negranus Power Holdem Strategy grab a free copy of 'A Comedy of Errors'!! a guide to winning 1 table tourneys by exploiting opponents mistakes - sign up box in top right corner of this blog.

Guide to Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #1

Been enjoying some success with PokerStars Sunday Million Satellites (and Sunday Warm-Up / EPT events / Nightly 150 sats) lately and thought it was about time to write a series of articles on the subject.

Much to discuss, could be 5 or 6 over the coming weeks. Even if you do not wish to play in the 'main event' the great thing about these is that you can un-register and take tournament dollars (T$) instead. These can be used for any tourney, including sit and goes or exchanged for cash at about 80 to 85% value at a number of websites such as Cashman Brian.

Thought a good starting point would be to list the different types of satellites available and note the pros and cons of each. Will then look at strategy considerations for the different types and finally look at the maths / ICM aspect and whether this can help.

One further note - at the end of each month the buy-in for the Sunday Million more than doubles to $530 and thus the prices for the satellites all go up... to keep things simple the list below applies to the regular $200+15 weeks...

So, here are the different types:

1) Double Shootouts.

These are 2 SNGs, if you win the first table then you move to the second and can win your seat for getting 1st to 4th (depending on number of entrants) the remaining final tablers often get cash 'runners up' prizes. These cost $11.70 and when full (100 players) give 4 seats + $35 for the final table. There are 2 versions, standard with 15 minute blind levels and turbo with 5 minute levels. There are also smaller buy-in 'Triple Shootouts' with 6-person tables available.

Pros: Cheap way of getting a seat, horrific standard (make $3 SNGs look like the WSOP!)
Cons: Even a good SNG player can not expect too many 1sts... the bad opponents make these a bit of a minefield.

2) Fixed Buy-In MTT Satellites.

These vary from $10+1 to $39 and have the standard 15 minute blind levels. Expect fields of 200+ (more on Sundays) and the standard of play to be poor. The lower buy-in MTTs may seem cheaper but can actually make it very hard to get a seat due to the poor entrant / seat ratio.

Pros: Fixed outlay (compared to the rebuys), poor standard of play - particularly at the bubble.
Cons: Poor seat / entrant ratio at lower buy-ins.

3) Rebuy MTT Satellites.

Will mention the rebuys with standard blind levels (15 mins) separately from the turbo's, these are $11 or $3 buy-in and the fields fairly large (400+ especially on Sundays). Poor standard as with most sats.

Pros: More time for skill advantages to come into play.
Cons: $3r has poor seat / player ratio.

4) Turbo Rebuy MTT Satellites.

My personal favourite! The buy ins are$3, $8 or $10 (+10% rake as usual). You get 1000 chips to start and the blinds go up every 5 minutes. There is an add-on break after 30 minutes. By the time the break is over the blinds go up frighteningly fast - after 1 hour of play they are already 1000/2000 so no time to mess around! There is a lot of 'dead money' - people who nurse small stacks waiting for aces or do not rebuy at all... there are also a lot of people playing these who really do not understand the dynamics of the bubble, gambling their big stack with another player when folding into the money would be easy. My thought is that these suit my SNG style, identifying spots to steal late and the all important 'unexploitable pushes' being a vital part of the game. Entrant numbers vary from 200 to 400 (again more - and worse - players on Sundays!).

Pros: Dead Money, Poor Standard of play.
Cons: Can become a bit of a crap-shoot, need to win your cion flips late.

There is the summary - next I will look at how to handle the first table of a double shootout (where chip ev = $ ev).

If you do not already play at PokerStars there is a link on the right hand side to check them out.

If you find this (or any other) article useful please spread the word about Plan3t Gong - the envelope icon below lets you mail this article to a friend (thanks!).

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Avoiding Poker Account Hackers + Quick MTT Update

Found and interesting thread over on P5's by Lee Jones - card room manager over at PokerStars. Prompted by the recent Annette_15 saga the message here is relatively clear - it is your responsibility to keep your account secure. (right click to choose 'open in new window')

My accounts are now safe and well but during last years travels I downloaded and logged on from net cafes in many unsafe places (Vietnam a good example!). Got away with it though!!

Won yet more tournament $ in a Sunday warm up satellite yesterday and used it for the $3+r and a $50+5 during the evening... out 29th in the $3 (out of 2400ish), made a great read on a loose pusher and isolated with a pair of 10's - he had 7's... shame the BB woke up with QQ and busted us both!!! 40th (ish) out of 800+ in the $50 included a brief spell sharing a table with Sheets... lost half my stack defending my BB with AJs (vs 66) and spent the next 20 minutes in push / fold mode - ended with a lost coinflip but a good run at a higher level than I am used to so feeling good about that one. My new aggressive late approach is going to pay off with a big final table any day soon...

Still not done the ICM for Statellites article - will try and get that one up either tomorrow or Monday.

One more note is on 'A Comedy of Errors' - noticed the downloads have gone down recently so figured it was time for another mention, there is no 'catch' I wrote it to get my blog off the ground... this looks at lower level SNGs in terms of the mistakes opponents make and suggests how to exploit them - download via link top right.

Cheers and GL at the tables,


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Musings on Cash Games Training Videos...

Seem to have been watching a lot of cash game videos lately, eveything from $25 NL up to $3/6 (thats $600 NL I guess)...

Firstly 4 from 2+2er I_Strong, a UK player whose videos are free. You will find the link to these via the Acornmans Blog (link in list on right). The vids cover lower limits and are nicely put together... not sure if I learned anything really new from these but there are a couple of good thoughts on hand reading skills and I_Strong constantly reinforces the importance of position, he is a loose and aggressive player who thinks through situations well and well worth watching.

There has also been a series of cash game training videos from Rizen at, these are high quality items. Rizen is an excellent coach - taking more time to explain situations / hands than most of the other pros (Sheets / JohnnyBax / Belowabove etc all have their own strengths but for me Rizen is the best of the bunch there!).

The Rizen videos are higher level in general - though he does one at $100 NL too - he puts great emphasis on playing the other players as well as position and definitely provided some good insights for me as someone relatively new to cash. PXF is relatively expensive to join but well worth it... the forum is instructional and includes Hand Histories from pros such as Annette_15, and you can upload your own HHs for review later.

Won a seat in the PokerStars Sunday Warm up yesterday in a 3+R Turbo sat (1 from 2 attempts!)... not going to play it but now have plently more T$ for SNGs (if I could only find the time to play a few!!!)

Cheers, Mark

Internet Online Poker Tips - Sit n Go Planet

Quick advertorial! If you are looking for Internet Online Poker Tips and Strategy Articles look no further... Sit and Go Planet covers all not only SNG Strategy Tips but Online Tournaments and Online Satellite Qualifiers too... in fact there is something for everyone! - Your 100% free resource for Internet Online Poker Tips!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ICM for SNGs - Basics and Building Blocks

This post comes from a reader request... To go 'Back to Basics' with The Independant Chip Model (ICM) for SNGs, look at how this is calculated and how it can be used. The maths is actually fairly simple once you look into it - my thought is that the key to using ICM in your game is not just to understand how it can help, but to clearly understand what it can not do too!!

What is ICM?

In its simplest form ICM is a way of representing your current equity in a prize pool based on the relative stack sizes of the remaining players and the distribution of that prize pool among them.

At the start of a 10 player SNG with equal stacks of 1000 chips and a prize pool of $100 distributed in the standard 50%/30%/20% format everyone has an equity of $10. Skill differences, cards and blinds are not involved - the numbers simply state what everyones current stack is worth.

By the time we get to the bubble there are usually 4 players with different stack sizes,here everyones equity in the $100 is different, we can work out a snapshot of each players equity by calculating their chance of finishing in each of the 4 remaining positions (see next section).

This is where ICM starts to have a practical application. If you know what your current equity is you can use this to make decisions based on how much extra equity you will either gain or lose by taking certain actions (usually pushing all in or calling an all in at this stage). For example if you have 24% equity and will lose all of this by calling and all in you need to balance this with what equity you gain by winning. This is often less than you stand to lose so doubling up might increase your equity by 12%, now instead of judging your winning chances vs the ranges of hands your opponent has pushed with you instead judge your equity risk vs equity reward vs the range of your opponents hand. If you think you are 60% favourite vs your opponents range but are risking $24 to win $12 then it makes sense to fold.

This is the key to using ICM, as with all poker, if you take positive expectation
situations you will win over time. Conversely if you take negative expactation
situations you will lose... lets put it in numbers to be even clearer!

You have 24% equity and are 60/40 favourite (estimate of course) to your opponents range when he pushes all in ahead of you. If you win and double up you gain $12 additional equity, if you lose you are out in 4th (equity = $0).

So after 100 hands....
60 Times you win and have $36 equity 60*36 = $2160
40 Times you lose and have $0 equity.40*0 = $0

So at the end of 100 tries you have $2160/100 or $21.6 in equity - the play costs you
$2.40c each time you make it!!! Let me ask a question - is your ROI above 24%??

How is Prize Pool Equity Calculated?

No mystery here, each remaining player at the bubble has a chance to finish in any of
the 4 remaining positions... to work out current equity we need to calculate the chance of each position for the 4 players.

Here is how it is done (will try to keep as simple as possible), the 4 players have
stacks of 5000 / 2500 / 1500 / 1000. We Start with the big stack, based on chips alone he has a 50% chance of finishing 1st and taking the $50 for 1st place, thats $25 in equity.

Next we assume biggy got 1st and work out what % chance the other players have of
finishing 2nd / 3rd / 4th (based on % of chips in play after we exclude the big stacks chips). So the guy with 2500 chips now has 50% of the remaining chips and thus a 50% chance of finishing 2nd. Repeat.

We are now part of the way there! Next we start over and look at the 2nd stacks chance of finishing 1st (25%) and then work out the other stacks chances of taking 2nd / 3rd / 4th based on their chip stacks. Repeat for the other stacks...

At the end of the exercise you have worked out each stacks chances of finishing in each position and can so calculate their total equity as an average of their chance of each finishing position and the reward for each position.

No need to calculate this manually, there are plently of on-line calculators available. Link below was suggested by a reader and is a good example.

If you take one thing from this section it should be that doubling your chip stack does not double your prize pool equity... I strongly suggest readers who are new to this change stack sizes in a calculator and see what effect moving the chips around has on each players $ev... this understanding is vital to the next step - using ICM at the table!

Another thing to note is that the prize pool difference between 4th and 3rd is the same as the jump from 2nd to 4th... will save this discussion for another day.

What Other Information is Required in order to use ICM at the bubble?

Have already written several articles on SNG Bubble play and ICM (these can be accessedvia the 'jump off' page which is in the links on the right hand side) so will just summarise here.

Firstly thing to mention is that some info is missing here - you can not base decisionson $equity calculations without having an understanding of relative strength of hands vs ranges of opponents hands. For example, you have pocket 10's and face an all in from the big stack at the bubble, based on $ev you need 65% against his range of hands and estimate that range as any pair, any ace, K7 suited + or any 2 cards 10 or above... you need to know whether you have the required edge in advance. Suggest pokerstove as a good starting point if you have not learned these...

Secondly you need to estimate that range of hands which your opponents will push all in or call your all ins with. Without this your $equity knowledge is useless. For example if player A will call with 65% of hands you can not profitably push into him to steal blinds with as wide a range as someone who is only calling with top 10%. Article on estimating ranges available va jump-off page.

Once you can estimate ranges the next step is to get an ICM calculator such as Sit and Go Power Tools (several others available such as SNG Wizz). You input the stack sizes, blind sizes and your estimates of pushing / calling ranges and these tools tell you whether your push or call has a postive or negative expectation. Worth the $80ish price tag many times over. These tools are not much use at the table but using them to analyse bubble situations after the game really helps!

What ICM Can Not Do!!

Important - ICM is no magic bullet, it helps you make good bubble decisions based on
prize pool equity that will give you an edge long term - but that is all!

ICM does not account for Blinds properly, for example the short stack is next in the BB and is all-in, you are guarenteed 20% equity if he busts... ignore the range ICM tells you to call the big stack with, tighten up further!

ICM does not take skill differences between the players. If you are outclassed at a
table you may have a better chance of winning by taking a gamble early, conversely if
you outmatch your opposition it may pay to decline a small +$ev move early to wait for a better spot later.

Understanding ICM can not save you from hideous bubble calls. We have all seen them
right, someone gambling with their 23% equity with J6 suited when the maths would show clearly that they needed 70% vs their opponents range. It is up to you to spot these players and adjust accordingly - nothing is going to stop some people from spewing both their equity and yours to the players not in the hand!! Be particularly aware of your own image at the table, pushing all in 2 or 3 times in a row and winning the blinds is great - be aware that the 3rd or 4th push might very well be called by a weak holding and make sure that your $equity edge justifies the risk.

Longer than expected to will stop here... happy to answer any queries on the above,
please leave a comment. If you enjoyed this series of articles please tell your friends about the Plan3t Gong Poker Blog!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, February 12, 2007

The New Fishtank - Jump Off Page

Must be feeling extra organised today!

As many (if not all) of my non-US readers will know Titan is quickly gaining a reputation as 'The New Fishtank'. The standard of play is sooooo bad it can bring tears to the eyes!!! Add to this the Jackpot SNGs, Freerolls and regular bonuses and it explains why I spend as much (if not more) time there than on PokerStars!!

I have done many articles on Titan - so time to put them all in one place, will start with the Jackpot SNGs and the Beyond Table Selection.

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

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

Check them out today - your wallet will thank you!!

Doyle Brunson Arrested???

Not sure if this is true or not at this point - remember you heard it on Plan3t Gong First!!!

According to a semi-credible source (a Pokerstars employee and generally trusted player), Doyle Brunson has been arrested for unknown reasons.

Link to the original story...

Neverwin Poker - Breaking News

Thread on P5's

P5's links to Other Topics Board Thread

EDIT: Some time later... turned out to be a hoax! Oh well a bit of excitement to distract us from counting outs.

Cheers, Mark

Organisation + Sunday Million Review

Have done some organising this morning... putting all of the ICM / General SNG and 'Beyond Table Selection' Posts in a single 'jump-off' page and adding a link to this on the right hand side... hopefully make things easier to navigate than the usual blogger tags!

Poker Stars Sunday Million was short for me, lasting approx 1 hour and 15 minutes - but hey at least I got busted in style!!! I get KK in EP and make a standard 3x raise, flat called by the guy next to me and the others fold... I cBet 3/4 of pot on a 10 6 10 rainbow flop and get reraised enough to commit me... well to cut a long story short I though about him having a 10 for 20ish seconds or so and decided that there was a decent chance he had a smaller pair or an ace - after all why raise with trip 10's here? I pushed over the top and he insta-calls... with 10 10, yep quads!!! NH sir - GG me!! Ah well maybe next time (or maybe I just play the satellites and keep the tournament $$!).

Will post some more later today - Titan have a new offer + some updates to their software to talk about. (Link on the right).

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fun and Games with Sunday Million Satellites

Have been playing Satellites today - 6 of them in total, 2* Double shootout (turbo) and 4* $8 or $10 turbo rebuys. Hours of fun, the turbo rebuy satellites especially - 1000 chips to start and 5 minute blind levels... when the 30 minute break comes you have to have accumulated some chips or the blinds will eat you alive.

Lots of ICM involved - especially late, do not have my mathematical hat on today so will note it down for a future article... the good news is that I now have 3 Sunday million seats!!! (well ok then 1 and about $300 in T$ left over to play SNGs with next week). Been a while since I gave the Million a try, going to come out fighting tonight and see what happens.

Thinking of Satellites - also qualified for the Poker Stars VIP Club Monthly $100k thanks to getting a couple of sets early and then becoming maniac aggressive with a big stack on the bubble!

One horrible story from one of the Turbo rebuy sats... I was not in the hand (enough chips to safely fold by then), the bubble 23 people left and 22 places paid - meduim stack on one table pushes and is called by a giant stack in the BB - meduim guy had AA and Big stack J4 - both miss the flop and the turn and river both come 4's (ouch)... anyway we are hand for hand at this point and on another table someone is almost all in with the BB... he has something like 600 chips left at 8000/4000 blinds... the button raises and the SB folds.... (going to have sleepless nights over what happened next) obviously all this guy needed to do was fold his hand and he would have had a place.... yep he called, but thats not all... he called with 53 off suit!!!!!!!!! Lost the hand and the guy who had his aces cracked got a place after all (the smallest stack before the hand taking the 23rd place). Ahhh poker, got to love it!

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paradise RIP + General Update

News coming through today that SportingBet Plc have decided to close the Paradise Poker software and to transfer the players to Boss Media Network... shame, I played at Paradise a couple of years ago (and being a novice fish dropped a few hundred $!) always liked the software though. Not familiar with Boss - the feedback from forums is not positive though!! Taking a look around this seems to be a collection of small sites (Celeb Poker and Fortune Poker for example). Might have a look at some point when things are not so crazy busy for me!!

Reading 'The Psychology of Poker' by Alan Schoomaker at the moment - so far an interesting read, talks about analysing your own motives and looking at the motives of others and adjusting your play for them... always considered being honest with yourself a vital factor in the online poker universe. Plan to do a full review / analysis next week.

Table update - up alomst $500 from the 1st week of Feb, most of it from 50c/$1 NL 8-Max cash games on Titan, seriously folks those tables are amazing - loose / passive fishes and the occasional maniac litterally giving their money away. I have a lot to learn about cash (getting used the playing looser after the ultra-tight start of SNGs) but with a bit of selective aggression here the chips just keep coming your way!!

MTT Update - Not so much joy here, went deepish in the PokerStars $3 Rebuy last night, 46th out of 2100ish, exited after restealing from an EP min-raiser with AJs - pushed over the top of him (he had me covered but not by much) and he thought for a while before calling with KJ! Happy days, King on flop this time but I am always happy to get the money in as a huge favourite - the rest is just how the cards fall. Shame in one way as it would have made me top 5 in chips. Generally happy with my new years resolution to play looser / more aggressively in MTTs, not won any in 07 as yet but at least not spending 4 hours to cash for $10 then blinding away any more...

Had an e-mail request to look again at ICM, this time from a beginners perspective - kind of building on the summary in my eBook 'A comedy of errors' (still available freely!!). Will make a plan for this one and look at the maths behind the calculations a bit (again next week).

Happy to answer any requests for future articles sent in via mail ( or you can add a comment at the end of each post.

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SNG ROI Expectations vs Winning Players

This post was inspired by yet another thread on the 2+2 forums... someone was asking how many fish do you need in a SNG to make it profitable? No easy answer of course, I replied with my thoughts on ROI against winning SNG players as mentioned here some weeks ago... (will paste it below)... then the thread (as they often do) turned into egotism and posturing, comments such as 'well I have an edge over players X, Y and Z'. 'You have to learn to beat the winners too so stop crying'. etc etc

As regular readers will know we try to be rational about things here at plan3t gong! So, time to have a look at the effect of other winners on the table - not from an ego perspective - but using the numbers... the twist this time is that we look at it from the perspective of someone who has an edge over the winners.

First, here is a recap of the effect of winning players at your table (this was my 2+2 reply);

- Prize Pool, 10 man SNG - $100 pool - on 'average' your 3 winning opponents take home $12 each, remaining 7 (inc you) now fight over 64 / 7 = $9.1 each - your ROI = 20% so you now can expect $1.8 + 9.1 or an average of $10.9 (so your ROI is now 9%)... of course this is simplified - your ROI also affects the other winners and we did not include rake, hopefully point still valid though!

- Expectation vs table. If your ROI of 20% comes from losing players and you now put winners on the table... so vs 9 donks you have 20%, vs 3 winners you have 0% over time. so we reduce your 20% by 1/3rd to reflect your average against the whole table - thats 13.33%

- Strategy considerations... more complex and harder to put in numbers. We ask the question where does your profit come from... simple answer = opponents mistakes, in SNGs this is mostly bubble mistakes. Here is the key for me when it comes to ROI - in order for the donks to make BIG bubble mistakes you need a critical mass of them, 1 donk at the bubble is likely to kill your $ev at the same time of his own - if you get 2 or even 3 bad bubble players you have more profit as they will make errors against each other too. Against the winning opponents your edge can thus be reduced a long way.

Now we can factor in the player who has an edge over the winners... a super-player!!

First the baseline... 10 players, $100 prize pool (50/30/20).... our winner has a 40% ROI (probably not achievable long term but for this example we use it), this is vs the 'average player). Thus for every $10 invested he makes $4.

Next we add in 3 winners but exclude the edge against them from our super-player for now. If we give the 3 winners a 25% ROI then $37.50 is gone from the prize pool (on average) leaving $62.50 for the remaining 7 players or $8.90 each... out winner has +40% and so makes (again on average) $12.46 per game. His ROI with 6 average and 3 winning opponents is 24.6%.

We can then factor in our super-players edge vs the opposition. Here we have to calculate that edge by doing the maths backward from the above example.... if our super-player takes $14 from the prize pool we have $86 left for the other 9 = $9.5 each - our 3 winners have 25% so $11.85 per game or 18.5% ROI - thus the edge of the super player against the 3 winners is 6.5%.

Now we get to the key question - what is the true ROI of the super table vs the 3 winners and 6 losers. Well it is all in the calculations above (40% *6)+(6.5%*3)/9 = 28.8%

So his edge vs the winners has increased his expectation from 24.6% to 28.8%... not much.

Let me ask a question, though the maths was simplified above (no rake / round numbers etc) would you - as a super player - rather be earning $4 per game or $2.88 per game. My feeling is that those who are playing with their ego rather than their logic are costing themselves money even when they are correct about their edge vs other winners .... now let us be honest - how many of them really have an edge!!

OK enough maths, the keys are obvious - to be a winning player we must practice good table selection and good site selection, even if we are better than the winners, playing with them is going to bebad for the bankroll.

Will include some links to my 'Beyond Table Selection' Series which looked at some alternatives to the major poker rooms at the bottom of this post. Suggest my US readers check out Full Tilt for SNGs and Non-US readers try Titan (the new 'Fishtank'!).

Take some action, whatever it may be - idling along at your regular site trying to outfox the known winners is going to impact you right in the wallet in the end!!!

play online poker
Play Online Poker

The Following Older Posts Should Pop up in new windows (he writes hopefully!)

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 -

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Breaking News... Annette_15 Hacked

Some nasty and somewhat frightening news on the forums at the moment. Appears that Annette_15 the young Norwegian lady taking the online poker tournament world by storm has had one of her online poker accounts hacked.

Looks like at least $20k has been wasted in high stakes cash games on Ultimate Bet (UB Poker) by the hacker who was offering $1200 to people in exchange for $1000 via Western Union. Damage could turn out to be far worse than that.

There is a lesson here for all of us, personally have less than $7k across all my accounts but would still be very upset to lose it. Make sure your PC is protected not only with the latest Anti-virus and firewalls available - but with all of the latest Windows updates available from MSN.

There is also a line of thinking here about how much we need in those online accounts - the Neteller debarkle, as well as the Hacking of Annette 15 highlights the thought that we should look to keep the minumim for our needs... the only problem here is that if I withdraw too much Mrs Plan3t Gong's shopping habit might mean it never goes back!!

Annette_15 Player Profile is available at Go Articles via link below (right click / open in new window please!)

Cheers, Mark

Edit - Updated 10.00 ECT

Turns out the story has 2 more twists!

Firstly Annette_15 was personally duped into opening a file by another player - and get this - even though her anti-virus said not to open it... doh.

Secondly, her Ultimate Bet account acutally ended the session $12k up!!!!!!!!!! Completely unbelieveable... right my username and passwords on the way to hackers...

Cheers, Mark

Monday, February 05, 2007

Alternatives to Neteller #1 - MyWebATM at Full Tilt

Was going to continue the 'ego players' theme today by looking at ROI expectations in SNGs where there are winning players at the table that you perceive you have an edge over... that will now come tomorrow as there is some online poker payment methods for US players news just in... hopefully this is the first of many (not only as many of my readers are from the US but for the good of the game in general).

The news came from Full Tilt poker and is about a Neteller alternative called MyWebATM... checked out the details and it looks very easy. Once you have a real money account with Full Tilt you click on the deposit button - this takes you to a page with the various deposit options. Next click MyWebATM and deposit - a pop up box asks if you already have an account, the great thing here is that clicking 'no' brings up the sign-up box via the Full Tilt application... next you verify your details and move money from your bank account... there is a fee of 3.7% (less than Neteller here so not so bad) Easy as that!

Of course the important piece here is how to get all those lovely $$$ won at the tables back into your bank! Here is the greatest news of all - you are sent a card and withdraw from ATMs!!! No more problems with traditional banks being unable to handle your withdrawals...

Check it out for yourself right now via the link below, if you did not already join up there is a 100% match on 1st deposit up to $600 too!

play online poker
Play Online Poker

Genuinely hope that this is the first of many options, without the biggest player pool of all the game if definitely worse off.

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Off Topic - Spam!

Spam, loads of it every day. Replica watches, Viagra all sorts - but now it seems to have gotten personal.... ok Jeanette I may have had a curry last night but please, surely it wasn't that bad??!?

SNG Bubble Strategy #5 - When to Ignore ICM

More ICM? Must be obsessive or something! Anyhow - said I would look at when to ignore ICM so here goes... there are really only 2 scenarios for this - 'Meta-Game Reasons' and when someone is close to being all in...


By this I mean making a -$ev call that will lose you money (over time) in the current SNG in order to make more money in future games. Is this possible?? Well, yes and no. If you are playing against the same opponents all the time and they are correctly pushing based on your range then maybe suprising them with a loose call could be +$ev longer term...

The result would be that they can now push less hands into you on the bubble as your assumed calling range is wider. The chips you gain from these walks adding to your stack and prize pool equity.

To be honest I do not think this works longer term for a couple of reasons. Firstly if you do it as a one-off event then people will quickly notice that you have gone back to your usual calling range, meaning any benefits will be short-lived. Secondly, people may not adjust - and importantly here you will not know whether they have or have not. For example, you make a loose call and win - next game the same opponent pushes into you again... now you should be assuming that his range beats your new looser calling range and have to fold (of course assuming you think that your opponent has considered the new information correctly). If that opponent has not considered the new info and is still pushing into you with his old looser range then your assumption that the -$ev call helped here is gone... you have painted yourself into a corner of assuming he is pushing tighter!!

All-in Or Almost All-in Situations;

Here the ICM calculators let us down... an example;

BB 3000 - $equity = 28.4
SB 2500 - $equity = 24.6
Button 4500 - $equity = 36.2
C/O 1000 - $equity = 10.8

Stacks / Equity before posting and blinds of 600/300 with 50 Ante 50/30/20 payouts, in this example you are in the SB and it is folded to you... what can you push against a BB who does not understand ICM / Bubble play??

Well running this through an ICM calculator would give you a huge range - anything from 100% vs a tight range to 65% against someone calling with top 30% only. But wait a minute... the guy currenly in the CO seat is going to blind out in the next 2 hands. It is pretty certain that he will be all in next hand (only a total novice would fold with 2/3rds of their stack already in the pot unless there were 2 all-ins ahead). So how does this affect things??

The key factor for me here is that the current BB does not understand bubble play and is likely to call you with a wide range. If the BB knew what was going on then its a near 100% pushing range from the SB and only Aces / Kings to call from the BB. He does not and the CO is 95% likely to be all-in next hand... your range needs to 'ignore' the ICM here - there is no need to gamble that equity here at all.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Sometimes you will see forum posts talking about such decisions in terms of whether you are 'Playing to Win' or 'Playing to Cash' - the emphasis is usually that playing to win is optimal. In a comedy of errors I looked at this logic in terms of the jump from 4th to 3rd being equal in size as the jump from 2nd to 1st...

I like to think of this from another perspective, that each decision in a SNG should maximise your current $ equity, bubble decisions should be made not in terms of which place you are aiming for but in terms of the amount of this equity you are risking vs the equity reward. If you make +$ev decisions it does not matter whether you play for 1st or 3rd, you will win money over time.

The trouble with people who do not understand bubble concepts is that their play (when gambling to 'get the win') spews both their own equity and that of the opponent in the hand onto the players not in the hand. Bad calls are a fact of low-level SNG life - there is never any point complaining about them... instead factor the loose range into your shoving decisions... ICM is less than useless without being able to put those opponents onto accurate (and often horrible) ranges!!

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Poker Psychology - Being Honest With Yourself

This post is inspired by a couple of interesting reads over on 2+2. Firstly an article in the monthly magazine discussing motivation and determination, secondly a very open and honest 'farewell' post by one of the mods on the '1-table tournaments' board called Bluefeet which discussed why he is giving up Poker...

Together they got me thinking about my motivations and how these relate to the beautiful game. Do not have a plan here - just fragments and ideas to share, wanted to be honest with myself and thought a public blog was a great place to do it!!

I am not competitive. Ambitious, yes... motivated, certainly- up to a point... smart, sure (even if I do say so myself!!) - but have never felt the need to beat other people in any aspect of life. This is a drawback in the online game but also an advantage - no need for me to seek revenge on anyone who sucked out to win my chips etc. The thing is about the lack of competitiveness is that the drive which some people have to go from being good at something to being great is not there for me... a non-poker example;

For many years I played bass guitar, I had a talent - not just technically but in having an ear for a tune, being able to add something special to a song without trying to dominate it... for song arrangement and for production when in the studio. It made me a sought after guy at the time, with more offers to play than it was possible to handle.... great days and no regrets.

But here was the point, my talent was natural - I got to a certain point and then never pushed myself to the next level... ie found it easy to be good but somehow never put in the extra work which differentiates the very good from the great.

Now we get back to poker - I find myself in the same situation, have managed to get to good without too much bother (been playing for over 2 years now). The next step is now clearly ahead - the hours of work, the practice at reading hands, the better situational understanding that will move me from being merely good to being great. Will I do it? Possibly! I'd like to think so but history is not on my side... having this blog has been good exercise - it is not possible to share concepts such as ICM with others unless one has a clear understanding, writing the articles has forced me to fill in those little gaps...

Going to make a start - a resolution if you like - no more 16s!!! Too easy to sit within your comfort zone grinding the damn things... exactly the same for the Pot Limit Omaha, no more micro-stakes for me... time to move on up there to - minimum $50 tables for now, and $100 min by March.

Another point, I am very aware of the bonuses available out there... but very rarely do anything about it. Easy to see how I could increase my monthly earnings by 30% or even more with a little dedication here - why am I not doing it already??! Comes back to the comfort zone again, happy enough grinding away, not pushing myself hard, getting a steady income but not a great one...

Well, hopefully a reader or 2 can relate to this - even if your particular approach is different. Come on folks - time for action! Whether it is to have a stab at a higher level, find a new poker site (see my 'Beyond Table Selection' series for some ideas) or to learn just a little more about the game you are playing... go do it right now!

Cheers, Mark

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Good Beat Story...

Playing some 27s on Stars this morning (yeah yeah I know it was supposed to be no Stars month!!) had 6 tables on the go when dealt QQ UTG with 10BBs on one of them.... being a dedicated pushbot and observing that the table was fairly loose I shoved all in... result below!! The poker-gods enacted their justice later on when my AK fell to K6 for 3rd - oh well, if you can not be happy with getting in as favourite you'd better stop playing poker!

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em Tourney, Big Blind is t150 (8 handed)

CO (t1930)
Button (t1190)
SB (t860)
BB (t905)
Hero (t1540)
UTG+1 (t2510)
MP1 (t3965)
MP2 (t600)

Preflop: Hero is UTG with Qd, Qs.

Hero raises to t1540, 2 folds, MP2 calls t600 (All-In), 3 folds, BB calls t755 (All-In).

Flop: (t3120) Kc, Th, 6c (3 players, 2 all-in)

Turn: (t3120) Qh (3 players, 2 all-in)

River: (t3120) 5h (3 players, 2 all-in)

Final Pot: t3120


BB has Ac As (one pair, aces).

Hero has Qd Qs (three of a kind, queens).

MP2 has Ah Ad (one pair, aces).

Outcome: Hero wins t3120.

Cheers, MArk

Later Edit: Many US Players are on the lookout for a Full Titl Poker Bonus Code - If you use PPUK01 (via link under poker sites on right hand side of this blog) then you get the maximum Full Tit Poker Sign Up Bonus of 100% up to $600!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jan Review Time

Quick post today, in a certain amount of pain care of a trip to the gym yesterday to begin addressing my weight problem... yep, not enough weight (almost 6 feet tall and 10 stone 6 lbs... (thats a little avobe average in height and damn skinny for my metric readers!). Oh well.

Jan was a dissapointing month - total profits of just short of $600. Did fine on SNGs, reasonably well on PLO and horribly on MTTs (must have spent $400ish on various satellites and rebuys). Not unhappy with most of the plays in these MTTs... kind of have a new view that making the money is not the objective and have been more aggressive / positive in and around the bubble, it is just a matter of time before a reasonable score comes along!!

No worries - my eternal optimism is in full swing and my aim is to make $2.5k during Feb, going to play mostly on the smaller sites as Stars seems to have an ever greater number of winning players... will look at a couple more sites over the next week as well as comment on an interesting thread on when not to use ICM.

Have not checked out Euro Poker yet - including the banner as it is pleasing to the eyes!!!