Friday, March 30, 2007

What Makes a Winning SNG Player??

New subject for my ever questioning mind today... this one was triggered by reading No Limit Hold 'Em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. They have an early chaper titled 'Skills for Success' which briefly covers some of the characteristics required to be a successful no limit holdem player.

Will list these below but really wanted to do 2 things here... firstly look at their list and comment on whether (or how) such skills relate to being a winning sit and go player and secondly ask the question; Is this list complete? and cover any additional skills / characteristics that might fit. As usual for Plan3t Gong this 'article' seeks to question and trigger thoughts rather than preach!!

Here is Sklanksky and Miller's List (they do suggest this is not a complete picture).

1) Manipulating the Pot Size
2) Adjusting Correctly to Stack Sizes
3) Winning the Battle of Mistakes
4) Reading Hands
5) Manipulating Opponents into Playing Badly

So for SNGs...

1) Manipulating Pot Size. Yes it has its place but this skill is more critical to deep stacked play (ie cash games). The principal of bit pots for big hands and thinking about the best way to get all of your opponents stack into the pot can happen early, however since many winning SNG players are turning down hands with high implied odds early / mid-game (think small pairs and suited connectors) this is less important. The key factor for SNGs is that high implied odds hands risk too much of your stack too early - chip preservation being more important due to the critical factor of Fold Equity in the late game.

2) Adjusting Correctly to Stack Sizes. 100% relevant to SNGs, in fact so important that one could argue that opponents failure to adjust to the rising blinds (shrinking stacks) is one of the main reasons we can make money in the lower limit SNGs.

3) Winning the Battle of Mistakes. It is not enough just to make less mistakes than your opponents... the magnitude of these mistakes is the really important part. An error that costs 50 chips vs a bubble call that spews your equity (and that of your opponent) to the players not in the hand is a disaster!! We can say that this one is relevant to winning SNGs too...

4) Reading Hands. Since relatively few hands will be played over multiple streets (after level 3 the stacks are just too shallow) this factor is less important for SNG players than in cash games. The key SNG skill related to this might need to become 'reading ranges' instead.

5) Manipulating Opponents into Playing Badly. Sure there is always a place for this, again less important for SNGs as you really do not have the chips required to set up later profitable situations. At a more basic level then checking the nuts to induce a river bluff could be inclused in this so we can not say there is no relevence at all...

Fine, we have a mix of outcomes. Many of the skills above are directly related to deep-stacked holdem games so no real suprise that the importance of these are reduced... now a few suggestions for skills that winning SNG players might possess (in no particular order):

1) Ability to Multi-Table. Lets be honest, the ROI obtainable in SNGs is small - if you are playing 1 table / hour at the 27's (for example) then your hourly rate at 10% is less than $3... might as well work in McDonalds!! Moving to 6, 8 or even more tables can make this endevour worthwile. This skill probably comes under the category 'what makes a profitable SNG player' as many people are happy to play for the enjoyment and challenge and are not so worried about hourly rates.

2) Ability to put people on Bubble Ranges. Many levels here but playing the players ranges is a critical skill... there is never any point complaining about a 'horrible call' by an opponent since you can not control this. The skill here is to work on the parts you can control. Understanding who understands bubble play, putting them on calling or pushing ranges and understanding what hands you can profilably push / call against them is vital.

3) Understanding Prize Pool Equity and ICM. Whether you choose to use this in any detail or not an understanding is a key skill. What is the use of accurately assessing an opponents range if you do not understand how much equity you will win / lose by making the call. Simple example, if you think you are 60% vs your opponents range but are risking $25 equity to win $12 then you have a negative expectation situation and can not call on the bubble... those who do not understand this will cost themselves a lot of money over time!

Could probably include a few more but once again this post is getting long! If anyone would like to suggest more (or disagree with mine!) then feel free to comment.

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

eBook / Blog Link-ups and a Banner!

Quicky extra post today... noticed many new visitors and relatively few taking my Free Poker eBook 'A Comedy of Errors'. Figured this has not been mentioned in the text for a long time and might look like a Google Ad!

The eBook was written to attract readers to my blog when I first started. Its aimed at lower limit SNG players (<$20ish) and looks at the errors your opponents are making in these and suggests ways to exploit them. It Covers ICM, Trap Hands, Bubble Play, Unexploitable Heads-Up play and many other topics.

You can get the eBook by signing up in the top right corner of this blog (java must be enabled to see the box)

Blog Link-Ups: Get the occasional request for links and if you have a blog please let me know - always happy to link back to good quality and regularly updated blogs. There are already many gems in the 'Blogs Of Distinction' list on the right so please check them out when you have a spare minute!!

A Banner??? Well its a long time since I last had an advert here at Plan3t Gong so please forgive me the indulence!! The banner below is for Titan Poker (sorry - not US Friendly at the moment), this is the main site I use (as well as Stars) and known as 'the new fishtank' on many forums due to the huge number of weak players! You can get double the usual signup bonus by using the Titan Poker Bonus Code 'POKERPOINT'.... go on - your wallet will thank you!!

Cheers and GL,


'Checking Down' Hands in SNGs - Mathematically Correct??

Going to have a look at a couple of different 'checking down' scenarios and make sure they are correct in terms of both ev and ICM. It has been a long held assumption that this is the 'correct' play - I just wanted to make sure!! (note: first one got longer then expected so will split this into 2 parts, next one to follow later in the week)

This kind of situation happens where there is a small stack all-in - 2 larger stacks refuse to bet any further on the hand in order to maximise the chances that the smally is knocked out. At the bubble this has the effect of increasing all of the other players chances of making the money...

Lets take an 'obvious' example first and take a look at the numbers behind it. 4 players left $100 prize pool and bb=200, stack sizes below.

Player A: 5000 - $ev = $36.21
Player B: 3000 - $ev - $29.62
Player C: 2500 - $ev - $27.30
Player D: 500 - #ev - $6.87

Imagine the smally is in the CO, pushes his last 500 chips in and is called by both player A and player B... they then check the flop turn and river to maximise the chances of eliminating the small stack. The pot is thus 1500... we should look at the equity calcs for the 3 possible outcomes first;

Player D wins his $ev is now $16.89 (increase of $10.02) while A = $33.57 (<$2.64) and B = 24.77 (<$4.85) - player C who was not in the hand also loses a bit going from $27.30 to $24.77 (<$2.53).

Player A wins his $ev is $39.57 while B and C each have $30.21 - everyone improved as the bubble is now burst.

But hang on - lets look at things from the viewpoint of a (correctly) selfish big-stack. Winning here is massive in terms of leverage in the money - having more than twice the stack of his opponents. It is also close in terms of $ev (losing reduces this by $2.64 while winning increases it by $3.36 - thats a 1.3/1 ratio.

Now we can look at the hands the 2 opponents might hold - pretty wide for D right? i'd certainly push any ace or king, any 2 cards 10 or above, Q8 and J9 as well as pairs here. Likewise with player B - with only 300 to enter a pot of 1200 (and the assumption that things would be checked down) he will come in with a huge range...

So from the big stacks perspective forcing player B out of the pot on the flop might be a positive expectation move after all... even more so if he figures to beat the small stack.

My thoughts here are that player B (meduim) stacked guy can not possibly call a flop shove here without a monster. He is basically risking the $24.67 in equity he gains by folding and having player D win as a minimum.

Let us be generous and say that player B has said monster 5% of the time... player A hits top pair and decides that pushing is the best option. The maths then splits into 2 - what % of the time would we expect A to beat D and what happens when B wakes up with trips (for example).

So 95% of the time player B folds and the showdown is between A and D - with top pair for A and such a wide range for D we will give player A 75% winning chances.... no problem here $ev wise.

5% of the time player B wakes up with a monster and wins the pot. Now we get to the key factor from the perspective of the big stack... how often would player D (the small stack) win the main pot here leaving the (bigger) side pot for B. With such a range the answer is no more than 10% right.... anything that B calls an all in with here has player D pretty much dead!

So let us have a look at the 'worst case scenario' for player A - after calling and losing to B on the flop.

Player A - 2000 - $ev = $28.62
Player B - 6500 - $ev = $40.78
Player C - 2500 - $ev = $30.61

So now the final numbers part: From the perspective of player A - pushing top pair or better on the flop.

95% of the time he wins/loses 75/25% - average equity gain = +$1.77c
5% of the time player B gets a monster and wins - equity loss = -$7.59

(95*1.77)-(5*7.59)/100 = $1.3

Its clear then that isolating with that top pair is a positive expectation move - even in an 'obvious' check-through scenario. In addition the benefit of having 6000 vs 2500 + 2500 in the money is huge from a strategic standpoint...

To conclude part #1 then: suprised myself here - thought I'd be using this example as a 'standard' to compare some other situations and it turns out differently than expected. Damn it I have checked through overpairs in this same spot several times costing myself money!!!

One other factor to consider is ths critisism you'll get from the other players in the chat for such a move... they will not have thought through the maths!! If you care about that more than making money please leave your Stars or Titan Poker screen name in the comment box - I would very much like to play at your tables!!!

GL at the tables.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Poker Pro Screen Names on Stars and the Vietnam Angle...

Seem to be a lot of players from Veitnam in the lower level SNGs at the moment - Ho Chi Min City and Long An a couple of places there... they seem competent but nothing special. Wondering why such a number of players from there - seems somehow disproportionate to what one would expect the poker playing population there to be... hmmm. Will Sharkscope them all and watch a little closer in the near future - do not think this an issue, just a tad curious!

A few screen names of well known professionals on Poker Stars for you - never know want to fill that 5 minutes of waiting for a tourney with something!!

Poker Stars Screen Name of Phil Hellmuth = #1_Lucky_One
Poker Stars Screen Name of Allen Cunningham = Acunningham
Poker Stars Screen Name of JC Tran = area123JC
Poker Stars Screen Name of Gavin Smith = birdguts
Poker Stars Screen Name of Gus Hansen = broski
Poker Stars Screen Name of Daniel Negreanu = doublesuited
Poker Stars Screen Name of Phil Ivey = erguon love

(ah well, got fed up with copy / paste - if you'd like to see the full list follow this link )

GL at the tables,


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Harrington's "M" - Useful in SNGs??

Before we get on to Dan Harringtons 'M' just a quick note to let you know I changed the headline for this blog... no longer "The UK Poker Blog with an International Perspective"... now its "The Poker Blog That Likes To Make you Think!".

The reason for the change is really in the 'Articles' that have built up over the last several months. I do not really see myself as a 'teacher' or 'coach' when writing these at all... much more from the perspective of someone who has thought about the game and would like to provide information / articles to trigger similar thinking for others.

We all know by now that there is no 'Magic Bullet' that will turn us into the best players overnight - its all to do with incremental learning and practice in different situations. What I hope (in addition to the enjoyment of writing) is that Plan3t Gong provides good food for poker thought!!

Anyway, Harrington's M and Theory of Inflection Points.

This is sometimes discussed on forums and other times quoted as part of a hand analysis - my question for today is whether the concept of M is any use for us in a SNG environment... in case anyone missed it will start with a quick explanation of what M acually is and how this relates to the concept of inflection points.

Harrington's 'M' is a number that shows your stack size in relation to the blinds and antes (if applicable). It is calculated by dividing your stack by the current total of blinds + antes in play. If you have a stack of 1500 with blinds at 20/10 and no ante your 'M' would be 1500/30 or 50, later with a 3000 stack and 200/100 blinds (no ante) you have an 'M' of 10.

Harrington's inflection points relate to the use of M by defining which 'Zone' you are in... for example with an M of over 50 you are in the 'green zone' and have the maximum flexibility in your play (lots of chips for post flop poker) while with an M of less than 5 you are in the 'red zone' and should be looking to get all in at any half-decent opportunity... each zone has its own strategic changes and inflection points can be thought of as the transitions between these zones.

Quick note on Effective M - Calculation of M assumes a full table of 9 or 10 players - for short handed play Harrington suggests using 'effective M' which is simply your current M divided by the ratio of remaining players... in the 3000 chip example with 200/100 blinds if there were only 5 players your M would be only 5 - since 50% of the players are gone.

OK - so could we relate M and Inflection points to SNG play in some useful form?? after all the theory of M was really designed to be used for Multi-Table Tournaments.

We can start by looking at Harringtons Zones and seeing if the M (will work with the effectibe M) and the style of play recommended seems to make sense...

Green Zone - M of 20 of more. Plenty of chips and thus maximum flexibility in your play.

Yellow Zone - M between 10 and 20. Harrington suggests playing looser and more aggressively to stop the blinds catching up with you. Warns against playing hands like small pairs and suited connectors.

Orange Zone - M between 6 and 10. Have lost the ability to resteal and must play very aggressively to have any chance of staying alive.

Red Zone - M of 5 or less. Your only move is now all in, have lost any chance of playing post flop poker.

Dead Zone. M of less than 1. Not much to say about this one really - you are pretty much, erm, dead!

So in an average SNG (will use Stars as an example) you would be in the green zone for the first 3 levels without increasing your stack. Level 3 blinds are 50/25 so 1500/75 = 20M. Usually there will be 1 or 2 players out so it could be argued that effective M is actually a little less than this but if you have won a pot or 2 this will be covered anyway. So far so good, the green zone works.

Level 4 - 100/50 blinds and 6 left of the original 9 with an average stack of 2250. Your effective M is now (2250/150)/(6/9) = 10. Well OK then so much for the yellow zone - appears we have jumped straight to the orange! Here is where I think Harrington's thoughts break down for SNG players - he suggests that in the orange zone you have lost the ability to resteal but with 22 big blinds this does not make sense. Someone raises for 300, is called by another player and you come over the top for your entire stack... that is plenty enough chips for the job!

So if restealing is still possible in the orange zone in an SNG where actually does it stop working so effectively - and what would your effective M be at that point??

I feel that we would need to move the blinds way up to 400/200 A25 before restealing completely goes away.... lets assume we are now down to 4 players - average stack 3375 - M would now be 3375/700 or 4.8 and effective M would thus be 4/9ths of this or 2.13. Now someone raises 3 times the BB to 1200... at this point the pot is 1900 if you come over the top for 3375 more then the pot is 5275 and it costs the raiser 2075 to call - thats more than 2.5/1, so any easy call for any hand that was good enough to make the initial raise.

But hang on - those M figures put is in Harrington's Red Zone - we are supposed to be all in every time we have the opportunity to open a pot. While there may be some merit to this if your opponents at the bubble happen to be the tightest players on the planet it appears from a strategic viewpoint this is a one way ticket to going broke!!!

So, we see 2 problems already with the Inflection points theory and use of effective M in SNGs - no yellow zone and the other orange / red zones being out of touch with the reality at the table.

Personally I like to think in simple terms of the number of BBs in my stack as we go through the tournament in a SNG... its simple and its effective. The key number being 10 BBs - below this it is worth pushing to win the blinds pre flop and you start to lose the ability to standard raise.

Anyway - feel free to comment on the subject, whether you agree or otherwise!

Cheers and GL at the tables,


Friday, March 23, 2007

Marathon WSOP Qualifier Satellite and some more PLO

Has been a great days pokerage! Managed to clock up another $650 in W$ on after a marathon Double Shootout to the WSOP Qualifier MTT over on PokerStars (will sell them via DMMikkel 's blog (link on right)). Have played many Double Shootouts before but these are generally the Turbo DS to the Sunday Million - quick blinds and 4 seats paid when full. The WSOP 2007 Qualifier Satellite DS was a different matter... 4 hours long! Not even sure I would have joined had I realised...

There was just 1 $650 seat up for grabs for the 49 entrants. Table I was a lesson in dealing with donks... really they were so oblivious to anything except the 2 cards in front of them it was painful to watch... no need to worry about what they are thinking I think they have etc. Loosened up as described in the earlier articles - usually 54s would be a clear fold for me in a SNG - nice to flop and open ender and turn the straight though - even nicer for someone to give me their stack with top pair... heads up was fun, played position, kept the pots small and waited for a monster - came in the form of a ten high flush and my opponent duly paid me off with an overpair.

It was more than an hour before table 2 got going... started off tight all round. Funny but after just a couple of rounds it was easy to see who was experienced and who was new. Used my 5 free sharkscope searches at 6 left and found 4 winning players - hmmm. Got aces at BB50 in EP and doubled through a guy who flopped top pair with KQ, had my KK cracked by JJ at BB100 when I reraised the button all in from the small blind... flopped the nut flush with AQs and stacked some guy with a pair of sevens - then turned on the aggression (for me at least) when 5 handed...

Down to 3 we had fairly even stacks with me 1000 ahead with 5600ish. Some stealing and restealing got me to about 7k when one guy had a blow up check raising the other one all in with a missed J10 - daft in the extreme as the raiser had trips... heads up was again fun (should note that my opponent played the 200-300 level SNGs according to Sharkscope which was a little worrying). He had a tendancy to check his good hands and bet bad ones which allowed me to come over the top with some good but not great hands, often betting 400 on the flop and then checking the turn with strong holdings... slowplaying turned out to be his downfall when he slowplayed AA soooo slowly that I was able to catch a small straight and tip the balance in my favour. with a 12000 to 3000 chip lead I went into small pot mode and rivered a flush at the same time as my opponent rivered top pair to finish things off... 4 hours of concentrating and then the buzz of a nice win was too much for me so I went to do the washing up to settle down!!!

Also had a nice morning session of Pot Limit Omaha over at Titan Poker. Decided I would have a crack at the 1/2 blinds ($200 buy-in). Actually felt I played much better at this level, making some good folds and being careful with those AAxx hands unless it was possible to get more than half my chips in before the flop. Managed to win about $400 over 3 tables in 2 hours (unfortunately gave back $100 early evening at 50c/1 and 25c/50c - hey nobody is perfect!).

Good luck at the tables!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

General Update + Small PLO Starting Hands Insight

Has been a successful return to the tables for me after those 11 days off... Titan Poker seems to have more traffic (other sites joining the network) so yesterday afternoon I 8-tabled their SNGs for the first time. The great thing was that there was only 1 other person on more than 3 tables (and quite frankly he was awful!!). Made a decent return playing a mix of $11's to $33's so all good. Link to Titan on the right (not US-Friendly i'm afraid...).

Also played a few WSOP Satellite tournaments on Stars... no good in those but did manage (with the help of some inspired folding) to win a seat in the Wednesday $300 for $320 Tournament Dollars playing a $6+R Turbo Rebuy. These can be used for SNGs so almost as good as cash. Rough calculation of $1200 up on the month to date... not bad but could do better!!

Still reading those books and found an interesting thought in the Pot Limit Omaha section of Doyle Brunson's Super System 2... I really only dabble in the game at the lower limits (up to $50 buy-in as a rule) and am aware of position / starting hands / nut outs etc etc. The new thought was to look at the number of opponents in a hand and multiply their hands (in comparison to Holdem) by 6!

Since there are 6 combinations of 2 cards in everyones starting hands it could be useful, when taking a flop, to ask yourself what chance of someone hitting if there were 6, 12, 18 or even 24 holdem hands against you... the answer of course is very high. Thought provoking for me at least, will work on my PLO game and hope to move up the limits soon. Playing AAxx hands was also interesting for me - will look into this further and write up some thoughts at some point.

GL at the tables,


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ROI in SNGs - How Big A Sample Size?

Forums all over the world contain posts asking questions like these:

- After 76 SNGs my ROI is 113%, should I move up levels?
- I have a ROI of 15% over 250 $6.50c turbos - is this good?
- What ROI would a winning player expect at the 16s / 22s / 33s (delete as applicable)?

In case you missed it ROI stands for 'Return on Investment' and is the standard way in which success (or otherwise) is measured for SNGs. What is a 'good' ROI at any particular level depends on many factors including your sample size, level at which you play, number of tables you play at once and situational factors such as the number of winning players at your tables.

The list below is an old set of numbers based on a large sample at Party Poker when still in business in the US (2005 I believe). It is based on someone playing no more than 4 tables at one time.

11s - 25% ROI
20s - 20% ROI
33s - 16% ROI
55s - 13% ROI
109s - 10% ROI
215s - 7% ROI

Things are different here in 2007. Less sites to choose from for multi-tablers, more training available (think PXF / SNG Icons / Cardrunners and the various tools now around) and importantly less losing players around (thinking of the US recreational market being hit by the UIGA and Neteller debarkle). My personal thoughts are to shave 5% off of the first 3 levels and proportionally reduce the rest... there is still a profit to be made, it is just that little bit tougher!

The question I really wanted to look at is about sample size... luckily some of the greatest brains behind the early days of the 2+2 forums have given us a hand here - running simulations of 50,000 games they looked at how often your ROI for a given sample size would reflect your true ability. Here is a summary based on a 10% range:

100 games: ~23%
300 games: ~40%
1000 games: ~66%
2000 games: ~82%

What this tells us (well ok the forum poster mentioned above) is that a 100 game sample has only a 23% chance of being an accurate reflection of ones ability. This makes sense in terms of some of the things we looked at previously here at Plan3t Gong - reverse the outcome of 5 coinflips in 100 games you'll see your ROI quickly halve or double. I feel that the 82% chance of 2000 games reflecting your true ROI also gives us food for thought... that is a lot of games to only be 'pretty sure' you are a winning player.

Will look at various aspects of ROI and confidence intervals in more detail over the coming weeks... for now we know what to think when Mr New-Guy starts boasting about his 50% ROI over 100 games though!!!

Cheers, Mark

Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #5 - Turbo Rebuy Strategy #2

Continuing with the theme of Satellite Poker Tournaments today...

Hope all this part #2 and part #5 stuff does not get too confusing! Anyway here are a collection of thoughts on the second part of the Turbo rebuy satellites, originally aimed at qualification to the PokerStars Sunday Million - now however there are lots of these springing up as WSOP 2007 satellites too...

Ok, so in part 1 we conclused that not rebuying at all and maniac rebuying were both -ev strategies... tight and aggressive play, watching your opponents and picking spots hopefully lead to a reasonable stack in time for the 30 minute break... now a much debated question - are there any circumstances in which you should not add on??

For me usually no - I would need to have at least double the average and have the add on be less than 10% of my current stack to consider saving those few $$.... those blinds are going to increase dramatically in a very short period of time - best to have every chip you can get your hands on!!

The first thing I then do is look at the ratio of seats available to people left and how this relates to the average chip stack. This will be different depending on the buy-in level (small for the 3+Rs and Bigger for the 10+Rs). There are a couple of things to look for...

- What will the average stack be at the bubble? (ie a few people left to go rather than just 1)
- What is the multiple of your current stack to get there?? (ie how many double ups do you need)
- How many tables will be left at the bubble and how full will they be? (If it appears that all the tables will be short handed on the bubble you may need a few more chips than if they are full - for example with 23 spots paid the ratio of players / table will be higher on the bubble than with 18 paid)

The blinds start up at 200 with a 25 ante after the break - you have a small window of opportunity to assess how the play of your opponents has changed; Are the small stacks acting desperately? the big stacks pushing people around?? Who can fold after limping or raising pre flop and who can not?

At 5 minute intervals the blinds go up... 400 / 600 / 800 / 1200 etc etc - you have to stay ahead of them, waiting for those aces will not be winning any seats! The options are simple right? You can steal blinds - in fact you must steal blinds, you can win showdowns (!) or best of all you can resteal from those people you tagged earlier as light raisers or willing to fold after raising.

A suprising number of players do not understand pot-odds. In the middle stages these can often be more important than the ICM side of things. I have seen people fold getting more than 4/1 from their blinds many times in these - do not do it!! Unless the tightest player in the world just pushed you should be calling a short-stack all in with any 2-cards here, think of it this way if there is any doubt - each time you call with your 8 10 off from the BB vs any pair / any ace / any suited K or Q and most connectors or high card combos you expect to win 40% more chips than you put in the pot.

The only time I would not call with the odds is on the bubble - will get to that shortly.

As the blinds get higher and higher I loosen up my open pushing range considerably. At the same time the calling range should get far tighter... here is a funny example with about 10 left to go... I am on the button with JJ and a medium stack. A very large stack opens from early position for about half my chips and I sigh and check the 'Fold' button ready... someone pushes on top of him and the really good part, the next player overcalls the all in - both had 10's vs the biggys AQ - biggy spiked his Ace to leave both players dead. The funny part for me is that TT is a great hand to push in the late stages, but to call? and to call 2 all-ins? crazy play.

I was able to get a seat by pushing far worse hands than JJ into people who could not call without a monster... the key for me is to think about what you are risking by calling (a guestimate for the guys with the 10's would be $160 to $170 $ev) and compare it to your risk and then your potential gain (max equity = $215 for the seat). The first 10 10 guy might have thought he had 60% vs big-stack but was laying almost 4/1 against himself... the 2nd guy does not even bear thinking about - max 40% equity - terrible.

As with SNGs the key is to understand which players know what is going on... you can push into them with almost any 2 as the bubble approaches so long as they have stacks which can withstand a fold. You will often have more fold equity vs the bigger stacks than you think too - if you are over half their size they are not calling without a hand at the bubble in most cases. Personally tend to work with a 77+ a9o+ KQ range for these circumstances.

You must watch the other tables, must is too mild a word - seen some horrible plays with 1 or 2 people to go where an almost all in big blind called a raise for the last of his chips when folding would have son him a seat (someone already out on another table). Calculating how many people will be blinded off before you is critical here and can make the difference between a seat and no seat. Of course not all of the forced all-ins will mean someone is out but you must keep an eye on them.

When hand for hand play finally arrives try to manage the blinds - they will be huge by then and going slowly can make the difference between one of your opponents being all in next time around and not. Conversely you can act quicker of you are next in the blind. Do not be afraid to fold now - as long as several opponents are blinded out before you then there is really no benefit to having those extra chips vs the risk of someone waking up with a hand against you.

So there are some thoughts - GL at the tables and I'll see you either in the Sunday Million or in one of the WSOP 2007 qualifiers soon!

Cheers, Mark

PS: Link to Stars on the right hand side if you happen to be the last player on the planet who is not yet a member!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Poker News... Greg "Fossilman" Raymer Hacked!

Another high profile hacking... this time the Poker Stars account of Greg Raymer more popularly known as the Fossilman has been hacked. While it does seem to be a worrying trend lately we can take some relief from the amature nature of the events...

Apparently people watching Greg via the 'Find Team Poker Stars' player function found him at several Heads-up SNG tables all with the same player called “Ikeyrson". The chip dumping was so obvious that it brought tears to the eyes with Fossilman calling an almost all-in bet first hand then folding for his last few chips...

The good news is that this was quickly spotted and reported to Stars Support (IMHO the best of any poker site) and the rogue account frozen... one more reason to be aware of security though - we all need to treat out Poker Accounts with the same respect for security that we would treat our online banking.

Cheers, Mark

Back in Budapest - A Refreshing Poker Break

Apologies for the lack of updates for the last few days, our Hotel in Amsterdam did have wifi - but at 6 EUR / Hour (about 8 USD!) I thought better of being online and instead enjoyed a poker break and the many delights that the city has to offer...

Thinking about it the last 11 days have the potential to be good for my game, probably managed less than 5 table-hours in the whole period... have been thinking though, oh and reading about the game a fair bit (finished Theory and Practice + Super System 2 and almost completed Tournament Poker for Advanced Players). Each book contains several points worthy of further thought / discussion - will of course do my thinking in public via this blog.

Another thing that happened while away was a short e-mail exchange with a poker friend concerning the subject of discipline. A very important and much overlooked topic. I'm as guity as anyone of winning money in my regular games only to lose it again messing around in games I really do not have an edge in... of playing tired and / or after a few too many drinks... of making loose calls for reasons not strictly to do with ev... guess most people have been there!

Determined to come back from my break more focused - once again will write up both plans and results here.

Also realise that there are a few articles I have promised which need writing... so this week will see the continuation of the satellite strategy series and hopefully a few more besides, oh and will get the 2nd part of the video up too.

Right now it is time for a rest, up at 6 this morning to fly back, delayed 2 hours on the runway due to snow and now v.tired and badly in need of a nice cup of tea!

Cheers, Mark

Friday, March 16, 2007

Multiplayer Poker Bonus Code List

Looking for a great Poker Bonus List...? Below are some of the best poker internet bonuses currently available, all the rooms below feature Multiplayer Poker Bonus Code is not required for each case, where applicable these are marked in blue text...

Bonus Code for Full Tilt Poker, use the special link below then PPUK01 for 100% up to $600!!

Bonus Code for Titan Poker , again use the special link below then POKERPOINT for 50% to $200!! (please note Titan does not currently accept US players).

Bonus Code for Absolute Poker, no special code is required - simply use the special link below and you'll bet 100% up to $250 + regular reload bonuses too!

Bonus Code for Party Poker. Again using the special link below is enough to secure the top available party poker bonus of 30% up to $150!

Bonus Code for Mansion Poker, Mansion offer a huge bonus of 100% up to $1000 for first time players seeking the Mansion Deposit Bonus Offer... no actual code is required - simply sign up using the special link below.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Limit Holdem Tournament Strategy

Seems every article you read these days is no-limit biased! To redress the balance somewhat this post covers Limit Holdem Tournament Strategy the 7 Limit Holdem Tips below should help you reach that final table!

NOTE: This article has now been moved to look under MTT Strategy Articles.

Poker News... UIGEA To be Repealed?

Appears that there is some momentum gathering concerning the legistlation that made life so difficult for US gamers.... link to below:

Too early to tell as yet but this could be excellent news for poker players in the US and by inference worldwide... we will see.

Off to Amsterdam this evening for a few days - hopefully the Hotel will have wireless!

Gl at those tables.

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Titan Poker Announce WSOP Qualifier Super Satellites

V. Quick post today (lesson learned: next time I go away will save some articles in draft format and put them up in the few spare minutes that appear!!).

Below is the schedule for Titan Poker WSOP qualification. Like the WPT events they have gone down the route of 'Super Satellites', the good news is that there are both SNG and MTT qualifiers available, chart below should explain nicely.

Link on the right hand side for Titan, you can use some of the $500 sign-up bonus in your qualification attempts! (Note: Unfortunately not US-friendly - will take a look at Full Tilt's qualifiers soon to make it up to my US readers!!).

Cheers and GL,


Monday, March 12, 2007

'A Comedy Of Errors - Live' Part #1

Well it has taken a while but tonight we have part #1 of the first 'Comedy of Errors - Live' series looking at SNG Bubble play.

It is by no means perfect but now we have mastered the nuances of rendering, audio and getting the bl**dy things the right size for youtube the next should be quicker, clearer and have more discussion of the things that matter to those learning the SNG ropes.

You can see the video by clicking the link below (will open a new window). This is designed to go with the free eBook available at the top right corner of the blog.

A Comedy of Errors - Live - Part #1

This video was shot at Titan Poker (hopefully you can see why this is called "the new fishtank"!!) Unfortunately This site is not US friendly - for those outside the US there is a link under 'poker sites' on the right hand side and I recommend checking them out as soon as possible!

Below are SNG Power Tools screen shots showing the $ev of each push vs opponents ranges - luckily these were all correct (!). There are several competing factors at play when dealing with a short stack in these situations....

1) Your $ev is low so your risk vs gain is skewed in your favour... you can loosen up some, doubling your chips will likely almost double your $ev, with a bigger stack this is not usually the case.

2) You still have fold equity - so use it while you can. No need to get too tight, especially where you have a read that opponents will not be calling you light.

3) No need to be suicidal... if people have shown an interest in the pot your FE with a small stack goes down very quickly. Do not push easily dominated hands unless you are first into the pot (and then be careful!).

QQ Hand...

A7o Shove

A4o Blind vs Blind
Finally, if you enjoyed this video please show your appreciation by sending this blog post to a friend (or friends!) using the envelope icon below.

The next installment will be ready either Wednesday night or Thursday (still on holiday in the UK so having to fit this around many other things...).
Cheers, Mark

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Books and Stars FPPs

Arrived in the UK to a small pile of poker books bought with Stars FPPs over the last months, had sent them all to the UK as the Hungarian postal system is a little on the unreliable side and then forgotten all about them... waiting to be read are:

Super System 2 - Doyle Brunson el at
Tournament Poker for Advanced Players - David ('ego') Sklanksky
NL Holdem Theory and Practice - Sklanksky and Millar
Ace on the River - Barry Greenstein

Looking forward to getting stuck in, for me it only takes 1 small idea to win that 1 pot to make a book worthwhile...

Got me thinking about those Poker Stars FPPs - have 10000-odd at the moment - and what is the best use for them in terms of $$$ value?? Will get the calculator out some time soon and do an analysis!

The good news is that my IT-savvy brother has come down south to see us and discussions about how to move Plan3t Gong to my own domain can begin (will still be a blog, just wanted to have more control over layout / searching / adding new features etc).

Going to attempt re-recording the audio track for the video this afternoon dependant on number of relatives appearing for cups of tea!!

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Found a couple of excellent blog articles recently... links have been added to the 'Blogs Of Distinction' List on the right hand side:

Firstly Hoyazo, the 'Hammer Player' has done a brilliantly measured piece on the debate on skill levels in tournaments vs cash games. This is a long standing rivalry and his article manages to look at both sides of the argument in a neutral yet articulate way. Have my own thoughts on this subject which will be saved for another day.

Secondly, the Surly Poker Gnome talks about 3 betting (aimed at short handed cash games). Liked this piece very much, especially due to the current 'rock-like' nature of my cash play, will experiment with more 3-betting over the coming days and weeks... should be fun against the Titan fish if nothing else... anyway a well written piece and worth a read.

Just an update from yesterday's post on beats - one comment and one mail asking how I am able to be so cold about this.... well the truth is that beats irritate me as much as anyone! The angle I wanted to highlight is to keep things in perspective and let that irritation be a couple of seconds yelling "donnnnnkkkkk' rather than affect your game - no beats = no potential for profit right!!

Video turning into a nightmare - screens now ok, rendered, formatted and ready - audio all messed up and will need to be redone... will get there eventually!!!!

Cheers and GL,


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Musings on Bad Beats, Tilt and Update on Videos!

Wanted to write about bad beats today, not from a personal perspective - of course we all get them and I am no exception - more from a conceptual viewpoint... to ask the question, what is a bad beat and, importantly, why do people get so upset by them?

Here is what triggered the thoughts, 27 SNG on Stars, 2 players get all in on the turn on an Ace / 2 / K / 7 rainbow flop... one guy has AK but gets knocked out when a Jack appears on the river and gives the other guy trips, ouch!! Pretty dodgy play from the JJ guy but that is not the point - the AK guy was furious!!! He hung around for at least 10 minutes spouting abuse in the chat box... not so unusual but let us ask the question 'what made this guy so mad???'

The AK guy got his money in when 96% favourite to win the hand (he would not have known this until showdown of course). This is almost as good as it is ever going to get in poker... 80% is considered excellent (aces pre-flop) and 75%ish also a no-brainer (AK vs AQ for example). The very best scenario is someone drawing to one out with one card to come but that is unusual enough to ignore for the moment!

So what exactly is a bad beat?

Looking at it from another perspective we are very happy to get our money in the middle as a 3/1 favourite pre flop. Should we really be counting the 25% of times we lose the hand as a 'bad beat' ??? In my humble opinion not at all.

Sure, the way the cards fall will affect the outcome of an individual hand - but if we were not able to get the money 'good' on a consistant basis then we would never make any money from the game...

So this begs the question - Why do people tilt on the basis of a single hand where they get their money in as a big favourite and lose??

It has to be some kind of misunderstanding right??!? The idea of the game of poker is to keep finding situations (using your skill / play and judgement) where you have an equity edge and profit from them over time... the key for me is simple - good bankroll management - you have to accept that you will lose as favourite a certain % of the time, if you are going to be a winning player over time then you need to have the bankroll to survive these swings, start up another game and carry right on!

Ah well, rant over.... 'Bad beat' forums are usually busy places so maybe there is more to it!!

Video Update:

I now have 4 SNGs 'in the can' and it is now a matter of editing them and chopping into small enough segments to post on Utube. The first will be 14 minutes (probably in 2 parts) will start with a beat (how appropriate!) and then look at managing a small stack on the bubble in a turbo SNG - hope to have it ready for tomorrow but failing that it will be Saturday (travel to the UK on Friday).

Cheers and GL,


Monday, March 05, 2007

Classic Article - Gigabet and the "Gigabet Dialemma"

Seem to be many posts over on 2+2 with the name 'Gigabet' in the title at the moment, hands, theories and just the fact that he was at someones table. A 2+2 'Celebrity' Gigabet was responsible for coming up with the "Gigabet Dialemma" - the most mis-understood and subsequently abused stack size theory in 2+2 history!

So here it is - The Gigabet Dialemma;

"Intentionally taking -cev situations with the idea that if the gamble works, the +$ev gained later in the tournament from the power of the big stack, will outweigh the long term net loss of chips"

Aimed at MTTs in conjunction with viewing relative stack sizes in 'blocks' no other forum words have been used more often as an excuse for making fishy calls!! I will link to the original posts (right click and open in new tab / window please!) and then look at whether there are any applications for SNGs....

1) Theory of Stack Sizes---Hypothetical Response to the Gigabet Dilemma;an=&page=&vc=1

2) Choose Life: A Hypothetical Model for the Gigabet Dilemma;Board=tourn&Number=4423239&Searchpage=4&Main=4423239&Words=Gigabet&topic=&Search=true#Post4423239

3) Isolating with the Gigabet Dilemma (long);Board=tourn&Number=4423239&Searchpage=4&Main=4423239&Words=Gigabet&topic=&Search=true#Post4423239

ok, so how would we go about relating this to SNG (and low level SNG) play?? Well the first thing is that I do not see the application of this at the bubble... here your choices are usually clear mathematical ones based on good old-fashioned ICM.

In the early to mid stages there may, however, be some applications. Stripping out the fancy words about blocks we are left with the relatively clear concept that chips you hold above the current 'average' have less extra utility in the middle stages while you remain in a 'group' of players with similar stack sizes.... lets look at an example;

Player 1 - 2500
Player 2 - 2500
Player 3 - 2000
Player 4 - 1500
Player 5 - 1500
Player 6 - 800

So the advantage of having 2500 chips is good but not great here, however the advantage of adding another 1000 to this stack could potentially move you away from your 'group' and put you in a very advantageous position to exploit the upcoming bubble...

The shorty pushes and you have an average hand - Q3 is the example given in some of Gigabets post... you are next to act, the linked posts are advocating that you isolate here by shoving. The idea being that you 'take the worst of it' because the postive effects of having those extra chips somehow balance the fact that losing 800 chips will happen the majority of the time.... after all 1700 chips still retains you enough fold equity / flexibility to win assuming you are a decent player.

Would I do it? As with most aspects of our game there is no right or wrong answer here... with Q3 i'd almost certainly fold, but what about KJ or 55?? Can certainly appreciate the logic of what is happening and will have to think about isolating in more depth - having a big stack approaching the bubble is certainly a positive thing after all!!!



Sunday, March 04, 2007

Server Problems at Poker Stars (Again)

Looks like Stars are having some problems again - reports on 2+2 of people 12 tabling only to have their games frozen... not sure as yet whether this affected the Sunday Million.

If you were in a tourney (the cash tables seemed ok) they pay out on a 50/50 basis. Half of the prize pool is distributed among all participants left in the game and the other half is based on chip count.... thats small consolation if you are a big chip lead at the bubble though.

I'm going to stick with Titan this evening - you never know when such problems can reoccour!

Cheers, Mark

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites - Part #4 - Turbo Rebuy Strategy

Saturday again so a good time to look at the Sunday Million Satellites again. This will be part 1 for the Turbo Rebuys - will have a look at the ICM angle and the detail of the bubble separately otherwise this article will get too long!

The turbo rebuys look can look like a 'flippament' but there are some strategy considerations beneath the surface. There are 3 varieties 3+r, 8+r and 10+r - the ratio of seats to players obviously varying significantly. You get 1000 chips to start and the blinds go up every 5 minutes, after 30 minutes (bb=200) there is a 5 minute break and an add-on (1500 chips for whatever the buy-in was)... after that the blinds escalate so fast that you only need to fold for a couple of rounds to find yourself behind.

Luckily there is always a certain amount of 'dead-money' in these games. This comes at the 2 extremes of opponent types.

Firstly the rocks, these guys never rebuy unless broke, sit with just half a buy-in at times and wait for pemuim hands... often you see people nursing 500 chips and then leaving when their ace-king gets busted at BB150... terrible. My thought is that you really need to budget 3 to 5 buy ins to have a serious chance in these.

Secondly the maniacs, all in almost every hand and rebuy after rebuy. If these guys build a stack early they can be dangerous - but the cost of their stacks often means that the tourneys on the whole are -ev. You need chips to survive these tournaments - but spending 10 buy-ins will never pay for itself in the long run, there is a cap on how much you can win at $215 (most weeks) after all.

My personal thought for the initial stages is to find some middle ground, to play good hands aggressively and watch my opponents for info to use later. Pairs can be good value as many people will be playing ace-rag, if your table lets you limp then great - play a few speculative hands in the short time that the blinds are small and build a big pot if you hit. I usually open shove premuims as there is a good chance of getting called - especially with 1 or 2 maniacs at the table.

Here is what I watch out for in the early stages...

- Rocks, keep an eye for those who do rebuy but are waiting for premiums. If someone who has folded 20 hands in a row suddenly shoves then get out of the way fast. (sounds kind of obvious but unless you pay attention you'll end up paying these guys off!!).
- Raise / Folders - Look out for people who fold to reraises during the rebuy period. Some players have a nice big 'gap' between hands they will raise and those they will call a reraise with. Make a note of these guys as you can resteal from them once the rebuy period is over.
- People who min raise / limp permiums - the standard of these is so horrible that this happens all the time. Those same players will try it later in the tourney so make a note as soon as you see it... again you are looking for potential resteal targets for after the rebuy period.
- Conversely watch for those who overplay hands like ace-rag and 'any-2 suited' again you need this information for the later stages.

Of course you will be moved table a fair amount - its unfortunate but a fact of life in any tourney. Its no excuse for not watching the players early though!

Hopefully, with some patient yet aggressive play you have an average or above stack at the 30 minute break... thats 6000ish chips usually (including the add-on). The next 30 minutes is the critical time in these, and I start of by tightening up!!

Here is one way to look at it - you have the average stack of 6000 chips (example from a 3+r) there are 20 places paid and 150 players remaining. A little maths will show us that we need to get to approx 20,000 chips to be above average at the bubble - we need to double up one and a half times - thats all!. Note: This will be a much better ratio in the 8+r and 10+r tourneys.

There will be a mixture of small and big stacks around and many players will be feeling the pressure to double up asap. My thought here is to wait - specifically wait 2 blind levels (unless you get a decent hand of course). This will give you time to get some important information - what changes in your opponents play have happened after the rebuy period finishes. It also means that when you do enter a pot, to steal the blinds / antes once they are >1000 chips your raise is assumed to be with a strong hand (careful you pick the right opponents though - not everyone will notice!).

Restealing is king in the middle stages, here is where the info picked up in the early stages really comes into its own... think of it this way: taking the blinds / antes at bb400 will give you a net gain of 825 chips, coming over the top of a position raiser and making him fold can easily double that amount. As with SNGs you'll want to avoid doing this with easily dominated hands but as long as your cards are 'live' then the risk of a 55/45 suitation is made up for by the chance of a 30% stack increase with no showdown!

Calling all-ins: You should be able to put most opponents on ranges by this stage, while calling an all-in is never the best strategy you'll have a hand good enough to do it on occasion, once the blinds get 600+, especially with a limper or 2 (yes people do limp in these!) then the current pot combined with your chance of winning a showdown vs opponents range can make a call worthwhile here... my personal rule of thumb is to try and be 2/1 favourite to make the call early. For example a pair of 10s vs someone I know would shove any ace, any suited King. any 2 broadways + all pair.

Ok, seem to be writing longer and longer posts at the moment - will leave the bubble and ICM angle for next time.

Usual disclaimer that these are my personal thoughts - happy to engage in discussion / debate with anyone with differing views, drop me a comment or mail!

Cheers and GL,


Update: (A few hours later...) Put my money where my mouth is (or should that be keyboard?) and won a $27+R Turbo Rebuy - an EPT qualifier - for $800, Cashman Brian offered a measly $608 in cash... was able to get $688 from DMMikkels site instead - my first transaction with this site... went through very quickly... recommended.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Jump-Off Page for Stars Sunday Million Satellites Articles

Feeling organised again today - this will be the 2nd Jump-off page, this time for the articles on Poker Stars Sunday Million Satellites...

Clicking each link should open a new window for that article...

Overview of the types of Sunday Million Satellites Available

Double Shootout Strategy - Table #1

Double Shootouts table #2 - ICM + Strategy Guide

On the off chance that you are not already a Stars player (why not??!?) then there is a link near the top on the right hand side!

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Feb Stats - But Not The Usual Ones!!

Quick Roundup Time... but talking about my results is not that interesting really - so after a couple of lines on me I'll write about you instead - that is visitors to Plan3t Gong!

Me: A Good but not great month, up just over $1400 + $160 W$, played a lot on Stars (oops - it was supposed to me no-Stars month...., also did OK in cash games and PLO over at Titan. The W$ I will use for WSOP Sats during March, objective to only collect more W$ at this point, will think about qualification at some later date.

You: Firstly a picture showing where visitors came from - this one only shows places with 5 visits or more so there would be many more places with smaller dots.

There were a total of 2550 unique visits in Feb, 67% first time and 33% returnees - really happy with this number and hope to make March even better.

Sources varied through the month, no longer allowed a link in my sig for both 2+2 and P5's so these are going down, at the same time Google search engine traffic is on its way up as the list of articles to be indexed grows... and both steady sources and the PokerXfactor community as ever a source of good intelligent discussion and referrals too!

Would like to say 'Hi' to visitors from the Netherlands - seem to have a steady trickle of referrals from a couple of sites there which I can not understand!

The other area people come from is via other blogs - there are people in the list on the right doing some excellent blogging so feel free to check them out! Recently updated the list (basically took out those who had not linked back to me!) and added some more from my long weekly reading list - happy that the current list is now the good quality stuff.

Would like to break the 3000 visitor mark for March - if you have a minute why not recommend Plan3t Gong to a friend - clicking the envelope below each post allows it to be e-mailed.

Ahhh - Supposed to make some March plans... bah, keeping it short I will aim to make more this month than last, to learn more and to generally enjoy poker!

Cheers, Mark