Monday, April 30, 2007

Alternative Poker Dictionary - Part #1

Seems that every few minutes a new Poker Term gets thought up - here is part one of the Plan3t Gong Alternative Poker Dictionary (please let me know your suggestions for more via comments or e-mail to

Donkament - Similar to a tournament but full of, erm, should we be nice and say 'less experienced' opponents? Ok Then the honest version - an MTT full of Donks!

Pushbot - Found mainly in SNGs this describes a playing style with 2 actions only, fold or raise all-in. While frustrating to opponents this style can actually be +ev when used correctly.

Rebuy-Nut - You've seen them in rebuy tournaments right? Push any 2 cards, lose and rebuy + repeat until a big stack appears... profitable strategy over time?? Hmmm.

Doomswitched - Irrational fear that a poker site has clicked a button that somehow causes you to lose. Great rationalisation for losing players!

Jokerstars / Riverstars - Common decription used by losing Poker Stars players when that river card completes an opponents unlikely backdoor straight.

Starting Hand Police - You've seen them I'm sure, these types put most of the chips into a pot when already drawing dead and then type 'great call pre-flop' into the chat box...

Fish List - A list of opponents who regularly donate money kept by winning players. Seat and table selection is then made on a basis of this list.

Implied Tilt Odds - The extra 'value' you get from making a slightly negative expectation call if this would cause your opponent to tilt and spew off the remainder of their chips on the occasions when you hit.

Short-Stack Ninja - A player able to keep alive in a tournament by nursing a small stack, usually playing pushbot style, and then eventually getting that big hand to get back in the game/

Bonus Whore / Freeroll Whore - Someone who goes from site to site clearing bonuses playing tight and straightforward poker. Freeroll Whores are different again, often specialising in 3000 player MTTs with $100 prize pools!

Lagtard - A player who used the LAG (Loose Aggressive) style in a less than optimal way, good lags have a hand when the big money goes in, Lagtards can be found bluffing their entire stack with 7-high.

Value Town / Value City - When value betting an opponent on the end of a hand you can be said to be 'taking them to value town'. Especially relevant when you know the player is dumb enough to call a big bet.

Sklansky Dollars - The money you would have won due to your 'perfect' play had your donkey opponent not rivered that 2-outer!

Ship-It - Common exclamation after winning a big pot... ship me those chips - Holla.

Cash-Out Curse - Lost money after cashing out from a poker site? Its not due to bad play at all - the cash-out curse has struck! Excuse mostly used by losing players who get lucky in a Donkament and then expect to win each time they play.

Donkbet - Usually describes an out of context overbet, really any bet that bears no relation to how the hand was played up to now... for example the kind of bet that would only ever be called by a better hand.

Part #2 to follow as soon as we have some more, send 'em over.

GL at the Tables,


Linkage + Here Comes May!!

Will start with highlighting a new link in my 'Blogs of Distinction List' - came across Secrets of the Amateurs ( by accident yesterday and wanted to draw it to P Gong readers attention as a real gem... interesting and nicely written posts, hand history links to PXF and obvious thought about the game... check out the article titled 'Looking at the Stars' from 1st April - seems I am not the only one wondering why people play against good opposition (ie Stars) when there are so many weaker sites out there!

Right, As regular readers may know April started off badly for me and was compounded by getting the thought stuck in my head that this was a write-off month... I did the decent thing and pretty much stopped playing and have curtailed my losses to about $300 which is not too bad.

May will be different - here are a couple of plans.

- Withdraw all but $800ish from Stars, want to have enough in there to play Satellites and the odd SNG at the weekends.

- Find a new home where I can get RB and / or clear a decent bonus (Mansion current favourite). At least half my play will be at Titan

- Be more disciplined in my approach, no mixing games and formats - no 12 tabling when tired, no 'just half an hour of 2-7 triple draw'. SNGs + Sats for the main bankroll feeder, MTTs a couple of nights a week as time permits and cash games (NLHE and PLO but not at the same time!) for a change when the SNG grind starts to wear.

Got a real good feeling for May, oh and a good pipeline of article ideas for Planet Gong too... including some push / fold SNG charts I am putting together on excel.

GL at the Tables,


Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Evolution of the Poker Economy - Link

A 2+2 Thread in the 'Poker Theory' board caught my attention the other day. Here is the link (right click / open in new window please).

The basic idea is that the online poker economy is evolving through various stages, dictated by the number of good players vs newbies and the shifting balance between them. Will leave you to draw your own conclusions but certainly an interesting idea... my one thought is that it is difficult to draw conclusions about the poker economy as a whole - the 'stage' at which Stars SNGs and Titan Poker SNGs are at (just one example) are not even close!

The usual 'Comedy of Errors' mention (whenever the mentions go off of the page the sign-ups more or less stop!). I wrote this eBook to get Plan3t Gong off of the ground when it was first regularly running... the book contains a (lengthy) look at SNGs from the perspective of what mistakes your opponents will make and how to exploit them - feedback has (thankfully!) been very good so grab yourself a copy today. Plan3t Gong has a zero-spam policy (i.e. I will never sell or share your e-mail address).

GL at the tables,


PS: Thanks for the blog lists sent so far - if anyone else wants to send their 'blogs of note' for a new website please see the post below entitled 'Calling Poker Bloggers...'/

SNG Strategy - Playing for 1st??!?!?!?

So many posts on so many forums discuss SNG bubble play, justifying that horrible call by reasoning 'well you have to play for 1st right...' WRONG... Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong... its so wrong it hurts to see it written.

And you can not argue with these folks either - oh no, playing for 1st makes such good sense to them that argument will be rebuffed not by logic or reason - but by personal insults!

Actually I do not argue with them, it is not only pointless but my self-esteem is not actually centred on whether or not I win a forum argument... flame me all you want, I'll just go and make a nice cup of tea!

The other line of argument is ' play to cash - then go for 1st'. I feel this argument is actually misunderstood, it happens to be right if you look at Bubble Dynamics in terms of $ Equity and ICM... but it is only right by default.

So, what do I mean by this... well, we will start with the 'correct' (IMHO) line of thinking for the Bubble of a SNG and work backwards. I do not play for 1st, or play to cash... no no, its actually much simpler than that:

Make Positive Expectation Decisions In Terms of $ Equity.

Over and over again, one +$ev decision after another... ICM is 80% of the battle here, the other 20% is knowing when to ignore ICM! For example if I have a +1.3% push but the next big blind will put shorty all-in then its an easy fold... comes down to the 'passing up a small edge today to have a bigger edge tomorrow' type of thinking.

Now let us look at the nature of these decisions in terms of the play for 1st and play for 3rd arguments:

How does 'playing for 1st' fit to making positive expectation decisions at the bubble? Well to be honest it does not. A call of an all-in from an opponent that will give you the majority of the chips is either +$ev or it is not. The key point: if you make -$ev bubble decisions you will lose money over time regardless of the outcome of the hand in question...

So playing for 1st can only really be achived by calling an all in from another big stack right? if you think about it raising all in can not be considered playing for 1st - since unless your bigger stacked opponents are of the same school of thought they will usually fold rather than take a negative $ev gamble.

I usually fold too... if you risk $30 in equity to win another $10 you are laying huge odds-against yourself... think it through... 'gambling' for that 1st place might be costing you $10 or $15 per try!! Whether you are fighting a big stack or a smaller one then a call / push either has a positive expectation or it does not, playing for 1st to justify taking a negative $ev chance will quite simply cost you money over time. If your call has a positive expectation (you hold Aces!) then you are not 'playing for 1st' any more - you are simply making yet another positive expectation bubble decision.

Now playing to cash, lets look at the old argument that the jump from 4th to 3rd is as big as the proze jump from 2nd to 1st in a standard 20% / 30% / 50% payout SNG. This actually has a big effect on the expectation of our decisions, the reason is that the next person out gets zero and so the baseline for winning a showdown is a minimum of 20% equity (the extreme case being that you have 1 chip left and 2 others fight without you in the hand).

The prize pool dynamic is factored into the maths already, when we are assessing whether your push or call is + or -$ev then your current equity and the 'zero if you lose' are on the two sides of the balance sheet. In this way you are forced to 'play for 3rd' before considering the higher prizes... but (and an important 'but') your decisions are not made by some conscious effort to get 3rd place - your decisions are made based purely and simply on whether your action has a positive or negative $ expectation.

Here is the summary - stop thinking about playing for 1st or playing for 3rd - just make positive expectation bubble decisions again and again and again and you will win $ over time... those +ev decisions are mostly based on ICM but also include situational factors such as very small stacks being involved and your assessment of the likelihood of the other people in your game knocking each other out.

if you are a new reader wanting to understand the logic of ICM and positive $ev decision making then I'll direct you to the 'jump off page' for ICM in the list of Plan3t Gong articles on the right hand side,..

GL at the tables,


Friday, April 27, 2007

Update - Vietnamise Players

Well Poker Stars came back to say that there is no issue with the players from Ho Chi Minh city. All good there then....

This issue was discussed on many forums - wanted to clear up one argument that appeared again and again... racism.

To me this argument was easy to say, weak and not well thought through. The fact that the city in question was Asian was not the reason for peoples suspicions - it was the disporportionate number of players from such a city playing the same games (after all how many Ho Chi Minh residents do you see in your favourite site / levels??), the similarity of the Ids used and the fact that these players never appeared on the same table as others from the same place yet were on line 24 hours a day...

If the same thing happened with players from, i don't know - Colchester (a small and extremely unremarkable town somewhere in eastern England) then we'd also be suspicious right? In fact this is the opposite of racism... patterns of play that look strange should be reported regardless of the colour / race of the place of origin!

I believe that it is up to us players to ensure that our games are as fair as possible (along with the poker sites own software of course). If this means asking Stars' support about 5 card draw players from Kiev or SNG players from Vietnam then I'm going to do it every time.... every single time. If I'm wrong 10 times in a row but spot something else that does not look right then that e-mail will get sent!!

Anyhow, pleased that there is no foul play involved here...

GL at the Tables,


Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Series! Poker Hand Reading and Levels of Thinking Part #1

Little indecisive blog-post-wise today... could not decide between an article on completing the small blind in SNGs, continuing the push over limpers theme or something new. Well now, I'm not usually known for being indecisive (the opposite extreme in fact) so here we go with the start of a new series...

Hand Reading In Poker - Levels Of Thinking Part #1

These thoughts are inspired by iRock's articles and some of David Sklanky's writings. Levels of thinking is one of those easy concepts to describe - but difficult things to do at the table (particularly when multi-tabling).

Idea is this; Today summarise and add 2 brand new thinking levels... later (and after some more thinking time) I want to ask the question of how to put an opponent on a particular thinking level, what 'tells' can we use to work out how deeply (or otherwise) an opponent thinks.

The Traditional Poker Levels of Thinking:

Level Zero - My cards are...
Level One - My opponents cards are...
Level Two - My opponent thinks my cards are...
Level Three - My opponent thinks that I think his cards are....
Level Four - My opponent thinks that I think that he thinks my cards are...

All good, gets a little complex the higher you go but the idea is simple. The use of the idea is what really gets interesting. Thinking one level higher than your opponent gives you a huge advantage, especially when the stacks are deep in cash games or early in a multi table tournament.

A level one example goes along these lines... you have a level zero opponent who only plays his own cards without regard to what anyone else does. You hit a little bit of a flop against him. Easy from here... you can bet a small amount and let his response guide your action for the rest of the hand. Assuming no obvious draws he will raise a better hand, call with a weak one or fold with nothing - because he is not thinking about what you have his actions are transparent.

A level 2 thinking example... you know your opponent is thinking about what you have, but he is not thinking about what you think he has. You hit a small set in position and bet out on the ace-high flop, your opponent check - calls indicating he may not be scared of the ace - but does not raise. At this point you know your opponent is thinking about your cards, so what could his call mean here? A medium ace? 2 small pair? A high non-ace pair or the thought that you are bluffing? Turn goes check - check, now what does he think of your hand? Weakness ... The key point here is that your opponent is not thinking about what you put him on (a weak ace or high non-ace pair) here. He is only thinking about what you might have and whether he can beat it. He then leads out strongly on the (blank) river and you reraise... by thinking about what your opponent thought you had in addition to what his cards might be you enabled yourself to get into a position to build a big pot on the end...

OK no more examples. It is time for the Plan3t Gong Additional Levels of thinking... and no, I'm not going to go down the he thinks I think he thinks I think you think the cat thinks line - far more simple.

Level Half!

He thinks my holding is weak / meduim / strong / monster* delete as applicable.

Level One and a Half!

He thinks that I think his holding is weak / meduim / strong / monster* delete as applicable

Yep, I am convinced that these levels are real... people are sitting there seeing your bets and (mostly) looking at their own cards thinking he bet so he has 'something'.

The "Level Half" thinker will not change his actions too much, well he might fold bottom pair. The key to playing the 'halfies' is in fact to work out what they have and tailor your bets to the minimum possible to get them to fold that pair of 2's on a AKQ9 board...a level-half player is trying to put you into the weak / strong category, but he is doing this based on something very obvious - your bet sizes. Not the board, not draw possibilities just your bet sizes. Find the minimum for various halfies and you'll take the pot... use a little deception or build a pot slowly and you will take all of their money!!

The 'one-and-a-halfies' are another creature entirely, sure they are thinking about what you think they hold, but in very simple terms... here is the rub - if your opponent is thinking that you think he is strong and you still reraise on the river what will he do?? Let us consider this in a different way - your opponent figures you think he has a strong hand for what reason? Well the reason must be that he is betting strongly... he thinks your thoughts are a direct result of his actions, he gives credit to you for taking his betting into account but - importantly - does not give you credit for even considering anything other than the most obvious. You may have seen enough hands with this guy to know that he bets strongly when weak under certain circumstances, yet he will never even consider that you think this way... go take his stack!

Long enough for one day... going to take me a couple more days pondering before the 'how to spot a level X thinker' articles start - in the meantime GL at the Tables,


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Calling All Poker Bloggers...

Mentioned a few days back that I am collaborating on a new website aimed at SNG Strategy (along with Satellites and MTTs...). Well, as a big fan of Poker Blogs, I've decided to have a section of the site dedicated to this topic...

Now, it would be easy just to have a poker blogroll but thats old hat these days, the idea is to make it a little more interesting - here is the idea...

Twice(ish) a week we'd like to have a "Blogger XYZ's Blogs of Note" (Blogger XYZ being you!) article. The idea is to get some bloggers to put together a list of 3 or 4 blogs that you regularly read and write a few words on them. In return you'll get a space at the top to write a small paragraph on your own blog (can include a picture / icon etc too).... I could write some kind words about your blog instead if self-publicity is not your style.

The real concept here is to provide something with more value than a simple blogroll - and to promote poker-blogging in general... sure I have a vested interest here! (Actually Plan3t Gong poker should not be included in anyones list, I'm more than willing to publicise myself on the new site!!!)

So - anyone up for it? We have an advertising budget set aside so hopefully this will bring you and the blogs you note some nice traffic over time. Send me an e-mail titled "I'll give it a bash!" to and I will send you the link to the site (it's under construction right now and looks scruffy but you will see the idea).

EDIT (Slightly later on!): Thinking about it there is no real reason you need to have a blog to do this, if you are a fan of pokerblogs and would like to be involved then send me your top 3-5!

For Poker Bloggers #2...

I'm sure many of you bloggers already have this but just in case I wanted to give a shout about Google Analytics. This is a free tool that lets you track visitors to your blog, it shows where they come from geographically, which site (or blog) referred them and which keyword searches got people to your blog...

It is very simple, you sign up for a tracker at , put it in the HTML/Java thingy of your blog's template and then log on now and again to have a nose at who / where your visitors are.

Back to writing for Blog readers tomorrow!

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SNG Strategy - The Push Over Limpers

One of my favourite 'moves' today, something that should really be in every lower limit SNG players SNG Strategy arsenal... the good 'ol fashioned shove over limpers.

After doing some thinking about this one over recent days I am starting to be concerned that I could actually be doing this with the wrong hands - will look at some numbers in a bit, first a description...

The usual timing for this move is levels 4 or 5 on Stars (BB100 or 150), with a stack of 1200ish (have been super tight early as usual) and one of the last to act... you see a couple of limpers ahead from the button (for example) and look down at something like AJs or 99 - Boom, you shove and pick up 350 to 500 from the pot without a fight - some great ammunition for the later stages with relatively little risk.

Now, my thoughts are these - since you do not get called that often here (especially if you have folded every single hand up to this point!) does the strength of your holding make an ev difference... the question is whether it is actually a waste of a medium strength hand to shove here?

First let us discount a few things... I will assume only a 2-3% chance of either blind waking up with a monster... will also assume that none of the original limpers are either very large stacks or very small stacks (and thus more willing to call).

The key questions then becomes these:

1) How often am I called?
2) What equity does my hand have when called?

1) How often called... this of course depends on many factors, including the level at which you are playing and the experience of the players who limped. The limp itself implies no monster hands are against you on the most part - but this can not be entirely discounted, people at all levels limp aces after all.

Here are some summed probablilities to work with...
- Combined chances of blinds calling - 5%
- Probability of first limper calling - 10%
- Probability of 2nd limper calling - 8% (limping behind less likely to be a callable hand)

Sum in this case - discounting 2 or more callers = 23%

So, 77% of the time we win 500 chips with no further action (when BB=150)... all good, but incomplete since we sometimes win when we are called too...

2) Equity when called.... now we have to work out the ranges of calling hands. At the lower limits $27 and below this can be fairly wide... going to say pairs above 77, AKo and AQo+... for the sake of argument.

Our equity against this range with the 2 candidate hands:

99 = 44%
AJs = 36%

So when called with the 99 we are in good shape having 44% winning chances. The overall equity (working with chip equity here rather than $equity) is. So over 100 attempts:

77 times we win 500 without a showdown = 38500
23 times we are called.
- 12 times we lose all 1200 = -14400
- 11 times we win 1200 + 350 from the other limper + blinds = + 16830

So on average we end up with 409 more chips than we started with... now that is one hell of a positive equity move!!

Same sum with the AJs

77 times we win 500 - +38500
23 times we are called
- 16 times we lose 1200 = -19200
- 7 times we win 1550 = +10850

Again we end up with a positive expectation - this time +301 chips per try.

So now we get to the crunch point - with only 36% equity vs opponents range we still win money... what equity when called do we need to show a loss... so now the same numbers but with us holding 72 off!

Equity when called vs opponents ranges = 20%

77 times we win 500 - +38500
23 times we are called
- 18.5 times we lose 1200 = -22200
- 4.5 times we win 1550 = +6975

We still win! This time our expected gain is 232 chips - and that is a huge percentage of our 1200 stack.

The significant number here is the percentage of times we get called... if we increased this to say 30% or 35% then the lowest showdown equity hands may start to show a loss. The actual chances of a call are of course a judgement based on player tendencies and stack sizes. However only the least observant opponent would not notice you folding 25 hands in a row then suddenly shoving.

Ok, so I have been wasting my meduim strength hands by shoving over limpers... next time it will be junk!

GL at the tables - and if I see you shoving over my limp I'll call (!)

Cheers, Mark

Monday, April 23, 2007

Interesting Link... iRockPoker

Was going to work on a 'pushing over limpers' SNG Strategy article today but time is not on my side.... so instead a link to someone else's articles - there are only a few, but I thought they were really well written... The site / blog is called iRock Poker and belongs to a (very) high stakes NL cash game player (right click / open in new window).

The best of them all is called - 'Never rely on a bad player to make a good play' and looks at 'telling a story' through a hand in a logical format, loved the comparison of lower stakes players to 'picture books' !!!

One more link, someone came up with an excellent idea for a Sunday Million Satellite - hopefully Stars will implement this one (Poker Room Management Team did reply) so that I can write a strategy article on it!

GL at the tables,


Friday, April 20, 2007

Bang Goes April - Musings on Luck, Tilt and Superstition

Now I am as straightforward as they come when supernatural beings are concerned. No beliefs - zero... zilch... zip (and even more words starting with Z that mean 'nothing'!). Just to be crystal clear here below is a small list of things I do not believe in:

Gods - Supernatural dieties in general, very odd concept really - keeps people happy and thats all good - but c'mon...
Ghosts - Whats that all about then?
Luck - No such thing, a daft human perception of patterns in chance events.
UFOs - Now there is a statistical argument due to the sheer size of the universe etc, but really - little green (or grey men) in flying saucers - your kidding right!
Fate - Same as luck, load of old rubbish.

Enough of that, just a bit of background on why April has gone 'poof' for me Poker-wise. It is actually due to some very kind and supportive words from my lovely fiance...

More background - Mrs Plan3t Gong is very supportive of my degenerate poker habit. Not only watching / playing tourneys together (often with a glass or two) but She has a good number (600ish??) SNGs to her name (probably best not to mention the effect on my Sharkscope graph!!).

So I was explaining my current bout of negative variance the other day and the following kind response came along! "ah well, just imagine that it is just for one month and will never happen this badly again dear..." (something along those lines anyway)

Here is the issue - I started playing again after my break and lost a few hands when well ahead, perfectly normal right? Except now I am expecting to lose money... the effect? well of course my wish has come true - it is slowly leaking from my bankroll due to the very fact that I expect it to! Doh - a viscious circle.

The point about the beliefs thing at the top was to explain how such thinking is just, well, not me!

If we look a little closer this is a very subtle form of Tilt. My play is less confident, passive, weak due to the fact that I am expecting losses - this creates the very losses I am expecting... which makes my play weaker and more passive... which... ok I am sure you get the picture!

The remedy. I am going to cut down on playing for the rest of the month - and when I do play it will be at lower than my normal levels.

Plenty to do in the meantime, together with a few poker friends (and indeed familiy!) a new website is currently under construction - it will act as a portal for SNGs, Satellites and MTTs with strategy, reviews and all sorts of other bits and pieces (even a page dedicated to blog round-ups!!). Has been under construction for a while now but the light has appeared at the end of the tunnel and early May should see some announcements right here.

GL at the tables,


Thursday, April 19, 2007

General Update - Strong Pound and Titan Freeroll Bonanza

Thinking about the recent news that the British Pound has reached 20ish year highs against the US Dollar. What effect does this have on poker players??

Well to start with our bankrolls just got smaller - even after recent cashouts I have over $5k online - if we take a 5% rise over recent months it is basically like someone reached in and took themselves $250!! Bah!

Never mind - the effect can be looked at another way too - the buy-ins are getting cheaper! In fact for both Brits and Europeans playing (for example) at the 50c/$1 level could be easily likened in real terms to US players at half of this when overall currency strength is taken into account. (Note: we are not actually any better off in the real world because of this - prices in the UK are usually double that in the US!).

A strange thought.

Titan Poker have announced a 'Spring Freeroll Bonanza' that I wanted to mention - most of this cash is aimed at the higher level cash game players ($5/$10 to $2/$4) but tournament players also get a chance... well the top 400 at least. Details below, have been spending most of my time at Titan as the standard of play is about a million miles from Pokerstars right now!! Details below...

$100,000 Freeroll for Top Tournament Players

We're staging a Tournament Bonanza $100,000 Freeroll on May 26, 2007, geared for our Top Tournament Players. Play in one of the following tournaments and you'll earn promotion points. The 400 Top Tournament players with the most promotion points at the end of our Spring Bonanza Promotion will play in the Tournament Bonanza $100,000 Freeroll .

Friday $50,000 Guaranteed
$20,000 GP Freezeout, held Saturdays
$100,000 Guaranteed, held Sundays
$15,000 GP Re-buy, held daily at 19:45 BST

Promotion points for Tournament Play

Participation = 2 Points
Finish Places 50-41 = 5 points
Finish Places 40-31 = 8 points
Finish Places 30-21 = 11 points
Finish Places 20-11 = 15 points
Finish Places 10-5 = 20 points
Finish Places 4-1 = 30 points

The 400 Top Tournament players with the most promotion points will play in the Tournament Bonanza $100,000 Freeroll .

GL at the Tables,


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SNG Strategy - Is There a Place for the Stop-And-Go??

The phrase 'stop-and-go' was coined by Greg Raymer (aka Fossilman) some years ago to describe a play associated with MTTs. The idea being that instead of reraising someone OOP you flat call their raise with the initention of betting any flop (well ok most flops). This bet is often all-in.

The idea behind this is that you can get the pre-flop raiser to fold hands which they would have called a reraise with pre-flop. It avoids 'racing' with a strong but not premium hand and gives you extra ways to win the pot... here is an example.

You have 6000 chips after posting the the BB - the blinds are 600/300 with a 50 chip Ante. It is folded to the player in the CO who makes it 2000 to go and has a big 25000 chip stack. Folded to you in BB and you look down at pocket 8's. They range you assign to the CO is 55+ A10o+ KQo+. What to do??

Here reraising all in is an option - there are 3000 chips in the pot after the CO's raise - you then make the pot 9000 in total and it is 4000 more for the big stack to call... he is getting over 2/1 on a call that can not bust him and should make the call with any legitimate raising hand.

The stop-n-go could be an option here. Flat calling the raise with the intention to push those last 4000 chips on almost any flop... the advantages of this are that you could now get the CO to lay down many of the hands he would have called with before the flop - some of which would have had you dominated and others which would have been a coin-flip.

Missed Ax hands and KQ would probably fold. Pairs - especially those under the highest flop card might well fold too... the stop-n-go has given you more ways to win a pot that you would have contested anyway...

I should note that a pre-requisite for this play is that you are first to act after the flop... if you act second and someone bets ahead of you then -poof - all your plans go up in smoke!

Soooo - my question is whether there is a place for this in SNG play?? Not such an easy one to answer!!

If we were to transpose the above scenario to a SNG bubble then the default play would usually be to fold pre flop (of course this would heavily depend on the raisers range and the stack sizes of all the players in relation to the blinds). The key though to the scenario outlined is that you have 10BBs... what about a situation where you only have 5 and a meduim / small stack puts in a small raise??

Here you have a case for a stop and go against a passive player especially... he may think is AJo is good before the flop but would not be happy to call a bet after the flop if it missed - similarly if he were holding 99 in the same situation and the flop came K 10 2.

My personal feeling is that people are in general too likely to call in a lower limit SNG to make this move effective - but in exactly the right circumstances there may well be a place for the Stop and Go!!

GL at the Tables,


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why are 'Average' Online Poker Players 'Average'??

Another note-worthy thread on 2+2... this time in the 'Poker Theory' section. The original poster asks What keeps the average player from moving up the ranks? The responses are wide-ranging (and as usual with 2+2 some well thought thorough / insightful while others are less than useless!).

Here is a list of some of the points made in the replies:

1) Ego
2) Tilt
3) Bad or no Table Selection
4) Playing without Rakeback
5) No Bonus-whoring plan
6) Not using Pokertracker to find your leaks
7) Losing sight of the need for constant education and improvement
8) Discipline
9) Inability to Fold mediochre hands
10) Inability to Raise those same mediochre hands
11) Not raising enough
12) Calling raises too often
13) Bluff raising pre-flop, or calling re-raise and making a move on the flop too often
14) Not understanding reverse implied odds
15) Bluffing the unbluffable fish
16) Buy in too short
17) Promote themselves too quicly to high stakes after a winning run
18) Not Folding Enough
19) Not playing at a specific weak site...
20) Table selection across multiple sites.

Food for thought here - ranging from the general to the specific. Table Selection, Tilt and Ego all feature heavily in addition to various in-play leaks.

Got to say I am guilty of some of the above, slowly learned to leave Stars alone during the week (especially European early evening when the US 'Pros' have just come on line but the US liesure players have not). While table selection has been a theme here for a long time it could certainly be improved for me.

Anyway, an interesting list - feel free to drop me a mail or a comment if you would like to add more to this or expand on some that are already there...

GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Joy of Variance - Some Positive Action

Variance... its horrible. Despite my best efforts this month my bankroll has taken a hit to the tune of some $400 this month... started off playing just fine - no bad beat stories here on Plan3t gong but it has certainly felt like everything that could go wrong has done! Did not seem to matter whether I was 60/40 70/30 or even 80/20 favorite when the chips went in - actually recall a couple of 90/10%ers after the flop too!!

Never mind - it happens to us all. What differentiates people is the ability to take action!!! After noticing that my game was getting tight / passive as a result I have decided on the following elaborate plan.

To stop playing.

Only for a few days though.

Oh, and I will still be thinking.

And still posting here.

And learning from forums / articles / books and any other sources of information.

In fact the only change at all will be to not play - simple but brilliant. Variance is a fact of life for us poker players - I refuse to let it get me down, after all each of those beats had the potential to get me into a good situation to go deep in an MTT or win a nice SNG prize!

Will use the time to catch up with some part #2's here at Plan3t Gong - 'checking through' while at the bubble springs to mind, have a feeling there are a couple of others too.

GL at the tables,


Friday, April 13, 2007

SNG Strategy Tips - An Interesting Isolation Play

Playing at Poker Stars the other day and I came across an interesting play from an opponent (a 2+2 regular). This move was good enough to be labelled as a SNG Strategy Tip!!

Can not recall what level (playing a mix of 16s to 35s) here is what happened...

My BB with a 2000 stack, blinds 400/200 with ante 25 - we are 4 handed and the guy in question has most of the chips (7000ish). The UTG player just lost a pot and is now all in for his last 390 chips.... button folds and the big stack shoves from the SB.

Can not even recall my hand here, I am obviously only calling with aces, and quickly folded. The interesting thing was that the SB Big stack turned over 74 off!

Thinking it through this was an excellent move. Assuming I fold from the BB with anything less than AA he was putting 200 into the pot to win 890 - thats a healthy 4.5/1...! He only needed 22% winning chances against the UTGs random hand and actually had 35%ish.

The other great aspect to this move was that if he lost then he still has the big stack at the bubble against 3 medium / small stacks and can continue to push us all around...

One more caveat that made this move possible - he needed to know that I understood the bubble (or at the very least I was tight enough to fold all but the best hands). The point here is that this might not work at the very lowest level / against the very worst opponents.

Really nice move and I will certainly be looking out for similar situations in the future!!

GL at the tables,


Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Gap Concept and Position in SNGs

Yet another 2+2 thread got me thinking... someone was asking about the Gap Concept and Position and how these poker principals apply to SNGs. A mixed bag of responses from the articulate to the dismissive.

Will try and keep my thoughts short and succinct on this; I believe that both factors are critical to SNG success... one at a time.

What is the Gap Concept and how does this apply to SNGs?

Briefly the gap concept says that you need a stronger hand to call a raise than you need to open for a raise yourself.

In SNGs this is in use all the time - think of the middle stages with a raiser ahead... calling with AJ? no way!! however folded to you in late position you may well be inclined to raise here with the intention of taking down the pot pre-flop.

Later in the game - the Bubble - this is the Gap Concept gone extreme!! No only do you need to have a better hand to call a raise with, but you need a monster hand to call a raise - even if you know that the initial raiser has a wide range. Conversely your opening range is lite here for exactly the same reason (so long as you know your oppponent understands the dynamic).

So what about position... how does this apply to SNGs??

Again we start at the early stages, starting hands pre flop change (you really want to play a baby pair UTG??), from later position you get to see the action ahead - and so may choose to play that same baby pair for an overlimp on the button for example. AK falls into the category of a position dominated hand - being last to act and seeing your opponents check gives you much of the information required to take a stab at the pot when you missed... this is far more dangerous first to act with a couple of players behind you!

Later game plays are mostly pre-flop - so on the surface it seems position is not so important. but hold on - the number of players yet to act and their ranges is vital info for your push / fold decision. While you may need a top 20% hand to push first of 4 to act, in the SB with 2 folds ahead of you any 2 cards may be a +ev push (stack / range / blind dynamics of course need to be factored in). Also seeing an opponent push UTG 5-handed for example changes your calling range vs that same SB push when you are in the BB... you now need to beat a real hand not just any-2.

Food for thought at least!

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vietnamise Players At Pokerstars - Update

Mentioned a while ago that there seemed to be too many players in the Poker Stars SNGs from Ho Chi Minh City (and a couple of other Vietnamise Cities). Was reminded of it by a 2+2 Thread today and so have sent a quick e-mail to Poker Stars Support... will let you know the outcome!!

Going to organise the blog a little better later today - not updated the Jump off pages for a while!!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Sir / Madame,

I am writing to express concern about SNG players from Vietnam - mainly Ho Chi Minh City.
It has been noticed that there are many Ids coming from this city at the 16 to 60 level. There is nothing particularly strange about their playing styles, however I would appreciate your security department having a look into these players on the following basis.

1) There appears to be a disproportionate number of Ids playing SNGs from one place.

2) Many of the IDs are similar in structure (capital letters and numbers - many including underscores).

3) It has been noticed that these IDs are at the tables 24 hours a day.

4) There is only 1 of them at a table at any one time though the number of them suggests that pure chance would have them sharing tables more often.

Below is a selection of the Ids in question.

DR_H5n1 (Long An)
Lucky0012008 (tra vinh)

Many Thanks,


Monday, April 09, 2007

River Bet Sizing in SNGs - Part #1

Always the same - leave home for a while thinking it will be easy to update this blog... eating and drinking (and more drinking) and relatives visiting (and yet more drinking) later and it does not happen! Ah well - time for the promised thoughts on River Bet Sizing in SNGs...

This post was inspired by one of the 'concepts' in NL Holdem Theory and Practice by Sklanksy and Miller - Number 51 to be exact. To summarise this one the authors suggest that in a NL Holdem Poker Tournament one should prefer small river bets that will often be called to large ones that will seldom be called. This refers to Heads-Up Pots and rests on the assumption that additional chips decrease in value (will have a look at that in more detail another day).

What I wanted to do here is ask the question of whether this applies to SNG play. This is part #1 where we will look at the early / mid game... in part #2 later in the week we can look at the same question on the bubble...

Here is the hypothetical scenario...

6 players left, equal stacks of 2000 chips and BB= 100. You called a limp from the BB and a 100 chip bet on the flop after flopping middle pair - turn went check / check and then you make an unlikely gutshot straight on the river. There is 450 in the pot, both you and your opponent have 1800 behind and you put him on a medium strength hand (maybe top pair top kicker)... the question is - how much should you bet?? (we will assume you have the nuts / no shared cards etc).

You estimate the likelihood of being called for various bet sizes as follows...

Bet = 200, you'll be called 100% of the time
Bet = 400, you'll be called 50% of the time
Bet = 1800, you'll be called 11% of the time.

As I am sure you noticed the expectation in terms of chips gained is the same for each bet (200 chips - ok a couple of chips different for 1800 but close enough!!). So what are the factors that could influence your decision as to which amount to bet??

Will break these down into 2 areas - mathematical (ICM) factors and strategic factors. Let us start with the maths...

At the start of the hand everyones $ equity was equal, with a $100 prize pool you each have $16.66 (ignoring the blinds). If there were no betting on the river and you took the 450 in the pot then the $ev for the table would look like this. $ev assumes a $100 pool split 50/30/20.

You = 2250 chips = $18.34
Villan = 1800 chips = $15.28
Player A = 2000 chips = $16.68
Player B = 2000 chips = $16.68
Player C = 2000 chips = $16.68
Player D (SB) = 1950 chips $16.34

Let us look at what happens in the 3 scenarios...

1) Bet 200 chips and called 100% of the time;

You = 2450 chips = $19.63
Villan = 1600 chips = $13.85
Player A = 2000 chips = $16.72
Player B = 2000 chips = $16.72
Player C = 2000 chips = $16.72
Player D (SB) = 1950 chips $16.37

You increase your $ equity by $1.29 over checking, villan loses an additional $1.43.

2) Bet 400 chips and get called 50% of the time. (equity where called)

You = 2650 chips = $20.89
Villan = 1400 chips = $12.36
Player A = 2000 chips = $16.77
Player B = 2000 chips = $16.77
Player C = 2000 chips = $16.77
Player D (SB) = 1950 chips $16.43

So your equity is now $4.23 higher than before the hand and villan's is $4.30 lower - but hang on this only happens half the time - it thus makes sense to take the '100% called' smaller bet on river as a baseline and compare the equity here with that... so $1.29 (the assured equity gain after smaller bet) is your risk.

Half the time the medium bet is called and your equity goes up from $19.63 to $20.89 - a gain of $1.26 divide this by 2 and we have a risk of $1.29 to win ($1.26/2) = 63c.

3) Bet 1800 Chips and Get Called 11% of the Time... (we will work with 10%!!)

You = 4050 chips = $28.90
Villan = 0 chips = $0.0
Player A = 2000 chips = $17.87
Player B = 2000 chips = $17.87
Player C = 2000 chips = $17.87
Player D (SB) = 1950 chips $17.51

So your gain for the bigger bet when called compared to checking it down is $28.90 - #18.34 or $10.56... but this will only happen approx 10% of the time; so out of 10 tries you lose your assured 200 chips for the smallest bet 9 times (9*$1.29 = $11.61) and gain the difference between your assured 200 chip win and the bigger 1800 chip win once ($ 28.90 - $19.63 = $9.27).

So on average you actually give up equity by making the biggest bet - at a rate of $2.34 per try.

To conclude the mathematical part:

It seems as if Sklansky and Millers 'concept' holds up well when we look at the numbers. The key point here is that additional chips are worth less in terms of $ equity than previous ones (a key concept of ICM... I refer any new Plan3t Gong Readers to the list of previous articles on the right hand side for an ICM 'jump off page'). If you look from the baseline through the best sizes you will see that the people not in the hand are steadily gaining $ev by doing nothing!!

But what about the strategic reasons?

The question to ask here is whether there are any factors that mean having a 2650 stack as opposed to the assured 2450 stack would make the small equity risk worthwhile?

With such a small gain I can not honestly see it - you have more chips than your opponents in each case, but not enough so that getting into a confrontation with any of them would leave you unscathed (possible exception of the villan in the above example).

Of course having the extra large 4050 stack would put you in a fantastic position to expolit the upcoming bubble - but giving up a potential $2.34 in $ev will not be compensated for enough. ie; you could argue that the times you do double up you can gain back more than $2.34 at the bubble by bullying the smaller stacks - but since this will only happen 1 time in 10 it seems clear that the smaller gain gives you more opportunity more often to get into the money...

Ah well, seems that concept 51 is good - and as ever in poker there is always an 'it depends' about things... hope to have provided some food for thought though!

GL at the tables,


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bluescouse is Back!!

Some great pokerblogging news - Bluescouse is back!

Enough said!

Cheers, Mark

Another ICM Article...

Seems that ICM for Sit and Go Tournaments is the flavour of the month for April, below is a link to another article - this time at Pocket 5's (right click / open in new window please!)

This one is by Jennifear and is nicely put together with the main points covered. There are just a couple of caveats for me;

- The intro mentions the dimishing value of chips in terms of $ev but does not really say why this is the case. An example with numbers and a mention of the prize pool ratios could have helped here.

- Does mention the fact that you can push more into people who understand ICM but the example given (a $20+2) SNG does not tie in with this too well - opponents understanding is not a cut and dried issue... there are degrees of this and bubble calling ranges to assign that go with it. No way you can push 15 hands in a row in a $22 and not get called by a single opponent!!

Anyhow - these are minor - a very good article for anyone wanting to improve their bubble play.

If you are new to Plan3t Gong then ICM is one of my regular topics - there is a 'jump off' page listing several ICM articles to the right under 'Plan3t Gong Articles'.

Off to the in-laws today down in Southern Hungary for a weekend of not being able to speak to anybody (no English down there... hmmm). Still the eating and drinking will be good!!

Have an article in plan about river bet sizing in SNGs - will hopefully get it finished on Sunday.

GL at the tables,


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Extreme Strategy Adjustment in PLO!

Wanted to do a more general update today as the last few days have all been conceptual(ish) type posts. Then last night, while playing some $50 PLO at Titan and interesting situation came up...

The table was 6-max and soon what could only be described as a mainiac of maniacs joined. Now Omaha gets a fair share of raise every hand pre / bet pot on any flop types - but this guy was amazing!!! He followed up with a pot on the turn and another on the river... every time.

After picking up pot after pot after pot he went from $50 to about $120 very quickly, still no let up... there were a couple of additional factors to note. If raised he would usually call a small bet but check / fold the next street with nothing, if raised pre flop he would usually mini-reraise but shut down if he missed the flop.

Now I love cheap flops in PLO but none were available - so time for some serious strategy adjustments. Being seated to the maniacs left was an advangage here but it was a case of going into calling mode with 'reasonable' holdings, playing the kind of hands that would not be good enough for a raise in themselves but good enough to hit a flop hard on the odd occasion, think A6Q9 single suited to the A for example.

This meant throwing away a lot of draws after the pot bet on the flop but all worked out on the couple of occasions a flop hit me hard... after that it was a matter of calling the flop and turn pot bets and reraising on the river of required to get the last $ in. All good and a tidy profit for me when the guy eventually went broke.

Now here is what genuinely suprised me... out of the 6 player table nobody else made the correct adjustments, not a single one!! They were limping pre flop then folding to the raise, they were reraising the pot sized bet on the flop with the nuts (full houses etc) and causing the maniac to shut down... it was horrible!

Guess the lesson we can learn from this extreme example is to think through the adjustments needed against an extreme opponent and then stick to your plan. Guess this kind of example illustrates why we make money playing the beautiful game!!

Back to SNGs shortly!

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Note Taking and Cash Game Hand Reading...

Watched the latest Rizen Cash Game Videos over on PokerXfactor yesterday - they are excellent once again. Rizen's videos are becoming worth the membership price alone. He has a relaxed yet informative style and manages to explain some important factors one should consider without coming across as egotistical or patronising.

(Quick side note here: Sheets' videos are also excellent, as are some of the earlier JohnnyBax videos - Belowabove always sounds stoned but his vids are certainly worth watching for his different style (LAG))

Anyway, I noticed over the course of a few videos that Rizen takes very detailed notes on his opponents play. He often goes as far as to write complete sentences on what play from what position after what action with which holdings... it made me think about my own note taking and realise that this is actually rather poor in comparison!

Personally I always note the following (more SNG based):

- Bubble Calls in SNGs, quick note of holding and whether blinds were high (big difference between BB600 and 200 on whether a call was justified)
- I note anyone raising Ace-rag or K-x suited in the early rounds (they generally call lighter at bubble time).
- Any really bad plays get a "doooonnkkkkeeeyyy' or something similar.
- Calling stations, bluffers and over-aggressive players get that mentioned.
- People who play often (esp. multi-tablers) get their sharkscope numbers noted.
- Later in MTTs I look people up on the and note their numbers / levels.

Its a fair start but has loads of room for improvement. Compare my 'Limp A7o ep bb50' with something that actually explains someones play over several streets...

Here was the latest gem Rizen opened my eyes to - make a note of what people are leading into pots on the flop with. Simple right! Some players lead with strong hands, others with their draws and yet others lead meduim strength hands. Knowing which player leads with what can make / save you some $$$ over time. Add to this whether a player fires 2 barrells with weak holdings and you are even further down the right road.

What I learned here may sound obvious, but the key is I have not been doing a good enough job of watching my opponents - this info is out there for anyone who cares to make use of it... so time to change my ways as far as notes / reads are concerned.

Plan is to think about this subject some more over the coming days and weeks - will report back right here!

GL at the tables,


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

ICM for SNGs - 2+2 Article

The 2+2 'Magazine' Articles this month contain something on ICM for Sit and Goes it is called "Playing with the ICM formulas' by Alan Kratz - link to this is below (right click / open in new window please!).

Now it certainly looks impressive, what with all the algebra and everything - but I wanted to ask the question whether this tells us anything new??

Well, no. It does a decent job of explaining the equations (if anything making it seem more complicated than it really is) and suggests you can look at ICM decisions 2-ways around but that is about it...

First thing is how to decide if your call is +$ev, Plan3t Gong readers already know this one right?? Compare your winning chances vs opponents range with the risk / reward in $equity for the subsequent win / loss. So if you feel you have 50% vs opponents range but would risk $25 to win $12.5 more you have a fold and if you have 80% vs opponents range (ie aces!) in the same situation you have a call.

Note: For those who missed them there is a 'jump off page' for ICM articles listed on the right.

Putting in the break even point is useful to some extent in the linked article... you need to decide in advance what % of equity gain you consider big enough to call.

1% is usually considered good here... but this can be influenced by many factors including stack sizes of opponents (particularly very small stacks), perceived skill levels (if you are much better then look for a better spot - if you are out of your depth then take 0.5% edges and be happy!) and whether the blinds will go up next hand.

For the pushing side things are equally straightforward - compare you equity gain from picking up the blinds with the % chance you will be called and your winning chances thereafter. If your winning chances + gain from the get blinds*fold % are positive in comparison to the risk / reward in equity when called then push - if not then fold....

this is why a fold at BB200 can easily become a push at BB400 - the preflop pot is that much bigger that the equity gain for opponents folding outweighs the 'getting called' side of the equation (assuming you have at least some winning chances when you are called.).

What Alan Kratz suggests is that you can approach these situations from both sides;

- What % vs your opponents range do you need given the equity at stake? or
- What equity gain do you need to call given you assessment of your opponents range?

While each has its merits my personal preference is the first method - since stack sizes are there to see it is relatively easy to work out your $ev and make the assessment of what you are risking in any given situation - if you do not yet know this then a suggestion would be to get an ICM calculator and make a chart of 10 or so common stack size combos at the bubble (will only take 20 minutes and is well worth it!!).

Your assessment of your opponents pushing and / or calling ranges is more read dependant (have covered this in previous posts) but tools such as PokerStove give you the basics.

Final suggestion is to get a copy of SNG power tools - plugging in common situations and seeing the mathematically correct push / fold ranges is worth the $80 or so price very quickly.

In conculsion then a decent article on the subject, but too fancy for some principals which are actually quite straightforward!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, April 02, 2007

Good LAGs and Bad LAGs...

Another gem from No Limit Holdem: Theory and Practice that I have already put to good use at the tables... concerns LAGs (Loose Aggressive Players).

Now the LAG style is something that the forums suggest many cash game players are striving for as a profitable way of playing. Pick up lots of small pots while at the same time disguise hands so that you can get paid off big with premuims... sounds ideal (if not really my natural game).

The gem from T and P was how to differentiate people playing a strong LAG game from the donkeys who raise too many hands as they do not know any better! Its simple, look for errors in big pots.

The concept here is that thinking LAGs make many raises and reraises with mediochre cards - but these are on the early betting rounds when the money is small compared to the depth of the stacks. However, when the pots get very big the thinking players have the goods while the loose donks do not... so watch for 'big pot' mistakes.

Once you see them being made you should be more inclined to isolate with good but not great hands and play more pots in position. You range can widen since you have greater implied odds. Conversely against a thinking LAG you do not have the implied odds as often and need to tighten up some.

Actually put this to good use on the Titan Poker PLO tables already. Of course implied odds are less important in SNG play as stack conservation is paramount.

GL at the tables,


Sunday, April 01, 2007

End of Another Month...

Well that was quick, April here already. Time for another end of month review. Will keep the numbers part short, its been an ok month but not a great one yet again + $1650 on Stars and + $300 on Titan for a respectable - but not exceptional + $1950. Should take into account playing far less than usual due to 11 days of holiday but still....

Now I wanted to get some results in perspective a little. I seem to end each month with a positive balance yet feel a little dissapointed - a 'could have done better' feeling. But hang on - at least 90% of online poker players lose money over time right!! Should really be happy that we are not a member of that particular group!

Probably comes from the last weeks attempts at MTTs.... PG Poker has a 'no bad beat story' policy so let me tell you about all these guys at my tables holding big slimy wet fish... yep they were lurking around every corner, waiting for me to make a move, resteal or sometimes just have the cheek to enter a pot and 'Thwack' - Mark gets a big wet fish slap. Big blinds with KK sized fish-slaps, button raisers with AK fish slapping away, my stop&go called by a fish-wielder with nothing more than a gutshot... ;o)

So last night myself and Mrs Mftpg had a 'few' 'small' drinks and decided after being fish-slapped all over both the Titan and Stars MTT tables that it was time for revenge in the form of some turbo sats.

We considered the issue with fish-slappers to originate from these things called 'cards' that were somehow affecting my game and wanted to eliminate this irritating factor from the tables. So once per round we picked a likely looking spot, covered the cards and as long as nobody raised ahead simply shoved our any-2 'blind'.

It worked too! What started as a bit of drunken fun forced me to think more about who was not going to me playing back from their blinds... of course its normal to think of this but it is also normal to hesitate when you see 82 off suit and wait for something better. Covering the cards is definitely the way forward - won both seats too!

Ok, plans for April. Play more SNGs (not too many in March in comparison previous months) and more Satellites. Win an MTT or 3. Focus on plugging leaks more (actually said I would do a 'personal development plan' in Jan but never did...).

Blog plans are to write some more great articles!! I wanted to put a 'mechanical strategy' together at some point that factors in the current SNG climate out there (F-train's and the old 2+2 one are now well past their sell-by-dates). Was also thinking of looking at some specific hands / situations (playing AK springs to mind). Always open to reader suggestions for new subject areas.

Anyway, GL at those tables