Thursday, May 31, 2007

PG Poker Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournamanet Strategy Weekly Digest #3

3rd weekly SNG / MTT digest a day earlier than usual this week... I am off to Amsterdam early tomorrow morning and have decided not to take my laptop (regular readers will already know I am a fan of taking regular 'poker breaks' - this one will be complete with no books either!). Back Tuesday and promise to catch up on some of the promised posts...

May looks like being the best month yet for visitors to this blog - 100 or more most weekdays (80ish+ at weekends / holidays) and around 1.5 page views per visit... feel a little humbled by this number so thanks to each and every reader!!

On a separate topic I saw this morning that a push-fold chart based on Karlson-Sklanksky ranges is being sold for $100 on donkit poker... ridiculous! I have some charts in draft but have not worked on them for a while - this was just the spur I needed to get them done and publish them for free... probably take another week after I get back as they will need to be checked and re-checked for accuracy etc.

OK, will add the links to the first 2 digests at the end of the post (another thing to do - get this blog a bit better organised!!). So on with the digest...

Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest #3

Sit n Go Strategy Section.

Links will open in a new window...

A Post over on 2+2 caught my eye, this discusses the Kelly Criterion for SNGs , very mathematical, this is basically a statistical look at bankroll management based on Kelly's gambling theories of how much you can 'safely' stake and not go broke. Recommended for advanced / mathematically minded SNG players.

This one is from cardplayer and discusses playing AK Early in SNGs, lots of different viewpoints ranging from flat call to push... I'm with the SPRStoner perspective on this one and shoving - there are already 240 chips in the pot and winning them immediately is no bad thing!

At first view the next post seems trivial... someone at 2+2 asking whether they should Fold KK pre-flop, on a separate level this post got me thinking about what criteria (if any) could make me consider folding KK pre in a SNG... the answer is the bubble and then only in extreme circumstances. Based on the Stars $6.50s

Did a couple of new articles for SNG Planet - small delay with the techies mean they are not up yet (bah!). Promised to be there today though so will link anyway, one looks at the resteal in MTTs but the one to link here looks at 1 Table SNG Satellites focusing on strategy adjustments vs 'standard' SNGs.

Multi Table Tournament Strategy

The link here is to a Cardplayer article by one of my favourite poker writers... Rizen looks at Building A Pot when you flop a hidden monster in a multi table tournament setting, as usual Rizen provides much food for tought rather than spelling out exactly what to do.

Next is a link to a new 2+2 Board... personally feel that having an 'invitation only' High Stakes MTT board only increases the 2+2 clique and helps alienate newbies... however it is 'news' in the Multi Table Tournament world so will include it here.

Final link in the MTT section is from Pocket 5's - a poster asked What do the top players have that most don't? kicking off an interesting discussion - includes contributions from a couple of the 'top players'.

Misc Strategy Articles / Blogs

Was browsing blogs the other night and noticed that Kevin from 640 SNGs has made recordings of all of his SNGs - regardless of outcome - not had the chance to look at any of them yet but will include the link here out of pure respect for doing this! 640 SNGs. Plan to have a look at them when I return from the 'Dam.


Well thats all folks - would love to make this digest a little more interactive, if you see something that is worthy of inclusion (even if it is your own blog!) then drop me a comment or a mail.

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2+2 - A Clique to Far?

The 2+2 forums are a truly amazing place - by far the biggest poker forum around they have an opportunity to be a great place for players at all levels of the game.... instead the place is unwelcoming to newer players - sometimes to the point of being downright nasty, it is a serious clique with the 'in crowd' posting what they like for each others amusement (while genuine but misguided questions asked by novices are usually locked within minutes...). Many of the posters these days seem more interested in getting their 'post count' up than contributing anything of value.

The worst of 2+2 is personified by one person - Wiggs73 - if there ever were a clearer case of ego out-weighing intellect then I have yet to see it. This guy 'moderates' the 1-Table tournament section, at the same time as admitting he does not play SNGs he feels the need to add his innane comments again and again. He stifles contribution by newer players - adds the websites of his friends to the FAQ and generally comes across as a low IQ guy with a very inflated opinion of himself... come on Mason Malmuth - your forum would be a much better place without him.

Do not mean to come across too negatively about all this - there are many excellent posts to be found at 2+2 despite the moderation shortcomings... what really gets me here is the missed opportunity - without Wiggs73 the SNG forum could become a great place to hang out once again.

On a slightly different topic Titan Poker have had a redesign - gone for Black and Red rather than their usual blue and added their 'Titan Poker Training Academy' too... still my favourite site - not too much chance of the opponents there getting good soon - they are still at the stage of thinking A-6 is a monster!! Any how check them out here... Titan Poker

GL at the tables,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A More Personal Plan3t Gong?

No strategy today, feel that PG Poker is becoming a little impersonal, 'dry' may be a better word. Today then I will redress this with 10 things you never knew about your PG Poker host! Back to strategy tomorrow!!

1) I have a somewhat 'compex' familiy background, my parents having 5 divorces between them (1 shared!) and the potential for more marriages on both sides... my father is a university professor (was actually brought up by a stepdad - a now retired board member of Vodafone) and my mother's current partner is an ex-forumla 1 driver (nope - not going to tell you which one!!).

2) My first degree was in Psychology, when I realised how useless this was I did a postgrad in Project Management.

3) I find it difficult to answer the question 'where in England are you from?' Was born in Northampton but moved away as a baby - then spent the next 20 years moving around all the time! Usually just say the south coast as that is where most of the familiy are....

4) I am engaged to a beautiful Hungarian lady - we met when I summoned her into my office to explain why there were 'issues' with recruitment, she was then the manager of a branch of Adecco who were looking after much of the recruitment for the IBM service centre I was project managing the setup of at the time. If someone had told me a few years ago I'd end up in Budapest planning to marry a local I'd probably have laughed... funny how life works out!!

5) I have an IQ of 137, which to my mind proves only that I am good at completing IQ tests, more important is my annoying habit of questioning everything - if someone states a 'fact' I'm the first to request their sources and consider vested interests.

6) The name Plan3t Gong poker comes from a name I used in the late 80's while writing fiction for (paper based!) fanzines... writing as 'Mark from the Planet Gong' was in turn inspired by an early 70's progressive / jazz / Psychedelic band I liked at the time called Gong... now I'm 36 and prefer more mainstream tunes!

7) I currently live on the main 'Korut' (erm, road) in the centre of Budapest. Our balcony overlooks an accident blackspot - at least 9 crashes in the 11 months we have been here, a couple looked serious, happy to report no fatalities though!

8) For 10 years I played bass guitar in many bands ranging from funk to rock to pop... I was a sought after musician for a good few years with more offers to play than it was possible to handle... never made it big though!

9) I'm a complete caffine addict, smoke far too much. drink a couple of bottles of JD a week and never suffer from hangovers (hehe)!!

10) Travel is a real passion, have been all over the world both on business and for pleasure. My favourite countries are Thailand and Loas (with a shout in there for Honduras) and favourite Euopean city is Amsterdam (going there next weekend in fact!). I'm a qualified diver and love anywhere with coral reefs!

Thanks for allowing me to indulge!


Monday, May 28, 2007

Party Poker Steps SNGs - A Guide to Steps Strategy Part #3 - Buying In Half Way Up!

Time for part #3 of the Party Poker Steps SNG Strategy series... before we get going I am aware that Party are not available to US players, and that some 30% of Plan3t Gong readers are from the US! Just to let you know that I have a post in plan to expand the 'Steps' Sit N Go concept to creating your own steps - or simply creating your own SNG challenge. This one should be ready in the next week to 10 days and will be applicable to readers wherever they are in the world...

Right, this post is going to look at the overall profitability of Party Poker Steps based on buying in at some of the mid-levels vs your chances to move up - the key factor will be your equity in the final step with the $2000 first prize... we will be comparing buying in at the mid-levels vs buying in directly to the final ($500) level here - the last post in this series will cover final table strategy and ICM for Step 6.

This is actually the 3rd in the Steps articles series - here are links to the first two in case you missed them.

Part #1 Covered Party Steps Basics / Payouts and Numbers

Part #2 Covered Party Steps Strategy + SNG ICM for the lower levels

So todays question - from the perspective of a winning SNG player, is it financially viable to buy-in to the steps at the mid to high levels??

There are 2 main factors to consider.

1) Your potential edge vs the opposition (expectation of finishing in place X for any given game)

2) Your houly rate in 'normal' SNGs compared to the time taken to get to Step 6.

Let us start with a Step 3. This has a $30 buy-in and pays out in the following format. 1st to 3rd, entry for Step 4 ($70), 4th try again step 3 ($30), 5th to 7th down to Step 2 ($10).

So, you are a winning Sit N Go Player at the $30 level with a healthy 15% ROI - you also understand the payout structure and are able to adapt your early game play to avoid busting out in one of the 3 unpaid places as much as possible... what could we suggest your expectation for your $30 investment to be??

Lets take a stab at how often you'd get straight to step 6...

Step 3, 1-2-3 move up to step 4... will work with 40%

Step 4, 1-2-3 move up to step 5... again a generous 40% - Total now = 40% of 40% or 16%

Step 5, 1 and 2 move to step 6.... 30% seems high but certainly possible - 30% of 16% = 4.8%

Note that we have not yet included the 'try again' and 'step down' finishes... if getting straight to the top with a $30 investment were possible 5% of the time we are actually showing a $5 loss compared to buying in directly (5% of $500 = $25!).

So now we can look into the slightly more complex task of accounting for the equity of the 'try again / step down' instances.

Step 3 - 4th re-try 5th+6th+7th = step 2. re-try we already covered above, its 4.8%. For step 2 the first 2 finishers get a place in step 3- we will use 30% again so 30%*4.8% = 1.4%. To add this to the main figure we then assume that 6% of the time we try again we actually make it to step 6, so 6% of the 4.8% an additional 0.3% to add to the total. Running total = 5.1%

Step 4 - 4th re-try, 5th step 3, 6th 7th step 2. Well once we reach step 4 we win a step 6 seat 12% of the time... so the try again alone = 12% on top of our 4.8% or another 0.6%, the extra step 3 adds 0.3% - we will add another 0.1% for the step 2's too! - Running total = 6.1%

Step 5 - Both 3rd and 4th get another step 5 entry... 5th and 6th Step 4, 7th and 8th step 3. So using the same idea we get a step 6 from the try-again slots around 20% of 30% of the time (that is 6% alone) twice we add another step 4 (2*1% from previous calc) and twice more we add another step 3 (2 * 0.3%)... so all of these combined put our total up to 14.7%...

That is not bad for a $30 investment... the real return then is 14.7% of $500 or $73.50c

The key of course would be how often you cash in the top slot, no longer would we expect the successful mid-level player to have too much of an edge (after all if the opposition were that bad the top players would all be buying in directly!!).

How do we factor in your hourly rate to this - not actually going to cover the maths here as the post is too long already. This would appear to be more a function of whether you are able to multi-table than an exchange for SNG profits made in the usual way... if you see the average return (the $30 up to $73,50 as taking 4 hours - to factor in the try-again slots) then it should be simple enough to compare to what you are earning on the $30 tables at the current time.

Will look at the ICM and Strategy for the $500 Step 6 next time - 4 payout slots and those who have moved up the ladder feeling desperate to grab one of the money prizes will both make a difference to your strategy.

For a comprehesive review of Party Poker SNGs check out this article over at SNG Planet...
Party Poker SNG Strategy

If you are not a member of Party then you are missing out on some of the softest opposition on the internet!! Check them out here Party Poker

GL at the tables,


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Poker, Psychology and Denial...

Down at the in-laws in Kiskunhalas (small town in Southern Hungary) for a holiday weekend of too much eating, too much drinking and not being able to understand anyone around me... did try learning Hungarian but motivation flagged a bit on that front lately - leaving me just about capable of telling people I do not speak Hungarian... hmmm.

Anyhow, quick blog update today inspired by Alan Schoonmakers 'Psychology of Poker'. Have read and enjoyed the book before but decided to have another look... it is full of little gems, just the odd paragraph here and there in addition to the main points that really stimulate the old grey matter.... one such example is about 'denial'.

Denial is basically what keeps the entire gambling industry alive. Casinos attract thousands of people daily into playing games which are not beatable over time, people bet on sports, put money into slot machines and video poker games, they basically take the worst of it over and over...

Of course to many people the money they spend is for entertainment only, but the psychological trick here that keeps the gaming industry in healthy profits is that people are convinced they can beat these games - the lure of the big win gets people to deny the reality that they are guaranteed to lose over time.

So how does this relate to poker. For me denial manifests itself in many ways here. We can start by assessing the 90% of people who are losers in the online game. These people of course provide the 'pool' of profit that is available for us winning players - the thing to mention here is the short-term 'luck' factor is on the disciplined player's side... if it were not for the long-term losers occasionally getting a big win then it would be difficult for them to justify depositing their next $500 when 'bad luck' depletes their bankroll.

From the perspective of a winner this phenominon is annoying, losing a big pot to someone who obviously had no clue that their call (or whatever) had a large negative expectation can be an exasperating event My personal feeling is that this is where the 'denial' of winning players comes from, as someone experienced in the game we feel like we 'should' be outplaying our less experienced opponents and winning big pots against them - in reality our profit is made of more and smaller edges taken again and again and again.

There is another aspect of denial that is characteristic of many winners - you beat the game for a certain time and feel that you are now experienced enough to beat a higher level (or maybe just expect to beat the same level without thinking about it). The reality here is that our opponents will become more skilled over time, that unless we work on our own leaks we will not improve our win rates and that moving up levels may even completely take our edge away

For example we may deny the fact that our only edge in the $3 SNGs was playing tighter in the early stages and pushing 'almost correctly' later, moving up a couple of levels we encounter others who use exactly the same basic strategy = we no longer have any edge. Instead of analysing and working on our game to find out where the profits will come from we blame a bad run of cards... see how easy it is to deny reality here? Both winners and losers are equally guilty.

Me? I'm guilty too!! I need to spend a little more time fine tuning bubble play, I need to look at my cash game hand histories more often to make sure those winning hands are maximising profits and the losing hands are in as small as pots as possible.

To end on a happy note - Plan3t Gong readers are generally those players who like to think!! Let us be honest enough with ourselves to accept that denial is an intregal part of any money gaming and locate then correct what we are denying.

Right, more meat + paprika + Palinka + Cognac + + + +

GL at the tables,


Friday, May 25, 2007

PG Poker Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest #2

Time for weekly digest number 2... this is a collection of links to quality articles and interesting forum threads covering Sit n Go Strategy topics and Multi Table Online Poker Tournament Strategy too... have made some changes since digest#1 to reflect reader feedback (did not realise you need to pay for the PxF forum so removed those links now - and used the traditional blue URL Links).

First of all here is a link to the first digest -

Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest #2

1) Sit n Go Strategy Section.

Links will open in a new window...

This week saw the posting of a Hand History from a Stars $55+5 on P5's by poker pro 'Jennifear', it contained some rather 'interesting' thoughts and kicked off a huge debate... check it out here. It was shortly dicovered by the 2+2 crowd who ripped into it like a pack of wolves... see 2+2's 'Friendly Response'. Great mix of education and entertainment across both posts!

Next a 2+2 Thread started by Davd Sklansky (Theory of Poker Author) this one asked the question How Would Phil Ivey Do? Referring to the $200 Level SNGs on Stars vs the regulars / ICM experts there - some thoughtful responses about the ability to adapt...

Back to Pocket 5's for a thread discussing lower limit SNG play ($6,50) started by someone making the standard 'Donk Bubble Callers Hurt Me!' complaint but actually turned into an interesting debate. Ties in very well with the SNG Planet Article by Albatross77 on an Alternative View of Bubble ICM posted yesterday.

2) Multi Table Tournament Strategy

Another 2+2 thread nicely bridges our 2 main topics... questioning Howard Lederer's suggestion that SNGs Make Good Preparation for MTT Final Tables , sure they are not a perfect match - can anyone think of anything better though??

Interesting article at Bluff Magazine next, taking a mathematical approach to Playing Against Your Opponents Entire Range. A little complex in places but an excellent read none the less.

This SNG Planet article looks at the increasingly popular passtime of 'Railbirding' and suggests ways in which this can be used as part of your Online Tournament Learning Strategy.

3) Misc Strategy Articles / Blogs

Just the one link in this section this week - an article at Cardplayer by Eric Lynch (Rizen) this one looks at bankroll management looking at the effect of your Emotional Bankroll in addition to your physical one.


As before please feel free to send any suggestions for the digest - drop me a comment below or mail to (special e-mail address that I use for online posting, its already full of spam so more does not hurt!!).

GL at the tables,


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poker Stars 4/180 10/180 20/180 Strategy and an Alternative View Of SNG ICM

Really happy to be announcing the latest articles over on SNG Planet. These cover Strategy for the Pokerstars 180's and a great article on 'thinking outside the box' concerning poker ICM...

First the Sit n Go Bubble Strategy... this is a guest Article by Albatross77, a big winning SNG player on PokerStars. His posts on Pocket5's are thoughtful and his results speak for themselves... this article looks at making seemingly negative $ev calls sooner rather than slightly positive pushes later that will actually do you little good - a must read for any thinking SNG player.

When To Ignore ICM - SNG Strategy thats 'Outside the Box'

Secondly a 2-part (of an eventual 3) is by me! These articles cover the 180 Man SNGs at Poker Stars. The first part looks at some facts and figures for these (ROI / Blinds / Timings etc) and the second part covers what to expect at the different blind levels and outlines 20/180, 10/180 and 4/180 strategy... the final part will follow next week and cover the mathematics for the final table.

Star 180 SNGs - Facts and Figures

Star 180 SNGs - Strategy Guide

If you have ideas or insights into any area of SNGs, MTTs or Satellites and would like to contribute to SNG Planet then drop me a line to

GL at the Tables,


National Characteristics in Online Poker...

Time for a brief interlude... only room for so many strategy posts in a row after all. Regular readers might already know that I am widely travelled - having been fortunate enough to see many corners of the Earth both on business and pleasure... so the list below is a tounge-in-cheek view of players from different countries you encounter online... in no particular order.

The Canadians: Drawing out on a Canadian, particularly as a big (80%+) underdog is considered as a serious insult... spiking that Ace on the river not only insults your Canadian opponent - it insults their Nation, their entire familiy, their friends, friends of their friends, colleagues and even pets (both past and present)... best switch off that chat for a while just to be on the safe side!

The French: A re-raise, even all in, is no more consequential to your French opponent than the offer to top up their glass of Merlot over a liesurely lunch. Expect them to casually flick their galouis (cigarette), raise just the one eyebrow and hit the call button.... every time!

The Scandanavians: Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark might be separte countries with their own cultural identities in the real world... in the online world they share an abnormally high number of 'raise' buttons. Yep, while the rest of us get 'Raise' 'Call' and 'Fold' on our poker client a quirk of international internet technology means these guys get 'Raise' 'Raise More' 'Raise Lots More' 'Re-Reraise' 'Check-Raise' and 'All-in'.

The Americans: To many American online poker players there is one and only one explanation for them losing a hand - any hand - online poker is rigged!!! Losing a 70/30 instills some serious doubts, losing an 80/20 is concrete proof!! - After all the same guy lost one only yesterday! The US has both the best and the worst online players - make sure you know which ones you are playing against!

The British: While a tournament buy-in has some tangable value in many parts of the world, in the UK you can not even buy a nice cup of tea for the price of an evening MTT. Combining the low relative costs of poker with our 'stiff upper lip' approach to calling large river bets ("We will call them on the beaches..." ) and us Brits are likely to be losing big pots a level or 2 higher than many opponents!

The Germans: Solid defence, aggressive mid-game and constant yet uncreative attacking pressure... oops digressed onto the subject of the German National Football team for a moment. But then again.... those Germans are frustratingly good at whatever they do - expect to see them being the ones to beat online a couple of years from now... bah!

The Australians: A traditionally lucky sporting nation (particularly at cricket*) the Ozzies have more than just chips / dollars invested in each pot. Since winning a hand is a source of great national pride (and winning a SNG good enough reason to fire up the barby) they are likely to call with some, erm, less than solid values. What the rest of us miss by working only with chip EV or $EV is that 'National Pride EV' makes that bottom pair a clear call.

*please feel free to send cricket-related insults to my inbox -

Any more? If you have any thoughts on nations I missed out then feel free to drop me a comment!

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sit n Go Strategy - Calculating the Extra Value of A Bubble Big Stack

More thoughts on Sit n Go Strategy and ICM... it is fairly common to see a big stack 'own' the bubble, pushing again and again against 3 smaller stacks who will not call for fear of busting out in 4th. (actually covered the ICM for this in a previous post somewhere in my archive!).

My thought was this - can we put an approximate numerical value on having a big stack in terms of chip ev and $ev and then use this to 'work backwards' when deciding whether to make a push or call with 5 players to go?

An example - 5 equal stacks of 2000 at bb400, the small blind pushes into you and, using the math skills gained from reading plan3t Gong you assess that your call has a negative expectation of 2% in terms of $ev. The conventional line then is to fold...

But wait, would making the call and having a big stack give you the opportunity to recoup this equity loss in the event that you did win?

Lets have a look at the situation if you called and won the hand, you now have 4000 chips and the others (about to do through the blinds have 2000 each). The likeihood of those players wanting to fight with you has gone way down - which in turn should enable you to win most pots uncontested. An important factor being that winning the first pot stretches your lead even more, kind of like a virtuous circle.

If you take 2% the worst of it we need to gain >4% the times we do survive, it seems clear to me that this is possible (at least against opponents who understand bubble dynamics).

Busy today, will think about this a little more and see if there are $ev ranges we can work with to take this from SNG theory to practice...

GL at the tables,


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Poker Flop Probability - Continuation Betting Against Opponents Who Love Ace-Rag!! (A Post for Lower Stakes Players)

Time to bring a couple of the recent thoughts together... by looking at a fairly common scenario - you have KK and raise pre-flop in a SNG / MTT, you are called and the flop comes Axx... this post is for lower stakes players who often face opponents who think A5o is the nuts pre flop!

The approach I wanted to take is to look at someone who loves Ace-Rag too much and go into the poker hand probablilty math - if we take someones entire range we should be able to come up with a ratio of Ace-Rag / Pair hands this way, this in turn should show us how confidently we can continuation bet the KK on an Axx flop against such an opponent.

So we start with some simplification, just one opponent who will call our raise pre flop with any pair, and aces up to ace-X (going to use different measures for X). What is the distribution of hands when he calls?

Well, if we have KK there are 6 ways of being dealt any non-KK pair and 1 way of being dealt KK. So (12*6) +1 = 73 ways out of 1326 that he could have been dealt a pair pre-flop or an approximate 1 in 18 chance = we will use 5% to keep the numbers round.

Now the chances of being dealt an Ace-X hand rise significantly the more X's you add... for example there are 12 ways of your opponent getting dealt AQ, 12 for AJ and so on (there are only 6 for AK as you have 2 of the K's). So the number of calling hands for the various Ace-X's is as follows

AK Only - 6
+AQ - 18
+AJ - 30
+A10 - 42
+A9 - 54
+A8 - 66
+A7 - 72
+A6 - 84
+A5 - 96
+A4 - 108
+A3 - 120
+A2 - 132

So if our lower limit opponent will call with any pair + Ace-x then the chances he called with each are in a ratio of 72/132 he is more likely to have the ace by 1.8 / 1, he is almost twice as likely to have an ace than a pair... but hold on - in our example an Ace has appreared on the flop, that is one less to put into our pre-flop calculations then...

Well, there are now only 9 ways of getting dealt each Ace-X hand (less for AK). If we take the A2+ scenario then instead of a 72/132 ratio we now have a 72/99 ratio - 1.37 / 1 in favour of our opponent having an Ace rather than a pair.

All very nice but how can this be used by readers in those $3 SNGs?

Well we have established that our opponent has that ace 58% of the time in our simplified scenario after the flop if he calls raises with any ace (you can work it out for A5+ or A8+ by removing these from the list and looking at the new ratio).

To show a profit with a half-pot continuation bet we need to win 1 in 3 times (for example we bet 100 into a 200 pot - if we lose our extra 100 twice but win the 200 pot once we break even, if we win the 200 pot any more than this we show a profit on our bet).

Following this logic through our opponent would need to have the ace 66% of the time (and raise us out of the pot) to make our continuation bet unprofitable. This is not the case even for the loosest Ace-x player.

Of course real-life is never that simple... my parting thought here for the lower level players is to look for opponents who love Ace-rag too much and look for spots where you are likely to dominate them (with a pair over their kicker or a strong ace). They will pay you off soon enough!!

GL at the Tables,


Monday, May 21, 2007

Poker Hand Reading - Reading Poker Hands Forwards or Backwards??

Usual quick Monday post again... something to think about on the subject of reading your opponents hands... do you do this 'forwards' or 'backwards'??

What do I mean???

Well you could start with your opponents range pre-flop and then remove hands as the hand continues right... so pre-flop player X's range is 88+ AJ+ and KQ from position XYZ. The flop comes 2-7-10 rainbow and he check calls, which means we can take away AJ / AQ / KQ... and so on throughout the hand.

Working backwards involves looking at the hands that beat you on the river and then reviewing your opponents betting through the hand to see if this makes sense for those hands. At the river you are beaten by a set but can beat 1 pair hands including AK and KQ.... if your opponent had a set it would have been on the flop (as this was K high) - was his betting consistant with that holding?? Would he have check-called a pair below Kings to see what you do on the turn?? etc etc

Of course accurate hand reading is probably a combination of these approaches (with a few more tricks thrown in!). Something to think about though!

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Party Poker Steps SNGs - A Guide to Steps Strategy Part #2

As promised here is Part #2 of the analysis of Party Poker Steps Sit N go Tournament Strategy.

In case you missed part #1 here it is... Party Poker Steps Sit n Go Strategy Guide Part #1 (Will Open a new window).

Part #2 will start by looking at the lowest 3 levels, discussing early game strategy and then looking at the bubbles in terms of prize pool equity and ICM. Let us start at the beginning - you just sat down in a Step 1 - a 10 player $3 SNG with 4 places 'paid' (1 and 2 get a $10 step 2 entry and 3+4 get their $3 back in the form of a Step 1 'try again').

The first thing we need to consider is the potential quality of the opposition. One word - poor. We will be honest here, the average Step player at the lower levels will not have the slightest clue about SNG strategy, let alone have considered the strategy adjustments for the unique payout structure. The kind of players we will meet think A6 off is a premuim hand and will call their entire stack on a gutshot... we need to be careful!

Seeing cheap flops is fine here, since your implied odds for hitting are bigger than normal. Cut down (almost to zero) on bluffing but value bet TPTK. Make bigger than normal raises with premium pairs (they will be called!) but slow down a little with high card hands such as AK... if you hit the flop go into value bet mode if you miss then quietly fold and wait for a better opportunity.

So what about the ICM for step 1 - 4 places paid and you are on the bubble. Prize pool equity looks like this with even stacks (total prizes = $26, 2 * $10 and 2 * $3)

Player 1 - 4000 - $5.20
Player 2 - 4000 - $5.20
Player 3 - 4000 - $5.20
Player 4 - 4000 - $5.20
Player 5 - 4000 - $5.20

So, looking at an all-in situation we can work out the risk vs reward

Player 1 - 0 (lost!) -
Player 2 - 8000 - $7.85
Others - 4000 each - $6.05

So, to call and all in at the bubble you risk $5.20 to win an extra $3.65 - the odds you lay against yourself are 1.42 to 1 - in other works you need 70% winning chances against your opponents pushing range to make this +$ev.

The poker maths + theory suggest that you can now work out your pushing range based on what an aware opponent would be willing to call with... but wait....! We are not talking about aware opponents here, we are working with zero-level thinkers who are looking at their own cards and assessing how pretty they look!

An example range should include most Aces, All Pairs and any-2 face cards, there is a good chance that it includes lone kings and queens too as long as they are sooted. Yep, you are likely to be called by 15% for the first push and 20% to 30% if you keep up the bubble shoving. Let us work backwards and calculate what you can shove with (assuming just 1 opponent) for push number 2 and onwards.

70% of the time you win the blinds (600 chips for our example). And add 40c to your equity.

30% of the time you are called and are risking $5.20 to win an extra $3.65, you are called by 30% of all hands here of course - however you do not need to win 70% (as we already counted the blind money as your overlay). You need to win almost half the time you are called to make this a positive expectation move... that is winning 15 of the 30 showdowns + the blind money 70% of the time will give you a slight positive expectation.

So - against one opponent you can push 30% then right?


We already covered the reason why.... since your opponents do not understand bubble play, there is a large % chance that they will bust each other, giving you a free ride into one of the paying slots. You need to factor this into ranges before risking your chips - if there is a 30% chance (for example) that you will gain 85c in equity on any given round by doing nothing then take this into account - narrow that pushing range so that when you do risk your chips you have a nice overlay - I would suggest 15% to 20% vs one opponent narrowing significantly for more than one (10% minumum for 2 opponents each with wide pushing ranges).

Oops - another long post, will continue with this theme next week (since only non-US players can play at Party I will do a couple of more general posts first!).

GL at those Party Poker Steps SNG Tables!


Poker Stars 10 Billionth Hand Result - Hand History

Well, some amusement over the outcome of the 10th billion hand at pokerstars... 2 people folded pre-flop (out of 6)... with the micro stacks their odds were $3 to win an additional $90,000 - hmmm, doubt they will ever get 30000-1 again!!

Here is the hand history for the pokerstars 10 Billionth hand

PokerStars Game #10000000000: Hold'em No Limit ($0.01/$0.02) - 2007/05/19 - 16:51:40 (ET)Table
'Venusia' 6-max Seat #4 is the button
Seat 1: Rechargeable ($4.83 in chips)
Seat 2: inwooke ($1.73 in chips)
Seat 3: The_Moog ($6.43 in chips)
Seat 4: XTedForrestX ($2.95 in chips)
Seat 5: Ferius ($3.10 in chips)
Seat 6: justine0003 ($0.82 in chips)
Ferius: posts small blind $0.01
justine0003: posts big blind $0.02
*** HOLE CARDS ***
justine0003 said, "?"
The_Moog said, "wowowow"
The_Moog said, "YES"
Ferius said, "w2eet"
XTedForrestX said, "jfdklsa'sfjsd"
XTedForrestX said, "wow"
XTedForrestX said, "yeah baby"
The_Moog said, "my buttons are gone"
The_Moog said, "all in"
justine0003 said, "how much do we win!!"
The_Moog said, "thanks"
Ferius said, "can me make a deal?"
The_Moog said, "i had that feeling"
XTedForrestX said, "yes make a deal"
XTedForrestX said, "lets chop it up"
justine0003 said, "ya lets do it"
XTedForrestX said, "i agree"
The_Moog said, "aGREE"
Rechargeable said, "Yes, if that is possible"
Ferius said, "chop it"
XTedForrestX said, "shyt load of money for us"
The_Moog said, "cool, i have a good hand to win ;)"
XTedForrestX said, "i seriously have AKs, but don't think it's worth to risk it"
The_Moog said, "lets do it before i get a disconnect"
XTedForrestX said, "where's the support?"
justine0003 said, "is this real"
justine0003 said, "and how do we get our money"
XTedForrestX said, "support"
XTedForrestX said, "help"
Ferius said, "lets go"
XTedForrestX said, "can we chop?"
XTedForrestX said, "please"
justine0003 said, "and everyone else?"
XTedForrestX said, "can't we chop, and leave a certain amoutn to winner?"
XTedForrestX said, "not 100k"
XTedForrestX said, "little nutss"
Ferius said, "i want that"
The_Moog said, "gl table"
Rechargeable: raises $4.81 to $4.83 and is all-in
inwooke: folds
The_Moog: raises $1.60 to $6.43 and is all-in
XTedForrestX: folds
Ferius: calls $3.09 and is all-in
justine0003: calls $0.80 and is all-in
*** FLOP *** [Ac Kc Td]
*** TURN *** [Ac Kc Td] [9c]
*** RIVER *** [Ac Kc Td 9c] [8h]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Rechargeable: shows [5c 4d] (high card Ace)
The_Moog: shows [9h Th] (two pair, Tens and Nines)
The_Moog collected $3.31 from side pot-2
Ferius: mucks hand
The_Moog collected $6.49 from side pot-1
justine0003: shows [3c 8c] (a flush, Ace high)
justine0003 collected $3.13 from main pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $13.58
Main pot $3.13.
Side pot-1 $6.49.
Side pot-2 $3.31. Rake $0.65
Board [Ac Kc Td 9c 8h]
Seat 1: Rechargeable showed [5c 4d] and lost with high card Ace
Seat 2: inwooke folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: The_Moog showed [9h Th] and won ($9.80) with two pair, Tens and Nines
Seat 4: XTedForrestX (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: Ferius (small blind) mucked
Seat 6: justine0003 (big blind) showed [3c 8c] and won ($3.13) with a flush, Ace high

Folded getting 30,000-1 odds - sigh - ah well thats the 10th Billion hand promo over with (me? I was out with a nice glass in my hand....) looking forward to 20 Billion!

Proper post a little later on - for great strategy on Tournaments, SNGs and Satellites check out today!

Cheers, Mark

Friday, May 18, 2007

PG Poker Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest #1

Had an idea for a weekly digest of the best articles and forum posts from around the web... so here is the first 'PG Poker Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest!'. The idea is simple, I scan many forums each week - 2+2, P5s, CardPlayer and PFX being the main ones. Big fan of blogs too so will note any particularly interesting blog posts here.

Every now and then an interesting post comes up on SNGs, MTTs etc what I'll be doing is saving them up and once a week posting here in weekly digest form... each link will open in a new window for easy navigation. If you do not want a new window then right click instead (think this works anyway!). If you spot anything that is worthy of inclusion (including your own blogs!) then drop me a comment or a mail and it can go in next week.

Right, enough talk - on with the first digest!

Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest #1

1) Sit n Go Strategy Links

Does Your Arrogance Hurt Your Results? Interesting Discussion on 2+2 about table selection and playing against other winning players.

P5s Thread: Table Selection in Turbo SNGs Interesting discussion kicked off by 'Albotross77' A Big-Winning SNG Grinder.

Exploiting being CL: Short-handed high blinds Reshoves w/o Fold Equity
About exploiting siutuations where you are chip leader and a short stack is all-in (2+2)

Oops - Someone Does Not Understand ICM very well... Lesson from P5's about why you should not be repopping the big stack at the bubble with QQ (stack sizes + 'does my opponent understand...' Issues!)

Strategy Article - A Primer For Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better SNGs Looks at how to beat the PLO8 SNGs on Stars.

2) Multi-Player Poker Tournament Strategy Links (MTTs)

Defending Your Blind Against a Habitual Button Raiser Actually involves a double shootout but an interesting debate none the less. (CardPlayer)

Getting in the WSOP Mindset: Hand 2 Analysis of a hand from last years main event, concens playing 10 10 Out Of Position (2+2)

Playing Suited Connectors Out of Position 2+2 Discussion on those tricky suited connectors.

Beginners Guide to ROI and Bankroll Management in Multi Table Tournaments Another SNG Planet Article on the important subject of BR Management in MTTs.

3) Blogs and General Articles

Ace Filled Dreams Follow Scott's SNG Challenge in this excellent blog.

Down With The Sickness Online Pro and PXF Video Star bel0wab0ve's Blog - looks good so far!

Risk vs Reward in Early Tournament Play By Todd Arnold for CardPlayer Magazine.

Thats all for digest #1 - let me know if this is any use...

GL at the Tables,


Later Edit: Thanks to some user feedback I have become aware that the PxF links require paying to register - have removed those links as the point of the digest is free info!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Probability of Poker Hands - Essential Poker Hands Probabilities for Texas Holdem Part #1

Probability of Poker Hands is a complex area. Understanding of this can give you a strategic edge over your opponents. This article will look at some of the key poker probablility statistics in texas holdem, both before the flop and after. This is part #1 which will focus on pre-flop poker hand probabilities... part #2 will cover the flop and part #3 will bring the whole thing together by looking at your chances of being outdrawn vs multiple opponents.

In texas holdem there are 1,326 different combinations of cards in any starting hand. There is a 1 in 52 chance for the first card multiplied by a 1 in 51 for the second. The question is how do we approach the subject of poker hand probabilies with such a large number of combinations?

Below is a chart for the common pre-flop poker hand probabilities, first we will look at how these are calculated using a pair of aces as an example.

There are 4 aces in our 52 card deck, this means that the probability of your first card being an ace is 4/52 or 1/13. For the second card there are 3 remaining aces in a deck of 51 unknown cards - your probability is now 3/51 or 1/17. Combining these two probabilities we get to (1/13)*(1/17) = 1/221, in percentage terms this is equal to 0.0045% of the time.

Since there are 13 different pairs we can use this information to calculate the chances of being dealt any pair pre flop. 0.0045% * 13 = approximately 0.6% this means you will be dealt a pair pre-flop in texas holdem around 1 in 17 times.

Here are some common pre-flop poker hand probabilities for Texas Holdem Poker.

- AA (or any specific pair) 0.045% or 1/221
- AK (suited or unsuited) 0.0121% or 1/82
- AA, KK or QQ 0.0136% or 1/73
- AA, KK, QQ, JJ or 10 10, 0.0226% or 1/43
- 2 Suited Cards higher than 10, 0.03% or 1/32
- Any Suited Connector, 0.04% or 1/24
- Any 2 cards Jack and Above, 0.09% or 1/10

Of course the real edge in understanding these poker hands probability rankings comes from knowing what the chances are of your opponents having specific hands against you. This, in turn is affected by the cards that you are dealt (we are looking pre-flop only today so community cards be factored in later). The significant number here is the number of opponents that you face... here are the probabilities of an opponent holding an overpair pre-flop:

You Hold 1 Opponent 3 Opponents 5 Opponents 9 Opponents
KK 0.0049 0.0147 0.0244 0.0439
QQ 0.0098 0.0292 0.0579 0.0859
TT 0.0196 0.0578 0.0946 0.1637
66 0.0392 0.1130 0.1799 0.2890
22 0.0588 0.1654 0.2546 0.3633

Ok, interesting numbers, but it is not always easy to remember a list of statistics when at the table. In Plan3t Gong style we will break it down into some easy-to remember poker maths bite-sized pieces starting from the bottom up.

- If you have 22 UTG on a full table there is a 36% (1 in 3) chance that someone will have a pair higher than you.

- QQ will meet with a higher pair on a full table approximately 1 in 12 times. However if 4 opponents have already folded then you will have the best hand 94% of the time (ok so this does not take into account the 'bunching' concept - but that is another post for another day!).

- If you hold KK in the small blind the chances of meeting AA are so tiny (the 1/221 already outlined) that you can rightfully consider yourself hard done by here!

Not quite finished yet... another common scenario is to run a pair into an AK pre flop. While any pair except 22 is a small favourite (KK and AA a big one) this is a such a common situation that it is worth looking at the probability angle separately here... so you have QQ, the probability of meeting AK for various numbers of opponents are:

One Opponent - 0.0121 (about 1 in 82)
Two Opponents - 0.0242 (now 1 in 41)
Three - 0.0363 (thats 1 in 27ish)
Four - 0.0484 (around 1/20 now)
Five - 0.0605 (1/16.4)
Six - 0.0726 (1/13.6)
Seven - 0.0874 (Nearly 1/12)
Eight - 0.0968 (1/11ish)
Nine - 0.1098 (just under 1/10)

Concluding now as my calculator finger is getting tired (!) on a full table with QQ you will face AK 10% of the time and KK or AA around 5% of the time... in other words you have a very strong (statistically speaking) starting hand.

Of course pre-flop is not everything, probabilities change dramatically once the flop is dealt. This is really where things get interesting - it is no longer the raw probabilities involved but affected by opponents bets.

In the next article in this series I will look at the probabilities of flopping various hands, will then tie it all together with opponents probabilitiy of outflopping you!

In the meantime there are plently of excellent poker strategy articles at sit and go planet, these cover Texas Holdem, Tournament Poker, SNGs and Stallite Qualifier Tournaments:

GL at the tables,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Party Poker Steps SNGs - A Guide to Steps Strategy Part #1

Said a while back that I would have a look at Party Poker Steps Strategy... thought it through and there is actually a fair amount to cover. Plan is to have 2 or 3 posts over the next week or so on this subject, interspersed with the usual plan3t gong strategy stuff! This will be a introduction post...

It is well known that Party Poker pulled out of the US market, for US readers I temporarily refer you to Sit and Go Planet which has plently of US-friendly strategy articles on SNGs, MTTs and Satellites:

Better start with an overview... what are steps SNGs and are they worth playing?

The idea of these is that you play SNG tournaments which, instead of awarding a cash prize, award entry into a higher buy-in SNG. There are 6 levels in total starting at $3 and going up to $500... The final step pays big cash prizes ($2000 for the winner).

There are 2 reasons you might want to play:

1 - Cash! A chance of a big prize for a limited outlay.

2 - Playing time. The nature of these SNGs is that you often move down the steps ladder as well as up, this means you can actually get a lot of play for your money.

Here is an overview of the prizes for the different levels:

Step 1: Entry Fee $3 – 1st and 2nd Place win entry into Step 2. 3rd and 4th get another Step 1 entry.

Step 2: Entry Fee $10 – 1st and 2nd Place win entry into Step 3. 3rd and 4th get another Step 2 entry, 5th and 6th get a Step 1 entry.

Step 3: Entry Fee $30 – 1st, 2nd and 3rd win entry to Step 4, 4th gets a Step 3 entry, 5th to 7th get entry to Step 2.

Step 4: Entry Fee $70 - 1st, 2nd and 3rd win entry to Step 5, 4th gets another Step 4 entry, 5th gets a step 3 entry, 6th and 7th get a Step 2 entry.

Step 5: Entry Fee $150 – 1st and 2nd win Step 6 entry, 3rd and 4th get another Step 5 entry, 5th and 6th get a Step 4 entry and 7th + 8th get a Step 3 entry.

Step 6: Entry Fee $500 – 1st gets $2000, 2nd $1000, 3rd $700, 4th and 5th $500.

Fine, so what aspects of SNG Strategy do we need to cover here? Well there are actually several interesting aspects when compared to 'normal' SNGs.

- More places get paid, this can go up to 8 places! The cost of busting out early is high - relatively speaking - compared to a standard SNG.

- Some of the payout spots move down the steps ladder. So you bust in 5th (for example) in a Step 4 SNG and are back at Step 3. On paper you have lost $40 here, the question is how does the backup of almost half of your $ back affect the value of chips and thus your calling / pushing ranges?

- Equal prizes for the first 2 or 3. This makes the late game play more like a Satellite than a standard bubble... what ICM adjustments so we need to make?

Yep, certainly looking like 3 parts!

In addition we have another question to ask... could it be profitable for an experienced SNG player to buy-in higher up the Steps ladder? To answer this we need to look at the maths, would your chance of getting a Step 6 seat * your probability of cashing make several Step 4 entries worthwhile??

So many questions to leave you with... ah well in the meantime GL at the Tables!

You can check out Party Poker via the link below:

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Internet Poker Tournament Strategy - Think You Are Unlucky?? Think Again!!

This post was inspired by a forum thread on Poker X factor... concerns a little Poker Psychology and a little Internet Poker Tournament Strategy.

The post started with someone bemoaning his apparent bad luck - always busting out of online poker tournaments when 70/30 or even 80/20 favourite... sound familiar? Yep, happens to me too!!

Now I am not going to talk about poker bad beats here - far from it. This is interesting from a more human point of view, our expectations compared with some cold hard statistical poker reality.

Say that during a given tournament you are all-in several times. The reality here is that, even if you have the best possible pre-flop edge (will use 80% as a round number) you will bust on one of them more often than you will survive. The unfortunate truth is that if you gamble for all of your chips there is no way to avoid the fact that you are favourite to get busted!! Here are the numbers (I'm not an advanced mathematician so in simple format!).

- First 80/20 - Fine, you are still in the MTT 80% of the time.

- Second 80/20 - Now you are still involved 80% of 80% = 64% of the time.

- Third 80/20 - See the pattern, now its 80% of 64% of the time, this = 51.2%

- Fourth 80/20 - so 80% of 51.2% now, thats 40.96% of the time, we are statistically likely to have been busted (and damn we are going to feel unlucky!!)

Now it should be obvious what happens when we add a couple of 60/40's or 70/30's to the mix. We are now at the stage where we are not only statistically likely to have been busted, but looking at a really small chance of survial - easy for this to get to 10% or 15% here.

There are of course adjustments to be made, I would suggest that there are 3!

- Make sure that your big-hand situations are for all of your opponents chips, but not all of yours!!

- Practice good bankroll management, no need for the heavy duty Kelly Criterion stuff - just make sure that all of your tournament eggs are not in one basket.

- Be aware that the odds of surviving multiple all-in situations are stacked against you, do not tilt your bankroll away when those aces get cracked.

Just remember that any time now that tournament where your hands hold up all in a row is coming right along... after all - it is statistically likely!

Gl at the Tables,


Monday, May 14, 2007

NL Holdem Cash Games vs SNGs - Hourly Rates

Great discussion in the comments of a recent post on ROI / Hourly Rates for Cash Games and SNGs... thought I'd try and expand on this area a little today by making some form of comparison chart between the two. Objective is to find out what level of cash compares to what level of SNGs in terms of the hourly rates...

Need to make a couple of assumptions in order to do this: We will compare 6 tables per hour of SNGs vs 3 for cash - this seems realistic in terms of the need for observation / decision making opportunities... we will use the 2005 ROI list as outlined a previous post (now have a 'jump off page for the ROI articles listed on the right) with the following 2007 adjustments (reflecting the increase in skill level due to all the training material out there!).

11s - 25% ROI = 20% in 2007 - (11*0.20)*6 = $13.20 / Hour
22s - 20% ROI = 15% in 2007 - (22*0.15)*6 = $19.80 / Hour
33s - 16% ROI = 12% in 2007 - (33*0.12)*6 = $23.76 / Hour
55s - 13% ROI = 10% in 2007 - (55*0.10)*6 = $33.00 / Hour
109s - 10% ROI = 8% in 2007 - (109*0.08)*6 = $52.32 / Hour
215s - 7% ROI = 5% in 2007 - (215*0.05)*6 = $64.00 / Hour

On the cash side of the equation we will assume 200 hands per hour at an average win rate of 5 PTBB / 100 (PTBB = 2*BB), so hourly profits below:

NL25 (BB= 25c) - $10 per hour
NL50 (BB= 50c) - $20 per hour
NL100 (BB= $1) - $40 per hour
NL200 (BB= $2) - $80 per hour

So now we can have our comparison...

$11 SNG = NL25
$22 to $33 SNG = NL50
$55 to $109 SNG = NL100
$215 SNG = NL200

All very nice, but is it any use??

Well, here are a couple of things to think about (always my objective to make you think!). Are there more fish at NL50 or NL100 cash games than in SNGs between $33 and $109??? - in my experience yes there are, especially when comparing Stars SNGs to cash on smaller sites. And what about the bankroll requirements and varience? Lower for cash?? (another post for another week me thinks).

Obviously had to simplify a few things, after all some people play 16 SNGs at the same time and others are able to get 500 cash game hands per hour... hopefully of some use though!

Gl at the Tables,


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Serious Amount of Promotions Going on....

Seems like every poker site and his dog are having promotions at the moment. Figured I'd do a quick summary for Plan3t Gong readers... one caveat - anyone winning a decent prize in any of these owes me a drink (JD on ice will do just fine!!).

Firstly Pocket 5's have changed ownership (a joint venture or something like that) and are giving away a ton of seats in big buy-in events via overlay tournaments, we are talking 30k added here so not to be sniffed at! Here are 2 for next week...

1) Full Tilt: Wednesday May 16th - 20:30 Eastern Standard Time... its a $24+2 Sat to the FTOPS Main Event... the bonus is that 10 extra seats will be added (nice $5350 overlay in addition to the main prize pool). Password is 'fives'.

Check out Full Tilt via the link below - this is a PAW Tracker and gets you additional entry into a $12k World Series Freeroll in addition to the normal $600 sign up bonus!

2) Poker Stars - Wednesday May 16th at 14:30 EST - Pocket Fives are holding a $1 rebuy tournament with 30 Sunday Million Seats available... at $215 a pop thats a nice overlay. Again the password is fives... link for Stars on the right hand side if you are the only person left who is not yet a member!!

Poker Stars 10 Billionth Hand Promotion has also started... lots of giveaways here too... first here is the link...

Now the summary:

- Reload bonus of 25% up to $150 (if you play there anyway its more or less free money!).
- Freerolls with entry via trivia quizzes (not had a look yet but can not be that hard).
- $250K added to the Sunday Million (next sunday I believe)
- Cash Prizes for being in 'milestone' hands inc huge prizes for hand no 10 Billion.
- Double FPPs (you only need a couple of 1000 for a book for example).

finally Titan are giving away a holiday in the Maldives... complete with a butler, I mention Titan often enough (non-US only here) so will simply direct you to them via the banner on the right hand side.

Back to SNG Strategy next week!

Cheers, Mark

MTT Strategy - Gamble Early????

More thoughts on Multi Table Tournament Strategy... this one was inspired by a passage in Doyle Brunson's Super System II, it concerned Phil Helmuth laying down KJ suited on a flop containing the 10 and Q of the suit to an all in early in a live poker tournament.

Apparently he gained some respect from Doyle... which is nice. With an open ended straight flush draw he was a good favourite there - even to trips, the reasoning behind the fold was that it was early in the tournament and Mr Helmuth obviously considered his skill edge big enough that he did not need to take this particular gamble!

The question I have been mulling over is whether (and how) this reasoning might apply to us mere poker mortals. Imagine an identical situation to that above at level 2 in a $20 Online MTT - should you be folding and waiting for an even bigger edge later on??

There are a few of ways of looking at this... firstly the old debate about accumulators vs survivalists. That is whether you view the accumulation of chips early as more important than surviving or vice versa. The nature of accumulator's play means less cashes - but a bigger chance of a final table / deep run. Conversely survivalists tend to cash more often, but not reach the final table much as the accumulators. Obviously there is a place for both.

Then there is the skill edge debate. Phil Helmuth folded due to this - but honestly speaking can you say your edge over the competition is so good as to pass up a positive equity situation?? Nice as it is to think of ourselves as a good player and opponents as lucky donks (!). I'll be honest - no - I'm not skilled enough to pass!

We could look in terms of bankroll management too... someone with 100 buy-ins at their chosen level should be more willing to take an early edge right? If you are playing with a limited bankroll (a liesure player who partakes in 1 or 2 tourneys a week perhaps) then passing that edge might keep you in the game longer and maximise your playing time / enjoyment you get for the money.

Well, will finish up with this... I'm not good enough to pass a small edge early - are you???

GL at the tables,


PS: Several MTT Strategy Articles at Sit and Go Planet:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

MTT Strategy - Over-Estimating Implied Odds...

Thinking about Implied Odds today... really more for Multi-Table Online Tournaments - you may enounter these situations early in a SNG but since the optimal line for these often involves mainly pre-flop decisions this is more of an MTT topic. Hopefully this will be the first of many posts looking into Texas Holdem Poker Tournament Tips and Strategy.

Will use a flush draw as an example - assuming you have a 4 flush on the flop your chances are 9/47 = about 4.2 /1 or 19% to hit... fairly common knowledge right... that is not the question though.

Since different opponents are more / less likely to 'pay you off' if you hit your draw you need to also set some guidelines for how much you expect to be paid on average when you do hit... here is an example and a look at some numbers.

You have 6 7 Hearts in the BB - it is early in the tourney with effective stacks of 100 times the big blind. UTG raises 5 times the BB, the button calls as does the small blind and you call from the BB.

The flop comes 2s Kh 8h giving you a small flush draw (will ignore runner runner straights and wierd 2 pairs etc to simplify!). UTG bets the pot 20*BB, the other players fold and its up to you.

You don't have the pot-odds to call - getting 2/1 on a 4.2/1 shot - the question becomes this...

If you call and make your flush, will you be paid enough chips - on average - to make your call worthwhile??

First a couple of assumptions to keep things simple... if you hit you win, you will not be outdrawn and your opponent does not hold a higher flush (not always true in real life of course!).

Now we can ask the question - how many more chips do you actually need to take from your opponent to make this call worthwhile... for every 5 times we make the call we lose the extra 20BB 4 times and make the current pot + whatever else our opponent pays us 1 time.

Our break-even point is thus (80bbs) = (40bbs + X), thus X must = 40bbs... that is to break even we must win an extra 40 BBs each time we hit... at this point our opponent has 75bbs left in his stack... will take more than half his stack EVERY TIME when our flush hits?

Probably not.

The flush will be obvious and we are out of position - it is going to be difficult to get paid here, expecially if our opponent (for example) has just one pair. Add to this the fact that in real situations we may well get outdrawn (by a higher flush or a full house) and we have a fold.

Opponent tendancies are key here - a wild player or calling station might be more likely to pay.

Enough for one post, remember to think about how many chips you need to win and the likelihood of winning them in this specific situation before making that implied odds call!!

GL at the tables,


Friday, May 11, 2007

General Life 'n' Poker Update

Again several strategy posts in a row... so a small general update today.

Firstly thanks for the positive comments / feedback, always appreciated - I always enjoy and argument / debate if anyone disagrees with my thoughts too!! Keith asked how I find the time... the answer is that I am really a speed blogger! (ok so you can probably tell from all the typo's) once an idea comes I just sit and - bang - its all on the page in 10 minutes!

Had a decent run in the Titan Poker $20k Gtd this week, alas no final tables but managed a 30th and a 15th on consecutive days. It is a great tourney, a $10 rebuy with 900ish entrants - you can only rebuy when you go broke though so not too expensive. The thing about this is the speed in which the donks knock each other out... generally down to 600ish by the end of the rebuy hour and then 200ish by the end of the 2nd hour - crazy stuff!

Been doing ok at $50 NL 8-max too - easily above $10 per table hour. Feel like I am overcoming my biggest leaks here... these come from SNG play - was far too tight. Now getting used to playing that pair of 8's or AQ from EP where I would normally open fold them at low blind levels in a SNG... all good so far, suited connectors fast becoming my favourite hand.

Was thinking of having a look at the ICM for Party Poker Steps next... in the meantime here is a link to an article I put together for Sit and Go Planet - it asks the question whether it is possible to be a Professional Online Satellite Player...

GL at the tables,


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Multi-tabling SNG Tournaments Guide Part #2

Wow, Managed a part #2 within a couple of days! Here we look at the practical side of Multitabling SNG Strategy - not so much a 'how to multi-table sit n goes', more a few things to think about!

There are 2 questions to ask, tiled vs cascaded and sets vs continual... of course there is an overlap too.

Tiled vs Cascaded:

The question here is whether to have the SNG tables tiled on your screen in such a way as to see all at once (whether there is overlap depends on how many / screen size) or to have them all on top of each other (cascaded).

Tiling has its advantages, by having all the tables visible you are able to spot any particularly interesting plays when you are not in the hand (first hand all-ins for example). The other advantage is that you can pre-select the fold button easily before it is your turn to act - which gives you more time to focus on the hands you are involved in.

The disadvantages of tiling revolve around the sheer amount of information available... there will be so much going on in front of your eyes at any one time that it can be difficult to know what to focus on. You may be drawn to one table with particularly wild opponents or one where your cards are good - to the potential detriment of the others.

Cascading tables is usually done in such a way that the top of each table is visible. As it becomes your turn to act the table in question will automatically come to the front. If you need to act on 2 or more tables at the same time then the table header will usually flash to let you know. Many people pull out tables where interesting hands are going on and then put them back in the cascade afterwards...

Advantages here are that you are able to focus on the hands better - since you only have one table to think about. Disadvantages include the danger of 'losing a table' (personally seen this happen to many a multi-tabler) when you do not act in time, and the fact that you need to reassess the stack sizes / who has acted / position and cards from scratch each time. This can be a great way of avoiding the information-overload associated with tiled tables though.

There are a couple of points here... firstly that tiling is more dependant on your screen size and number of tables played - up to 6 tables this is usually a good choice as there is not too much going on to distract you from good play. As you move up then cascading may become optimal, the advantages of seeing all of the tables diminishes in relation to making good decisions for the hands you are involved with over time.

Sets vs Continual...

This is the other practical decision... do you start all your SNGs at the same time, or start a set number of them and then add more tables as you bust out??

Sets have the advantage of having the blind levels at the same general level. Since this is an important factor in your decision making you have simplified things a bit. Sets also mean you are not so likely to get into the position of having 6 bubbles / heads-up matches at the same time. Since errors can be more costly at this point you may not want the distraction of 4 more tables at the ealier levels.

Continual Play has one big advantage - more SNGs per hour! You will need to balance this with having many tables at different blind levels, this puts an extra decision before each action of course - you need to ask yourself where this particular SNG is in terms of the stages of the game.

Enough, might be worth one more post on this subject to look at strategies for becoming a multi-tabler (ie how to move from 1 to 4 to 8 etc)... we will see. Personally I tile and play in sets - if nothing else it ensures I can get coffee every hour or so!!

GL at the tables,


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Multi-tabling SNG Tournaments Guide Part #1

Several posts already on ROI in SNGs including table and site selection and even a comparison with NL Cash Game ROI... clear to me that the only way to get a decent profit from SNGs these days is to play many at the same time. Of course, 'many' is in essence a subjective term, one player might think 16+ is many - another will say 4 is more than enough!

This post is part #1 of a 2 part series that will look at some of the issues involved in Multitabling Sit n Go Tournaments. Here we will cover ROI issues and thoughts on strategy adjustments. Part #2 will look at the more practical questions of whether to Tile or Cascade your tables and playing in 'sets' vs 'continually'.

Wanted to start with an important concept - it is not possible to make a decent profit playing SNGs unless you multi-table! Think about it, a fantasic player at the $20 level with a 20% ROI - average game length 40 minutes. One Tabling this player can expect to make an average of $6 per hour... hmmmm.

Of course adding more tables will reduce the ROI for each played - at the same time though the hourly profit will increase. The question is what is the ratio? How much does each table remove from your profit?

Jennifear has come up with a figure that makes intuiative sense for this - 8%, not from your overall ROI though - of your profit figure. So that is 8% of your $4 profit per game per table, the next table taking another 8% from your $3.86 etc etc. I will list the numbers and see how it works with our experience / expectations, assuming 1 game = 40 minutes.

- 1 Table - $4.00 per game - 1.5 games per hour = $6
- 2 Tables - $3.86 per game - 3 games per hour = $11.04
- 3 Tables - $3.38 per game - 4.5 games per hour = $15.21
- 4 Tables - $3.10 per game - 6 games per hour = $18.60
- 5 Tables - $2.85 per game - 7.5 games per hour = $21.37
- 6 Tables - $2.62 per game - 9 games per hour = $23.58

Seems to work - notice that by the time we get to 6 tables the original 20% ROI has gone down to a little over 10% (ignored the rake here to keep the numbers simple). This would seem to account well for the lesser amount of reads / time to make decisions that multi-tabling involves.

Of course, there is no need to stop at 6 - while some forum posters seem to base their self-esteem on the number of tables they can play we will look at it from a profit / loss perspective only though!!

Now, 6 early game situations are far easier to deal with than 6 bubbles right? You'll be folding, folding and then folding some more... but the key strategy perspective for multi-tablers is this:

You will not always get the time to make decisions that you would like - you need a plan!

What kind of plan? OK, lets look at the various stages...

Early - Well since you'll have less time to make good post-flop decsisions you'd better cut any marginally profitable hands from your pre-flop range, the profit from these may well rely on hand reading, which you are not going to be in a good position to do! Suggestion is to know in advance which hands you will play from which positions.

Middle - Well one good aspect of multi-tabling is that it forces you to play extra-tight early, so you may well have a little fold equity by now. Again though you are looking to keep those decisions as simple as possible, a great example of this is that small pairs play better than unpaired high cards... you get immediate feedback on the flop (either hit a set or did not!).

Late to Bubble - Probably going to find yourself in push / fold mode sooner when multi-tabling (again you want easy decisions). Revisit your ICM Calculator and work out the numbers for BB150 (Stars example). Since you will have less time to accurately put opponents on ranges then err on the side of caution at first - assign 'average to loose' for opponents until you have evidence to suggest otherwise.

ITM / Heads-Up - This part is easier right? its all maths now. Again if you have not yet committed the numbers for this part of the game to memory then do so before you start multi-tabling!!

Enough for now - later in the week I will look at the Sets / Continual and Tiled / Cascaded debate. Remember our earlier analysis here - playing with just 3 other winning multi-tablers in your game can easily halve your ROI... make sure you choose the right site / tables to give the best possible chance of a good payday!!

GL at the Tables.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Sit n Go Poker Site Comparisons - Links

Seems to be a pattern here, Monday comes and only time for a quick post! Must be something to do with enjoying weekends.... Couple of links below (both will open in a new window) that give an overview of comparing SNG Tournaments at different poker sites.... I actually put these together for another web site but would like to let Plan3t Gong readers have the link - as usual let me have any feedback on how they could be improved etc.

As regular readers will know I feel that choosing the correct poker site for SNGs is as important an aspect of SNG strategy as choosing which hands to play!!

The Complete Guide to SNGs at Full Tilt Poker

The Complete Guide to SNGs at Party Poker

Back to regular postings tomorrow.

Gl at those tables,


Sunday, May 06, 2007

NL Cash Games vs SNG Profits...

Looked at the when to move up levels theme for SNGs the other day... part of the reading / research for this involved looking at NL Holdem cash games. Now a small part of my brain can not help but think whether these would be more profitable on an hour-by-hour basis.

So, how is ROI for Poker Cash Games determined? The standard seems to be an acronym called PTBB - Poker Tracker Big Blinds this a figure of twice the BB in your current game and poker profits are measured by how many PTBBs you win per 100 hands... so what is the expectation scale for winning NL Holdem Cash Game Players??? Well here is the consensus from various forums / articles...

3 PTBB / 100 - Small and Steady, some leaks in your game...
5 or 6 PTBB / 100 - Not bad, especially for multi-tablers...
10 PTBB / 100 - Excellent results indicating a winning player...

So far so good, before moving on to other factors lets have a look at this in terms of real money won... first how many hands per hour? Average seems to be 60ish for full ring and more for 6-max games... we will go with 70 per table per hour. Lets work with 3 tables, some people play loads - others just one so we are up to 210 hands per hour (take of the 10 for a quick smoke break and to keep the numbers simple!).

Now we look at potential poker profits for an 'average' winning cash games player and an 'excellent' player at the various levels, using 5 PTBB for average and 10 PTBB for excellent as our basis... these numbers assume 200 hands per hour.

NL25 (BB= 25c) - Average Winning Player - $10 per hour - Excellent Player - $20 per hour
NL50 (BB= 50c) - Average Winning Player - $20 per hour - Excellent Player - $40 per hour
NL100 (BB= $1) - Average Winning Player - $40 per hour - Excellent Player - $80 per hour
NL200 (BB= $2) - Average Winning Player - $80 per hour - Excellent Player - $160 per hour
Of course over time it would be possible to add more tables... not sure at this point in time what the consensus is for reducing ROI in terms of PTBB for adding more.
Looks favourable compared to SNGs... for example if you multitable the 16's at 15% ROI and 10 tables an hour this would work out as $24 per hour, many people do not play this many of course (if anything 3 tabling cash games seems more realistic).
Another question would be the quality of the opposition on different poker sites, for example Stars and Full Tilt would have many more 'pro' players (including cash game grinders at the lower limits) while sites like my favourite Titan would not... again this would factor heavily into the ROI and Profitability calculations.
Not planning to move over just yet - given myself food for thought though (and hopefully a few readers too!) While SNGs are a relatively easy way to build your poker bankroll, it seems like cash games could be more profitable for overall.
GL at the Tables,

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hands? On Plan3t Gong Poker?? Ahh, More Sit and Go Bubble Strategy Discussion!

Not my usual thing to put individual hands here... but there are 2 good reasons! First one is amusing... well I thought so - but then again I had the Kings. The second one is not amusing (at all!!)... but it highlights many points about SNG Bubble Strategy that I regularly make here - it is not posted as a bad beat - more as a logic / Bubble Math excercise!

OK, Here is hand #1 - Early in a Poker Stars $27 Turbo

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em Tourney, Big Blind is t20 (8 handed)
BB (t1500)
UTG (t1490)
Hero (t1500)
MP1 (t1470)
MP2 (t1450)
CO (t1550)
Button (t1510)
SB (t3030)

Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with Ks, Kc.

1 fold, Hero raises to t60, MP1 calls t60, 1 fold, CO calls t60, 2 folds, BB calls t40.

Pretty standard, my raising range is 3 or 4 BBs here, maybe the occasional 5X... get 3 callers which is not ideal so we are now looking for a favourable flop.

Flop: (t250) 7s, 9s, Kd (4 players)

Good news, we made trip Kings! Caution required though - co-ordinated flop with many draws, I need to bet a reasonable amount here, enough to get rid of the thin draws but to keep someone interested if they have a piece of this... pot is 250 - I bet 200 (actually not too unhappy to take it down right here in these situations)

BB checks, Hero bets t200, MP1 folds, CO folds, BB raises to t500, Hero raises to t1440, BB calls t940 (All-In).

Excellent - mini-reraised by the BB! What could he have? Trips? J10 of spades? AK with the Ace of spades? 68s? What does he think I have?? Well, AK is the obvious choice (as my raise was big enough to look like I wanted to end the hand right here...), my betting is also consistant with a pair between 9's and K's (JJ maybe??). Fine, he has 940 left and the pot is now 1000 chips - time for me to get the rest in assuming BB will call getting 2/1... I push - he calls and turns over 77 - happy days!!

Turn: (t3130) 7d (2 players, 1 all-in)

Oops - hit his 1 outer on the turn to make quad 7's...

River: (t3130) Kh (2 players, 1 all-in)

No Problemo - if this had been April that would have been that - but this is MAY!! I redraw my 1-outer to take the pot with KKKK!!

Final Pot: t3130

Well its all very nice to see 2 * 1 out draws hitting in the same hand. Alas it did me no good, I ended up bubbling this SNG in strange circumstances. Can not find the hand so this is from memory...

CO 3000 / Button 4000 / SB (thats me!) 3000 / BB 3500.

Blinds = 400/200 with 25 Ante

CO Folds, Button Folds, I look down at A7o and Shove - BB calls with... K2 of hearts!!

We can get the result out of the way first, that is not why I am analysing the hand, I lost when a 2 flopped and I did not improve... no problem, bad bubble play is why it is possible for thinking players to make money in SNGs - sometimes you just happen to be on the receiving end of a horrible call!

Assuming a $100 prize pool (it was really $250ish but numbers will be easier, also left out the blinds and situational factors).

My Equity = $23

Villans Equity = $25

Villans Equity if he calls and wins = $37

So our villan is betting his $25 to win $12 more - he is laying odds against himself of 2/1 by making the call. This call was thus mathematically correct if he was more than 67% likely to win a showdown vs my range and a mistake if less than 67%.

Of course, we know my holding - villan did not. So what range did he put me on? If he was a thinking player it would have been fairly wide right? After all, he knows that I know that he can not call without a great holding here... so we will try a few ranges and see what his chances were.

I push 30% - K2 has 41% winning chances

I push 50% - K2 has 44.7% winning chances

I push 100% - K2 has 53.2% winning chances

This is an interesting result - even if villan knew I ws pushing 100% of hands here he made a huge error by calling... an error that will cost him $$$ each time he makes it. To be honest I had given at least one walk to this guy - which should have narrowed my range to a minimum 70% in his eyes... ahh donkaments!

Now a 2nd question - if I had known villan would call with this hand then what could I have profitably pushed with??

The answer is that this becomes very close - A7o is still positive in terms of $ev but only just with villan on a 32% calling range.

To me this illustrates a vitally important point about SNG bubbles, you can not define your pushing range without an accurate assessment of your opponents calling range. Here I got the range wrong - assumed my call was +3 to 5%ish against his range when I really only had a marginally +$ev shove. Not sure I could have predicted it mind...

So, next time you are thinking about calling a shove on the bubble think about what equity you are risking against what your reward is.... then and only then compare your chances of winning a showdown against your opponents range. The $ will follow!

GL at the tables,


Thursday, May 03, 2007

SNGs - When to Move Up Limits!

Looking through my bookmarks recently I came across an old Poker Cash Games thread which discusses when to move up from 25NL to 50NL to 100NL etc... a good read still (though probably a little out of date for the 'tougher' poker sites these days). Here is the link if anyone wants a look (right click / open in new window please)

My thought was to try and do something similar for SNGs - so here we go - feedback welcome and always appreciated.

The Plan3t Gong Guide to When to Move Up Levels in Stars Turbo SNGs!

Try the $6.50s When:
- You understand the Gap Concept.
- You can use the advantages of Position.
- You know not to call with easily dominated hands on the Bubble
- You have a bankroll of at least $300

Try the $16s When:
- You can fold KK on an Ace high flop!
- You understand why it is important to conserve chips early, and can fold decent but easily dominated hands to raises pre-flop.
- You understand the basics of ICM / $equity and can put opponents on general push / call ranges
- You have a bankroll of at least $750

Try the $27s When:
- You can spot good resteal opportunities and understand situational factors affecting fold equity.
- You can read hands well enough to put opponents on specific holdings by the river.
- You have memorised common $equity scenarios and can adapt these in play for stack sizes and opponents pushing / calling ranges.
- You have a bankroll of at least $1300

Try the $60's When:
- You are able to manipulate the size of the pot to suit your position / holding / reads.
- You are able to lay down that unimproved overpair on the flop yet push a good draw depending on opponent(s)
- You have a great understanding of the maths (ICM), an accurate assessment of ranges and know when situations happen that mean disregarding these numbers for optimal play.
- You have a bankroll of at least $3000

Ah well, have to stop here as the $60's are as high as I go! Open invitation for the higher stakes players to continue....

These are specific to Stars but can be used for the other sites too... suggest moving down one level for weaker sites such as Titan (ie play at the $33's there would be closer to the Stars $16s).

GL at the tables,


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What a Difference A Day Makes....

Running g00t in the $27's thus far in May - small sample admittedly but already covered last months losses and into the positive... its all in the head right, expecting to lose after my downswing in April became a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to Mrs Gong I now have 6 months of good varience ahead!

Have been thinking about a few things but not quite ready to write posts about them yet. Here is some food for thought...

Poker Hand Distributions:

First read about this David Sklansky's Theory of Poker - if you know an opponent will raise with AA / KK / AK and the probability of each is 0.45% / 0.45% / 1.2% then you can use this info to work out your chances against his range.

All very nice in theory... what I want to look at is how these probability distributions affect ranges in a SNG (primarily at the bubble). Working along the lines of how the Ace-x hands increase in likelihood for those players who like to push them... for example someone who will push any pair / A10+ has a ratio of X% between pairs and Aces - while someone with who loves Ace-x and pushes all the way to Ace-2 has a much bigger number of Ace hands (and maybe Kings too) when compared to pairs - meaning your pair and high-Ace hands go up in value.

Might sound a little hypothetical but my though is that there might be something in this as far as fine-tuning push / fold ranges in SNGs and playing vs raises in MTTs goes.

Will ponder it a little more and do an article soon.

GL at the tables,