Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Percentage Of Online SNG Players Are Profitable?

Time to answer the first of the questions from the last post....

We datamined over 2.5 million SNGs to bring you this one so I hope it was worth a day's wait! The answer is that only 27% of Sit n Go players make money, 1% break even and the others lose...

Just put up the complete survey results at SNG Planet - - how much of the total profit do you think is won by the top 5% of profitable players?? (hint - click to find out).

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Taster - Things To Come Later This Week

Having an extra busy week... extra double extra busy in fact! Instead of taking the time to post some thoughts today I'm simply going to ask a few questions... the twist is that by the end of the week you'll have the answers!

1) What is the overall percentage of SNG players who win money? Watch this space for details on a survey of over 2.5 Million SNGs!!

2) What is the lowest ranked hand which is favourite 'hot and cold' (all-in pre-flop) against two randomly dealt hands?

3) Who are articles on 'when to move up levels' which suggest this is an all-or-nothing event actually aimed at? What is the reality for 90% of poker players when it comes to mixing game types / buy-in levels? (post planned called 'moving up organically')

4) What has your host identified as his biggest SNG / MTT leaks in a recent review - and what the f is he planning to do about them!!?!?

5) What is the biggest raising error made by inexperienced players in PLO games?

Ahhah, enough for now... right then - back to being super extra busy!

GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sit And Go Strategy - Defining Your Hand Pre-Flop - A Common Error

Have noticed a common and pretty horrible Sit and Go Strategy error happening over at Party lately... wanted to highlight it here as something to think about! It happens at all sites, especially at the lower levels.

Here is what happens, an inexperienced player picks up a monster pre-flop hand and decides to raise.... fine you might say - except they make a real mess of it! Basically what is happening is that people are defining their hand (telling the table what they have) at the same time as giving everyone in the pot exactly the odds that they need to beat them.

This is an example (made up - but very similiar to several examples lately).

Stacks are around 2000 bb = 40, UTG limps, someone in Mid position makes it 120, A caller follows... it gets around to the Big Blind with his monster hand - and he re-raises to 200. Lets have a look at the odds that the 3 opponents are getting with their motley collection of small pairs, suited cards and connectors....

UTG - Has to call 160 to see a pot that will (assuming all call) 820, that is over 5/1, after the call he will have 1800 chips left so we can see that his implied odds (potential payoff for hitting trips for example) adds another 11.5/1....

MP Raiser - Has to call 80 to see a pot of (probably) 820, over 10/1 on this call alone never mind the implied odds of hitting... which are huge.

LP Caller - Likewise...

The guy with the aces in our example made a terrible error by defining his hand and then giving the table the correct odds to outdraw him. In fact even if we could not be so sure of aces this is a mistake... say he had the following range AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK (suited or unsuited) or AQs and made the same raise... here the table would still be correct in calling the mini-reraise with small pairs and suited connectors!

High pairs play best against a single opponent, not out of position in a multi-way pot! Funny thing is that the players who make this kind of error are exactly the ones who will claim that the game is 'rigged' when their precious aces get cracked by a small set of trips!!

GL at the tables, Mark

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sit N Go Strategy - Reasons For Checking!

Any SNG player (well poker players in general) knows there are a whole number of reasons for raising, most - if not all - poker books and strategy guides cover this subject. Well Plan3t Gong is the blog that likes to make you think... so today we can turn our thoughts to a slightly obscure area of Sit N Go Strategy - reasons for 'checking'.

(in no particular order!)

1) Pot Size Control. Sometimes you'll have a hand you are happy to play a big pot with... other times not - a top pair with kicker for example is often very vulnerable. If you do not want to build a big pot then you'll need to check at some point during the hand. This is especially useful when you have a big stack and are in a pot with another biggy - no point going to war when you can pick on the medium / small stacks instead!

2) To Take A Free Card. With position you can check to take a free card to make your draw. Works especially nicely if you bet the flop and missed your draw on the turn, now if you miss you have invested the minumum and if you hit (especially with a straight) you may find your opponent betting into you on the river.

3) To Induce A Bluff. So your opponent is known to usually call a flop bet... now checking on the turn might induce a nice bluff on the river from hands that might have folded if you continued to bet at the pot.

4) To Check-Raise / Slowplay.You know your opponent is aggressive and will keep firing at the pot, you check-called the flop when first to act... against the right opponent a check-raise on the turn can get more money into the pot. Make sure you pick the right players though... you do not want your opponent to check behind and take that free card when there are draws out there...

5) Co-operation Plays. When a short stack is all in and there is no side pot... checking down a hand can be mathematically beneficial to you. The increase in your equity from maximising the chances of knocking out an opponent are greater than the potential to win more chips. Make sure you know the math here though... there are many situations (when the bubble is not yet here) when a bet might be the better option.

6) To Prevent Yourself Becoming Easy To Read. Less common, especially at the low stakes, but if you always lead with strong hands and check weak ones you'll become exploitable by observant opponents. Mix up that play enough to put some doubt in their minds by occasionally checking when you would have bet and vice versa.

Any more? drop a comment to let me know! In the meantime... GL at the tables, Mark

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is There A Best Online Poker Tournament For You??

Every poker room is different, not just the software and the games on offer - the feel. Over the last few months since cutting back Stars to virtually nothing my main home has been Titan Poker.... within this site there is one nightly tourney that stands out as a personal favourite - the nightly $25k Gtd.

It's a $10+1 entry with rebuy and add-on after the first hour - unlike many poker sites you only rebuy when down to zero chips... so it is not generally the 'all-in fest' of some rebuys. Having said that the hands that some opponents will call big bets with are terrible... you are firmly in 'any ace will do' land for the first 2 hours at least... it is not a bluffers tourney at all - even 4 * bb raises are likely to get 4 or 5 callers!

The reason I like it is it suits my tournament style - I'm tight! Not nitty tight, I'll open a pot happily when nobody else is in, limp those small pairs and suited connectors hoping to hit a flop... but this tourney really suits those who raise for value... they say it is always good to play the opposite of your opponents right? well if they are playing junk I'm going to play solid values.

It is the second hour that I really enjoy - this tourney gets around 1000 entries each night, by the end of the 1st hour we have lost 350ish... by the end of the second hour it is usually down to around 200 players!! With 100 getting paid the bubble comes towards the end of the 3rd and you quickly dwindle to the last few tables during the 4th. Try comparing that with some of the better known rebuy tournaments on bigger sites.

One last thing - there is usually an overlay, this means that the total prize pool is bigger than the amount of entries paid... thats free money to you and me!

Anyway, enough - last night I donked it up in a blind vs blind battle and did not even make the 3rd hour... ah well, another tonight!

Check them out for yourself - Titan Poker - And find out exactly why they are known as the new fishtank! (PS: Deposit bonus = 100% to $500 if you have not already signed up - use bonus code SNGPLANET)

Sorry - not US-Friendly at the current time.

GL in whatever you think the best online poker tournament is!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Annette 15 Poker Strategy - 500K Win Analysed Part #2

Just finished looking at the rest of the hand history from Annette 15's MTT win in the Full Tilt Poker 500K... excellent learning material. The history and analysis of the first 300 hands are a few posts below this one (with link to the pfx replayer history).

Firstly, a couple of issues with the hand history itself - there are many missing hands, sudden jumps in chip stacks etc, also the final table piece only lasts a few hands - there are still 7 players felt when it ends... oh well, not ideal - but on the positive side we get to see a good variety of late game MTT situations and how Annette-15 handled these... micro stacked, medium / small stacked and big stack play are all included.

Like last time I will note a few things we might learn from this (in no particular order)

- After a disasterous overcall all-in with AJ (must have been a read!) Annette was down to less than 2 big blinds... many of us would have just shoved the first hand here (8-6 off) as it is not so easily dominated. Annette folded and waited, getting in with hands that at least had some showdown value for the next few orbits - and was able to rebuild - never give up!

- Ace-rag hands were again not on the playlist. The only times these were played was when stealing blinds from late position... since many other hands 8/9 and 10/9 were used in exactly the same way we can assume that the hand itself did not matter so much as the chance of taking those blinds. The discipline with the ace-X hands was once again highlighted by the amount of people who busted out of the tournament playing these.

- During the period when Annette had around 10 to 15 big blinds she tightened up a lot, even with 20 BBs the suited connectors which featured heavily in the early stages were folded. First into the pot pairs seemed to be favoured, restealing with 33 at one point and open shoving 88.

- The gap concept is ever present, any opened pot required a very strong hand to contest. Conversely an unopened pot and late position was an invitation to raise... not every time but a good percentage and with some decidedly weak holdings (Q-8 suited for example).

- UTG stealing... well they say that 'UTG is the new button' and Annette raised some weak hands from here while holding a fairly big stack in the closing stages. This included 2/3 off. While holding a big stack the overall aggression level certainly increased... again this was to open pots, there was still no sign of calling raises or reraises in her play. Those times someone re-raised a steal annette quickly gave up .

- Raise sizes - went down from 3BBs to 2.5BBs for the larger (2000+) blind levels. Raises were consistent at this level.

- Showing hands, we see many players showing their hands during the replay - with one notable exception....

Will end with the overall stats for hands won during is tournament... this tells a story of its own.

- Hands Played 534
- Hands won 96 (18%)

Of those hands won...
- 62 (65%) were won pre-flop
- 17 (18%) were won on the flop
- 5 (5%) were won on the turn
- 12 (12%) were won on the river...

The vast majority of hands won either pre-flop or on the flop... compare this to the masses of players (myself included at times!) who get short and need to go to showdown in the hope of a double-up. Yep, can definitely learn a thing or 2 from Annette 15's poker strategy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sit n Go Strategy - Set Mining Thoughts

We all love a set right! Seeing a cheap flop with a small pair, hitting trips and then stacking that opponent with an overpair. After seeing many forum posts on this subject here are some thoughts on set mining in your Sit n Go strategy...

We can start with the key concept - implied odds - that is the chance that your small investment will lead to a big reward. Now the odds of hitting a set on the flop are around 8/1 against, that is you need to recoup 8 times your investment when you do hit to make the first bet worthwhile.

Yet calling one seventh ouf your stack would be folly. Why? Well you are not going to get paid off in full every time you hit. Sometimes your opponents will completely miss the flop and fold, other times they'll hang around but actually beat you with a flush or some other strong hand. You may even lose your big stacked opponents but win a pot from a smaller stack... many figures have been suggested - I like 12/1+ here to make up for all those times you do not get that double up.

The biggest error in set mining in SNGs is usually a positional one. Here are 2 examples...

First hand - stacks = 1500

UTG - Bets 3 * BB (90)
You - Holding 55 (call - 90)
Next Player -
Next Player -
Next Player -
Next Player
Button -
Small Blind -
Big Blind -

Another first hand - stacks 1500 - BB30

UTG - Limps
Next Player - Folds
Next Player - Limps
Next Player - Raises to 90
Next Player - Folds
Next Player - Folds
Button - Holding 44 - Call 90
Small Blind - Folds
Big Blind - Folds

In example 1 the problem is that you have no certainty of seeing the flop for your 90 chip investment. With 7 players to act behind there is a very real possibility that someone could raise... forcing you to throw away your hand. This is particularly the case in a micro limit SNG where anyone with ace-10+ may think they have the nuts and push you off the hand!

Example 2 is less clear cut - here you have position, nice but not mandatory with a small pair (after all it will be clear to you whether or not you flopped a monster pretty quickly). The problem here is that you do not close the betting... the UTG and Early-Mid position limpers have yet to respond to the raise. Even if there is a 50/50 chance that they will only call this then you have taken a positive (12/1+) expectation situation and reduced it to around 10/1...

Those are some examples of the pitfalls of set mining. What about good situations for this?

There are a couple of opportunities I look for - firstly closing the betting. If i'm last to act in relation to the raiser (for example I limped after a limper in late position - the button raised and it were folded back to me) then my call of those extra 60 chips would guarantee a flop.

Secondly, limpy tables are great... if there are few pre-flop raises then I go ahead and limp those small pairs. Sure there might be a raise this time... think of it this way limping 3% of your stack with a 50% chance of seeing a flop certainly has a positive expectation. From early or even early mid position I tend to fold small pairs - just too much risk of a re-raise.

Hopefully something to think about at those SNG tables!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lightning Strikes Me Back To Step 3!

An additional post, a therapuetic one (hopefully!). 10 Minutes ago I was an angry man, I very rarely suffer from anger... irritation yes, anger no.

Go back just over an hour - was feeling good. Had done some work for SNG Planet, had written a couple of articles for clients, had a nice cup of tea and even the news that yet another player had signed up under my trackers... the world, it seemed was a great place to be a part of - so great in fact that I decided that now was the time to have a crack at one of the party step 5's.

Level 1 and 2 saw nothing exciting happen, I raised with a pair of 5's from late position only to fold on the flop - it was a quiet and unassuming start, we get to level 3 and a couple of people have busted... so far so good.

Then the heavens opened... thunder, lightening and sheets of rain outside. My internet connection went. No problem there, the neighbours wireless is always on standby for me!

Next 'booom' and more lightening and my laptop switches off... 10 minutes later it is back on but nothing is working... aargh.... 10 more minutes it is back again and still nothing is working.... stress - emergency plan into action and my other half downloads Party - I get back in...

I now have 930 chips and the BB is just up to 300, it is my big blind - a raise and a re-raise ahead with my 5/2 off suit not even in contention. 8's next hand and lose a flip to AJ... thats back to step 3 for me feeling stressed, dissapointed and angry.

Ah well, evey cloud has a sliver lining - on the 3rd reboot my laptop has remembered that there is more to life than showing a blank windows desktop and is operational once again. Not so sure about those fireworks tonight though!

Cheers for listening (reading!?!) I feel better already!

Monday Quick Thought - HU Poker For Newbies?

Quick thought time! Today is the National Day of Hungary - Stunt Plane races over the river Danube (all of 20 meters from our flat!), Concerts, Fireworks and much eating and drinking ahead!!

This thought came from a conversation with my fiance while doing some 'steps' at the weekend... She said - "those donkeys might do well heads-up, what with reraising any part of the flop"... good point!!

At a full table playing A-6 off on an ace high flop is a receipe for getting stacked (well soon enough at least). Heads-up top pair is actually a very strong hand... of course there is far more to it than that - position, hand reading, bet sizing and mixing up your play for example. Thought that the basic logic was sound though!!

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Party Poker Steps SNGs - A View From The Tables

For some unknown reason I had the urge to go back to Party Poker this weekend... decided, after writing about Steps Strategy, to put my thoughts into action at the tables. The findings are well worth a post!

The original series on party poker steps strategy can be found here... there are 4 in total... will put them in a jump off along with the stars 180s some time soon.

My plan was to start 100 step #1 Sit N Goes and see how it went from there, after the first 20 I am the proud owner of 2 step #5 entries and one each of steps 3 and 1... not bad - waiting until the mood strikes me to do the step 5's - tried one of them and finished 3rd for a try again (got the chips in as 70% favourite but no bad beat stories here on Plan3t Gong!!).

Here are some random thoughts and insights from the last day and a half on the steps...

- The standard of play is horrible verging on terrible! Steps 1 and 2 are a minefield. Step 3 is like a $10 SNG at Titan (that is not good quality for those who have not played there!). I'd liken step 5 to a PokerStars $16, one or 2 people who know what they are doing but thats all....

- Bet sizing, nobody has a clue about how to size bets... overbetting the pots, underbetting them, slowplaying high pairs on boards with just about every draw you could imagine... all in to pick up 100 chips in blind money. Even a basic grasp of correct bet sizing can give you an edge, bet enough to find out where you are in the hand and not a chip more. If you have a big hand bet enough to build a pot by the river - no need to shove straight away... after all you'll be called by bottom pair most of the time.

- Ace-rag hands, played in all positions at all steps levels. An ace on board is bad news if you do not have one... if the pot is multi-way then check / fold those queens, there will be plenty of better spots to get your money in!

- Conversely, I have seen so many players bust with KK on an ace high flop... come on folks if you bet enough to get the info you need (half to 2/3rds of pot should do it) then use that info...

- Pushbotting... not too many pushbots around, even had one opponent counting my all-ins which was rather irritating! You need to adjust your ICM based ranges to account for the dofferent prize structure... and use a 'loose' default range for most opponents. At the end of the day a +$ev push will win you money over time whatever the situation... (but then again try telling that to the guy who called me with 6/4 off 'because he thought I was bluffing' !! I was not, my any-2 cards were a clear ICM push (and won the hand!!))

Check Out Party Today - Still a Fishtank after all these years! Party Poker (no bonus code required - you'll get the same bonus whether you use it or not!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Annette_15 - 500K Full Tilt Win Analysed - Part #1

Spent an enjoyable hour yesterday taking a look at the PxF hand history of Annette_15's win in Full Tilt Poker's big sunday tournament the 500k Gtd. The idea was to take a look at the way she played and ask the question - what can we learn from this??

Here is the Hand History (will open a new window).

This post covers the first 300 hands of the tournament, not enough space to go into any individual hand here. Instead some more general observations on Annette_15's poker strategy...

- The early stages appeared to be very 'ABC' Poker - no complex moves, playing pairs and suited connectors and folding pretty much everything else. The blinds at Full Tilt go up slowly meaning that there is no rush to make 'plays' without the cards to back these up.

- Annette raised with suited connectors when first to enter a pot from any position and usually also with pairs. Also noted the discipline with Ace-X hands (continued throughout the game) open folding ace-rag and Ace-Queen to a raise. Meanwhile many opponents were going broke with exactly these hands!

- Position markedly affected starting hand selection throughout the first 300 hands, once the blinds got to 100 / 50+ stealing these when first to enter the pot from the button, cut-off or hijack seats appeared routine. Later hands appeared to take stack sizes into account when stealing, particularly tightening up when a very big stack appeared on Annette's left.

- Re-raises were the revalation to me... Annette_15 very rarely flat calls any raise! Those times she open-raises and someone else re-raises it was either fold or put in a 3rd raise all-in (as with one notable A-K hand). My thought was that this was to do with preferring to play pots from a position of strength, why play (even in position) when your opponent has shown strength themselves...

- Continuation bets, where Annette_15 raised pre flop and was only called the c-bet was sure to follow! These were generously sized, usually around 2/3rds of the pot. This enabled the information gained to be fairly accurate, anyone calling this much obviously had a hand or a strong draw.

- In the later hands of the first 300 Annette was fortunate enough to have a big stack (a suckout with JJ vs KK!!). The use of this was interesting... immediately pressuring the medium sized stacks by raising much lighter from middle and late positions. Again the key appeared to be that nobody else had shown any strength (even limped if other big stacks) and Ace-rag hands were not part of the raising range.

- No slowplays! Finally the few times Annette was dealt strong hands such as aces these were played strongly. Either open raising or re-raising pre-flop with them. Next time you are tempted to slowplay those aces ask yourself this - would Annette_15 do it??!?

Will take a look at the remaining hands some time over the weekend (time permitting) need to go through these a little slower as stack-sizes and reads on opponents (particularly any indication of weakness) will be important here. Will also try and take a look at the Blind 180 SNG at some point....

In the meantime there are 100's of Poker Strategy Tips and Articles over at - enjoy!

GL At The Tables, Mark

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pot Limit Omaha Sit and Go Tournaments - Part #3 - Position In Early Game Strategy

Time for the next installment of PLO SNG Strategy... this post will look at position, both absolute and relative to the pre-flop raiser. Many of these factors could also apply to Pot Limit Omaha cash game strategy too... this series is aimed at beginning PLO players.

Firstly, what do we mean by position? This is when you are last to act - usually attributed to being last after the flop. The dealer button position (last to act before the blinds before the flop) is usually the last to act after the flop.

This has many benefits - the main one being that you get to see what your opponents do before you decide on your own action. In a pot limit game this is even more beneficial than in no-limit, you get more information to go on over several streets.

The last PLO Sit N Go Strategy article looked at starting hands, it follows that the benefit of playing in position means you can play more hands here, some 3-card hands that you might have folded when first to act might become playable for a small percentage of your stack.

Note: The starting hands and other PLO articles can be found via the 'PLO Strategy Links' post in the top right corner of this blog.

There is an even more important aspect of position that many newer PLO players overlook - this is known as 'relative position'... this describes your position relative to the pre-flop raiser, here is an example:

You are in the dealer button position and see 2 early position players limp. The guy to your immediate right raises and you call... now the Big Blind and the 2 limpers all call the raise. Here you are last to act after the flop as before - however the pre-flop raiser is on your right. What often happens here is that the early position players check to the raiser. If he continuation bets you have completely lost the ability to act last... you must decide whether to call or re-raise before you know what the other 3 players in the hand are planning to do... often forcing you to fold hands that might have been worth a call in last position.

The risk of being sandwiched between the pre-flop raiser and other players means you need a good hand to call a raise in these spots, you can not loosen your requirements for being on the button.

Will carry on the PLO Strategy posts with thoughts on pre-flop raising very soon!

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sit and Go Strategy - Early Game Bet Sizes...

Playing some SNGs the other day, set of 4 this time, and noticed 2 multi-tablers with opposite ideas on pre-flop raise sizes during the first few blind levels... well, in true PG poker tradition this got me thinking about bet sizing in Early Game Sit n Go Strategy...

Here is what the 2 opponents were doing:

- Player 1: Raising 5 to 6 times the big blind when opening a pot... seemingly regardless of position. This guy was playing 10+ tables

- Player 2: Always raised 2.5 times, saw him do this with both good and weaker hands alike.

These guys were moving away from the table standard of 3 to 4 times BB in the early game... let us start with looking at the pro's and con's of each.

Bigger Raises... well this is usually going to get the worst trash that people call raises with in lower level SNGs. Suited Kings / Ace-Rag / Unsuited Broadway cards and the like. The positives are the increased chance of picking up the blinds, the better understanding of opponents hands when you are flat called (after all there are only a limited amount of hands which would call a 6 times raise but not reraise) and the opportunity to build a nice sized pot when you do have a monster hand. The negatives (assuming raising big with all hands this person wanted to play) is that those times you are re-raised you lose more chips, hands that might have stayed in will fold those times you have a monster (aces or kings) and when you do get called you are likely up against a stronger hand - so continuation betting may become less effective.

Smaller Raises... here we need to ask a question - would a small raise (125 at bb=50 for example) encourage hands that might have folded to a 3 x BB raise to call instead... at the lower levels (these were $16 turbo SNGs) then maybe, the smallest pocket pairs / suited connectors and even hands like medium suited aces may stay in as their implied odds are much better, The positives here are the chance to pick up some blind money cheap, pot control is also a plus - your continuation bet would be smaller so those times you end up folding post flop you invest less. The small raise may also encourage action from medium strength hands when you hold a monster. On the minus side you are potentially playing multi-way pots and will naturally have less idea about those hands your opponents call you with.

Next I'd like to turn the question around... what is so good about the 3 X BB (or 4 x very early) opening raise? Well if we look at the pro's and con's above then we see that this raise has most of the pro's (folds many trash hands behind you, pot control (potential to build + relatively small continuation bet size), encouraging action for your monsters + cheapish blind steals) and fewer of the negatives...

What about style of play. Already noted that the bigger pre-flop raiser was playing many tables, his big raise sizes thus simplified decision making to a large extent. The smaller raiser was also a multi-tabler (on 3 of the set of 4 I had going at the time), his smaller raises made his early game SNG strategy more of a post-flop poker game...

Final thing to add is your opponents calling ranges - in a micro SNG you might be called by those Ace-rag hands regardless of your pre-flop raise... how would this affect your raise sizes??

Will look at raise sizing in the mid-game at some point soon!

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sit and Go Planet V2-A Now Available!

Well, the 'planet' logo may be gone - but the new version of SNG Planet is up! Check out the changes at

Idea was that the number of strategy articles was growing and growing - yet the 'old' site had no real organisation to handle it... while the new version has a plain look and feel, it is now ready for the next 100 strategy articles and the next 100 and so on... I'd appreciate feedback (not only on the look / navigation but the subjects you'd like to see) from PG poker readers!

The writing team have been slaving over their keyboards - there are 17 more articles to go up this month alone! On the design side there are some unfinished areas 'blogs' + 'tools' to name 2... these will be reworked over the coming week, as will a few more graphics etc.

Current additions include 'Create your own Steps at Full Tilt Poker', Head-2-Head room reviews (where we match up rooms on different subjects such as 'best for SNGs?' 'Fishiest?' etc + the usual staple diet of SNG / MTT strategy.

Off to see 'The Killers' this evening, back into the normal blogging routine again from tomorrow!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Quick Thought - Reading Betting Patterns

Extra reason for a quick thought today - the electricity to my apartment block is going off! Some essential repair or another, supposed to be off already and stay that way until 4pm (pan of water ready and waiting on the gas stove - can live without internet but not without a cup of tea!!).

Quick thought on betting patterns (been looking into this for more posts in the future), especially short stacked during SNG / MTT play....

It is often the lack of a bet that is the biggest betting pattern tell of all... not only the usual aggressive opponent suddenly checking a flop, look out for opponents who always continuation bet their draws - and ask yourself exactly why they have checked to you instead on a monotone flop! Think of it this way - if this player does not have a flush why would they want to give you an opportunity to make one?? Could it be trips and looking for a 'safe' turn card? could it be the fact that there are so few turn cards that help you that this is of little concern?

A million examples but a simple question while playing - what hand could my opponent have that he is giving me a free card with?? hmmm.

GL at the tables, Mark

Saturday, August 11, 2007

PLO Strategy - Consolidated Post...

Busy at the moment, have a guest over from the UK and enjoying Budapest's yearly music festival. This post is the promised consolidation of PLO Strategy and Pot Limit Omaha Sit n Go Strategy posts... just to keep them all in one place.

Before the list of posts a quick ramble about the headliners for the Sziget (Island) Festival last night... what a fantastic show! Probably going to lose many younger readers as this band were at their height in the early to mid 1980's... to set the scene - beers at one pound ($2) a go, 100,000+ people enjoying a sunny day and warm evening... then over the PA comes... "Hey You! Don't Watch That - Watch This... This Is The Heavy Heavy Monster Sound... The Nuttiest Sound Around... " yes indeed - Madness. All the hits, 'Baggy Trousers', 'Night Boat To Cairo', 'Our House' etc etc etc... 2 encores - just amazing!! Going back to the Island for 'The Killers' on Tuesday for sure, maybe before then if we can summon up the energy.

Oops - thats a lot of words, here are those PLO Strategy posts listed... will keep adding to this thread as more posts appear, and also link on the left hand side for easy access.

1) This is a guest article looking at PLO Strategy vs NLHE Strategy...

2) This post looked at hand selection in the early stages of PLO SNG Tournaments

3) Part #1 of the Omaha Sit n Go tournament threads, intro post

4) This one looked at Kill Cards in Omaha Poker Strategy (no chart - You'll have to buy the book!)

5) PLO Cash Game Strategy the subject here - some adjustments to 'extreme' opponents

6) PLO Cash Games again - some thoughts on reading your opponents

7) Another adjusting to opponents in PLO post, some extreme opponents once again.

Thats it for the moment - should be growing at the rate of one PLO post a week from now on!

PS: Mentioned the re-design of SNG Planet a couple of times, this is delayed once again (actually due to me rejecting the new design (oops)) changes from here are minor so should not be too much longer!

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sit and Go Strategy - Bubble Dialemma Row On P5s!

Now and again a forum post appears that causes a big fight! This sit and go strategy bubble play question was exactly that - the easy call and easy fold (for the 2nd biggest stack) 'camps' throwing the proverbial sticks and stones.

My immediate thought was 'that guy needs a monster to call here' but then again he only has to beat one of his two opponents right? If he loses to ack_1969 but beats jgivg then he has 3rd place locked up... this doubt was enough to get me looking at the numbers a little harder. (Warning - will be a lot of maths in this post - for those not so mathematically minded there are several 'friendlier' posts below!).

Here is the p5's link:

PokerStars Game #11346549860: Tournament #57569491, $15+$1 Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200) - 2007/08/06 - 18:30:54 (ET)Table '57569491 1' 9-max
Seat #3 is the buttonSeat
2: x_QUIXTAR_x (4420 in chips)
Seat 3: ack_1969 (8075 in chips)
Seat 6: jgivg (60 in chips)
Seat 9: takeitdown2 (945 in chips)
jgivg: posts small blind 60 and is all-in
takeitdown2: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***Dealt to ack_1969 [Ah Tc]
x_QUIXTAR_x: calls 200
ack_1969: raises 7875 to 8075 and is all-in
takeitdown2: folds
x_QUIXTAR_x: calls 4220 and is all-in

We will start off by taking a snapshot of each player's $ equity as calculated using poker ICM, will use a $100 prize pool before posting the blinds for simplification....

x_QUIXTAR_x: 4420 Chips - $32.88c
ack_1969: 8075 Chips - $41.31c
jgivg: 60 Chips - $1.47c
takeitdown2: 945 Chips - $22.34c

Fine, so Quixtar limps (apparently offering to contribute 1 blind to ensuring that jgvig busts), Ack_1969 shoves (not a bad move with any 2 cards as his opponents are unlikely to call him, after all keeping the bubble alive is just as good from a big-stack perspective). Jgivg is all-in and takeitdown2 folds... so the action is back to Quixtar who calls the all in.

Going to look from Quixtar's point of view - theoretically he is risking his $32.88 in equity here by fighting with the biggy. However there is an alternative outcome - he loses to the biggy but so does the small stack (which leaves him in 3rd place with $20 in equity) so the real risk is only $12.88c X-percent of the time and $32.88 Y-Percent of the time....(probalilities in a minute) what about the potential gain?

Well beating both others will give Quixtar $43.16c - a gain of $10.28c
ack-1969 would go down to $33.83
jgivg is out in 4th with $0
Takeitdown2 - up to $23.01

Now we include the probabilities - going to have to make an assumption or 2... really that to call the shove from ack_1969 the guy needs a hand! Couple this with the truly random hand of jgivg and we should work with something like 5% vs random (5% might be a bit high but then again this is a $16!).

We then need to give a range to Ack_1969, sure he could do this with 'air' but more likely he has something of a little substance... let us go with top 50% for the sake of argument.

Probability #1- Ack_1969 beats Jgigv - 50% of hands vs Random = 58% of the time.

This is the key part as now we can work out the true equity risk of Quixtar and work backwards

(58*$12.88)+(42*$32.88)/100 = $21.28 per attempt.

So on this basis (and still 1 more scenario to go!) Quixtar is risking $21.28 for a potential gain of $10.28c... he is laying equity odds of just over 2/1 and thus needs around 68% winning chances against ack_1969's range to make the call profitable.

Good guess earlier... top 5% of hands 88+ ATs+ KQs and AQo are all profitable here.

Now a final scenario... the only truly terrible scenario from Quixtar's perspective is that he loses to Ack_1968 and jgivg beats him... otherwise he has the 3rd place money locked up. So we can quickly sum the probabilities of this happening...

69% of the time Quixtar beats Ack_1960....
Of the 31% of the time he does not beat him Ack_1969 beats jgivg 58% of the time.

So 58% of 31% = around 19% more...

The summed probability thus suggests that calling with top 5% of hands is good 88% of the time here (from the perspective of not bubbling only - equity is already profitable).

Lots of numbers but a clear conclusion - Quixtar can call with 5% if he believes Ack-1969 is pushing with to 50%.... will leave it up to you readers to work out the numbers if we give Ack different ranges!!

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

SIt and Go Strategy Thoughts - Big Stacks To The Left of Me, Big Stacks To The Right of Me

... and into the valley of death we go.... (or some other obscure reference!).

Something to think about in Sit and Go Strategy-wise today

Playing a set of SNGs the other day and 2 opponents were fortunate enough to tripple up on the first blind levels... not that unusual really - but this time they were both sat next to me, one was on the left and the other on the right (2 separate games in my set of 6 just to clarify).

The games progressed, neither big-stack seemed overly loose or tight - just your average $20ish SNG opponents... but I was forced to adjust - my medium stack was not in any trouble, noboby was particularly short - but the whereabouts of a big stack at the table (in relation to you) forces you to think harder about where those chips might be coming from....

With the biggy to your left you need to 'get through' this opponent to reach the smaller stacks to his left (to steal blinds and all that good stuff). Difficult situation right? What to do... well my thoughts in these spots is that I need to loosen up my re-raising requirements when the biggy is yet to act (on the basis that he may reraise 1 raiser but would need a real hand to reraise a reraiser....). Sure I am taking on board a little more risk in those middle stages - but come the bubble it is going to be really difficult to chip up - my thought is to take action in the mid-stages to avoid being in an even worse situation later on!

With the biggy to your right things are a little easier (depends on the tendencies of the biggy but that is another post for another day). If this opponent does not play a hand I am in a better position to raise the smaller stacks to my left - plenty of opportunity to chip up here. This is somewhat counter balanced by less walks and having my blinds taken regularly. Again I am forced to take on a little more risk - but this time by raising instead of playing pots with or reraising those to my right...

Of course a +ev play is a +ev play where ever the big and small stacks are - the sit and go strategy thought for today is that if you do not want to be in bubble trouble then the time to adjust to the stack-size dynamic of the table is in the middle stages of that SNG!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, August 06, 2007

PLO Strategy vs NL Holdem Strategy - Guest Article!

Very happy to announce a guest article today. This is written by a gentleman by the name of David Kent who got in touch after reading my eBook (yep, still available 7 months on... somewhere in the right hand column!). This excellent piece covers some of the differences between Pot Limit Omaha Strategy and No Limit Holdem Strategy.

Promise to consolidate my Omaha Strategy posts into a single 'jump off page' some time this week... in the meantime enjoy!


I have a confession to make. I sometimes get bored with No limit Hold’em. Yes, dear reader (if there is one out there), it’s the ultimate blasphemy. The so-called ‘Cadillac of poker’ occasionally just doesn’t appeal to me. Yes. I know that it’s a game of great subtlety and that situations which look the same are often completely different. It’s just that you can see so many damn hands on this here interweb thingy that, after a while, they all start to look the same. After all, there are only 169 variations on the starting hands

The serious point is that when No Limit poker Hold’em becomes formulaic and when the player becomes blasé about seeing 10 8o or even K Ko for the umpteenth time in the last few days / hours / minutes (delete as appropriate) it’s time for a change. If you don’t make a change, or take a rest, (and, after all a change is as good as…), then your own play is going to start impacting your short term results just as much as our old pal, variance. Bad habits are hard to break, however, and if they are developed through simply seeing too many cards in the same game they may have a much longer term effect than the fact that A Ao is going to lose about 20% of the time. In a team sport which I used to play to a reasonable standard, we used to have a saying: ‘Form is temporary. Class is permanent’. The saying in poker might be: ‘Variance is temporary. Incompetence caused by boredom can be pretty darn close to permanent.’

So what do I do when this type of ennui starts to pervade? Well, I usually turn first to PLO. Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m by no means an expert PLO player (Insert boast – even though my biggest ever poker pot was won in a three handed PLO game and to which pot a very young Andy Black made a substantial contribution. It’s hard, however, not to win with the mortal nut flush against the second nut flush and a top set which fails to fill up. It’s still, probably however, one of my most abiding poker memories because I really did know, even at that time over twenty years ago, that Andy would end up as a big name player. - End of boast). The good news is that, at least at the low limits which I frequent, you don’t have to be particularly skilled in order to keep your head above water. Basically, you just have to know that it isn’t four-card Hold’em and that it is a game of the nuts. To trot out another of the clichés, Hold’em is largely a game of some sort of made, usually less than nut, hand against either another made hand or a drawing hand. Omaha, on the other hand, is a game of drawing hands. Even if you hold the current nuts post flop, it’s almost the norm that you’ll need to improve again to win the pot at showdown. It’s also a fact that a very high proportion of Omaha pots go to showdown.

It’s for these reasons (and others) that it’s not always a good idea to play high pairs which are unsupported by other options. QQ72 unsuited for instance, is, I would consider, a pretty horrible PLO hand. As Plan3t Gong has pointed out before, each opponent in PLO potentially has six Hold’em hands working for them. Because of the fact that there really isn’t that much between lots of the hands in Omaha, you’ll find a much higher number of players seeing each flop. Even pre – flop raises tend not to thin the field too much because, after the raise is called once, the other players tend to be ‘priced in’ to the call.

If you find yourself accompanied to the flop by four others (which is not at all out of the ordinary), you could be competing against twenty four other Hold’em hands. As my rule of thumb, I’m looking to have at least three and preferably four different hands working for me in order to limp, raise or call a raise pre - flop. On the assumption that you’re playing against four ‘me’s’, you’re probably up against about fourteen decent Hold’em hands. You, however, have just one. We all know that high pairs in Hold’em play well against one opponent, preferably in a raised pot where the opportunity is likely to exist in many cases to make that opponent fold post flop. I’m not sure that anyone has ever run the numbers to show how QQ fares against fourteen opponents! Nonetheless, I suspect that the answer may be along the lines of (euphemistically): ‘Not too well, really’.

Even when you do hit your 7.5 to one shot at top set on an unpaired flop, there is a high probability of the existence of straight and flush draws. In all likelihood, some of your opponents are going to have at least one, if not more, of these. Excluding the extremely rare Q + pair and ‘miracle’ 7 7 2 and 2 2 7 types of flop, 88 times out of a hundred you’ll miss completely and have to fold. Of the other twelve times, you’ll still have work to do post flop in a significant number of them. That’s not to say that you should never play these types of hands – they’re fine for a bit of variation provided you can see a cheap flop, preferably with position. Profitable, you ask me, though to play them hard every time? I have my doubts (actually, I don’t).

Government Health Warning: - Sweeping generalisation follows – do not take as being 100% true without any exceptions whatsoever. All decisions in poker are ‘situation dependent’ and there will always be exceptions to the next statement which in my opinion, however, remains true in general terms.

What you may take from the analysis above is that No Limit Hold’em is essentially a pre-flop game with post – flop elements while PLO is essentially a post – flop game with limited pre –flop elements. That’s why it works for me as a change of pace. The texture and ‘feel’ of the game is different and, probably more importantly for those who are looking to eke out a few shekels from the game, the decisions are different.

To expand a little on the ‘texture and feel’ theme, it’s normally correct for every street in Omaha to be bet by someone. In practice, virtually every street in low limit games is actually bet by someone, sometimes, however, by the person who ‘should’ be betting and sometimes by someone else. Conversely, however, it’s often incorrect, usually on the basis of odds, to call bets. Situations are therefore often presented in PLO where it can be extremely profitable to be a ‘calling station’ (or at least extremely passive) because the person (incorrectly or over aggressively) making the bets wouldn’t actually call a bet if you (correctly) made it. Let this person do the betting for you! This type of situation rarely if ever arises in Hold’em, where a ‘calling station’ is probably the worst thing you can be. Generally, you’re putting money in on someone else’s terms instead of on your own, not getting enough money into pots where you have the advantage and putting far too much money into pots where the situation for you is marginal at best.

I inferred earlier that many people who are new to the game think of it as four card Hold’em and that it’s a huge mistake to have that mindset. It happens because all of the publicity and much of the writing about poker is about Hold’em and virtually everybody who plays the game plays Hold’em, often exclusively. It’s rare, however, for a player to think of Hold’em as two card Omaha. I did; however, come across a recent piece on a very well known blog written by an obviously extremely skilled poker player who used this thinking to arrive at what I think was a dreadful decision in a 6 max NL Hold’em game. Fortunately for him, he got away with it in this particular instance because someone else did his betting for him and because he won the hand. Unfortunately for him perhaps, I have the feeling that he still thinks that he played the hand correctly. Before I sign off here, I’m going to do a little analysis of this particular situation because to me it sums up perfectly the general difference .between the thinking in the two games. In the hand, our hero flops top set in a raised against three opponents on an all small spade flop. Because of his Omaha experience, he feels that he can’t drive out the draws and he may already be up against a ‘made’ flush. Not betting will allow him to get away from the hand cheaply if a fourth spade flops. He therefore checks, not to check / raise or as a slowplay, but in order to avoid putting money in the pot and to allow himself to check / fold on the turn or river if a fourth spade falls. Because there was betting not initiated by hero, the pot was heads up on the turn.

Firstly, let’s take the intuitive thinking. In Hold’em, most players would be asking themselves if they should fold. I believe that most would think that they are ahead the vast majority of the time and that, even if they aren’t, they have the redraws to the boat or quads. (In fact, they are mathematically correct but let’s leave that aside just for one moment). Folding is not an option in virtually all foreseeable situations. If you’re not folding (because you believe you’re ahead most of the time) you must bet so that the money goes in while you have the best of it and also to ensure that you give your opponents the wrong odds to draw. You’re not far enough ahead (again intuitively) to allow your opponent an opportunity to catch up and therefore a slowplay is not justifiable. If I were playing the hand and if it were possible, I’d like all of the money in now.

In Omaha, the intuition for me would be that I’m behind most of the time to a made flush (again mathematically correct) and my only decision is whether I feel like gambling on my redraw. The problem with redraws in Omaha is that they generally don’t attract any implied odds. If the board pairs, my opponent is quite likely to shut down completely and may well fold to any decent sized bet. In this case, I’d like a free turn card, if possible, and I will seriously consider folding to a pot sized bet.

Now let’s turn to the maths (that’s the English for math, for the benefit of my American friends). In 6 max Hold’em, only 20% of the cards which aren’t in your hand are in play pre – flop (10/50), as compared to 75% in a full ring PLO game (36/48). Each opponent has only 2 cards in Hold’em, against 4 cards in Omaha. These two factors result in a massive difference. Given the 3 known spades on the flop and the two known non – spades in your hand, the odds of any opponent holding two spades in the six max scenario are about 23 or 24 / 1 against (10/47 times 9/46). Given that there are three opponents, the combined odds are about 8 / 1 against you being up against a made flush. Eight times, you’re in front and once you’re behind. In the case where you’re behind, you have about a 30% chance of winning with a boat or quads (7 outs on the turn and 10 on the river if you don’t hit on the turn). 0.7 times, the opponent wins and 0.3 times you win.

Even if it is assumed (and this is an extremely conservative assumption) that every time you’re in front, the opponent has a spade, he’s still 2 / 1 against hitting the flush by the river. If we ignore runner runner something for any player (including you), opponent hits the flush 2.7 times but doesn’t hit (and you win) 5.3 times. Of the 2.7 times villain does hit, you still have the 30% redraw. Villain wins 1.9 and you win 0.8. Overall, therefore, you win 6.4 (0.3 + 5.3 + 0.8) or 71% and you lose 2.6 (0.7 + 1.9) or 29%. Check with the intention of check / folding if a scare card comes on the turn or river? I don’t think so. I’d be giving away an absolute ton of positive EV.

The calculations are much more complex in Omaha but I hope that the approximations will give you some idea. The odds of any opponent having at least two spades in his / her hand are less than 3 / 1 against (long calculation involving 6 combinations of 2 spades, four combinations of 3 spades and one combination of four spades). The fact that there are three known spades on the flop increases the odds at that point to closer to 4 / 1. If we assume that 60% of the opponents play to the flop (in order to be consistent with the 3 of 5 playing in the Hold’em hand), we have about 5 opponents. I’m afraid that my brain is a little atrophied and I can’t do the exact calculation but I believe that it’s close to 80% that one of the opponents has at least two spades. Given the normal Omaha game texture, it follows that it is highly unlikely that anyone (except perhaps the button after an ‘all check’ in front) would bet without it. Let’s, however take 80%, just to be conservative. This time, 4 times you’re behind on the flop and once you’re ahead. You lose 2.8 times of the four and win 1.2. Because we’re not allowing runner runners (which are actually much more common in Omaha), you win the other one. At best, therefore, we lose 2.8 (56%) and win 2.2 (44%). This, therefore, is a marginal call at best unless there are other callers. In reality it’s probably –EV as compared to the hugely +EV situation in NL Hold’em. Check with the intention of check / folding? Quite possibly.

Now for the real confession. I’ve never written a poker piece of any sort in my life before. Kudos, therefore, to Mark for risking his readership by letting me loose on his unsuspecting audience. He has achieved his stated mission for this blog, however, because writing this has made me think. I hope it’s given you, the reader, at least a little food for thought. Outside of playing the game, thinking about it may be the best way of improving, perhaps better even than reading the theory books. This particular piece started as something else entirely but I’m glad I did what it turned out to be. Thanks again to Mark and, for the rest of you out there, keep reading this fine blog!

Good luck at the tables.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

PG Poker Sit n Go Strategy / Online Tournament Strategy Weekly Digest - #11

Time for the weekly digest again... enjoy!

PG Poker Weekly Sit N Go Strategy / Multi-Table Tournament Strategy Digest #11

1) Sit and Go Strategy Links

First up some interesting news for SNG players concerning Poker Stars data, looks like they have formed a complex 'opt-in only' policy for the tracking sites which may mean no more tournament DB / Sharkscope etc in the future... not a good development, though not sure at this stage whether (or how) such a policy would be enforced... Link Here. Will keep an eye on this one and update here on Plan3t Gong.

Have said again and again here on this blog that the real key to using ICM as part of your Sit N go Strategy is knowing when not to use it!! Of course having a good understanding of the model is a pre-requisite for this... here are some examples from 2+2 with a good deal if deliving into the poker math... Link Here.

3rd 2+2 post... the STT forum there has improved lately with far more debate and less flaming*. This one concerns the area of playing mid-pairs in the mid-blind levels, always a tricky area. It is based on Stars $27 Turbo SNGs but the principles apply to a lot of levels / structures. Link Here.

* comparitively speaking!

2) Multi-Table Tournament Strategy Links

A reader suggestion - this article covers the role of luck in poker, by Grapsfan - a regular contributor over on Pocket 5's - Link Here, actually did a blog post a while back that covered the math of people feeling like they got unlucky in an MTT situation... Online Tournament Strategy - Think You Are Unlucky? looked at the probability of surviving multiple all-ins when you have a dominating hand.

How often do you show your hand? The subject of a (fairly) reasoned discussion over at CardPlayer... personally never - at the low to medium stakes I just do not believe anyone would take enough notice to make this +ev... Link Here.

No debate splits poker players like the Cash vs MTT argument... this P5's thread had some interesting points and is worth a browse. What I just will never understand is why either 'camp' feels the need to feel superior here... comments welcome if you can explain this aspect!! Link Here.

3) Blogs and Misc

A well established blog to link to today, but one I have started following only recently... The SNG Machine covers live and online play (though not many SNGs!) and is exceptionally well written and though out, the kind of poker blog that gets the balance between provoking debate and entertainment just right... Link Here. As an extra bonus - the latest post covers the Cash / MTT argument!

Thats all for this week - plan to have a weekly Omaha Strategy link included starting next week. In the meantime please keep those suggestions coming in - drop me a comment!

GL at the tables, Mark

Friday, August 03, 2007

SNG Strategy - Levels of Thinking in Poker.. At The Bubble

Had another thought... have done many SNG Bubble Play Strategy posts here and also a few posts on Levels of Thinking in Poker... but how would these things work together?

Just to define the levels of thinking for those not familiar - some players look only at their own cards and act on that, others think about what their opponents cards might be, still others think about what cards their opponents 'put them on' and so on... can get fairly complex!

By looking at levels of thinking in relation to SNG Bubble play we need to draw a distinction between different skill levels and buy-in levels... for example in a $50 level SNG opponents will usually have a good idea of how chip equity (ICM) and stack / blind sizes of opponents affect the game - yet even within this there will be different levels of thinking about actions. In a $3 SNG these factors are less likely to be understood so we should not necessarily adjust for them.

So, will start with a description of the poker thinking level then make some notes on how this might affect bubble play from an opponent. As usual this is designed to provoke thought (or debate even) rather than state a right or wrong way of playing the game...

'Level Zero' Thinkers and SNG Bubble Strategy

A player thinking at level zero is looking only at their own 2 cards, not a single thought on anything else enters these players heads. If you push at the bubble they have a pre-determined set of hands with which to call you regardless of any other factors.

These players are often found in the lowest limit games, your job at the bubble is to find their calling range and to act on it. It is no good crying after you get called with a weak ace, suited King or bottom pair - you must adjust your pushing range to their calls. Make sure you do not fall into the trap of thinking ' the next hand the other player will be all-in when hitting the big blind - so he can not call without aces here', the level zero thinking does not notice, he can and will call you with a weak holding as long as it meets his own criteria as a 'good hand'

'Level One' Thinkers and SNG Bubble Strategy

This is the most common poker thinking level at the low to middle limits. A level one thinker is looking at your push and trying to put you on a range of hands. He will also be aware of obvious factors like the small stack being all-in next blind.

A level one poker thinker will put you on a range based on your previous actions. If you have pushes 3 times in the last 5 hands he will assume you are pushing a huge range of hands, will then look at his own hand and compare that to your possible holding.

Unless there are extreme circumstances the level one thinker may call you with a hand that is believed to be 'better than yours' in terms of the rank of his hand against what he perceives to be your range. This can lead to being called with a medium pair, ace-jack and horrible bubble hands like that... the piece of information that is missing from this guy's though process is the consequence (in terms of equity risk vs equity reward) from his action... and the result may well be spewing both his own equity and your equity to the players not in the hand...

'Level 2' Thinkers and SNG Bubble Strategy.

Here we reach the experienced player, someone with a good understanding of bubble dynamics and the mathematics too... a level 2 thinker in poker will look at your push all-in and ask 'what cards would my opponent need to do that given what he thinks I hold and the current stack size setup of the table?'

Well, that depends on several factors - not least the level of thinking of the guy who just pushed all-in!!

Lets start with what your opponent thinks your hand is... one word - random. He knows you have 2 cards and that you will only be able to call with a small subset of your holdings. What does he think that your impression of his hand is... well usually it is the knowledge that this does not really matter that is the important factor here. Your opponent knows that you know you can call with so few hands even if you were aware that his range was (for example) 40% of all hands.... and unfortunately he is right.

The key to SNG Bubble play where level 2 thinking is involved is to understand that your opponents know you 'can not call' and are therefore pushing very wide - you need to understand the math behind the hands you can call with against very wide ranges!

'Level 3' Thinkers and SNG Bubble Strategy

At this last level we have reached the real psychological battleground stage. Level 2 confrontations usually take place between very experienced opponents at the higher levels and involve not only thinking about what your opponent thinks your cards are - but thinking about what your opponent thinks your understanding of his hand is!!

To take an example, your opponent - based on stack sizes and mathematics etc - knows that you know he is pushing 80% of hands into you - he pushes anyway because he has a positive expectation... he knows that you can not call without a monster even though you know what he is pushing. Now what we need to do is calculate your possible calling range against 80% and give this information to your opponent...

So, if your opponent knows that you know you 'can not call' he will push 80%, but if he takes into account that you have adjusted to the fact that he is pushing 80% and loosened your calling range accordingly - can he still profitably push the full range? Probably not!

(Final thought) If your opponent knows you will call him correctly here he may no longer have a profitable situation with 80% of hands... the levels of thinking has become so complex that he can now only profitably push 60% of 50% of hands... the question is - have you adjusted your calling range to allow for this??

GL at the SNG Tables, Mark

PS: Got behind on the blog organisation again... plan to get all the PLO Strategy posts into one place over the weekend and also update the lists in the top right with the latest digests and SNG strategy posts too...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pot Limit Omaha Sit and Go Tournaments - Part #2 - Early Stages

Continuing with the PLO SNG Strategy theme today, wanted to make this series suitable for beginners as well as SNG regulars so going to start with some nuts and bolts on Omaha Starting Hand Selection in the early stages today.

Quick Aside: For those readers who also look at SNG Planet (logo top right of blog) just to let you know why there have not been any new articles for a week or so... we are currently in the process of a big re-design involving templates, style sheets (and other techy stuff I do not understand) along with a completely new interface. I was expecting this to be ready by now and the new articles (both mine and several guest ones) would be up on the new version - it now looks like it will take longer (maybe another week - bah!) so I plan to have a few new pieces put up on the current version over the next couple of days to keep the site 'alive' as it were!

Right, Back to PLO SNGs.

Starting hands... this is the subject of much debate in Omaha poker, there are so many combinations of starting hands that it is not really feasable to produce a list of them as you do in holdem poker. The key here is to understand the sheer number of combinations possible once the flop comes - and then look backwards to decide how best to select starting cards.

Your 4 card Omaha starting hand contains 6 possible combinations of the 2 cards you must use at showdown. If you are dealt A-B-C-D then you have the following 2 card combos:

A-B, A-C, A-D, B-C. B-D and C-D

If all of your cards work together you start the omaha hand with the equivalent of 6 holdem hands... that is a lot of ways to hit the flop! However just one 'bad card' reduces your strength considerably. If A-B and C work together but you get a 'bad' card D then your hand is reduced considerably.... for example K-Q-J-3 with the KQ suited. Here you have K-Q, K-J and Q-J, barring an unlikely 3-3-Q flop you only have 3 combinations to work with, this has effectively halved your chances pre flop compared to K-Q-J-10 for example.

Taking the high pair hands we can go from 6 combinations down to one. Think of a 4 suit hand with Q-Q-8-2... here you only really have Q-Q working for you, all good if you hit a set but not the kind of hand you want to be investing a lot of chips with before the flop (what is your plan if the flop comes A-K-9 with 2 of a suit?).

Cards that work together for straights and flushes are key, high pairs are great, nothing wrong with a pair of queens as long as it has some backup from the other cards. Lets look at A-Q-Q-10 for example with the ace suited with another card. Now you have several more ways of hitting the flop.

Smaller connected cards can also be played pre-flop, the principle is the same and the potential benefit is to win a big pot from someone playing high card hands. Lets take 6-7-8-9 for example, so many low straight possibilities here that you should gladly see a flop when you know that your opponent has aces. Be careful that you only draw to the high end of a straight in omaha, the number of hand combinations against you mean that you can only profitably draw to the nuts (more on post flop play in next week's post).

2 pair hands are also strong in PLO SNGs - A-A-K-K (2 suits) being a monster, there are no huge favourites pre-flop so you'll still need to fold on a 7-8-9 flop when you dont have a flush draw! You will hit a set approx once in 4.5 flops when you hold 2 pair, remember that you can not get too committed with bottom or middle set - or on draw heavy boards - so make sure that at least one pair is reasonably high.

A note on suitedness - this is a great benefit to your hand, flush draws adding considerable strength. However unless one of the suited cards is high in rank they will not look so good after the flop... for example 5-6-8-9 double suited has some nice straight possibilities, but you are not going to feel too comfortable committing chips with a 9-high flush (again it is the combinations of cards that opponents hold which make being out-drawn a big possibility). Suited cards have a hidden advantage - they take away outs from opponents drawing to higher flushes. If the board give you a straight and someone has the nut flush draw the fact that you hold 2 of their suit reduces the number of outs they have from 9 to 7... these are known as 'blockers'.

To summarise - Omaha starting hands need as many of the factors below as possible:

- Cards that work together (close in rank, try to play 6 combinations not 3 or 1!)
- High Pairs (especially with 'help' from other cards)
- Suitedness (or ideally double-suitedness)

Thats it for today, next week will look at position and flop texture.

GL at the PLO SNGs!