Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Books and KO Tourneys

Arrived in the UK after a brief and pleasant stopover in Amsterdam. What a great country the Netherlands is!

Found a package waiting for me with some books ordered a few months ago with Stars FPPs, actually forgotten which ones were ordered by the time I got hold of them. Turned out to be "Tournament Poker" by Tom McEnvoy and "Kill Phil". Started McEnvoy's one, not a great writer to be honest - jumps around too much and little strange in style - on the + side it does cover tournament strategy in many games (12 or so!). Will persist, the thing about these books for me is not the main text, but the 1 or 2 'hidden gems' that provoke thinking and approaching situations in new ways.... we will see.

Also managed to play a couple of Full Tilt's 'Knockout tourneys' over the past few days, both were $24+2 with $4 becoming a knockout bounty and $20 to the prize pool. Bubbled the final table of a 540 ish player MTT in 10th (no problem - made a good decision!), then made up for it by winning a 90 player knockout SNG. In the latter I only knocked out 2 players all tourney, fortunately these were the eventual 3rd and 2nd place finishers.... have a feeling that the nature of these attract more 'fun' players than the standard games at the same level. Will have a think about any strategy adjustments (which I believe would be minor) and post about them in the new year.

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Stars Review Example

Poker Stars Room Review

Poker Stars is the largest online poker site in terms of player volumes by a significant amount. As of spring 2008 their record of 150k simultaneous poker players giving them double the size of their nearest competitors.

As you would expect from the worlds largest poker site, the selection of both poker cash games and tournaments is excellent. Something is available 24 hours a day for people ranging from the recreational player through to the online poker pro. What is more the loyalty program at PokerStars is one of the best around and the unique software client one of the fastest and easiest to use out there.

Poker Stars – Bonuses And Promotions

The sign-up bonus at Poker Stars is smaller than at many sites. However the 100% match up to $50 will clear very quickly, giving an instant boost to your online poker bankroll. Make sure you use Poker Stars Marketing Code PAWSUB35 to claim the full amount.

Instead of a big sign-up bonus, Poker Stars reward their players with a very generous VIP Club. As you collect points you will move up through various levels (from Bronze to Silver, Gold etc). At each level the benefits increase including freerolls with some huge prize pools (including 20k, 50k and 100k events) and the ability to buy goods ranging from electronics through to books and tournament entries from the Poker Stars store.

Poker Stars – Cash Game Selection

The busiest games at Poker Stars are the no-limit Holdem cash game tables – with buy-ins starting at just cents and going up to $1000’s, and sizes from 2 players through to 9, there is a table available for every bankroll and player type at this poker site.

In addition there are fixed limit and pot-limit Holdem tables available as well as many other forms of poker such as Omaha (all variations), Stud, Stud Hi-Lo, Razz, 5-card Draw, 2-7 Triple Draw and mixed games including HORSE and HOSE.

Poker Stars – Tournament Selection

Each Sunday Poker Stars run the largest tournaments in terms of regular prize pools (the Sunday Million) and number of players (the Sunday Hundred Grand). With the largest online tournament selection of any site, in terms of variations, poker types and buy-in levels – there is a tournament available to suit every player at Poker Stars.

Poker Stars – Sit N Go Selection

More choice and more SNGs starting at Just $1 – Poker Stars show that they are the biggest online poker site in this area too. Sit N Go tournaments ranging from 2 (heads-up) to 180 players are available, these include turbo blinds as well as standard speeds and are available in a number of game types too. Satellite SNG tournaments and ‘double shootout’ SNGs are regularly available for qualification to events both online and offline.

Poker Stars – Software Overview

Fast, functional and easy to operate. The Poker Stars software has many neat features such as re-sizable tables, the ability to load your own picture or icon to display at the tables and ‘mouse-over’ viewing of folded cards. The software is very smooth running and will not take too much resource from your computer, another of many reasons that Poker Stars has been so successful.

Poker Stars – Deposit Methods

Visa (including pre-paid cards), ePassporte and electronic checks (e-checks) are the most commonly used deposit methods at Poker Stars. This site’s knowledgeable staff are available 24/7 to make your real-money deposits as smooth and fast as possible, for players in the US and also worldwide.

Poker Stars – Summary

The largest online poker site in the world, and for many good reasons. Poker Stars offer an excellent selection of poker games to cover all player types, have the best loyalty program online in the form of their acclaimed VIP Club, and also boast what is probably the best online poker software client. While the sign-up bonus is smaller than at some sites this is easily compensated for by the generous incentives on offer for regular players. Check them out for yourself today and find out why more players rate Poker Stars than any other online poker site.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looking Forwards - Into 2008

Not the last post of 2007, but the last one from the comfort of my home office! This post will concern some plans for Plan3t Gong in 2008, a mention of some of my wider plans and even a thought or 2 about poker!

So, what will change here at Plan3t Gong next year?

Well, my feeling is that the poker strategy (which incidently I love writing and discussing here) has somewhat taken over the 'blogging' side of things. After all - a blog is supposed to be a personal thing right? Have felt for a while that PG is a little too, well, impersonal! So the plan is to have a few more posts about this mysterious strategy writer called Mark... might even tell you who I am and how I feel about the world - if you are interested!

The second change will be to write about the business side of my life.... regular readers may know that I had a senior position in a blue chip a couple of years ago, fell in love and decided to travel the world last year (2006)... and this year has been about deciding what to do next.

Well, I have decided... Plan3t Corporation will be born in the new year and it will have some tough goals ahead (and a lot of hard work!). The idea is to generate a 'proper' passive income by the end of 2008... one which will enable me to go diving in Thailand while staff look after the office! So, Plan3t Gong will be a conduit to share this journey, the ups and downs and everything in between, I'm looking forward to it immensely.

Finally, the poker strategy will continue. After all - it is what Plan3t Gong poker is all about... will never dictate or say 'this is how it is' here... providing food for thought for those who enjoy thinking is a big enough role on its own.

Poker, ah poker. My favourite sport (well, ok, tied with Cricket).

My goals for poker in 2008 are simple, enjoy the game and make some money. No big challenges, no specific goals I will play simply because it is a beautiful game.

Will try and post from Amsterdam over the weekend!

Gl at those tables, Mark

PS: Just a quick thought on my 'xmas booze challenge'... erm... well.... got my $2.10 to about $12 and then got bored with it... so the $12 is still there. Ah well, maybe it will turn into enough for a hamper by xmas 2009!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Personal Poker Review Of 2007

Well, for me there are only a few days left of the 'poker year'... on Thurdsay I will board a plane for Amsterdam for a couple of days (birthday on Friday!!), then fly to the UK for xmas and new year... a busy schedule of visiting friends and familiy will leave little time (or to be honest inclination) to spend at those virtual tables. So today a backwards look - then later in the week a forwards look and an annoucement or 2 about some changes to Plan3t Gong for '08!!

2007 has been a reasonably successful year poker-wise, I have cashed out on several occasions from various sites and still have a healthy balance online for '08.

The single biggest change has been to understand my own motivations better when it comes to the game. If someone would have asked 'Hey, Mark! Why do you play poker??' at the start of the year then I'd probably have explained to them that this is a relatively easy way to make some money! The same question now would have a different answer completely! 'Because I enjoy the game' is where it starts and ends....

In fact, 2007 has been the year I discovered that playing 'only' for the money turns poker from something pleasurable into something else instead! When feeling good and playing for fun I actually win more.... the enjoyment of the challenges of the game - those cumulative little strategy insights posted here at Plan3t Gong all year... that is the real joy of the game.

2007 has been the year that came into being. The idea started out as a 'better' platform for my strategy ideas... with the help of inspiration from many fantastic poker webmasters at it took on a new life - and has now got to the point where is generates me some 'passive income'... hard to believe there are over 200 pages up and around 10,000 visitors each month already... 2008 will be about taking this site, and several others to the 'next level' (more on this in my 'forwards look' later in the week)

Plan3t Gong really came to life this year too, have thoroughly enjoyed posting and feeling part of the 'blogger community'... have also enjoyed reading the other blogs (check out my 'blogs of distinction' list for some exellent reads!). Will take a quick opportunity to say thanks to all my readers and those who have linked to me - the readership has been growing throughout the year and I hope that in 2008 this will continue, many ideas to keep things fresh here next year - will again cover these in my 'forwards look' later in the week!

GL at those tables, Mark

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sit And Goes, ICM and The Size Of Mistakes...

Thinking about one of my favourite poker-related topics today - the size of mistakes.

Nobody plays 'perfect poker' right? The number of unknown variables and individual differences make decision making an inexact science - even in the 'solved' end game of SNGs.

Well, if we accept that everyone makes mistakes then logically it follows that the players making money over time are making less and / or smaller mistakes than their opponents.... Slanksky and Miller referred to this as 'Winning the Battle Of Mistakes' (in relation to cash games).

A competant SNG player needs a good idea of the correct situations and hand strengths required to push or fold at the bubble... without this then money is being leaked. It follows here that your actions are primarily dictated by the calling and pushing ranges of your opponents and the dynamic between the stack sizes at the table (presence of a micro-stack being the 'biggy').

Today I'd like to look at the ranges question. Say something goes wrong with this estimation process... we assign an opponent an incorrect range. Is there a useful way to adapt our play to ensure that any mistake we make due to this is smaller rather than larger??

A couple of examples: Equal stacks and high blinds at the bubble, folded to you in the small blind... you have rags but see your opponent as tight / cautious - lets say you have 8-2 suited and put your opponent on 66+ A10s+ AJo+ to call.... with even stacks of 5000 chips and 300 / 600 blinds you have a clear shove here... it is worth 1.5% of the prize pool!

Ok, so lets imagine you made a mistake!

Instead of 6%(ish) of hands your opponent is actually sitting ready to call you with a healthy 18% of hands!! Thats 3 times as many.... well, your push now gets thin - down to 0.1% of the prize pool - but still has a positive expectation.

Now we can reverse roles, the small blind pushes into you, and you estimate his range incorrectly... you are in the BB with A-10 off suit, seeing your opponent as a competant player you 'know' that he will be pushing 100% of hands in this situation (since in theory at least you 'can not call' without a monster).

You call - your expectation is 1% of the prize pool and that is plently enough to show a profit over time!

But wait, what if you got it wrong... those pushes by the small blind were in fact due to a strong run of cards, instead of an ICM expert knowing that he can push 100% the SB is in fact a fish who would fold 66% of hands here (or complete with them (euch!!)). Note the error is the same size as before (we over-estimated by 2/3rds).... now your error is much bigger... in fact this comes in at -1.3$ of the prize pool in $ev terms.

Kind of a long way of getting there - but here is the thought for today.... if you are going to make a mistake in push / fold poker at the bubble of a SNG then make it a 'pushing' one and not a 'calling' one.... the smaller your mistakes the more money you'll win over time!

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, December 13, 2007

SNG Fees, The Poker Cartel + Player Stickiness!

Have been thinking about fees for SNGs (tournaments in general too).

Every week, somewhere on the internet, someone posts on a forum something like 'why are SNG fees so high .... we are being ripped off.... etc etc'.

You know they have a point - well, ok, half a point. The 8 to 10% fees are high considering the value that the poker sites are offering. From the perspective of a multi-tabler playing 10 / hour this could easily be $20 or $30 gone forever from your poker bankroll!

Now, let us look at this from the perspective of the poker sites for a second. Asking the question: If SNGs are so popular (and they are) what incentive do the sites have to lower that rake? None. An equilibrium has been reached - the demand for the games with the current rake is too high, reducing the rake by 30% for example would not result in enough of an increase in players to make this profitable for the poker sites... what is more a poker site doing this is in danger of starting a 'price war' - that would be deterimental to their business.

I am not condoning the high fees, far from it - my personal view is that the rake for all forms of poker is too high. For me it is a reality check from the perspective of the sites and the people looking after their bottom line... there really is little incentive there.

A couple of examples will illustrate:

- World Poker Exchange used to offer 100% rakeback for cash games (think they reduced it to 75% eventually). Let me ask a quick question, why was this site not in the top 10 - or even top 20 - online poker sites??

- Rakeback deals are available at many sites, but NOT at Poker Stars.... why then is this the most popular site by a long long way?? (twice as much traffic than nearest rivals - 130K peak vs 65k Peak for Full Tilt and around 58k Peak for Party). Sure, the VIP club is decent, but really, does this compare with a good rakeback deal??

So whether we like it or not the status quo remains, every now and then a hopeful poster appears on the internet with the mild delusion that 'player power' could change things for the better for everyone... unfortunately it will not, there are too many people happy to pay the fees to get the sites to change.

Sure, it is a cartel - yet, for the near future at least, player stickiness (or just apathy!) means it will remain in place!

GL at those (expensive) tables, Mark

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

StarTracker - Now With Relative Rankings

Regular readers will already be familliar with StarTracker from a few months back... this is a (currently) free resource that tracks Poker Stars SNGs with a number of innovative features in addition to breaking down results by buy-in level and SNG size.

Returning to the subject today as a brand-new feature has recently been announced - The 'StarTracker Rankings'. You can see the ranking score for all of the players at your table based on an algorythm accounting for Average Finish Position, ROI and Sample Size.... in a nutshell this provides a better indication of how 'good' (relatively speaking) an opponent is at a particular level. What is more it gets around the issue that 'other' tracking sites have with a single win in a 180 person SNG (for example) skewing the results for players.

Check out the 'My Table' feature too - requires a download but will quickly show you all the scores for you tables... great info for anyone playing SNGs t at Stars. Here is the link:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

To 'Slotboom' - In More Ways Than One!

Had a trip to the in-laws over the weekend so not much time for poker. Managed to grab a couple of spare hours last night to visit the PLO tables over at Titan for a (profitable) experimental session... my idea was, instead of just trying to win money (!) I'd have a try with some new PLO strategy ideas and generally look harder at the subject of 'weaknesses' in opponnets than before.

All in All An Interesting Little Session

Had a few tables going between 50c / $1 and $1 / $2 - tried the short-stack limp re-raise with premiums strategy on a couple of these. Acually won 2 out of 5 of the times I got all-in pre with aces and decent king hands.... this is an excellent result as I was getting > 2/1 on my money each time... if only I'd won those hands on the $1 / $2 tables instead of the smaller ones I might have actually shown a profit...

Deep stacked at another table and working on the ' isolate your target from position' strategy - making small re-raises with quality hands, especially after my loose / aggressive / bad target had raised.

An observation here is that re-raising with quality rundowns + quality high pair hands (with help) is an excellent way of defining your opponent's hand before the flop! With $100 stacks this meant mini-reraising from $2.50 to $5... now with AAxx my target was raising again (around $13 - can not recall the exact figures). With stacks over 100 BB deep this made post-flop decisions very easy indeed... really enjoyed putting in the mini-re-raises with those medium rundowns 6-7-8-9 etc... and yes I did get my targets stack in the end (though he was down to $40 at the time!)

One more observation was with the $1 / $2 game - had not really played much at this level before, a little high for my PLO bankroll (Omaha plays twice as big in terms of pot-size / variance than Holdem... so this is the equivalent of $2 / $4 NLHE). My suprise was due to the number of truly terrible players at this level... in one example I had a low (current nut) straight + pair and bet the flop and a safe turn, the river made a higher straight possible and also a backdoor flush... so I checked behind from position. My opponent in this hand nad called a pot flop and pot turn bet (round $30) with a gutshot + overpair (obvious low straight on board). To make matters worse after paying so much for an unlikely draw they checked after hitting it...failing completely to get rewarded. This was one of many examples, those aces-only raisers are there too!!

Anyway, experiementing with a more aggressive approach to PLO and will continue to do so. This game is becoming very popular at the moment with plently of dead money at the tables so a few weeks 'rebuilding' could lead to a fun and profitable 2008!

GL at the tables, Mark

Friday, December 07, 2007

Luck - A Reverse Angle View...

Thinking about that old chestnut again, the thing we like to call luck. Not going to get into any philosphical arguments about perception of chance events etc right now.... 'luck' will do!

During a tournament we play a wide selection of hands right?? Pairs, High Cards (A-K etc), suited connectors and a whole range of more speculative holdings. And sometimes we run into aces!

Here is todays thoughts, from a statistical viewpoint each player will be dealt aces (or any specific pair) once in every 221 hands (on average). There are 8 or 9 opponents in each hand... so going with 8 we have a one in 27 chance of running into aces each hand (approximation here, sure people folding increase this likelihood and having an ace yourself decreases etc)... thats not my point today.

Now we add KK... down to around 1 in 14.... so we have 60 hands an hour in a tournament, that leaves 4 chances, on average, that we run into AA or KK.

So here is the perspective... if you avoided these spots at each break you can smile, pat yourself on the back and think of how lucky you are! It will make up for those times someone hits their 2-outer to send you to the rail!!


As a quick aside, no challenges at the poker tables this month.

Have a list of writing to do that is going to take me well into Jan 08 to complete and also very busy with creating (top secret new website that is going to be just grrrrreat!). Will be playing a little in-between but want this to be for relaxation rather than challenging myself for this month. Will set up a couple of 'fun' challenges for the new year though, both on killing the SNGs again and growing my micro-balance at Pacific.

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hidden Harrington Thought!

Finished up HOH2 again (must be the 3rd time by now). While going through I found an interesting couple of lines. Just a small footnote to one of the many 'problems' which feature throughout the book.

Funnily enough - it got me thinking!

Here it is, the problem centered on having a reasonably big stack approaching the paying places and a medium-strength hand in late position. The idea was to try and steal the blinds... skip the details... the footnote said this:

"Remember this, You have to steal in a way that allows your opponents a face-saving out, even if they sort-of know what you are doing..." (bolding mine)

As a big stack you'll be stealing a lot of blinds right, the idea then is to not 'force' those smaller stacked opponents to play back at you by 'embarrasing' them by stealing in exactly the same way from the same position each time.

This struck a chord, especially with the 'egos' you'll meet online who don't like to be pushed around. Something as simple as varying the raise size, making a delayed continuation bet instead of a standard one - or even folding once in a while could prevent those tricky 'should 1 call a resteal' problems that spring up from time to time.

Will certainly think this one through and try and adpt my game a little.

GL at the tables, Mark

Saturday, December 01, 2007

SitNGo Strategy - ICM Re-visited

Quick post today, inspired by various recent forum posts asking SNG questions.

Many posts start along the lines of 'I don't agree with that ICM Bull****', or something similar. Kind of 'leave that to the nerds' or 'I'm so good I don't need it' attitude.

No problem with that personally, there are in fact some very good players who do not call and push in line with the 'correct' ICM ranges. What the ego driven posters you see miss is subtle but brilliant - those people who choose not to use this actually understand this model very well indeed... in fact it is the excellent understanding of ICM, and the reading of situations based on the fact that opponent's are using this, which allows them to find positive expectation spots!

My thoughts on the role of ICM in Sitngo strategy can be summed up like this:

- You can beat the lower limits (up to $20) without it, especially if you are 1 or 2 tabling.

- If you take the time to learn more about ICM you will better understand what many of your opponents are doing (right down to the range of hands they push / call with!). Even if you do not use ICM yourself this is profitable knowledge.

- By making inappropriate calls and pushes at the bubble according to $ equity models you are costing yourself real money. Whether or not 1-tabling your 'reads' can make up for this - it is as simple as leaving $$$ on the virtual felt.

Want to know more? Check out this introductory guide: SNG Strategy - Intro To ICM , 100's more articles too!

GL at the tables, Mark