Thursday, February 28, 2008

Convert Tournament Dollars At Full Tilt Poker - At Last!

A quick interuption to the normal service here at Plan3t Gong to bring a small - yet significant - news flash!

For too long the satellite qualifiers at Full Tilt Poker have had a major drawback... you could only use them to, erm, well - win seats...

This has changed for the better today - with the ability to convert those T$ (tournament dollars) into cash at a 5% comission. Ok, the commission is not ideal - but compares well to many of the services offering such exchanges for Stars T$ and does not involve any additional hassles.

For me this is great news, have been a fan of satellites for a while and honestly think that a thinking poker player has an edge in these games... the sats at Full Tilt have been softer than stars for some while - let us hope this T$ update allows us to make a nice profit, at least while the skill level picks up!!

For readers who are not yet a members of Full Tilt then this site really should be in your line-up, you'll get to clear the $600 (100% match) sign-up bonus while you check them out too! (bonus / referral code SNGPLANET will get you the max available bonus). Go get those soft satellites today!

Visit Full Tilt Poker Now!

For those who are already a member I can recommend the excellent guide to Satellite Qualifiers at Full Tilt Poker in the 'satellites' section of SNG Planet (and why not!)

GL Collecting those T$, Mark

Micro Stack SNG Bubble Play - Part #2 - Some Numbers

Time to look at some of the numbers behind those unpleasant times when we end up with a micro-stack at the bubble of a SNG tournament.

In Part #1 (scroll down - was only a couple of days ago!) we looked at some of the general strategy concerns... noting Colin Moshman (author of the 2+2 SNG Strategy book) idea that we should aim to get in when there is a raiser as well as the blinds at stake...

This is a fine idea (numbers below), however it suffers from the fact that with 4 players at the bubble this could only happen if you were on the button and the player before you raised... possibly not too common!

So, let us look at the alternatives from a dollar equity perspective - here they are from my perspective at least, feel free to add to this list.

1) We try and get the money in against a raiser - hoping to be a 3/2 dog with 3/1 from the pot (aka Moshman's ideal situation)

2) We wait for a hand in the top 20%... taking our chance in the BB if required

3) We fold almost everything and hope that one of the medium stacks goes broke!

Not an ideal list, but hey - we are in a bad spot and are looking to make the money by any means possible...

So, here are some numbers for $ equity in the 'ideal' scenario where we are on the button and there is an aggressive big stack to our right.

Biggy: 8000
Us! 650
Small Blind 2350
Big Blind 3000

Blinds are 200 / 400 (no ante) and biggy pushes all-in with something in the top 85% of hands and you look down at '2-cards' - great, an easy call.

ICM-wise... using a $100 prize pool and rounded number - you risk $8.10c here, assuming the blinds fold winning will increase your equity to $18.50c.... meaning the break even point is just over 40% against the big-stack's hand range.

With the big stack (correctly) pushing a huge range - exploiting the fact that the medium stacks can not call - then you have the required % with almost any-2 cards...

Not only do you have a call based on the 'pure maths' of the situation, you have regained fold equity on the bubble against the 2 shortish stacks, and have the big stack to your right thrown into the equation too.

Having gone through this scenario it is shame to admit that it will not happen that often, I mean the big stack may be to your left, the hand that lost you most of your stack may happen when you are in a different position and so on... often we will be left with a decision to make based on more than just the mathematics...

The ideal situation may occour in the lower level SNGs where opponents have no idea about 'correct' bubble play.... now we have to some how factor the chance of someone busting into our thinking - the question is how?

Well, this post is long enough already. Will continue with the micro-stack bubble SNG Strategy theme very soon indeed.

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Playing Poker Against.... Yourself??

Saw a post on P5's that got me thinking... no point including the link, will introduce the idea here instead - as is often the case at P5's these days a potentially interesting discussion has been hyjacked by the usual idiots.... never mind!

Imagine this - you sit down to play poker, be it a SNG, MTT or Cash game... your opponents are 9 other clones of you!

Think about that for a minute... 9 people who play exactly as you do.

No collusion, or even knowledge that this is the case among the other players - the idea here is that you become aware of this. Now you can adjust your game to do two things:

1) Exploit Your Own Weaknesses!
2) Defend Against Your Own Strengths!

Well, super-busy again today so will leave the answers to this one for later in the week - will make both lists in my trusty notepad as they spring to mind.... have a feeling that this could be an interesting exercise and one that could improve your game.

In the meantime feel free to drop a comment and let me know what you would do to exploit your own weaknesses and defend against your own strengths!!

Gl at the cloned tables, Mark

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sit & Go Strategy - Micro Stack Play - Part #1

Not been a SNG Strategy post here at Plan3t Gong for a little while - time to redress this today with a look at the various aspects of 'micro-stack' (which we will define as < 2 BBs) at or close to the bubble.

There are two reasons to look at this... firstly some ideas from Colin Moshman's book on SNG strategy concerning how it can pay to 'gamble' before you hit the blinds in an effort to 'treble-up'.

Secondly, I wanted to have a look at the ICM involved in micro-stack situations, and to see how the numbers stack-up. Regular readers will know that my view on ICM is 'necessary but not sufficient' for SNG play... you really need to know about it, but real winners also know when to deviate from the exact 'guidelines' and where situational factors overcome the mathematical ones (especially when opponents do not understand the concept!).

Here is a common scenario: You lose a big confrontation late in a SNG and find yourself on the button with 600 chips, blinds are 400 / 200 and there are either 4 or 5 players left (3 get paid).

What are the strategy considerations here?

Well, the first thing to note is that we have no fold equity... even the worst poker player in the world will (usually!) understand that they have to put in 200 chips from the big-blind to take a shot at a 1200 chip pot.

Moshman's thought is this: Try and get your chips in behind a raiser who is not in the blinds.... your hope is that the blinds fold and you show-down against a single opponent with the potential to treble up to 1800 chips.

It's an excellent idea.... try and get 2/1 odds as a 40% underdog and you will show a profit over time - hard to argue with it... except:

The problem with this is whether the situation will arise in time, after all with 4 players left you only have 1 person in front of you while you are on the button (next hand you are UTG then you are in the blind for most of your stack). With 5 left you only have 2 hands for this ideal situation to occour... and then what happens if you look down at 2-3 off suit??? call anyway? fold? (will look at the hand strength considerations next time along with the ICM).

Other stack sizes also affect your micro-stack SNG Bubble strategy.... are you the only small stack? If there is another micro-stack around will this player hit the blinds before you do? Are there 2 medium and 1 huge stack (ie - is there a chance the huge-stack knows that he can win more chips from the others by keeping you alive?).

The tendencies of your opponents also have an effect.... are there all-ins being called? Do you have a realistic change of making the money due to some (crazy) opponent's knocking each other out while you hold on to 50 chips?

Whether there are 4 or 5 players left will also affect your strategy options... in theory at least there are possibilities of sneaking into the money with 4 left - with 5 this becomes far more difficult... you really have to 'go for it' and try to at least double if the bubble is a little further away. Which leads to more questions - what are the right circumstances? Hands?

Ah well, even something as seemingly simple as micro-stack bubble play gets quickly complicated when some of the factors involved are taken into account. Will continue this post tomorrow by looking at the basic maths behind the 'triple up' strategy.

GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The OOP Call-Check/Call-Shove.... What Does It Mean??

A common situation came up yesterday evening, this was in a $10 rebuy at Party Poker. We are down to 47 (approx) with just 20 being paid.

This hand is an example of something that seems to come up a lot. Wanted to have a look here and see if there are any clues away from the table. This is just one example - seems to happen many times with slightly different variations!

To give you a little background the table is generally weak and I have raised a few pots lately to around 2.5x pre flop and taken them down.

Seat 1: PLANET GONG! ( 49,808 )
Seat 2: EBM88 ( 28,319 )
Seat 3: squashrob ( 35,406 )
Seat 4: lOlTuRbAn ( 13,510 )
Seat 5: cokeanyone ( 16,975 )
Seat 6: wallys2 ( 20,675 )
Seat 7: dagsaa ( 37,575 )
Seat 8: MrPoach ( 24,895 ) (BB)
Seat 9: GotName0815 ( 13,121 ) (UTG)
Seat 10: Gurthur ( 43,245 )

Blinds are 600 / 1200 with a 50 ante. Folds to me in the early mid position and I raise to 3000 chips with JJ... intention is to shove over any re-raise behind.

The BB flat calls, everyone else folds.

Flop comes down 9c, Ah, 7s and BB checks to me...

Well the pot is now just over 7,000. My thought here is that he either has an ace (in which case he probably goes all the way) or missed completely... figure a standard c-bet on the smaller side is in order since if he has an ace and shoves me then I'll save a few chips!

So, I bet 3600 and the BB flat-calls again.

Turn comes a very safe looking 4c.... BB insta-shoves his remaining 18k!

This type of situation comes up a lot in the lower level MTTs at least... personally I can never decide what your average player is doing this with - it just does not make sense for any of the likely holdings, it is the check / call / shove line that seems nonsensical!

- If he had a very strong hand (set / tptk / 2 pairs) then the check + call makes sense, but why shove the 'safe' turn (after all I'm not calling without at least a decent ace very often here)
- If he was weak then why build the pot with the check / call?
- An underpair might call pre-flop and now is either scared of the ace or has a set... but the line makes no sense for either.
- 4-4 or A-4 make sense in later betting, but pre-flop A-4 is unlikely to have called (hang on though - this is Party we are writing about!), and 4-4 is unlikely to have called the flop c-bet.

Well, makes no sense for any hand to me! Hopefully the collective minds of Plan3t Gong visitors have some ideas for this type of situation and can answer that perennial poker puzzler:

What the %^&* does the OOP - Call, Check / Call. Shove line mean??!?!?

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: I folded my Jacks... figured my stack was plenty big enough to pick better spots where I am clearer on the situation.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Playing The Players... The Poker 'Axis Of Trickiness'!

With poker being a game of spotting and adapting to the errors of opponents it can seem strange that there is not more written about different player types and playing styles. After all if everyone played 'perfect poker' there would be no long-term winners at all...

The 'standard' way of categorising opponents is into 'loose vs tight' and 'passive vs aggressive'. From this we can derive 4 rough categories of poker playing style: Loose-Aggressive, Loose-Passive, Tight-Aggressive and Tight-Passive. Such labels allow us to adjust our strategy at the table to win the chips... for example by bluffing less into a loose-passive opponent or 3-betting the loose-aggressive player when he raises in late position.

Are these 4 categories really the best the poker world can come up with??

Well, today we will try and add one more axis... the PG Poker Axis of Trickiness.

This describes whether the bets, calls and raises made by an individual player give away information about the relative strength of their hand in any given situation.

Now, many players (particularly at the lower stakes) think they are being deceptive or 'tricky' by slowplaying and bluffing too much. This is not the case at all. A player who always (or even mostly) limps or calls pre-flop with aces is not being tricky in the slightest. In fact this player gives away information about their hand when ever they raise (that they do not have aces). Players who think they are tricky with small bets from the blinds into the pre-flop raiser after the flop are actually just spewing chips most of the time - even though they think they are being deceptive!

There are several things to consider here, not least that a balanced strategy between being straight forward and tricky would need to err on the side of 'honesty'. The reason being that we want to raise with good hands and fold bad ones right! Tricky play, particularly post flop, will not make up for playing too many junk hands out of position.

Ok, so if we are going to define trickiness as the ability to play hands without giving away too much information on their relative strength we have to note just one further thing.... that an individual who can conceal his holding from opponents at 50c / $1 poker may be completely transparent to opponents at $3 / $6...

The next question is how do we use the 'Axis of Trickiness' while at the tables?

Going to look at this in some future posts (so bookmark PG today!), firstly we have to add this element to the traditional characteristics... so:


And so on for the tight players... and suggest how to spot and adjust to the differences,

The second question to ask concens the optimum amount of deception against opponents at various levels... while bearing in mind our objective of building a big pot when ahead. This is a wider question which also requires looking at the methods of 'tricky' play while at the tables.

Ok, getting a fair few part #2's to complete at the moment... will try and clear up some middles and ends over the next couple of days.

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Full Tilt Down / PokerStars Lag / Who's Next

Just a quick snippet by way of a link - appears that the problems with poker sites (Full Tilt Connection Problems etc) over the last weeks are not accidential... nor the fault of the poker sites themselves.

Nope - appears that there are some heavy-duty denial of service attacks going on... hmmmm, more info via this link (originally posted by Graham at PAP)

Interesting reading.

Cheers, Mark

Give Me Power!!

Managed to fit in a few tournaments over the last couple of days - doing reasonably well, though no big scores.

Came in 14th out of 3980 (ish) in the Stars 'SilverStar+' $20k gtd freeroll on Saturday evening, one of the blinds selfishly woke up with queens when I shoved my 4-6 suited from the button (was short so no regrets!). The thing is that more than 4 hours 'work', more than 3970 people out before me and what do I get??


(Bus fare home)

Well, ok then the $60 could have probably got me a taxi.... not worth it really, chances of getting to the final table are small enough (and even those payouts not huge) that I'll be passing on this tournament in future.

Monday I final tabled a $7 re-buy at Titan which made up for it a little, 7th (6th?, 8th?) (well one of those positions). Came down to a blind battle in the end... my opponent flopping the nut flush did not particularly help my chances of progressing any further.

Last night... oh dear oh dear.

A really nice run in 2 tournaments (out of 4 started).

- Down to 40 out of 500-odd in the FTP $24+$2 Knockout... I already poofed a few people and have about 12 BBs left (leaves me around 26th ish).

- Down to 151 in the Titan $35k gtd... I have 55k in chips (top 20) with just 1 to go until the money and get dealt pocket Kings - a small raise ahead (to about 2k) I re-raise from the c/o to put the guy all-in for his remaining 7k chips... and the table big-stack with over 100k flat calls from the BB (he was a total donk overplaying anything suited, connected or containing a high card). I rub my hands in anticipation of a BIG pot... the original raiser calls


"Boszmac" shouted from down-stairs (Hungarian, just use your imagination to translate into English!)


Erika appears with a candle... turns out its the whole area. The electricity has gone, taking with it our router and all of the available neighbours routers too.


Nothing at all in fact, around an hour later we give up and go to bed. Half an hour more and the fridge humms back into life... ahah.

Jumping up and logging back into Titan... to my astonishment I'm still alive in the tourney!! Blinds are now 8k / 4k and after posting my small blind I have < 2k in chips, push the rest in with my 9-6 off and lose vs A-K... ah well my cards were live... so it was out in 49th place... The Full Tilt? well I finished somewhere between 40th and 30th. With only a small difference in the prizes it did not seem worth going to the trouble of finding out exactly which place it was!

Only a matter of time before a decent score comes my way - if anyone has any good 'Power-cut bad beat' stories please share them by dropping a comment here!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, February 18, 2008

Normal Service Resumed + A Smoking Retrospective!

A very strange, and to be honest not too pleasant, few days.

My 21 year relationship with nicotine came to an end last Friday morning. After 3 days smoke free I feel the worst is now over and my ability to concentrate on such things as blogging has returned!

Those readers who know me personally will be suprised. Mark the 'chain-smoker' can't quit, right? Well, he has, Mr 40-a-day has become Mr 0-a day! No patches, nicotine gum, pills or such like were involved - just a little notice above my desk reading 'Proud to be a non-smoker, for family current and future' and a lot of evil (will power).

Anyway -normal service resumes later (or maybe tomorrow by the time I catch up with things!), firstly a look back in time to the 1980's for:

'Mark's Smoking Retrospective'

1984 - Between 13 and 14 years old I manage to grow a little taller than my peers. My 'bum fluff' moustache may not find favour with the ladies... but it does enable me to buy the smokes... '10 John Player Mate', (in my deepest voice). Actually smoking them makes me dizzy and sick - never mind, I persevere to be one of the 'lads' '

1987 - 16 during this year and left both school and home. Discovered there were more fun things to smoke than the Embassy number #1 that was my preferred brand at the time... I'd be happily rolling the Camberwell Carrots until around 91 to 92.

1989 - Get a job in a Cigarette Kiosk inside Tesco in Reading, UK. Horrible evening / weekend job to help get me through my A-levels. Walked out one day when some air-headed 'till supervisor' made me repackage all my coins (her only form of power / authority in life - and probably still is to this day!!). I just got changed in my Kiosk during a busy Saturday morning, left my uniform on the counter and walked away.... joy!

1990 - Now officially have more 'embassy point' cards that it is possible to shake a stick at. Change them several times for zippo lighters, screwdriver sets and.... wait for it... an electronic telephone answering machine with no cassette (Whoa - now we're talking high tech!! Internet?? never heard of it at this point in my life!)

1992 - Become a student again, this time in Birmingham UK, reading Psychology. Now the Embassy No #1 are getting a little pricey for my limited budget, start smoking 'Golden Virginia' hand-rolling tobacco instead.

1995 - Only previous experience of giving up... lasted around 1 year, ending when drunkenly accepting a joint from someone at a party. Now I'd already stopped enjoying the green stuff by then - but loved the feeling of smoking. So, I offered to roll some more joints for the crowd - only left the 'magic ingredients' out of the top centimeter (yep really!) so I could enjoy a little smoke without feeling like I'd taken the habit up again!

Ah, well - the slippery slope had started, Marlboro Red were my new favourite once the bottom was reached, along with the rolling tobacco which would remain until my very last smoke. Never being one to do anything by half I was a full time puffer again within 2 weeks... doh!

1999 - Moved to the south coast of the UK to take a new role within IBM. Smoking memory here is for the now defunct 'smoking rooms' in the North Harbour office complex. The walls were a putrid blur of yellows turning into browns, occasional white patches where a brave cleaner had tried to wipe the walls just emphasised the horrors... and the smell. (on the bright side, moved my career forward many times right there in those smoking rooms!)

2001 - Now travelling far more, both on business (US a lot) and pleasure (anywhere 'different'). Always was curious about the fact that, as addicted as I was to smoking, on a plane it never bothered me at all... 10, 12 even 14 hour flights were just dull - with no nicotine anxiety or withdrawals. Then, once we land... OMG.... Give - me - a - Smoke - NOW!!! .... funny how that worked!

2004 - First trip to Hungary (well, ok xmas '03 but keeping it simple here). As project manager tasked with setting up a new department taking jobs from 26 countries into a centralised organisation. I'd not heard of the place and they had not heard of my fave rolling tobacco 'Golden Virginia'... went on to develop a taste for Drum Halfzware Shag - the finest Dutch tobacco money can buy. Greatest thing about smoking in Hungary is the prices (around 1.5 British pounds a pack, quarter of the current UK price! (yes, you read it right, a pack of 20 smokes in the UK now costs around $12!))

2006 - Sure there must be some good smoking related tales from my year spent travelling the world... ah well will save them for another time!

2008 - Feb 14th having a 'romantic' bottle of JD with Erika. We agree that tomorrow when we wake up then we do not smoke any more.... or ever again. So far so good, while it has been a difficult few days the light lies ahead, if I start to feel bad then my sign is still there for me:

Proud To Be A Non-Smoker, For Family Current And Future.

Thanks for bearing with me! Normal (Poker!) service to resume shortly!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

What The %^&* Do Check-Min-Raises Mean??

We all know that the early stages of low limit tournaments can be a minefield. Ugly slowplays, overbets, underbets, donk bets, out of position flat calls with junk, any 2 suited cards, all-ins to win 45 chips.... and the list could go on.

Here is a very common situation, one that I have been using the trusty Plan3t Gong notepad to keep track of recently:

You open raise in middle position, get called (maybe in 1 spot or maybe 2).... you continuation bet the flop with a half-pot bet after a check from a blind and - Bam! - face a check-min-raise...

Here are some example numbers just to clarify: Effective stacks 2000, blinds 50/25, you raise 150... call from big blind (pot = 275)... flop comes... BB checks and you bet 150 or 175 chips, check raise doubles your continuation bet to 300.

The pot is now 725 and it will cost you 150 to call, so we are being offered tasty odds of almost 5/1.

This scenario is getting so common in the $20 and under MTTs that I decided to start making a note of any hands played this way that I saw showed down. Of course there is an element of opponent-dependancy here... there are some experienced low level players after all - not to mention the 'axis of trickiness' (which will form the basis of a post next week!)

So, what were my findings?

Well, out of the 20 observations the strongest hand that did this was.... wait for it.... top pair 2nd kicker! (a King-Jack on a jack high flop no less)

Some common examples included underpairs, one guy went broke with 33 on a 8-J-J flop, though pairs with just one overcard were more common (for example 88 on a K-7-5 flop). Draws were certainly included in the check-min-raise selection, weak flush draws came up several times (example here J-6 suited on an A-10-5 flop with 2 of the suit), gutshot straights came up twice too.

Ok, hopefully a clear enough picture.

The check-min-raise says 'I have something'... however that 'something' is usually pretty darn weak.

So, what does that mean for our strategy against these players. As with all poker strategy thoughts the answer has to be 'It Depends'.... can you beat something weak? Do you have fold equity against this particular opponent? A strong draw yourself or a vulnerable made hand??

Gl at those crazy tables, Mark

PS: Just noticed that this is my 333rd post - now if that is not a significant milestone then I just don't know what is!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poker Affiliate Business - GPA Goes Live!

Quick plug time for readers out there considering monetising their blogs or making a larger foray into the (lucrative!) world of promoting poker sites.

The newest resource for Poker Affiliates has launched today - Global Poker Affiliates.

Benefits include higher commissions that you could get from the poker sites alone, a selection of great tools and widgets to start you off and some of the best affiliate information and articles on the web.

Will take the time to do a more detailed review when time permits. If you are serious about making some money from the growing poker market then this is one to check out today!

Link is below - If you sign up for this site then I'd appreciate it if you could use 'Mark' as your referral code - thanks

Global Poker Affiliates

Gl at those tables, Mark

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cap PLO Games At Full Tilt - All About The Flop?

After an entertaining (oh, and profitable!) dabble at the low-limit Cap PLO cash games at Full Tilt, I thought it would be good to look at strategy ideas for these games here at Plan3t Gong.

The tables have the same format as a PLO game, with one major difference - there is a limit on what you can bet on each hand. The table I selected was a 10c / 25c blind 6-max with a cap of $10... so, each player can bet a maximum of $10 on each hand.

For me the beauty of Pot Limit Omaha involves the management of the pot size through the betting rounds - there is some strange pleasure in a big pot-sized bet on the river that you just know your opponent can't call!

Not the case with the capped PLO game at all.

Now, in 6-max PLO you need to raise - sure, calling raises in position is also important, but talking general concepts here... the ideal is to be in control of the hand. 3-betting is also poweful and can be done with a far wider range of hands than in a full-ring game.

Here is the difference in cap limit PLO... someone raises pot (in the game the other night this was a momentus 85c!) and gets 2 callers... you decide to re-raise from the button with a decent hand to $3.20 or so. Being a low-limit table you are going to get some callers!! Now, imagine 2 people call - the pot is now over $10... and the cap leaves you just $6.80 left to bet... hmmm

The interesting point here is that you are often correct to both bet or call with any reasonable made hand, decent draw or combination of the two.... due to the pot odds (if an out of position opponent bets $6.80 you will be getting approx 17/7 on your call after all). So, the money goes in pretty regularly right there. That major weapon in PLO of re-potting to force the decision back on your opponent is not there.... position having far less value in this game since there is no time to enjoy it's benefits.

So, what are the choices?

- 3-Bet less pre-flop? Possible but uncomfortable, the danger here is seeing too many flops with multiple opponents and little fold equity... lets use the 4 players @ 85c each pre-flop as an example... (all numbers approximate enough to illustrate the point only!). The pot is $3.50 ish and someone bets pot on the flop -thats a $7 pot with around $9 left for you to bet - so by the time it gets back to the original bettor (even if everyone else folds) they are looking at $5.50 to see a showdown for a $16 pot... no fold equity there unless it is a total bluff (unlikely in PLO!).

- Raise less than the pot? This one I like slightly more, half-potting the flop, assuming no pre-flop 3-bets, can chase out hopeless hands and will get passive opponents to call with their weak draws. Now a pot sized bet on the turn when a 'safe' card arrives will be a much better proposition. The problem with this is that it is very opponent dependant... if you largely miss the flop and you get re-potted all-in then the tough decision is back on you. Pick an opponent who is too loose / passive and they will call the turn bet anyway...

- Tighten Up + Increase The Aggression, Even Out Of Position? Here is where my current thought process is leading... with the advantage of position far smaller there is a case for the 'first bet takes the pot' in many circumstances. Of course, you would need some back-up for the times you are called... after all there is little point making a bet that would only be called by a better hand! So, wait for a quality hand, 3-bet where possible (even limp-reraise) and pot the flop where you have something reasonable (check-raise or half potting monsters and slowing down where the flop is just too ugly).

Ok... the Plan3t Gong jury is still deliberating this one, loads of possibilities but (for me at least) no 100% clear path just yet... what do you think the best strategy for Cap PLO games is??

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: Took delivery of a new machine today... goes by the name of 'i-walk....i-run', yep the scary spectre of a treadmill has arrived. My days of smoking 40 Marlboro a day and drinking far too much JD are coming to an imminement end... oh well, was fun while it lasted!

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong

Monday, February 11, 2008

Online Events + The Week Ahead!

The trusty 'Plan3t Gong Notepad' is filling up nicely with ideas for posts this week!

Today a quick preview of the things I'll be encouraging you to think about this week - plus my thoughts on the number of online tournament 'events' around at the moment and why this is a good sign for all of us online poker players.

A brief glance at the PG Notepad reveals....

- Cap Limit PLO thoughts (no more ammo after potting the flop!)
- What the $%^& do out of position 'check min-raises' mean???
- The other side of pot odds part #3 (situational)
- Micro stack play at the SNG bubble (mathematical look of Moshman's ideas)

Remember to bookmark Plan3t Gong today - the poker strategy blog designed to make you think!

Ah yes, events.

As many readers will know we are currently enjoying the 7th FTOPS over at Full Tilt, in addition to this there is some 'forum noise' to make the Stars WCOOP 2* (or more!) a year, Titan started their ECOOP late last year and UBOC is another recent addition... and the latest additions just got announced:

- The inaugural Bodog Online Poker Championship starts on the 3rd of March, with some generous added cash as is the norm at this poker site... (link is to SNG Planet Blog post on the subject)
- The Titan 2 Million Gtd one-off event takes place on the 2nd March...
- Stars have announced their '$2 Million Turbo TakeDown' for Feb 17th (a freeroll no less!)....

Every poker site and it's dog* seem to be announcing the latest and greatest online tournament event at the moment. With player numbers increasing and the fight among the sites for an ever bigger slice of the online poker cake it appears we are in a new 'golden age' of online poker.

*Immediate explusion from the poker bloggers community required for ugly metaphore abuse?!?

Are these events worth playing? IMO yes, the fields are not full of pros - in fact they are designed to attract the recreational players with satellites filling up to half the fields... my personal way of doing these is to try a couple of sats for each event - just never know when that 'breakthrough' score is going to propel you to the big money tables!

GL at those online event tables, Mark

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Banishing FEAR at the Bubble!

One characteristic that the top online poker tournament pros share is fearlessness.

They are simply not scared to get their chips in with an edge - particularly when there is a chance of getting a fold.

Now, what about us lower to mid-level players? Is fear holding us back?

Here is an example - in PGong style the idea is to create a situation to think about, rather than analyse any one specific hand....

It is the bubble of a $10 MTT... 1000's of players have become a mere couple of hundred. And you are in the comfortable position of being the proud owner of an average stack. Just 10 more players need to bust before the cash places and (correctly) a big stack at your table is raising almost every hand...

Common situation right?

With small stacks peppered all over the tables you can cruise into the money with your 15 big blinds. And that is exactly what most of us would do... my question here is what is your real thought process in this spot?

The word real is bolded above for a good reason... it would be very easy to say 'my thought process is to make the best decisions based on my chip equity to maximise my chances of winning and not just cashing' - is that really what you are thinking?

For most people (myself included many times) the real thought process here is 'Come on, deal me a hand so I can teach that big stack not to raise my blind!!'


Not cowardice... that is different. But certainly not behaviour that could be classed as fearless.

Now, with the big stack raising top 80% of hands in these situations what kind of hand do you need to shove your whole stack of chips in the middle? If he would fold half of the hands he raises with how does this change? If you have more than 1/3rd of his chip stack would that influence the hands you could shove with??

Too many questions... only 1 real thought behind it all - how do you plan on banishing fear at the bubble??

GL at the tables, Mark

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poker Stars Rakeback + Rabbit Hunting!

Interesting link in a short post today (extra busy once again!)... it comes from a post over at Pocket 5's where someone has put together a useful chart which shows the FPP 'cash bonuses' equivalent to rakeback at Poker Stars... as someone in the thread points out the cash may not be the best option from the FPP store as far as value for money goes - but anyway here is the link!

P5's Poker Stars FPP Rakeback Thread (will open a new window).

'Rabbit Hunting' in poker refers to seeing which hand would have won had hands not been folded... the Poker Stars software made personal rabbit hunting very easy recently with the 'hover over' display of your own folded cards.

Personally think this is a very smart move by Stars - however not one that is actually in the player's best interest!

Looking at the Psychology behind the ease of 'seeing what you would have won' one has to come to the conclusion that it is designed to make (less disciplined) players play looser... the 'if only I'd called mentality".

Not complaining mind - after all, its a neat little feature!

Here is a link to Stars - just in case you are the last poker player on earth who has not yet got an account there... now have my very own marketing code PAWSUB35... catchy eh?

Visit Poker Stars Now! (again new window)

GL at those tables, Mark

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How To Win A SNG Once 'In The Money'?

There are literally 1000's of articles on how to use ICM for SNG Strategy... 99.99% of them relate to one thing - how to play the bubble.

Yet, surviving the bubble is only one aspect of profitable SNG play.

Once you are down to 3 players it is time to shoot for the win. The blinds usually be very big in relation to stack sizes - meaning that 'push-fold' poker will be the norm. The Plan3t Gong Poker area to think about today is this:

How does the Independant Chip Model relate to large blind 'In The Money' Play??

The first thing to note here is that there are a lot of permutations of stack sizes, blind levels and playing styles when three handed. What we need to do is look at the effect on $equity for a simple case first - and then factor in the different situations.

So, how about even stacks, 10 BBs and a 20% / 30% / 50% payout structure.

4000 chips each, 400/200 blinds and a $100 prize pool gives each player (before posting the blinds) $33.33 in $equity. A player losing every chip here goes down to $20 in equity for 3rd place... meaning that $13.33 is at risk in any given hand.

The gain for winning an all-in hand is a 2/1 chip lead over your opponent when heads-up. Since when down to 2 players we know that each is guaranteed $30 (2nd) the match is for the remaining $20... so a 2/1 chip lead with cEV = = $EV means the winner of the previous hand will have $13+$30 = $43 while the player not in the previous hand will have $30+$7 = $37 in equity.

This shows something important.

Player X - who was not in the hand when the 3-handed confrontation took place gained almost $4 in equity by doing nothing.... sounds familiar right? Exacly the same thing happens at the bubble (only more $ev is involved!).

Back to 3 handed.... we are now in a position to look at the $equity gain vs the potential $equity loss. Ignoring the blinds for now and assuming the decision is by player Z as to wheher to call an all-in from player Y.

Player Z -

$ev fold - $33.33
$ev call (win) $43 (+$9.66c)
$ev call (lose) $20 (-$13.33)

Thats a $3.67 difference between your potential gain and potential loss in terms of equity.

All very nice - but what does this mean for calling and pushing ranges??

The short answer is that you need a positive expectation of >$4 in terms of $equity against the range of hands your opponent might be pushing in order to make the call... to assess this we need to put our opponent on a range and see how various holdings do against that range... sound familiar?

This post is long enough already - hopefully given SNG players something to think about - will return to this subject with some examples at some point in the near future - so remember to bookmark Plan3t Gong today!

For those who want some answers now check out the archives here at Plan3t Gong or the 'bubble play' articles at SNG Planet... there are also plenty of software tools that give a very quick profitable edge at the tables by working out $equity for real situations... my personal favourite is SNG Wiz which can analyse your hand histories and show where you missed profitable spots... they have a 30 day free trial too.

GL at those SNG tables, Mark

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong

Monday, February 04, 2008


Well, only a minor achievement - reached Silver Star on Poker Stars in 4 days... actually in about 7 or 8 hours of relaxing* between writing jobs!

*Relaxing in this context meaning playing between 7 and 10 full-ring PLO games (mostly the $100 tables but with some $50 and $200 when the others were quiet). Who needs caffine?

Already have tommorrows post planned... looking forward to crunching some SNG numbers to bring you 'ITM - ICM'

Cheers, (a rather dizzy) Mark

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Other Side Of Pot Odds - Part #2 (Numbers!)

Time to continue looking at poker Pot-odds and how they relate to all-in situations in the mid to end portions of MTTs today.

In case you missed it... here is part #1: The Other Side Of Pot Odds - Part #1 (Intro)

Today's post will concern the numbers behind a seemingly simple scenario - you raise and are re-raised all in by a smaller stack (of various sizes). We will look at how hand ranges and the odds on offer affect your decision... the next post in this series will look at situational factors - for now we will cover only your expectation in terms of chips.

Throughout his tournament books, Dan Harrington suggests that when being offered 2/1 you should be inclined to call. Colin Moshman summed it up well in his SNG book too - when getting 2/1 you need a good reason not to call!

We will start with a pair of 8's which you raise from later position... in each case a smaller stack re-raises all-in from the button and everyone else folds. To keep things simple we will use 2 ranges for the small stack... Fairly loose and fairly tight.

The fairly loose range = Pairs 55+, A7+, KJ+ and QJ suited
The fairly tight range = Pairs 88+, A10+ and KQ suited

So, the first question to answer is how does our pair of 8's do against these ranges?

88 vs Loose = 52% wins for the 8's
88 vs Tight = 42% wins for the 8's

(as an aside you need to know this stuff... or at least to have a good idea - get yourself the free tool called Poker Stove and compare hands to ranges at least until you have a general idea!)

Next we bring the pot-odds into the equation.

That is to say, how many chips do you need to call to see a showdown. Again we will simplify things a little, you have 10000 chips in each case, the blinds are 200 / 100, which means that the pot pre-flop is your raise + 300... now some stacks for the smally.

Scenario #1 - Smally has 2000 chips, you raise to 600 and face an all in.

So, there are 600 (your raise) + 300 (blinds) + 2000 (smally all-in) and you need to call 1400 more chips to see a showdown. Your pot-odds here are 1400/2900 = just under 2.1/1.

This means that to break even on this call you need to win just under 1/3rd of the time. Here it does not matter whether the small-stack is tight or loose... calling will win you more chips than folding... now let me ask a question: How many players do you see folding their hands in exactly this situation??

Scenario #2 - Smally has 3000 chips, you raise to 600 and face an all in.

So now there are 3900 chips in the pot and it would cost you 2400 chips to call. Here your pot-odds are 1.6/1 (rounded down a little). You now need 40% winning chances to call and have a positive expectation... well, as you know you have it against either loose or tight players, here your edge against the tighter range is small... situation and other factors might come into play.

Scenario #3 - Smally has 4400 chips, you raise to 600 and face an all in.

Now we have 5300 chips in the pot and you have to call 3800... the pot-odds are thus down to 1.4/1... meaning we need to win around 43% of the time to make this a positive expectation call... well, now we have a clear fold against the tight range and still a call against the looser range. Though it seems like a big bet to call here our expectation is still positive vs the loose range.

That is enough scenarios for now!

The idea of this post was to illustrate the critical role of pot-odds in deciding whether your call would have a positive or negative expectation in terms of chips... the things to think about here are:

- Do you have a basic understanding of the equity of certain hands against possible ranges of opponents hands?
- Can you then relate these ranges to the odds being offered and make positive expactation calls or fold when required?

It's a tough poker world out there... we all need every edge we can get!

GL at those tables, Mark

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong

Friday, February 01, 2008

Poker Affiliate Business - End Of Month Update

Jan was an exciting month for my growing poker affiliate business.

We launched Omaha Planet and have 3/4ths of a Hungarian site ready, should be up and running in 5 or 6 more days. A combination of a press release and some forurm links gave the Omaha site a nice start with traffic (other people posted the links - never do this myself!). Yet to get many hits from the search engines, but it is early days for that.

The scores for the month are 21 new real-money players and 7 software sales. This is good but not great - and I have set myself a personal challenge to sign a player each day for Feb.

Traffic to all of the sites is growing. The average of 120 a day here at Plan3t Gong is wonderful - thanks to all of you regular readers! SNG Planet is now averaging 350 a day (300 'unique') and also growing, while it is too early to read much into the Omaha Planet traffic.

Where possible I choose revenue share with the poker rooms promoted through the various sites, rather than a 1-off payment. This actually means I want those players to win! This fits in well with the 'quality strategy' ethos behind the sites... if we can turn players into winners then we both benefit!

A real change happened this month that was triggered by a post from a fellow affiliate on the PAP forum. It concerned how the 'names' in the 'make money online' niche would probably beat poker affiliates hands down when it came to 'copy' - that is writing which convinces people to take action.

This was just too true for my taste.

So, I took some action.

Each day for the last couple of weeks I have been learning a little more about copywriting. Some real masters out there to be learned from and some fantastic nuggets of information too.

Of course, there is little point learning if you are not going to take the action to implement what you learn...

This has increased my workload still further with re-writes of many of the 'key' articles at SNG Planet... the hope is that this increases visitors enjoyment of the site still further - we will see. Plan to do a 'copywriting 101' post here on Plan3t Gong as part of my mid-month business update.

Next plan (after the Hungarian site) is a new blog that will focus on news of online poker pros.

If anyone would like to find out more about the poker affiliate business then feel free to drop me a comment with any questions.

GL at the tables, Mark

Copyright 2008 - Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong