Monday, March 31, 2008

Chat In Online Poker - Better Switched Off??

Many online poker things to think about this week (oh and some more 'Part #2's" if I get the time!).

Going to start with the results of a personal experiement... for the last 10 days or so I have turned off chat - completely - while playing poker. Been busy with new websites so really only played cash games for 30 minutes here and there. I firmly believe this has resulted in better decisions by de-personalising the game, let me explain.

Poker is a competative sport right? Just like sex and driving, each player assesses their own skill level as 'above average' relative to their peers at whatever buy-in level and game. There is an emotional element to the play at the tables, including pride (both for a well played game and 'injured pride' when we get outplayed), anger (tilt) and a more general sense that things are somehow personal.... for example 'that is the 3rd time this guy re-raised me, I'll show him not to push me around'

It is the 'me' that I see as significant.

Of course we do not think of our online poker opponents as 'real people', just a collection of below average players or 'lucky donks' to take chips from... yet many of the emotions which affect peoples play at the table do appear to stem from some thought process which attributes the actions of opponents to the individual you.

Hope this is not too confusing... my thesis here is that this is a 'one-way' phenominon. We do not attribute human characteristics to opponents but feel emotions which indicate that opponents are insulting / messing with us as a person.

Hey, deep thoughts - time to lighten up a little.

Switch off your chat... no, I'm not convinced that having it on is somehow +ev due to 'reads' it gives you on opponents, their betting patterns are much clearer without any of this 'humanisation' anyway.

Do an experiment, not in slient poker playing, but in detaching your 'self' from the actions of others... your decisions will get better - I promise.

GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Introducing... A New 'Planet'

Up to my eyeballs in business at the moment - promise to get right back to the strategy posts shortly!

Wanted to introduce the newest member of the family today - Rakeback Planet

Well, the clue is in the name there - but we wanted to be able to offer the best current rakeback deals for all of the planet sites. So rather than create complete sections for each site we made a new site... and will be linking this from pages like this one at SNG Planet... Best Sit N Go Rakeback (the other sites will get a similar page soon!).

From a business perspective rakeback is a tricky issue... the problem is that once a player is educated about Rakeback they will not sign-up without it, which argues for offering this across all the sites. On the other hand if someone is not educated about rakeback, and is ok to sign-up without it, then an affiliate makes more money by not educating them.... of course the small stakes liesure player may actually benefit more from 'bonus-whoring' (chasing and clearing bonuses) than rakeback since these clear faster in many cases....

After giving it some thought my decision was this:

1) Become a sub-affiliate with one of the bigger Rback sites so I can offer the largest available deals (educated players will check, so no point being lower!)

2) Make rakeback available via the strategy sites to anyone who already knows about this and is looking for it... not hidden from anyone, but do not give a good reason for those who do not already know about it to click.

3) At the same time use the ranking power of the established sites to target a couple of long-tail phrases which include the term rakeback.

So - if any readers would like a deal, including one at a site where all I am allowed to say is 'bonus' (no mention of 30% RB allowed - even in a round-about way!) then check out Rakeback Planet today.

Will do a proper business update mid-week when all the results from March are in. Really pumped up about the business side of things at the moment with some massive plans for April... including SNG Planet now getting translated into 2 other languages (the first 2 of many all being well!) and the biggest and best 'planet' website yet now under construction.

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SNG Wiz To Collect Data On Push / Fold Ranges

An interesting announcement by the SNG Wiz team and an interesting discussion ensuing at 2+2 on the subject (both links at the bottom of the article).

For those not aware of the SNG Wiz tool the idea started with the infamous Sit N Go Power Tools and made an excellent package including charts, simulations and a user-friendly ICM calculator... basically made the best SNG tool available for going through your SNG Hand Histories and improving both your understanding of the game and your profits....

Now, one common 'niggle' people had with this tool was the default calling ranges in SNG Bubbles being, well... wrong! This is easy to overcome... just read some strategy articles over at SNG Planet and adjust them yourself!

Anyway, the latest upgrade of the tool has an option to send your data (and that of your opponents) to the web-server to help make a better model of pre-flop betting and push-fold ranges at the various levels... this is an optional addition (requires that you opt-in). Apparently no names are used, simply the betting amounts and the cards shown down.

The debate on 2+2 centers around whether this is useful.

After all, it is the distribution of the pushing / calling ranges which is the critical component. The question being asked (correctly IMHO) is whether the 'distributed average' would be any more useful than the 'mean average'.

My thought is that any skew from the distributed average would tend to be to a wider calling range... there are several reasons for this view, including my personal observation that loose callers are far more common at the bubble than overly tight ones (at least in the lower to mid-limits) and the fact that a loose pusher is more likely to be called... for example if an extra-tight player pushes then opponents are more likely to fold, meaning that pair of kings does not show up in the data.

Anyway and interesting concept and much respect to the SNG Wiz team for looking to make their already excellent SNG tool even better... after all, the data can not harm the accuracy of the predictive results.

It costs $99 and really will pay for itself within a week for most SNG players... in fact my personal opinion is that if you are spending more than $100 a week on Sit N Goes then not investing in this tool is costing you hard currency from next week onwards(if you follow the logic!!) Oh and there is a free 30 day trial too - grab your copy today at:


And this is the debate at 2+2 on the potential use of the data.... 2+2 Link

GL at those tables, Mark

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Playing Poker Against..... Yourself! (Part #2)

Part #2 week continues.... today a follow up for a thought excercise / poker psychology post introduced back in Feb - here is the link:

The general idea was that you found yourself at a table playing 8 'poker clones' of yourself... unknown to each other each player followed your stratetgy / tendencies and betting patterns.... you know this and have to adapt (your opponents do not) - what would you do to win in this game?

Thought this could be a useful logic puzzle for a couple of reasons... not only thinking about how others preceive your play, but about the general task of thinking through how to adapt to beat certain opponents (which is, after all, the idea of poker!).

For me (in no particular order!)

- I would be aware that a check heads-up or 3 handed on the flop mainly meant weakness and would be far more willing to bet into players after seeing them check (With a hand on the flop I will lead most of the time to try and build a pot, I will c-bet with nothing also... but very rarely check a made hand)

- I would fire more second barrels when my flop bets were called against 'myself', especially when the flop was draw heavy and the turn card 'safe' with reasonably deep stacks. This would counter my (probable over-use) of using flopped draws in position as a combination 'chase / float' (ie might hit the draw or opponent may check to me allowing me to semi-bluff the turn). Would take advantage of this passive behaviour by pricing out draws later in the hand.

- I would slow down considerably if one of my clones overcalled a flop raise. This is a bad habit when done too often... but with an extra strong hand and opponents who look like they are willing to build a pot I overcall from position too much... for example with a set on a drawless flop... player 1 bets flop, player 2 calls this bet.... Mark calls (sure this is useful sometimes but in the imaginary game against myself it would set immediate alarm bells ringing.... I am only doing this with a monster - draws / weak hands are pushed hard or folded here)

- With less than 10BB stacks if one of my 'clones' pushed all-in I would not rule out premium hands.... since (recently at least) I feel the urge to 'chip up' far earlier than before, open shoving aces and kings is pretty normal for me - as long as I have shoved recently.... would also shove a wide range in later position (from early position this would usually be a hand until about 5bbs (except in SNG situations))

Ah well, giving you all this information with which to beat me!

My question is - how would you beat yourself? and (importantly) is this easy to see and thus exploit by your opponents?

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Are You Ready For The Big Tournament Payouts?? (Part #2)

Time to get 'Part #2' week underway!

Our first part 2 post continues an introduction to preparing for final table play... started in this post here

The idea was simple, unless you are used to short-handed poker, huge blinds (compared to stacks) and ultimately the heads-up situation then all that hard work getting to the final table of a large MTT could be somewhat wasted... you could be left with a $1000 prize instead of a $10k one - thinking 'if only I'd thought about the important factors to consider in this situation beforehand...." (well, something like that at least).

So, here we will look at the merits (or otherwise) of using SNG tournaments to gain this experience. After all, you'll experience many of the same situations in a sit n go than at the final table of an MTT.... just with slightly smaller stacks.

SNGs for Final Table Experience - Pros / Similarities

- Go from a full table to a single survivor (short handed experience)
- Blinds can be high in relation to stacks
- Big influence of payout struture on strategy (especially for multi-table SNGs where 5+ places are paid)
- High Blind heads-up required... invaluable practice for HU Play

SNGs for Final Table Experience - Cons / Differences

- Money Influence could be'different' when it comes to influencing behaviour... for example the $10 for 3rd in a $5 SNG may not matter too much to your average liesure player, while a $1000 pay jump in a large MTT final table most probably will. Payout structures in MTTs are top-heavy... but everyone is in the money so no 'zero for 4th' influence either.
- Speed of blinds in comparison with stacks, MTTs will usually see a slower increase as a proportion of your stack than in a SNG tournament (especially turbos)
- Very short handed and heads-up play will often be shallower in a SNG tournament, making these games more 'push / fold' than multi-street.

My thoughts:

- The biggest factor for most people is the size of the money jumps and the pressure this can put on decision making... as much as we like to think we would be 'cool and collected' when a close decision for $1k comes up - this is certainly different from a SNG bubble situation that might be for $30!

- While not perfect by any means, there are really very few alternatives to SNGs when it comes to getting final table experience (well, other final tables are the obvious candidates... but this defeats the whole object of being prepared - at least in the short term!).

Your Thoughts:

Not here yet... but are always welcome here at Plan3t Gong - drop me a comment to let me know what you think of the importance of preparing for the final table by playing SNGs.

'Part #2 Week to be continued... with, erm, well, more part #2's!'

GL at the tables, Mark


Monday, March 24, 2008

Dan Harrington To Write SNG Book?!?

No, not a scoop - just an interesting line from an excellent interview with Dan Harrington in the latest 2+2 Podcast.

- While discussing his new 'Harrington On Cash Games' Books... apparently co author Bill Robertie wants them to write a SNG Strategy book together! Harrington was a little dubious about the idea - but only on the amount of demand for this... wake up time Mr Harrington, just take a look at PokerStars SNG lobby at peak times to get an idea!

A couple of other interesting points I picked up from this podcast...

- The old debate on Tournament vs Cash game skill levels: Dan Harrington repeated several times that the cash games are the 'more skilled' poker since there are less 'restricted choices'. My personal perspective is that this is an illusionary argument... that the goals of poker are

a) Money (!) and:
b) Pleasure

the 'my game is more skilled than your game' sort of argument does not quite fit with this view - unless you are the type of person who enjoys telling people that you are 'superior' to them in some way!!

- Earlier in the podcast the hosts were discussing the Full Tilt / Cardrunners deal... not going to discuss the details of that here at this time. The interesting point for me was that they mentioned that 10,000 people are now members!!

Not sure if this is true or an (gu)estimate from the hosts, but hey, add this to PxF, Stox, PSO, Leggo and SNG Icons etc etc and wow - that is a lot of people paying for training... sure there are 'trained' people dropping out of the game all the time... but the numbers surely are big enough to give all online poker players something to think about.

Recommend the 2+2 Podcast- in fact this has been a very pleasant suprise!

GL at the table, Mark

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Push / Fold Poker - A Look At 'Robust Hands'

Today's post could refer to SNG or MTT play when short stacked. Those times you need to shove in all your chips to steal the blinds (and maybe antes) will happen to us all at some point.

My thought is this: There is a distinction between the hands you'd want to shove with 7 to 10 BBs in your stack compared to a 3 or 4 BB stack... of course, any hand looks good when folded to and extra short - this example will really be used as a counter-balance to the slightly higher stacked hand selection criteria!

When super-short it is the 'hot and cold' value that counts, since you have no ability to make people fold then all you need to know is how well your hand does in a showdown against random holdings (best case scenario that the BB calls you!). When less short you do have fold equity... now you should be more concerned with how well your hand does when called... that is the 'robustness' of your holding.

** An aside... why all in? Many new players miss this - so a quick aside worthwhile.... you have 8 times the big blind in your stack late in a tournament and pick up a hand which you decide to play... if you now raise 3 times the big blind, the pot (with blinds and antes) may well be 5 * the blind already - someone now chooses to re-raise you all-in! You are now faced with a pot of 15 times the blind and it costs you 5 to call.... well those are giant pot odds... in fact there is no hand against a reasonable re-raising range that you can justify folding when getting 3/1.... so, assuming you would rather not 'gamble' for all of your chips why not just shove your whole stack in to maximise your chances of winning the blinds and antes uncontested? **** (end of aside!)

So, continuing with the 8 BBs scenario - we have lost any resteal fold equity and the ability to raise without becoming committed.... it is push / fold time.... here is where the distinction between robust and vulverable hands may make a few more chips over time...

When we shove from late position the vast majority of the time we are hoping to steal the blinds and antes uncontested. Those times we are called the key element is going to be the strength of our hand against the calling range of our opponent.

This is different from the 'hot and cold' rating - Q7o is the 'middle' of this ranking, but only when compared to a random hand 1000000's of times. When our tournament is on the line then the key factor is not how well we do against a random hand at all - but how well we do against the range of hands that might call us.

An example....

Folded to us in the C/O, we shove expecting to get called (1 place only) by 66+, A10+ and KQo+

((This is probably too tight a range for most lower buy-in MTTs but illustrates a point.))

So we take 2 hands which each have a similar 'hot and cold' percentage against random hands, and see how they do against our calling range:

Vulnerable Hand: K60 - (Hot and cold = 54.1%)
Robust Hand: 9-10s - (Hot and cold = 54.0%)

K-6o % wins when called by range above = 29.5%
9-10s % wins when called by range above = 36%

Well, this should not be a big suprise to many readers... however it is certainly something to think about those times we find ourselves short in the later stages of tournaments... the key factor is that the less likely to be dominated by our opponents calling range the better... so medium connected and suited cards do better than ace-small hands and king-small hands.

Next week has been declared 'part #2' week here at Plan3t Gong - to clear up as many of the outstanding posts as possible... drop by again soon!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Titan Poker (iPoker) Best Bonus Yet!

Just a quick plug - after speaking with my new (and very professional sounding!) account manager we are able to offer an improved sign-up bonus offer for Titan Poker (iPoker's leading site - non-US at this time I'm afraid).

I think this is an excellent deal for anyone thinking of giving the 'new fishtank' a try - iPoker have grown rapidly to become the world's 4th largest online poker venue.

The new deal is this - in addition to the higher sign-up bonus we already offered (standard = 100% to $200, our offer = 100$ to $500) we are able to offer a free incentive of $20 in cash... simply depositing $25 or more when using Titan Poker bonus code SNGPLANET will result in this being automatically credited and ready to play at the tables within 48 hours... while you can play with this money immediately in order to cash it out you'll need 50 Titan Points for each dollar (this is easy to achieve - just for protection from those looking to cash out without playing really)

Thats that - not many adverts here at Plan3t Gong and especially not ones which offer far better Titan Poker deals than at other sites!!

Check Out Titan Poker for yourself today and find out for yourself just how incredibly fishy those tables are!! (remember bonus code SNGPLANET is required with your first sign-up and deposit to claim our special offer)

Those seeking a little more information should check out our Titan reviews and articles over at Sit N Go Planet:

Titan Poker Detailed Room Review

Titan Poker SNGs Review

World Poker Showdown Satellites At Titan Poker

Bookmark Plan3t Gong today... in less than a week we will be launching some very special offers and a new site... all I'll say for now is that the concept rhymes with 'bakeback' and involves a wide selection of the top US-friendly poker sites!!

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3 Betting Pre In Omaha8 With A Reasonably Good High-Only Hand??

Just posted this query over at the Poker Strategy Forums - for the life of me can not see how 3-betting a good high could maximize expectation in a loose fixed limit Omaha 8 game... happy to be wrong (and thus educated on the subject!)... please reply to the original post in the 'Online Poker Chat' board (at the top)

Hey All,

A little confused by something I that came up on a Poker X Factor video... wanted to run this by some of the fixed limit poker experts here to see what you think.

The game was Omaha 8-or better and the trainer has A-10-Q-Q (3-diamonds) on the button. A limper from MP3 and the C/O raises - trainer now decides to isolate by raising again...

This seemed a strange move to me on O8 - sure you knock out the blinds this way and get position, but can it really be +EV to isolate with a hand without low potential (and actually vulnerable for the high - for example pairing the ace would often see aces-up (with a low card) from an opponent)....

My usual play is to limp behind with a high only and 'run awayyyy' fast on a low flop... with the raise ahead I'd have folded.

To be honest the trainer (Rizen) is not an O8 expert - though his NLHE and tournament training vids are usually excellent.So... is there a case for 3-betting the high here pre flop???

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Journey Into The Mind Of A Donk - Part #1 - Slowplaying

There appears to be a theme emerging with the current crop of posts here at Plan3t Gong. Almost without noticing my entries here have shifted focus away from the more 'theoretical / mathematical' aspects of strategy and towards a more psychological perspective.

Of course, my mission here is to be the 'Online Poker Blog That Likes To Make You Think' and by understanding the thought processes of the average mid to low limit donk* we should be able to profit together from those tables... feedback welcome, if readers prefer the ICM numbers (gulp!) then I'll do a few more posts on the subject instead!

* Use the term 'donk' as a vauge insult, someone who is bad at poker (!)... what I'd like to say before we tear the poor donks apart is that these players are often intelligent, competant and perfectly good individuals... it is only their poker skills we are questioning!

Ok - almost done with the intro part - just one more thing to mention: Next week is Plan3t Gong 'Part #2 Week" (!) before my blog gets over-run with orphaned 'part #1's' I plan a big sort-out, hopefully will have my 'best of Plan3t Gong' page / link ready by then as well.... if you have not already done so then bookmark me today!

Journey Into The Mind Of A Donk - Part #1 - Slowplaying

Bad poker players bluff too much (and in completely the wrong circumstances) and they also slowplay too much, in fact so much that the default play when holding a big hand (aces / kings pre flop or a set or better after it) is to check or bet very small....

What I wanted to do is step back and have a think about the thought process behind this behaviour. To ask why do inexperienced poker players slowplay any decent hand as a default. I am not saying that slowplaying does not have a role to play (in fact it is essential, if for no other reason than to balance your play)...

Here are some suggestions as to what might be happening in the non-poker-savvy grey matter of a slowplaying donk:

1) Smartness / Ego: The need to appear smart at the table could be part of it... to spring a trap on opponents and (implicitly) say 'ha! caught you - dummass!' or whatever. While there are certainly players who think this way (they usually make themselves known in the chat box) I do not personally think this is the majority, maybe 20% of persistant slowplayers come in this category?

2) Fear: Not fear of losing the hand, we are talking about monsters after all. This is fear of waiting all night for a huge hand and then not getting paid off. This kind of slowplayer is the very worst... they will not be looking beyond their own hand and will check in last position against 4 opponents in a limped pot on a draw-heavy board... and then chat for hours about how this particular poker site is rigged when the free card they give inevitably crushes them. I feel the 'bet small' 'check-raise small' re-raise small, type of player also falls into this category... they want to build a pot but are terrified of losing their opponents!

3) Because It Is Correct: Here is where I believe that the majority of consistent slowplayers sit. They know that poker is a game of deception (or at least cloudy information) and take the idea too far... the same player will bluff off all of their chips on the river with a busted flush draw (we have all see this one right?). The strong hand check-call routine can work of course, but if someone always does this then their bets are with draws / or medium strength or lower hands, a player who can not see how easily exploitable their patterns are is destined to lose their money very quickly!

Anyway, this is my look into the 'mind of a donk', be great to have some more views on the subject... if we could pool our collective experience to better understand these horrible poker players then all of our profits will increase!

GL at those slowplayer-filled Tables, Mark

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Personal Post - A Real Life Inflection Point!

Happy news to share in todays (non-poker) post.

Last night Erika and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary of being together with a nice meal in a local restaurant followed by a bottle of Moet and chat about the future. After being 'engaged' for a little over a year we decided it was about time to sort out a date.... yep, 20th Sept 2008 will see us getting married (!!).

Never imagined I'd end up living in Budapest and marrying a Hungarian lady... in fact until a few years ago I really knew nothing about this country at all.

Posted here by my 'big blue' employer to project manage the setup of a new 'outsourcing' service centre I actually spent the first year living in the Mariott hotel (ugh!).

As a friendly but very determined corporate guy, I had noticed that certain areas of recruitement were looking like falling behind schedule... after working with our internal managers and external recruiters it was not getting any better - hmmm.... failure had never been an option for me so I took the natural (for me at least!) next step of requesting the manager of the Adecco branch that recruited for us to come to my office and explain exactly how they planned to resolve the issues, and by the way could they please do it faster, cheaper and better quality at the same time!

To cut a (potentially) long story short the branch manager who appeared was Erika... while I'm sure I gave her the standard corporate 'hard time' at that first meeting we somehow ended up together, travelling the world and now working on the 'planet' affiliate business...

If someone would have said to me I'd be in Budapest, having set a wedding date with a Hungarian lady, and working on my own business a few years ago I'd most probably have given them a slightly puzzled look and then carried on with whatever it was I was doing at the time.

Funny how life works out.

Cheers, Mark

Monday, March 17, 2008

Slowplaying In PLO... The Ugly Way!

Not done as many PLO posts as planned over the last few weeks... some redress here in what is becoming a standard format of looking at a horribly played hand! The really terrible ones, the kind of hands that cause you to stare for a few immobile seconds in disbelief - they are the hands that get thought about... the ones that cause me to ask - what can we learn from that?

So, Party Poker on over a week ago - all from memory (+ notepad!) here so exact bets / stacks, I folded before the flop so this is all observed.

10 handed, 25c / 50c blinds.... limper from EP, 2 callers from MP + 2 Blinds ... no short stacks involved as far as I recall, everyone between $30 and $70 (max buy-in = $50), pot $2.50c

Flop 10-2-10 rainbow

Hmmm, 10's are popular cards with combinations of 3 high cards being popular starting hands at Party! Would expect at least a 10 out there.

EP Player Min Bets 50c... everyone calls!

Yep, a mini bet at party is not going to get anyone out... pot now 5-handed and $5

Turn = J (putting 2 clubs on the board too)

Checks around!

River - 5 (non-club)

EP Player bets pot, all others fold - EP shows, 10-10-3-8 unsuited and wins all of $4 with his quads.

Hmmmm, a strange little hand and some insights into Pot Limit Omaha to discuss... firstly the EP player called with a horrible hand. A pair of 10's with no help would go fast into the muck for me... if you hit a 10 then there are usally a whole gang of straight draws (and maybe flushes) out against you, potential to lose a big pot.

Anyway, the hand was played, as in fact were most hands by this particular player... and a miracle flop came along, flopped quads = happy days!

So, first to act what does one do here?

Difficult to answer that one without some more info on the players at the table, since I was sat to the immediate right of this 10's guy I had a good read... he played every hand and bet (or called bets) on every flop, turn and most rivers! The others were a mix of the usual very loose, very passive players at Party who would usually stay in with an overpair if things did not get too expensive and were happy to call with any draw...

So, we would expect the EP Player to bet out here, which he does - but 50c into a $2.50c pot? This was out of character and what drew my attention to the hand in the first place... a half pot, pot or check would have been expected... pretty sure I gave him a 10 at this point.

What the others called with we will never know...

The turn put some strong draws on the board. This is where the real error was made IMO(we will be charitable in calling the pre-flop call and flop mini-bet 'smaller' errors!)

We expect EP to bet (based on history), we know that drawing hands will call (based on loose-passive table), there are 4 opponents to bet into (making flush and straight draws almost a certainty) and these players are less likely to bet since:

a) They are passive and wait for the nuts before betting!

b) They have just seen a mini-bet from a known loose-aggressive (bad!) player and may be wondering what is going on.

But there is another argument for betting out here, if anyone has made a monster draw (flush + partial wrap + overpair for example) and was thinking of betting then surely the same player will raise a bet from mr EP!?!?

So here are some outcomes from a bet:

1) Everyone folds.... unlikely though possible (if this is the case Mr EP was unlikely to have made much more than a half-pot bet on this hand anyway)

2) A Re-Raise - strong draw builds the pot for him (not really concerned about a straight flush.,.. just too unlikely) or tries to chase him out with a big semi-bluff

3) Callers - chasing their straights and flushes...

Here is the bottom line in a long winded post (!) in order to make any money out of the (probable) drawing hands out there the guy with the 10's needed to bet while they still had a chance of making their hands.... this would probably have got some calls... and even better possibilities would have arisen on the river....

Had a straight card or a club have come in on the river it would have been possible to get some value from the quads based on a larger pot... for example $7 instead of $3 (with one caller) or $12 with 2... by waiting until the draws were busted the EP guy erased any likelihood of getting paid off at all.

The moral of this story?

If you think opponents are drawing (and let us face it - in Omaha players are always drawing!) then get the money into the pot while they believe they have a chance of winning!

Oh, and do not limp 10-10-3-8 unsuited in early position either.

GL at those tables, Mark

PS: For many more Omaha strategy articles check out Omaha Planet today - banner at top right hand side!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

PSF Private Tournament Review + An MTT Win

Early days at the Poker Strategy Forums and only 14 made it to our first private tournament... with $250 added to the prize pool this meant a healthy $17.85c overlay for each player for the $5+50c entry fee... would not want any Plan3t Gong readers to say I do not look after them (! see invitation below from earlier in the week).

We did attract some 'overlay wh*res', players who like free money and signed up just to get it... thats ok - we wanted to kick the forum off with a bang and a few active new members will more than compensate over time.

I busted in 8th shoving my A6 from the button with around 10bbs left - SB had aces and even the 6 on the flop did not magically turn into 2 pair for the 5% suckout!!

On the bright side I won a 6-max $10 MTT on Tilt last night... only a smally with 164 entrants but been a while since I took one down and felt my plays were solid and well thought through right until the last.

Anyway, anyone wanting to be involved in the PSF community tournaments get yourself signed up and involved now - while we can not promise this big an overlay every time - we will look to make it worth everyones while!!

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SNG Planet / PokerStrategyForums Private Tournament Announced!

I mentioned a new partnership for SNG Planet was in the pipeline in a post at the start of the month. Time now for both an announcement and an invitation to Plan3t Gong readers to join our first forum private tournament this coming Saturday - we have added $250 from our own pockets to make sure this kick-off tournament is a success!

First a couple of words about the new partnership.

The site is a forum called the Poker Strategy Forums and has a fantastic look and feel, it also has the benefit of several Las Vegas pro's in the team who will be helping out with strategy questions. Oh and of course, the extra added benefit of Mark from Plan3t Gong / SNG Planet / Omaha Planet as the man behind the brand new SNGs board and the soon to be started MTTs board!!

It would be great to see some readers of Plan3t Gong / SNG Planet signing up - the plan is that we will provide an environment where strategy, sites and profitable play can be discussed without any of the negative sniping / trolling and back-biting you see on some of the larger established forums these days (I will personally make sure of this on the SNG and MTT boards).

So, to kick things off we are having a private tournament - with $250 added and only a $5 entry fee this should be a profitable as well as fun way to celebrate the start of our new community.

The tournament will take place at Full Tilt Poker this coming Saturday the 15th of March at 1PM EST... the tournament details are below:

Tournament Number: 42659112
Tournament Name: PokerStrategyForums
Time And Date: 1pm EST 15th March 2008
Game Type: No-Limit Holdem
Buy In: $5+50c (with $250 Added!!!)
Password: Available via PM on the morning of the 15th to all active forum members (your hosts will be around in case of any issues registering!)

If you do not yet have an account at Full Tilt Poker , remember to use bonus / referral code SNGPLANET will get you the maximum available 100% to $600 bonus.

Would be great to see some of the regular readers of both Planet Gong and SNG Planet in the tournament - look forward to debating the latest SNG News and issues with you all at the Poker Strategy Forums soon!!

GL at the tables, Mark

Sit N Go Planet Gets A Make-Over!

An over-due make over for Sit N Go Planet was uploaded yesterday. Complete with new logo and cleaner navigation buttons...

This is actually just next step in continual improvement for this site - we will shortly create an archive for some of the older (less read) articles and upload a new WSOP qualifiers section (probably next week for that)... in addition there is a big backlog of articles ready that have been waiting for the new-look to be completed first.

Let me know what you think -

GL At Those Tables, Mark

PS: Special Announcement coming very soon about a new partnership and a 'welcome' tournament with a nice overlay to the prize pool....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Are You Ready For The Big Tournament Payouts??

Here is something to think about.

How ready are you for a deep-run in a tournament, one where the money jumps are significant enough compared to your bankroll to matter??

Of course, there are several types of 'being prepared' to look at - todays thought concerns adjustments to strategy, particularly for short-handed tables. After all, you worked hard playing at full tables for many hours to reach the last few players.... it would be a shame if a lack of experience in this situation caused problems now, just as the money gets huge!

The end-game of MTTs begins with the last few tables, here you will start to play short-handed as the tables will not balance so fast... 6 and 7 handed the most common, where there are 9 seats the final 2 tables will get down to 5 players each on the final-table bubble... what adjustments should you make and how are these affected by chip-stacks and the experience levels of your opponents??

How about the very end? Heads-up play could make a difference of $1000's (or even 10's of $1000's) to the money you take... surely only a fool would get this far without at least a plan of how to adjust to the heads-up situation? ok, blind / stack ratios and opponent tendencies come into play, but you should at least know what hand is the 'average' heads up, right??!?

All very well asking these kind of questions... what are the possible solutions?

This is the thought to leave you with (for today at least)... this week I plan to look at 2 different areas and ask whether they could improve our play in the end-section of tournaments.

1) SNGs (both full-ring and 6-max)
2) Heads-Up Matches

In the mean time please feel free to suggest any other areas to include in a 'being prepared for the end of a tournament' theme!

GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, March 09, 2008

MTT Discipline...

Managed a deep but unsatisfactory 12th in a $33 MTT over at Party yesterday which triggered several lines of thinking related to what we can loosely term 'tournament psychology'.

The first of these concerns discipline. While it is a personal 'bugbear' by its very nature, hopefully a reader or two can relate... After 3 or 4 hours of concentrating, working out odds and stack size considerations, using the past behaviour of opponents to narrow their ranges, making the occasional 'move' and accumulating those chips... I, well, blow-up!

Exact circumstances and hands differ - however the theme is the same. For whatever reason I lose the focus which got me deep... try a re-steal against a player I know will call, peel off an expensive turn card which gives me just enough of a hand to lose all my chips, convince myself that an opponent 'must be bluffing' (and turn out to be right but lose to 3rd pair anyway).

There is certainly an element of frustration here, with many examples of deep-runs in tournaments being the victim of loss of focus. Now the first step to fixing this issue has been taken (no, not writing it here - that is the 2nd!).... after all you can not address a problem until you identify it!

GL at those tables, Mark

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ever Been Run Into The Nuts??

Here is a scenario that should sound familiar to many...

After some careful observation of your opponents in over several levels in a tournament the following situation comes up:

UTG: A loose and not very good player makes a small raise. This is the 5th small raise in the last 10 hands - we put his range as any ace, pair, any 2 broadway, any suited broadway and any suited connector (+ unsuited connectors 89+).

MP2: This player seems decent if a little tricky and has only shown down strong hands while quietly accumulating chips. He raises 3 times the UTG players bet. Having observed that this player prefers to raise smaller with monster hands we tentitively put him on a medium pair (8-8 to 10-10, or something like AQ or AJs).

Us... in the C/O: Wake up with 10's... a great spot and with only 20 BBs in our stack a fantastic chance to win a bunch of chips without a flight - and still have (most probably) the best side of a coin flip if we are called by MP2.... the chips go sailing in....


Wait for it...

The big blind wakes up with KK and we are on the way to the 'virtual rail'.

Yep, our careful observations of opponents turned out to be spot on - the UTG player had junk and the guy in MP2 had A10 'soooted' and pre-checked the flod button as soon as we raised.

Of course, it is not easy to account for the blinds waking up with a monster each time we contemplate making a move. What we can do though is at least to observe those players to our left. How many are still to act? Are there any very big or very small stacks? How experienced are these opponents - could they have seen what we just went through and call 'light' as a result?

Our stacks would need to be deep in order to get away from a decent hand in such circumstances. What I wanted to bring up as todays 'something to think about' was that there is always a risk from those yet to act... accounting for this either statistically (card distributions) or based on stack sizes / tendencies might just save our stack one day...

GL at those tables, Mark

PS: Down in Kiskunhalas (south Hungary) enjoying the hostpitality of the in-laws at the moment... back home tomorrow to resume normal blogging service.

PPS: Still ok with the non-smoking after 3 weeks, though still get those cravings almost every day at some point!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Micro Stack SNG Bubble Play - Part #3 - Folding??!?

Time for part #3 of my series on the options we have to play a 'micro-stack' of less than 2BBs at (or close to) the SNG bubble.

If your opponents undertsand the mathematics behind SNG bubble play (ICM and when not to use it!) then you are in trouble with a micro stack and will need some good fortune to get back into the game.

However, opponents in the lower limits (or even mid-limits away from the biggest poker sites) are not always rational, mathematically minded players for whom every move is designed to maximise their $ev... the reality is far from this, especially in the smallest buy-ins

The question I'd like to pose today is this:

Assuming opponents with no idea about SNG bubble strategy, what likelihood of them 'bursting the bubble for us' would be required in order to attempt to fold into the money??

You will notice that this question has an implied assumption that we are trying to cash only - not to win... we'll try and factor that in some other time.... this post is really to excercise the grey matter as to how to quantify the fact that others may 'donk you into the money' rather than being an excercise in mathematical precision...

So, here is our hypothetical situation *($ equity before posting in brackets of $100 prize pool)

UTG: 3000 ($30.89c)
Button (Us!): 500 ($7.32c)
SB: 3000 ($30.89c)
bb: 3000 ($30.89c)

With blinds at 150 / 300 (and not about to go up) we have 6 hands here before being forced all in with just 50 chips left for the 2nd BB.

Now, for each hand that passes there is a non-zero chance that someone busts and our equity increases from $7.32 to $20 for 3rd place, a healthy increase of $13.68c

There are a couple of ways to look at things from here:

If we take a percentage chance of the bubble bursting as X we can look at the $ev fold as actually being bigger by X for each hand, if you estimate a 20% chance per hand of the donks busting you into the money then $ev fold = $13.68 / 5 or +$2.74c... with a 10% chance we have + $1.37c.... so, if we plan to make a 'move' with our micro-stack we need to use a higher $ev fold than the 'pure ICM' would suggest (at least at the lower SNG buy-ins!)

The other way of looking at this is to calculate an approximate chance that you'll be 'gifted' 3rd place over 6 hands and use this as the basis for your ICM call / fold decision making. I make it a 66% chance of a 'gift 3rd' using 20% for each hand (probably high even at the $5 SNG level) and a 40% chance a 'gift 3rd' at 10% chance each hand (more realistic?).

Using these figures to increase our $ev fold we get:

- 20% / Hand 'Gift 3rd'.... $ev Fold base number = $12.15c
- 10% / Hand 'Gift 3rd'.... $ev Fold base number = $8.05c

Well, we reached the end of this post with a conclusion (that the fact that lower buy-in donks do not understand SNG Bubble strategy increases your expectation when folding in terms of prize pool equity!), and a way to roughly calculate this (!). What we are missing is a practical application in decision making... to illustrate this we need to find a hand that would have been a 'call' according to ICM that now becomes a 'fold' with the 'gift 3rd' chances factored in....

Will find one for you - but not today... duty calls.

Check out SNG Planet (banner top right) for an intro to ICM for SNGs if you are not quite sure about the terms used here.

GL at those tables, Mark

Poker Affiliate Business - End Of Month Update #2

Time for a look at my Poker Affiliate Business for Feb 07 - and at some exciting plans for this month...

Will start with the players who signed up through my sites... a little disappointed to miss my target of 1 per day, though we got pretty close with 25 'real money players' + 10 software sales, so should not complain really.

Seemed to be a larger proportion of downloads / signups without deposits during Feb than before- not sure whether this is natural varience or just the kind of visitors I am attracting... anyway, in $$$ terms my best month yet (as before if the players win then I win - so all the more reason to keep the quality strategy coming along!!).

Traffic increased to all 3 sites (including Plan3t Gong!) which is excellent news, the views per visitor also went up for SNG Planet which was one of my objectives - not sure if any PG readers have been over lately but I re-wrote a good few of the early articles recently towards this goal.

Other Poker Business Highlights From Feb:

- Omaha Planet finally got some love from Google during the last week in Feb (took about 5 weeks after the first indexing to show up for some popular search terms), we rank well for a few 'PLO' and 'PLO8' terms and are coming along nicely for some others too. Have some more content already written for this site which will be going up over the next week or so, along with some 'article marketing' to keep the links coming in.

- SNG Planet has had a re-design (no, it is not up yet - you are not 'seeing things!') with a great new logo and much 'cleaner' look and feel.... we have a lot of work still to do on cleaning up the main pages yet so the new look is probably another week away - it should make the site really easy to navigate too (going to start archiving some of the older / less visited articles as we have a lot of new content lined up for this site!)

- Poker Bonusz Klub is the name of our first Hungarian site, it is simple and looks great, focusing on bonus deals for now - with plently of room for strategy built into the design.... would have been up already only we needed to wait 2 weeks while some Magyarol beauraucrat stamps our application and sends back (all this after we have to get 'witnesses' to get a HU hosting contract... gotta love it here!). This will be up in the next few days, unless someone comes up with another hoop to jump through...once it is up the process of getting links begins - this is going to be more difficult for a HU site (less potential for 'natural' links from people who appreciate the site...) so will involve me offering content in exchange for links in a couple of different forms over at PAW....

- Stopped My Writing Service... have stopped writing for other poker websites for the time being. Just could not bring myself to do it anymore, even though I appreciated the opportunity to work with some of the best sites around as a 'ghostwriter' the decision had to be that my content stays on my sites for the time being (will reserve the right to go back to the freelance poker writing should I need the money... oh and about to get started on a non-poker writing project next week too!!)

Poker Business Plans For March

- A new partnership is about to start between SNG Planet and the , Poker Strategy Forums, this is a new forum - and thus will be a challenge to kick-start. What attracted me to this partnership was some of the people involved in the project, including some Las Vegas Pros. We are starting with a 'soft' launch to iron out any bugs and plan to increase the publicity soon... I will 'sponsor' the SNG and MTT forums (not active yet) which will be used to discuss SNG Planet articles as well as the usual hand / general questions... plan is to build a thriving poker community over the next few months which will benefit from the various experts and resources involved.... we will see!

- 2 New sites are planned, one is a strategy site and the other more focused on Bonuses / Bonus codes (the latter will be my first ) not 100% sure we will get both finished at this point (I will need to learn Dreamweaver as it is getting too much for Erika alone... I just write too fast!) but will certainly have some new strategy online ready to be indexed by the big G - whether there is an 'under construction' next to it or not...

- Should include the same bullet here as every month... to make this month better than the last in terms of players, immediate money earned and moving forward towards my $10k / month by October goal.

- One or two other smaller plans too... will keep those cards close to my chest (as they say in Poker (????)) for now.

As before - anyone has any specific questions about the poker business feel free to drop me a comment... just write 'do not publish' if you, erm, do not want me to publish...

GL at those tables, Mark

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Traffic Growth At Poker Sites - Comparison Table

Comparison of poker site traffic stats - click to enlarge

Some interesting numbers today concerning the growth (and otherwise!) of online poker sites - particularly in comparison to each other...

Firstly I would like to credit the source of these numbers. They came from the small poker community at via a thoughtful and experienced poster by the moniker 'wadofella'... in turn the numbers were picked up from pokersitescout over the 14 month period.

Right, thats out the way - what have we got and why is it interesting???

We have 2 'snapshots' of ring game (cash game) traffic at the leading poker sites taken approximately 14 months apart. These show the comparitive growth of the different poker rooms during this period... I've thrown together a quick exel spreadsheet which shows this change as a percentage and also shows the overall numbers.

The good news is this - over the last 14 months there has been a 55.77% increase in the amount of traffic seen at online poker sites! Actual average went from 30k to 47k... remember this is just the cash game traffic (usually more tournament traffic by a factor of 3 to 7 depending on the individual room).

Other notable snippets:

- Poker Stars is a long way ahead of its nearest rivals (tilt / party) and continues to grow strongly... even with Tilt growing somewhat faster the smaller base would mean it would take many years for Tilt to catch up (may work it out another day... could be interesting!).

- iPoker, that is Titan / CD Poker etc... significant growth for this network, sure they took some sites by taking over some smaller networks - but hey, massive growth for a non-US friendly site, currently doing battle with Party Poker for 3rd and would not suprise me to see these guys challenge Full Tilt as the global market continues to expand.

- UB Shrinking a little (again!)... what is it with this site... one of the originals, great software and fishy opposition - yet unable to win better market share. Well they have brought in Hellmuth and Annie Duke and upped the stakes a little with bonuses and loyalty schemens recently - we will see whether that makes a difference!

Oh well, enough of my observations - after all the numbers (albeit only a snapshot) pretty much speak for themselves.

GL at those tables, Mark

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