Saturday, May 31, 2008

Office Finally Happens!

Seems to have been ages since we first started down the road to moving the business from home into an office... probably only 6 weeks or so which is not so bad in the big scheme of things

This pic---> was snapped by Erika on her phone just as we were preparing to leave yesterday. We are letting a nice big room in a larger office, with room for at least 2 more desks comfortably at the end of the office the pic was taken from.

Location is great, overlooking Budapest's central 'Deak Ter' with fantastic views over to the Gellert Hill and some serious sunshine! Future blog posts will be brough to you from the left hand seat (since the aircon unit is that side and I suffer from the heat)

So, Monday a new era in productivity begins... we have achieved a lot in the last year with the setup of the Planet Empire - that, dear readers, was just the warm up....

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Has Anti-Absolute / UB Sentiment Gone Too Far?

Forum posts, websites even e-mails sent to me via my sites often have a theme in common these days.... anti-Absolute Poker (and more recently Ultimate Bet) sentiment. The latest rash of this started yesterday with the announcement of JohnnyBax as a UB pro.

Going to share my thoughts in today's post. Not so much to defend AP and UB, but to stimulate thought - and maybe debate - on the level of 'Militancy' which the twin scandals seem to have generated.

First my perspectives on the 'scandals'

Sure, the Potripper scandal was ugly. The AP reaction was awful at all levels with senior management being guity of complacency on a massive scale. BUT (an important BUT here (!)), think back to how obvious the cheating was, think about Potripper for a second - the way in which the 'scam' was carried out was completely transparrent to anyone even remotely experienced in MTT play... sure, it was an inside job, sure it was ugly - but it was also carried out by amatures. People seem to forget this - had this been a better organised team they could have got away with a lot more!

Agree, the UB stats of NoiNoi look unreal (though I am not personally convinced by any of the HHs yet... circumstancial rather than conclusive evidence). It is being investigated which is cool, the thing about this one is - a couple of experienced 2+2ers excepted - the majority of the 'screamers' here appear to be micro / low stakes players... come on guys, never in your wildest dreams are you going to be posting a HH from your 25c / 50c game as 'damning evidence' against a cheat.

Anyway - it was not the scandals themselves which I wanted to talk about. It is the militancy of those who believe that this group of poker sites is 'evil' and anyone associated with them has 'lost all credibility'.

So Militants, let me ask you a couple of questions.

1) Is it safe (from superusers) to play at AP or UB at the moment? Without a doubt these sites are being watched closely for anything unusual... so yes.

2) Since when did freedom to choose, by adults, what to do with their own money warrant savage attacks from teenage 'internet hardmen'... what I am saying here is if an adult, aware of the allegations against these sites, wishes to play there, then they are exercising their personal choice - what is it about a bunch of micro-grinders that they feel this excercising of basic freedom 'deserves' insults, flames and threats? (yes, I have seen all 3!)

3) Perspective - A final thought, lets get this in perspective right. Poker is a niche as far as the 'real world' is concerned (actually the real world thinks it is something similar to casino gambling on a computer (another story!!)). The amount of people affected by these 'scams' was low and the financial effect comparitively small (yes, I do call $50k small when we are talking about people who play $25 / $50 NL for a living!). Lets compare this with some of the scams and scandals out there in the real world, Enron, the selling of mortgages that could never be paid back, the destruction of the western worlds manufacturing base, the Equitable life pension scandal, the daily destruction of our shared environment, the war in Iraq, the forced enslavement of African nations by their debtors, global warming... every teenager loves a cause right? come on you 'keyboard hardmen' who get so excited about AP and UB... why not put your energy into something real??

Looking forward to receiving some well thought through replies... (love a debate!)... if you are considering dropping a comment containing nothing but a flame / insult then please save yourself the bother... I do not plan on publishing them.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, May 26, 2008

Misc Pokerage + Business Update

Instead of waiting until there is some 'news' or a new strategy theme its time for one of those bloggers type general updates which sometimes appear in this blog too... you know, how things are going at the tables... that kind of thing (!)

Enjoyed my first Poker Stars turbo Takedown yesterday... what a crapshoot it was too, managed 786th (I think) for $225 when I reshipped JJ into a raiser with around 12bbs only to run into aces (oops!). Actually turned down a couple of marginally +ev spots early when re-raised with medium pairs - for once the old 'no need to take a flip if your skill level is much higher' was true for me.... so I found better spots.

How about folding top full on the river in PLO when the board tripped up? - 7-K-4-7-7 being the final board, after he checked and called2 bets I knew my opponent was strong (he alway lead / re-raised with both draws and vulnerable hands previously and folded quickly otherwise) when he then bet the full pot on the river for 70% of his stack it had to be the case 7... I folded KKxx and bingo - he showed me the quads (with the last K too, though AAxx would also have me beaten). Felt good and I went on to win the HU match!

Only tried one 'Kill Phil' SNG so far - a Stars $16 turbo, folded until BB150 then shoved AK from mid positon.... button called with 88 (marginal eh?!!) and won the hand... will try some more before updating on this subject, one observation is that mini-raises really mess with this strategy (exactly the same with the 'Sklansky System' as I recall).

Finally we are ready to move into the office... monitors etc now installed. Tomorrow afternoon we go and start working from there - afternoon is for certain, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are in town for an open air concert tonight... it is 26 degrees C and I'm thirsty, which basically wipes out tomorrow morning. Will post some pics later in the week.

GL at those tables, Mark

Sunday, May 25, 2008

'Kill Phil' Poker Strategy - Suitable For Online SNGs? (Part #1)

Promised a couple of weeks ago I'd have a look at the strategy outlined in the book 'Kill Phil' and see if this is really suitable for online SNGs... My initial thoughts on this book were that the organization is poor, with a strategy outlined then 100's of exceptions building on other exceptions in the rest of the text. On the plus side the writing style is great and there are some excellent 'nuggets' in there which will help players at many different levels think about poker clearly.

Here I will outline the poker strategy that Rodman and Nelson put forward for SNGs and 1-table satellites... not in too much detail (you can always buy the book... only $20 or so!).

The next posts will divide a typical lower level SNG into 'early + mid' and 'bubble + ITM' and see what good and bad plays derive from the strategy.

Well, we can start with something that may seem suprising... the SNG Strategy outlined in Kill Phil is exactly the same strategy as they recommend for final tables of Multi-table tournaments... so, what exactly is this strategy:

- The basis of all play in Kill Phil is your CSI and CPR numbers (Chip Status Index and Cost Per Round not Crime Scene Investigation and Cardio-Pulmonary Resusitation (!)).
- These figures give you a stack size of 'Huge', 'big' 'Small' etc
- The hands are then organised into 10 handy 'groups' starting with AA, KK and going down to 2-gapper suited connectors
- Based on your stack size / position at the table / Action ahead and hand group you either raise all-in, bet 1/6th of your stack or fold (with occasional exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions as mentioned already).

So, the final table strategy...

1) Follow the 'Kill Phil Basic' until you are down to 6 players.
2) 4-6 players left: Lots more open shoving, quite a lot more re-raising - particularly with big / medium stacks.
3) 3-handed: Try and make a deal! (ok this is for the MTTs!), open shove groups 1 to 10, re-raise groups 1-8... move in every hand with small stack.
4) Heads-up: Move in every hand!

Well, seems crazy enough that it actually might work... I think the 4-6 players area will be the key - looks like I'll need to go back through the book and write down which hands in which position with which CSI and then try it out - maybe at a few different poker sites.

Anyway, in the process of setting up our office at the moment - desks / chairs / cabinets all put together yesterday (yep, suffering from 'Ikea Fingers') today we go and get monitors and other electronics... hope to have some photos by mid-week!

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poker Systems / Poker Psychology

(grrr, just had a long post 'eaten' by blogger... ah well, this is v2!)

A question: What makes you choose poker above alternative strategy games such as chess, bridge or video-games?

Now A Thought Experiment!

One day - while reading one or another of Mark's excellent websites (!) - you come across a secret and powerful super-tip that can win you a steady rate at the tables in fact it can increase your current hourly rate by 15% to $20 (or give you $10 an hour if you are not yet a winning player).

Sounds good right? We will say that you can average $5 more / hour and assume you are in Europe or North America (adjust as required for elsewhere in the world).

But there is a caveat.

This super-poker-tip is actually 'mechanical' it involves short-stacking (probably!) and you are not actually required to make any decisions, they are all laid out on a handy sheet showing you what to do in certain circumstances. You'll need to play 6 tables too - making doing other tasks somewhat difficult.

Would you do it for $10 an hour or $5 on top of your current hourly rate?


Too dull right? That would be my answer at least, sat on your own clicking a mouse and not having to think.... yuk.

So, we gave an (albeit imaginary) fool-proof way of increasing your income, which is apparently the reason that the vast majority of us give for choosing to play poker - and immediately you turn it down?

What is going on? Is the money important?

To most of us yes, to my mind (unless you are a poker pro, which 99% of us are not!) then it is actually far less important than we tend to believe. The enjoyment of the game, interactions with fellow players both in person and online, the challenges involved in moving up to new levels or getting to a final table and the 'buzz' of winning a big pot that you patiently set up your opponent for over the course of a session are all key.

Here is my personal perspective: If we kid ourselves that it is all about the money, we lose the enjoyment of the many other aspects of the game and end up feeling unhappy when we play... playing when unhappy leads to bad decisions which start affecting the bankroll (and into the loop they go, eventually giving up poker (and sometimes blogging too!))

I personally love the game of poker, the people and the levels of thinking involved - as a recreational player I have focused too much on the cash, time to step back, take a deep breath and be honest about the aspects I enjoy.... $10 an hour? No thanks!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chances of Set Over Set... Whoooahh

Played in rebuy satellite to the Sunday million yesterday... we were down to 4 or 5 tables and I opened the others to keep an eye.... how about this for a super-suckout-resuck, the chips were all-in pre flop!

Sorry about the chips on the cards - had to react fast to capture the screenshot.

Now what, as they say, are the chances of that??*

*Rhetorical question...

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: Just noticed the chip count of Dennis-Demon... lol

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Characters You'll Find In The Poker Affiliate Business....

... Time for a lighthearted look at the characters you'll find in the poker affiliate business.

After 9 or so months since I considered myself part of the business (started with the second version of SNG Planet which actually had the potential to convert, before this it was really just a bunch of my strategy articles on a website) I've come across many types, especially at , the poker affiliate community that I'm proud to be a part of:

#1 - Mr Freeloader

Has stumbled upon the concept of being an affiliate for poker sites and is almost delerious with the possibilities of becoming an overnight millionaire... when faced with the investment of $9 in a domain and $10 a month for hosting Mr Freeloader simply laughs. Why spend all this money when I can put up my banner farm on a blog and spend my time watching the money roll in??

6-months later: Gone.

#2 - Mr Pokah Playa

Failed online poker pro, knows all the sites, all the poker terms and maybe even a small group of similar players. Assumes that this makes his opinion more valuable than those of veterans of the business for many years. Answers every post on every subject for a short period of time, regularly demonstrating not only a complete absence of 'business acumen', but often creating an image of an irritating failed-poker player while actually thinking that he makes a valued contribution.

6-months later: Well, he got a couple of mates to sign-up for rakeback deals but was too busy giving others his opinion to actually learn about the business... sells site for a fraction of the income he could have earned each month... gone.

#3 - Mr Incentives (also known as Mr Back-Of-An-Envelope)

Biro in hand and envelope on table this newbie to the business works out that if he offers $50 to players to earn enough points to earn him $100 and gives them half then repeats 100's of times he could be stinkkkkkkking-rich. Then one day a brainwave hits... why bother recruiting real players at all... then I get to keep the whole lot! Usually first appears to complain that he has not been paid by one affiliate program or another, receiving around about the same amount of sympathy as if he'd just sh*t in the public swimming pool.

6-Months Later: Well, we can usually measure the lifespan of the true fraudsters in days, the deluded incentive guy who wants to do a better version of poker source may last a couple of months longer.. maybe.

#4 Mr Back-In-My-Day

Here we come onto the veteran of the business, he was a poker affiliate using mainframe valve-run computers while you were still in nappies (diapers for my US readers). This affiliate finds newbies in this industry intensely irritating and feels that it is his duty to put them down at every opportunity. The google ranking mechanism which favours age (and age of inbound links) will keep the veterans decidedly mediochre website high in the rankings for a good while yet - enabling him to gloat over the heads of these pesky newcomers about what fantastic deals he was able to get with the poker rooms.

6-months later: No problems here, there will be plently of newcomers ready to stamp on by then!

#5 - Mr Spammer

Has read internet bulletin boards such as the Warrior Forum (a very good resource but with a decidely spammy undercurrent) and knows the keywords like 'upselling your ebook', 'bonus offers', and 'JVs'... decides that working with other affiliates will help 'leverage the power of the list, and 'mutually boost our link juice'. Decides to send out e-mails, then more e-mails, then forum private messages, then more e-mails to the point of driving the recipients insane. In fact, one week I did not get a mail from a known 'Mr Spammer' and actually called my host to check that the system was still working.... fails to realise that the effect is actually to become 'black-listed' by many legitimate affiliates - missing out on the future JVs with those who could actually make a difference to the business.

6-months later: e-mail arrives, dear {firstname_fix} I have seen your website...

Just a quick disclaimer... any implied reference to real people in this post is 100% deliberate... if you believe that it is you then, yep, it most probably is.

Maybe next time I'll give you my good natured and serene views on forum and blog spammers in the poker affiliate game.... hmmmm.

GL at the tables, Mark

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Announcing My New Blog!

Happy to announce that my new blog is ready.

This will not replace Plan3t Gong (will be right back with more strategy including relating 'Kill Phil' to SNGs very shortly)... Melted Felt Blog is in fact a new idea - to cover poker news from a slightly different perspective...

Have plently more 'material' already written, will also be going out to those bloggers whose work I respect over the next couple of days to request link exchanges... if you have a blog and would like to do a blogroll ex then feel free get in touch.

GL at those tables, Mark

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Absolute And Relative Poker Profits

Are you happy with the profits you make from the virtual poker tables?

Have been mulling how a fairly well known psychological phenominon could apply to poker. Can not recall the details of any particular study, however the gist is that our wealth relative to our peers is a better indicator of happiness than our absolute wealth.

For example, say we earn $50k in a year and our friends / relations / peers all earn $80k - this is a recepie for being unhappy - even though that $50k might leave us with money to spare and the lifestyle we are content with... conversely we earn the $80k and our friends the $50, this feels good for our self-esteem.

Not exactly rocket science to see how this works in day-to-day life with aspirations of bigger cars, houses and more exotic holidays (or just more!) than our neighbours. My question is how prevalent this is in the world of poker, and whether this has a negative effect on many players who really should be happy with the profits they are making?

Leader-boards, leagues and ratings are huge in the world of online poker - indicating that there is a big demand for comparative ratings. After all, poker is a competative sport so it makes sense to judge our performance against peers, right?

I think 'wrong'.

There will always be a small percentage of very successful players in any game, poker even includes some transitory 'big names' who run good for their first couple of years.... the danger is that those players who compete for liesure as well as profits end up judging themselves against the top players instead of the masses.

Compare your profits with the top of the leaderboards on a number of sites (pocket 5's / stars / sharkscope / pXf to name but a few) and you'll feel small in comparison. Compare your success with the online poker population as a whole and you may well have every right to feel damn proud....

Lets start with a small fact - if you are a profitable poker player you are already ahead of 75% of all your peers. Furthermore, if you beat the rake on a consistent basis each month, even for a small amount or with some 'bad months' in-between then you are already better than 85%!

So, it is your absolute poker profits that are the king - make sure you compare yourself to the masses and not just the top few percent.

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pacific | World Series Package Give Away

Commercial post today - but an unusual one in that there is a bit of a last minute frenzy over at Pacific Poker ( Poker) to publicise the final table of their $3 million World Poker Crown - and to do this they are giving away 4 * $17,000 WSOP packages over the next few days. Unfortunately Pacific are not US-Friendly at the current time.... non-US players read on:

The final table of the WPC is taking place in Spain on Thursday - by registering on the WPC site and voting for who you think will win you'll get entry to 3 tournaments with prizes of the packages.... here is how it works.

In order to qualify for the World Poker Crown WSOP Give Away at Pacific Poker you need to vote for who you think will win the WPC at this website (you'll need your Pacific user name to do this!)

Here are the links you need details of the freerolls below:

For existing Pacific Poker Players - World Poker Crown Final Table Site (register and vote)

To Register Your User Name - Visit Pacific Poker Now (you'll need a user name to do so!)

For those who do not know Pacific here is a Detailed Pacific Poker Room Review

(disclosure: these are my affiliate links)

Pacific Poker WSOP World Poker Crown Give-Away #1.

$1 Entry Tournament at 20:00 GMT for all who register and vote with a $17,000 Pacific Poker WSOP Package up for grabs

Pacific Poker WSOP World Poker Crown Give-Away #2

8 * $525 Supersatellite tickets are up for grabs in 8 separate freerolls held from 08:30 on Friday the 9th May. The requirement for this is that you join the forum and make a post on the dedicated World Poker Crown page...

Pacific Poker WSOP World Poker Crown Give-Away #1.

Finally an additional freeroll with 3 Pacific Poker WSOP packages up for grabs - this is open to all who end up 'voting' for the winner of the World Poker Crown (nope, I have never heard of any of the field either!). This one will be held on Saturday at 20:00 - thats a pretty big prize package just for registering your name and making the correct guess as to the winner!

Well, I'm going to vote - no need to look a gift $17k in the mouth.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Found A Leak!

Thinking about your own play and finding leaks to plug is known to be a profitable way of improving your game. I'm certainly no exception and managed to spot a new leak which may even open the door to a psychological breakdown of my play (and thus further improvements later).

Will show you a scenario... holding a pair say 10's (can be any mid to high pair). I raise in middle position and am called by 1 opponent who has position on me.

Flop comes something like 2-8-Q or 4-4-J (no obvious draws and just one overcard). Here I frequently get in trouble, since these flops are so 'dry' and the chances my opponent has the specific overcard paired are low I fire away 'not believing' the signs that should make the warning bells start to ring...

Of course, it can be argued that these flops are so good for continuation bets that my opponent does not believe me!

If I were a high level player there could be something in this... however, at the lower to middle limits there is little point assuming that your opponent is thinking on any level than "wow I started with Jack-Queen off and hit the best possible pair - think I will slowplay it to show the table how great I am at poker!!"

What to do about this leak is another matter entirely, giving up too early seems a bit passive / weak... believing turn check-raises would be a good starting point. Have a feeling that this kind of situation falls all the way back to one of the oldest poker sayings of all:

Don't Go Broke In An Unraised Pot!

Gl at those tables, Mark

Monday, May 05, 2008

Poker Affiliate Business - End Of Month Update Time Again

Still at the 'in-laws, this trip to sunny Kiskunhalas was made considerably brighter by the arrival of the local wine festival. Think of a stage surrounded by little stalls each run by a local vinyard, you get to test the wines for around $1 a glass - some award winners among them too!

Anyway, business update time.... April was the best month yet (following a trend of best months yet!). The breakthrough this month, with the help of selling a couple of advert slots, was to more or less equal the money I would have earned from my former corporate life... the opportunity cost of not working as a 2nd line manager / senior PM in a blue chip is significant so this is no small achivement. Just need to ensure that we keep it going (and growing).

Even with the best month, most players and biggest traffic stats, May had its frustrations. The translation project got off to a bumpy start and we did not move forward with the Holdem strategy site as much as expected. The translation will still go ahead, this month SNG Planet will be in Hungarian, this will then allow us cheaper translations into Russian and German in June / July with more to follow at the rate of 1 a month after that (plently of people with 2 languages here, less with 3).

The biggest change this month will be to move the business out of home and into an office. Down to 2 possibilities now, and will find out which one moves forward this week. This will have its expenses... monitors + desks + second printer +++ (big list) but will be really great in terms of productivity... will give us the boost we need to hit $15k a month by the end of the year (my latest new target!)

In addition to the translation and holdem site this month we plan to get the comedy poker news site up shortly, have some material ready (some silly, some more cutting) already. We also plan to add a basics / rules section to the PB Klub and to add some more articles to all of the sites.

Just a shorty on the business front this month. Plan on a couple more posts updating this side of things as we go through the month... including my (tounge in cheek) breakdown of the different characters you meet in the poker affiliate business and updates on the move.

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: Just a quick reminder about my 'social bookmark widget' at the top of the right hand column of Plan3t Gong. If you enjoy the updates here please take a moment to bookmark us to one of the many social bookmarking sites out there (stumbleupon / / reddit etc etc)... always greatly appreciated!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

SNG Strategy And The "Kill Phil" Premise

Off to the in-laws this morning for a weekend of getting over-fed, offered too many drinks and generally not understanding a word anyone is saying. Thinking of using the break from routines to have a longer-term / bigger-picture business planning session.... we will see.

Here is something to think about.

The book 'Kill Phil' is all about leveling the playing field against better players by making them either fold or lay down all of their chips to your all-in bets. It does not give you an inherent advantage in a poker tournament to use this system, more negates the skill factor that very good opponents have in their favour over time.

One of the early ideas in this book explained why a 'pro' might decline a coin-flip with the odds in their favour early in a tournament.

The idea itself is simple.

If your average expectation for the tournament as a whole is 35% (made up numbers to illustrate the point) and a situation early comes up with a clear margin in your favour of 20% - that would eliminate you from the tournament if you lose... then the pro would actually be taking 15% the worst of it - when compared to their expecation of playing many small pots instead of gambling on one big one.

Of course - you'd need to be pretty confident in your ability to grind your stack up to turn down a nice edge like that... but the logic of the argument is clear - in Sklansky terms this is turning down a bet today in order to have more profitable bets tomorrow.

So, all very nice - but how does this relate to SNGs?

In several ways actually. Firstly let us think about those very early game situations where you are forced to make a decision for all of your chips. Say, for example, that you consider yourself exactly 50/50 vs your opponents range - yet there is 200 in 'dead money' in the pot.

Calling would be acceptable here right (with 1000 stacks, on average you will win 1200 for every time you lose 1000 here - making your average profit 100 chips... amost 10%).

But wait - what if your average expectation in this level of SNG was 20%? Would it still be'correct' to take a 10% (approx) 'gamble' early on???

For me there are two lines of thinking here... one that such bets are already included in our ROI, secondly that the majority of profits are derived from the bubble (or more accurately your opponents errors at the bubble) which makes it even more important not to gamble early.

Something to think about.

Will relate this same concept to later game play in a future post.

Cheers, Mark

Friday, May 02, 2008

Dealing With SNG Downswings - A Perspective On Poker Variance

Another link to SNG Planet...!

We have a new article by Albatross77 up on the site. This one talks about the 'fantasy' and 'nightmares' of variance in the game... there are so many people who mistake 'running good' with above average poker ability over a small sample - and they are often very confused when the inevitable reversal happens.

SNGs Running Good and Dealing With Downswings - Albatross77

I am always interested in hearing from new writers, especially those with proven winning records online (no 'pro copywriters' required as I do this piece myself!). I have niches including SNGs, Tournaments and Omaha all looking for some excellent articles!

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, May 01, 2008

World Series Final Table Delay - Its Now Official

After rumors for some considerable time it now looks like a 'done deal' - the World Series of Poker 2008 final table delay is confirmed.

The main event this year will run as normal in early july, once down to 9 players there will be a break until November the 9th - when the final table will be televised live.

Here is a link to USA Today's Article on the subject (will open in a new window)

What do you think of the delay to the final table of the world series main event? Good for the game? bad? Irrelevant to your day-to-day existance??

There is an 8-page detailed look at the Best World Series Satellites over at SNG Planet - we'll see you in November!

Cheers, Mark