Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 80 / 20 Rule And Poker

Quick Thought time... the pareto principle is common knowledge these days and has a great number of applications. Reminded of this in the 'Black Swan' which I just finished up, and would like to relate this to poker - or more specifically the percentage of winning players and (importantly - the proportion of their winnings)

What Taleb did in the Black Swan book was simple yet beautiful... he said that the 80/20 rule must, by definition, also be the 50/01 rule.

Here is why - and how I see this working as a player, observer and businessman in the online poker world.

1st Level: 80/20 - 20% of the players make 80% of the money... no big leap of imagination required to see why this is the case, maybe its more like 90 or 95/20, but this is not important for this thought experiment.

2nd Level: 80/20 now we take our population of profitable players sharing the money and look at the distribution of poker cash between them.... its something like 80/20 again - that is of the profits made by the 20% of all players, 20% of those players are taking most of it.

3rd Level: 80/20 we are now looking at the top 4% of profitable players, and of course there are still many 1000's of them... yet 20% of these 'top rank' will be taking 80% of the profit.

And so on....

It is bound to stop somewhere soon - after all there is a finite pool after a certain point in buy-in levels... I liked the simplicity of the thought process - it is easy to see how the top 1% are sharing 50% (or more) of the cash while the average player struggles for the rest.

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Confirmation Bias #3 - Finding Our Own Leaks

Well, a couple of psychological posts below on 'Confirmation Bias and the 'It's Rigged' Generation' outlined by ideas about the difficulty in finding our own leaks and bad habits on the virtual poker tables - since we tend to look for evidence that 'we were right but unlucky' rather than evidence that we were 'wrong'.

All very nice in theory - but how can we use this information to break down our own games with a view to improving? After all we are far more likely to look through a hand-history street-by-street for a hand that we lost than for one that we won!

There are no clear answers, more a list of suggestions... Would be great to see a few ideas from readers fleshing these out, adding to the list or just plain disagreeing (always did enjoy a heathy debate!)

- Training Sites... meh, not my favorite - have been a member of PxF for a long while and enjoy the videos but has this really improved my game as much as say, reading strategy books or online articles. On the fence really, like it enough to keep up my membership!

- Books... sure thing - great and cost effective way to challenge your ideas, wonder though how much of the time something comes up that is different to your own style - you try it and it does not work... thought process then becomes that the book does not relate to the reality of the lower limit tables rather than refining your games. Oh and do not even consider paying $70+ for a 'secrets' ebook, however convincing the banners / website - I have seen many of these through the business side and they are universally sh*te... really, just by a Sklansky book instead!

- Forums... well, there are comparitively few places you can post a hand and get a sensible reply these days. Forget P5's - home of the sh*tiest kids on the poker block (a genuine shame that they lost control, as this used to be a decent forum) - 2+2 is fine if you are willing to accept that there is a 'correct way' of playing each hand over there and try not to deviate from it... you need to be committed enough to do this and have the right people come back with thought provoking advice.

- Software... I have covered SNG wiz before (review on SNG Planet) as a great way of analysing your hand histories. Poker Tracker / Poker Office have the database functions which allow you to see which hands you are losing money with too. $100 may seem like a lot to many lower level players, but this could be the single best poker investment you ever make... lets face it when we are talking about 50 British Pounds, 70 Euros or 100 USD it is hardly a large sum in the context of real-life.

- Peer-Review... tried this a couple of times when I was new to SNGs with some 2+2 posters, we sent each other hand histories and reviewed - one of the 2 was successful for a couple of weeks and did show up some dubiuos plays. Useful if you can find someone in the right place at the right time.

- Manual Hand History Review... should really be part of every serious poker players game. Either you capture interesting hands as you go or save them all and run through (hand replayers can help here). This feature is available at PxF and was very useful the few times I actually used it (realised I was folding too much!)

- Single Table / Articulate Decisions - Here is something I have tried too... cut down to one table and articulate (speak) your decision making process aloud. 'I am raising because...' , 'this opponents play suggests he has either X or maybe Y therefore I... Z'. OK it sounds stupid at the time but this is a way of spotting leaks... every time you are unclear as to why you are doing something then admit it, and take the hand-history for later... it might just make you a lot of money!

- Exercises At The Tables... getting to the end of the list now, excercises such as 'never calling' can give you new perspectives on the tables, how about playing without looking at your cards? or making 'non-opimal' plays to see how your opponents react? Plently of possibilities here, just need to switch it up long enough to clarify your thinking processes.

Well, there may well be some more, but this post has got long enough already... over to you - what do you think is the best way to spot those elusive leaks??

On a more personal note I'm off down south for a weekend party named Kis-Kun-"Dallas"... well its on a farm (ranch!) and in KisKunHalas... which sort of rhymes with Dallas in Hungarian....hmmm

Gl at the tables, Mark

Announcing... My Last New Site (Well, For A Couple Of Months!

The fact that I will not be creating any more websites for at least 2 months may seem like a strange thing to be happy to announce... yet I'm actually really exitied about the next couple of months - which will be spent sharpening the existing portfolio and (finally) sorting out the translations (which are well underway!).

So - - this is another small site, this time aimed squarely at the new player. The tagline is Best Online Texas Holdem Games which should give an idea of the types of searches we will be targeting.

At around 30 pages the fundamental idea is again based around well written quality information. If I am going to send a player to a poker room then I actually want them to win over time! We considered what those people new to poker were more likely to be searching for in the 'Holdem' area... while it is probably very basic for the average Plan3t Gong reader, we hope that this will be a good resource for those who have heard of Holdem and fancy giving it a try.

Ah well, will outline my plans for not creating any more sites in my usual 'start of month' business update... its going to be a crazy month of SEO, re-writes, organisation and adding value all round!

Here is the link to the new one again Best Online Texas Holdem Games

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Confirmation Bias #2

A great example of the psychology of (mis)understanding what you see at the poker tables came from Yorkshire Pud (see comment in the post below). Here not only was the play not understood by opponents and the result 'confirmed' to them that it was bad... there was another aspect - the agreement of peers to further re-enforce an opinion.

Kind of beats the example I was going to give to start part#2 - but hey!

This came from a WSOP freeroll thingy on Stars last weekend.... 4000 odd players and 3 spots paid with a seat. My bustout hand was actually an error - I check-raised all in from the SB with 9=7 sooted on a 6-8-3 board - stacks were perfect for this move in the mid-game... only problem was I assumed I had fold equity against exactly the hand that called me (j-8) and was insta-called. No good blaming the call in my world, I should have seen it coming and made my decision accordingly.

Oops - that was an aside! Meant to continue with my confirmation bias / blame luck theme, this time for the very inexperienced freerollers.

What was happening again and again in the freeroll was that players were betting like this:

- Suited cards, highish cards, low pairs = Limp
- Decent but not great hands 10's, J's, A-Js = Raise a lot (4+ BBs)
- Premiums = Min-raise (or even worse min-reraise)

This worked because there were very few observant players around (and those that were observant tried to get people with j-8 to fold too often!). The thing is it was actually the majority of the table playing this way... if they mini-raised I folded without a 'big pot' hand (pair / connector etc to hit a flop hard).

Now, lets look at the perception of the players making these hands they feel invincible pre-flop, get scared of losing their audience. The small raise gets money into the pot without making anyone fold for sure - but as experienced players will realise, playing a raised multi-way pot out of position is not ideal for QQ / JJ / AQ etc (or even the better hands than these).

So, the bets would be small on the flop too, giving any player who cared to take it a good price to draw. Inevitably the QQ lost (well, a decent proportion of the time) and was 'shown' by the player in the end... along with a comment along the lines of 'nice catch' or 'joker-stars' etc

Now - another long background piece. Here then is the thinking point: We tend to look for evidence in the outside world that confirms our beliefs or behaviours, and downplay evidence that contradicts or threatens these beliefs.

And the rub: This holds back the poker player, in a number of situations, from being able to objectively improve their play... since many bad plays, both subtle and (like the one above) screamingly obvious are re-enforced by winning those occasional big pots - or by seeing that we had the best hand and so were 'correct but unlucky' (once again).

Well, a lot of words here - will continue this theme with some thoughts about how exactly we can break through our in-built bias and really start to work on our games!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confirnation Bias and the 'It's Rigged' Generation

This post is actually the combination of some unconnected events, firstly my current read of 'The Black Swan', second a freeroll I played yesterday for a WSOP seat (out in around 800th place - squarely beating 75% of the field and winning absolutely nothing) and finally some separate thinking concerning 're-tooling' my own game...

Just in case some of the points below sound a little too philosophical we can start with the conclusion of the post.

Human nature largely causes us to for confirmations of beliefs and behaviours, we look for evidence that we are right before we search for evidence we are wrong. This leads to potentially 'bad plays' in your poker game being re-enforced as being 'correct', when in fact they are horrible (!). What is more there is a tendency to blame external events (that bad river!) for those times our 'obviously good' play loses money. The conclusion of this can range from going broke through to leaving some money on the table or preventing yourself moving to the next level.

My conclusion is that we need to stop looking at any 'move', 'style', 'system' or 'method' in the play of each hand from the perspective of what works - to stop searching for evidence that 'we were right but got unlucky', and start focusing instead on the weak points in our game... sure it is easier to say than do - but if you do not acknowledge that you have a lot to learn (whatever level you play) they you will not even begin to take the steps to improve your game.

So, we started with the conclusion.

Ok, best come up with some examples to illustrate what got me there.

I'll break these down, it will take more than one post to do it. Let us look start with a $10 SNG - the bread-and-butter of the online poker world! It is the bubble and our player who is reasonably smart but not experienced in this form of the game faces an all-in from the button from the big blind. He looks down to find A-8 and calls finding that his 'fish' opponent had pushed Q-8 off...

haha, thinks our player - I knew that big stacked monkey was pushing a huge range, and my call with my second biggest stack really showed him! The call is correctness of the call confirmed, he wins the SNG - our players ROI looks great after 100 and then 250 games.... after 500 games things are looking like they are on a downward slope and after 1000 he gives up SNGs as the 'push monkeys' make this a game of no skill.

So what happened?

Experienced SNG players will realise that a call like this may well cost you $5 every time you make it (sure you might gain $2 in equity from being a 'big stack bully'). Over time it was destined to become a losing play.

Yet the confirmation, the reward was there to see... he was 'right'.

Losing money over time was just a case of being 'good but unlucky' (like the 80% of poker players who lose money claim to be!!). The 'Its Rigged defense'.

This post is not about the correct play at the bubble of SNGs - it is one of many that will try and explore the thought processes required to be a winning poker player. I believe that finding your own 'confirmation traps' is a big step, and will look at other examples for different forms of the game over the coming week.

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2 Ways Of Thinking About 'Playing To Win' In SNGs...

An old subject came back onto the Plan3t Gong radar today, that of the polarization between the 'Play To Win' and 'Play To Cash, Then To Win' SNG camps... the great thing about this debate is that both sides are adamant that they are 100% right, yet there are very few who could back up their assumption with statistics.

Let us refresh the grey matter with a look at the arguments / profiles of each camp and before we go on to look at the often overlooked factors which affect these.

The 'Cash First, Win Later' camp will tell you that making a -$2ev call at the bubble will cost you those $2 over time no matter what. These players are usually the pro SNG grinders with an excellent understanding of push / fold (icm) poker and 1000's of games experience.

The 'Play To Win' camp argue that reaching 3rd without a big stack will never pay for those times you bust out - thus the correct strategy is to 'swap' a couple of 4ths for a 1st or 2... the jump in the prize money makes up for the busts. While some notable pro grinders use this logic to some extent this is usually the view of non-specialists (this argument works very nicely in MTTs after all... why fear the bubble when taking a chance there can give you a realistic shot at the final table??).

To my mind there are elements of both arguments which are useful in visualising a winning strategy, there are also major flaws in sticking to one side only.

- The 'Play To Cash' proponents do not take into account the future dynamic at the table when considering whether a bubble call is +$ev, for example if winning a hand when 5-handed would give you 4400 chips and each of 3 opponents just 1200 each at the bubble then taking one dollar in equity 'the worst of it' has given you the opportunity to accumulate several dollars in prize pool equity that you could not have gained with a medium stack.

- The 'Play To Win' proponents often fail to account for the $ equity they loose (especially with weak calls), this most often manifests itself in calls that cost 15% (or more) of the equity in play such as calling a bubble all-in with Ace-rag, no amount of 'wins' can make up for the size of such a mistake... or putting it another way, if you have a ROI of 15% and then take a -15% situation every game you become a break even player over time regardless of your finish distribution... since your finish distribution is already factored into the 15% ROI!

The next factor to take into account applies to both sides or the argument... skill.

If you are taking a -$ev risk in order to win then you'd better know exactly how to use your big stack to its maximum advantage - so as not to give away any futher prize pool equity. If not then you are not really 'playing to win'... more 'taking the worst of it to get a big stack that, while improving your chances, only gives you a limited edge'.

For the 'Play To Cashers', what if waiting for that +$ev spot leads to you losing your fold equity? Say you turn down a marginally -$ev spot while waiting, and see shoves that you can not call ahead of you for the next 6 hands (including your blinds) by the time you get to shove in a +$ev situation it might well be too late... you'll be called wide because you can not hurt your opponents chances! And wait a minute here, if you are really going to turn down an opportunity to be the dominant stack at the bubble with only a marginal ev risk then you'd better be damn sure you can play all the upcoming bubble situations perfectly.

The final factor I'd like to introduce is the skill level and predictability of your opponents... in the tradition of Planet Gong being the blog that likes to get you thinking I will not discuss - in the context of the above points it should seem obvious that this affects both camps... especially since a fish at the bubble does not only kill their own chances, he spews your equity too!

Anyway, whether you play SNGs to win or play to cash - GL at those tables!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

PLO8 Tournament Anyone?

Working like a dog at the moment (I know a lot of people say this... but really, I feel like a hound!) lots of projects on the boil to announce soon.

While Omaha Planet has been updated a few times recently with new articles, and has seen a slow but steady rise in visitors, I thought it was time to breathe some life into this site with a money added tournament!

So, at great expense to myself we are announcing a $100 added $2 PLO8 tournament this coming Sunday the 22nd of June. The last couple of tournaments we held attracted small fields and were a lot of fun (no crying allowed in a $2 tournament!)... this means you can visualise the $100 in free prize money as $8 each (or whatever, depending on the field)... not bad.

Anyway - the idea is to get some traffic to Omaha Planet... so if you want more details + the password then head right on over - would be great to see a bunch of Plan3t Gong readers at the tables!

Omaha Poker Planet

Cheers, Mark

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back In The Office

Been a hectic few days, had my father visiting us here in Budapest which was great - now back in the office with a list of things to do longer than ever!

Have myself a copy of 'The Black Swan' by Nassim Taleb, only just started it and already hooked. For those who do not know this is an economics + political / social commentary about the difference between our perception of historical events and how they actually happen. Going beyond the usual psychological 'weighting' of closer events into a theory of how 'unknown unknowns' actually shape history in great leaps - while we sit assuming that things somehow gradually 'evolve' or 'progress'. If there is not plenty of scope for reflection with poker by the end of the book I'll personally eat my hat. He does seem a little down on Plato too... which leaves me plently of extra room for future arguments - debating the fantastic ideas of Plato being one of life's pleasures for me (yeah, they were f*cked up ideas for sure - but what fantastic f*cked up ideas!! And all those years ago too!!)

Eating, drinking (yep, a bottle of 12 year-old Irish Malt as well as many many beers) and tourist attractions including the fantastic view from a medieval castle at Visegrad on the Slovak border, and soaking in Thermal baths have been the order of the days - rather than anything poker related. If I get through my busy schedule today then a little dabble at the tables could well be the order of the evening!

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Poker Affiliate Business.... A Few Interesting Websites...

Those with a longer memory will remember my weekly SNG / MTT Digest, listing worthy sites / threads and articles from around the web...

Well I may not have the time to compile such things these days, but that does not mean that interesting sites do not come turn up now and again, couple of examples below of sites that I have had bookmarked for a little while (well not too long!) and think are worthy of some linkage... these focus on the business side of poker, was planning on a post of my favourite non-poker websites at some point down the line too...

1) New Poker Affiliate - This site belongs to a gentleman by the name of Greg who also owns a couple of quality poker strategy sites. Went back for a look the other day and noticed that the number of articles on the poker affiliate business has seriously grown. If you are a blogger looking to generate a little $$$ or a serious affiliate then there is a bunch of great advice and info at this site... tagged Promote Poker, Make Money

Promote Poker, Make Money

2) Nat Arems Blog, Common sense and business acumen combined with the ability to write... a rare breed indeed. Nat's blog covers many of the hot poker news topics as well as his business deals (some of the bigger ideas / sites out there are involved) certainly worth a visit, in fact worth an entry on my blogroll... ok, done.

Nat Arem's Blog

3) Raise The River, watched this one grow from a list of blogs, then a forum and now into a thriving poker community with many features over the last year or so... I have a lot of respect for the job that Burnley Mick and his team have done with this site - it is no mean feat to succeed in the crowded forum space either!

Raise The River

Ah well, there are a few more, think I'll save them for another month!

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

World Series Of Yawning? Oh, And A General Update!

General update again today, will get to the title shortly.

Wanted to start with an update on moving into an office... and the news here is very good in terms of productivity. Just spent the last 3 hours focused 100% on some (rather tedious as it happens) tasks that would have taken an entire day back with all the distractions of home. Have yet to sort out the routine properly (4am drinking and mornings in the office never went together too well...) but already a huge improvement - moved some things forward this last couple of weeks that will make a huge difference to my business down the line.

On a personal note my Father is visiting us here in Budapest for a long weekend. Really looking forward to it (and not just because he brings 15 year old malt with him!).

On another personal note after my mini-blogging-blow-up in April I feel much happier with the direction of Plan3t Gong... more general / psychological and opinion, enjoyed those deep-down strategy concepts, but they could never go on indefinitely in a blog - turns out there are times in the life of a blog when you just have to move on....

And finally to the title... a question really, all that build up to the world series of poker, satellites, previews, debates on blind structures and new events, final table delays to get a buzz going... and now it has started in earnest... and I just remembered from previous years that it is actually quite dull!

Anyone else feel that way, or am I just getting old and grumpy??!?

On second thoughts you'd best not answer that.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Classic Tread Revisted - Gigabet's 'Almost There With Success And Failure'

Something different today, going to revisit a 2+2 thread that used to be required reading for all aspiring poker players. First penned in Feb of 2005, Gigabet's 'Almost There With Success And Failure' has stood the test of time very well indeed.

For this post I'd like to introduce the piece to those who have not yet read it, and highlight the key points for those old hands (like me??!?) who would like a quick refresher!

Here is the post in the 2+2 archives: Gigabet's 'Almost There...'

Mark's 5 Minute Guide To What All That Heavy Sh*te Really Means.

1) Whooaaa, where did all the philosophy come from?

It was triggered by a post from another highly regarded 'old school' 2+2er called Ireguy who wrote an interesting post about different psychological approaches to those inevitable downswings the game produces.... (not had a big one yet... ho ho ho... you just wait!).

2) What is all that stuff about failure then?

Well, that success and failure are relative and not absolute terms, that judging ourselves against others is counter-productive (since we will then never succeed, just move on to comparing ourselves to the next target until we eventually fail!) and that 'fear' of being a 'failure' and the 'shame' associated with this is what drives us to make irrational (ie negative expectation) plays at the poker table.

3) And Then Variance, lots of stuff on this...

Yep, Gigabets backs up the claim that most people do not realize how brutal downswings can be, agreeing with Ireguys point about the ones who feel that they 'do not deserve' the downswing being the most vulnerable to quiting. He then discusses how one approaches a downswing in terms of the success / failure axis. The point here is that we should stop thinking negatively about bad results, once we associate them with failure we are doomed. Once you associate the adverse results with feelings of personal shame you are far more likely to quit altogether to avoid feeling like a 'failure'.

4) In English Please?

Try not to be results oriented. A big downswing will hit everyone sometime, however good you think you are. Think about making the best decisions and don't go all gloomy... you are not failing or succeeding here, you are making a series decisions based on incomplete information in a card game - focus on making your decisions better instead.

5) Part #2 - The Cheerful Part!

Yes, Gigabet blesses us with his method for thinking about the game, checking every result and trying to work out the hands opponents have even when he has already folded. Solid and sensible advice.

He then concludes that once you have worked on this you must back up your judgement with some confidence... and here is the rub:

If you let feelings of 'failure' become associated with your downswing you will not confidently act on your reads, which will lead to losing more money... and guess what - you'll feel even more of a 'failure' and lose even more...

Well, it all makes sense to me... even in mid-2008!

GL at those tables, Mark

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Poker Affiliate Business - Spotlight On Poker Tools

Time for another business post. While the majority of my income from the 'Planets' comes from referring people to poker sites, my best poker tools section is also making a small (but growing!)contribution each month.

I currently work with 3 companies and have just introduced a 4th. This post will look at the tools that they offer, the pros and cons of each and the kind of visitor I am targeting for them... hopefully an idea or two for bloggers and poker webmasters out there.

1 - SuperPokerAffiliates

This is an affiliate site who bring together some of the best known tools under one 'roof'. I currently offer 2 of their tools. SNG Shark and Texas Calculatem, both are 'advice engines' which monitor play by reading the cards and offering odds / outs information (both on the Poker Stars 'allowed' list).

My personal view on these is that they seem pretty basic once you have a year or two experience with poker... but, wow, if I could have had them when brand new to the game they would probably have paid for themselves 10 times over in preventing stupid mistakes alone (ah well... too late!). The target is thus newer players and the adverts for these are in the beginner level articles.

The SuperPokerAffiliates website is well organised with prompt payments each month. Sales get you $50 to $55 in general, some buyers use the subscription option which nets you $17 instead. As an example last month I had a 4% conversion rate from unique clicks and double digit sales... plan to expand coverage of SPA tools (they have several others!) shortly as there are several aimed at cash game players and guess who has a site for this almost ready??!?

- Super Poker Affiliates (non affiliate link)
- Sit And Go Shark Review(Review On SNG Planet)
- Texas Calculatem Review(Review On SNG Planet)

If anyone out there would like to promote this brand then you can send me your name + contact e-mail via a comment (I will not publish it!) and I'll ship the info to the SPA team (would be appreciated!

2 - SNG Wizard

This one is an ICM calculator with some nice features, the idea is that you feed in your SNG hand histories and it shows you the (mathematical) winning and losing plays. Either this tool or one of its rivals (SNG Power Tools for example) is a must-have for pro SNG Players... without a solid bubble understanding of $ equity decisions the good old variance will catch up one day! Aimed at players with experience (newer SNG players do not think this applies to them), I have an advert in most of my ICM articles for this.

Sales for me are a consistant higher single digits per month... nothing special and certainly room for some improvement. The income is $20 on sales of $99 (or sign-ups). No data on the clicks to sales but this is around 5% of downloads... SNG Wiz offer a 30 day free trial.

My personal opinion is that the trial is way too long - the 3 days offered by PPL (see below) would be much better... my feeling is that people go off the idea of becoming a pro SNG grinder fairly quickly, and the 30 days is losing up to half (maybe more?) of those who start enthusiastically down that road!! There is no sub-affiliate scheme, though payments are extra-fast and reliable.

- SNG Wiz (non-affiliate link)

- SNG Wiz #2 (same link with my affiliate Id)

3) Poker Office

This tool is great... but to sell it? The idea is a combined hand history database + a heads-up display (of opponents statistics from hands you have seen). Great combo and even available free with poker site signups - yet - every month I send these people visitors and every damn month they send me bugger all back. Oh how I dream of Poker Tracker getting an affiliate program one day!

A little frivolous here, I have not pushed this anything like the others, the conversion rate is 2.5% for me on a relatively small sample. The frustrating thing is that, while this is actually an excellent tool, the part of the market it is totally dominated by Poker Tracker.

- Poker Office (Non-affiliate link)
- Poker Office #2 (same but with my affiliate link)

4) Poker Pro Labs Suite

Here is one I am very excitied about (relatively speaking of course!)... the latest and greatest tools and a suite which is both held in high regard by the poker pros and is also great value. I will be promoting 2 of their tools to start with:

- Tournament Shark: Easiest thing to imagine is shark-scope + pokerDB in real time attached to the bottom of each table. Have tried it out and win / losses + average buy-ins and finish distribution data all appear on screen. Easy to see how this could improve your descision making, works with both SNGs and MTT.

- Poker Pro 2007: This is an advice-engine with a serious amount of neat features including player type icons and real time probability data. As far as I understand it, this tool will start to read opponent's betting patterns after you have built a good sample of hands too. These kind of fit snugly between the basic and advanced tools... perfect - many of the 'intermediate' articles on my sites do not yet have an advert!

Both are reasonably cheap to own and have a 3-day free trial. I will get $15 or $20 for each sale (will need to check... forgot the exact number!), no data as yet... in fact this blog post will be timed along with the improved Best Poker Tools page at SNG Planet going up. We will also advertise these ones across the network as the month goes on.

- Poker Pro Labs/ (non-affiliate link)
- Poker Pro Labs #2 (affiliate link)

So, there you have it - my thoughts on tools.

Anyone promoting different tools? Have a strong opinion on the ones I have chosen? Feel free to let me know!

GL at the tables, Mark

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Turning Negative Chat Into A Positive - Part #2

Continuing yesterday's theme of horrible -ev chatting... this time with a couple of thoughts on positive chat, that is to say chat-box words which may actually increase your bottom line.

Going to start with an example and then follow with some thoughts on why we so rarely see them!

So, we are playing against a classic calling-station and get called down with ace-high (beating our king-high)... now, thinking it through, without some amazing meta-game read this call will lose money pretty fast right - even though it took the pot on this one occasion. So our objective is to encourage this behaviour with our words and not discourage it.

Some examples might be "Wow, you can smell a bluff at 50 yards", or "Great read, got me again", nothing over-the-top or patronising... just a quiet compliment which encourages the bad play.

Other examples:

Someone comes in with Ace-Six off... snags 2 pair and wins a big pot from you holding Ace-King: "Damn, should have known you flopped a monster, NH"

Someone chases all the way and hits their gutshot on the river: "Can not get a hand to hold on today, NH"

Could go on - but the point is already made, the majority of chat discourages the very behaviours which make us money over time - thinking players would try to encourage these leaks.

But we rarely, if ever, see these examples at the tables.

Why is this?

After all, surely there are enough intelligent poker players out there (even if it was a small percentage the sheer amount of players we come across mean we would have seen many examples...)

For me there is a good reason.

- There is a danger that this very chat will provoke some unthinking fish to chime in with exactly the kind of words we are trying to discourage "no it was not a good play, he is a f-ing fish" etc etc

Hey, you might even get berated yourself... and some people are sensitive to this.

There are 2 points to finish up with:

- Please, every time you have the opportunity to stop someone berating a fish then do so... take the fish's side, educate the a$$hole who chased them away, anything.
- Look for those opporunities to use chat as a weapon, particularly if you play the same opponents regularly (at a smaller site or in a niche game etc).

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Turning Negative Chat Into A Positive?

Have been quietly frustrated over the last week or so by some of the things people type into the chat box while playing poker.

Instead of just ranting I thought it would be good to explore ideas on how we might use chat to our advantage. First a list of some of the examples from the tables... most regular players will be well beyond this stage, if you can not see why this kind of thing actually costs you and the rest of the decent players at your table money then please think long and hard about the subject before chatting during play again.

Example 1: $1 / $2 7-card stud at Pokerstars... guy calls bets all the way with ace-high (after raising to rep the ace on 3rd then slowing down when check / raised on 4th)... catches a gutshot straight draw on 5th and makes it on 7th!!

Guy with trips who lost the pot: How could you call down with that you F****** moron *this goes on for 2 more hands or so and the chasing fish leaves.

Thinking it through: Where does the money come from here? Every $2 the guy put into the pot cost him $1.75c over time... we actually want him to stay at the table - so why make him leave?


Example 2: $35k Gtd on Titan Poker (my favourite online tournament!) this is a $10 re-buy with some of the most horrible opponents you are likely to meet online. Anyway, one player decides to go all-in every hand and is actually only single re-buying. *link + bonus code in the right hand column of this blog btw! *

Some idiots: "This is like playschool (as in kindergarten) not poker", "idiot", "all-in again, fish" etc etc

Thinking it through: For what reason would these guys want to stop mr Maniac giving away chips to the table.... and 1500 at a time too, meaning that you could call with a positive expectation with any decent hand and not lose your whole stack when you lost... for a rebuy this is as perfect as it gets - yet 3 of the 10 players seemed determined to berate him into stopping... guys - stop, think and ask yourself what you are doing!


Example 3: Lesser example really but one that made me laugh... was trying out some new (to me) software yesterday and fired up a $6.50 turbo on Stars... did well until losing a big hand when dominating some guy - no worries, played enough SNGs by now to be immune to that! Anyway, I was pushing a lot (hey the table was weak!) and some guy decides to berate me for having no poker skill, not wanting to play post-flop and all that stuff (at least one other player agreeing whole-heartedly that I had no skills at all!).

Thinking it through: If you think my play was 'bad' why did your chat try to discourage it? After all surely you should encourage any trait that could make you money. Actually the software I was testing told me that the chatters were both significant $ losing players... hehe, fits in nicely with my theory then!

One more *sigh*

Ah well, got too long for one post already.

I had a few ideas on ways of using chat in more subtle form to encourage exploitable behaviours, rather than stop them which will now be saved for tomorrow.

In the meantime, if anyone makes the mistake of berating someone for bad play they are costing themselves and possibly you a bunch of money. Make sure you spread the word that this is -ev for us all.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dealing With Your Poker Nemesis.

Some more poker psychology on a sunny Sunday.... hope this post provokes some thought about dealing with a perceived enemy at the table - your poker nemesis!

We have all been there right?

Someone re-raises us every time we enter a pot (or flats - ugh!), they raise those scare cards or show their bluffs, they get there with a set on the river to beat our overpairs... when we get beaten a 'lol' will appear in the chat box (or worse)... yep. whichever game you play it is easy to find yourself thinking of a player at the table as the biggest enemy you ever had - your personal nemesis!

It gets worse from here....

You'll groan when he enters the pot behind you again and again.

You'll Bet to try and push him out - only to find someone else at the table wakes up with a monster and takes your chips.

You'll plan a great check-raise - only to find your nemesis refuses to bet for the first time ever, and then catches his miracle card.

What happens next is person dependant of course. For the purposes of this post we will work with the generic feelings of intense irritation, frustration and the desire to show the damn punk not to mess with us (that'll be revenge!).

When that feeling of revenge or anger directed at one individual comes it is easy for us to stop playing solid and profitable poker. In fact the act of chasing to try and outdraw your nemesis, raising junk to isolate and launching those crazy over-bet bluffs is so far from good poker that you'd hardly recognise yourself at the table...

Lets be clear about what is happening here.

It has a well known label.

The form is slightly different from the 'seeing red' rage which we usually associate with this.

But the effect is the same.

You are now on Tilt.

And the effects of this tilt most often manifest themselves in losing money. Money that has taken many hours of focus and good poker decisions to accumulate. Money that was going to allow you to take a shot at the next level. Money that could have been withdrawn to pay for a holiday or gadget....

Well, dealing with tilt could fill a whole chapter of a book - let alone a blog post.

Being aware that tilt takes many forms, and frustration focused on one indivudual at the table is a dangerous one. Next time you are aware of this do something about it... play only premiums when they are in the pot, leave and find a new table, or even take a break.

GL at those tables, Mark

PS: Friendly reminder about my 'social bookmarking' widget in the top of the right hand menu bar of Plan3t Gong - this allows you to bookmark me (or any other sites you enjoy) to loads of these new-fangled bookmark places such as Digg, Stumble-upon and etc... if you could take the time to give Plan3t Gong a plug I'd be very grateful - thanks, Mark!