Thursday, January 31, 2008

Core Poker Concepts In PLO Strategy

Playing some PLO over the last couple of days has inspired a quick post on how the core concepts of poker relate to this fantastic game.

Sure, some of the strategy is different - where else would you fold the nuts on the flop or push all-in with your drawing hands having a huge positive expectation?

Making a few errors myself, and watching others do the same underlined just how important some of the key strategy concepts in poker are in PLO. These include making bets that will only be called by better hands, big pot play and betting yourself off of a hand.

Here is an example from a $100 buy-in PLO cash game yesterday of making bets that will only be called by a better hand... to be honest this was ugly (was not involved myself). Both players had more than 100 BBs at the start of this hand - here is the action (from memory and with approximate bet sizes).

Player A - Early position - pots to $3.50 pre.
Player B - Cut-off - Calls (everyone else folds)

Flop comes Ks-Qs-2d

That is a scary flop in PLO, one that would have me running for cover without a monster straight / flush draw combo.

Player A - Pots, raising around $9
Player B - Flat calls

Strange play in my eyes on this flop from B. Makes no sense for a set or a draw really - can only imagine that this was some kind of 'float' to take the pot away on the turn...

Turn - Offsuit 3....

A safe card for a player with a made hand.

Player A - Bets approx $20
Player B - Flat Calls Again

Both players still have $65 ish behind and the pot has grown pretty large. Now I'm interested in the hand... what hands explain the action so far?

River - 10s

Well well well, whoever had a draw just hit the best card in the deck! Next comes the play that I did not understand....

Player A - All-in (or as good as) with a pot sized bet.
Player B - Calls and shows As-Jh-10h-7s (might have been different suits but definitely the flush and wrap combo)

Player A mucks K-K-x-x and player B doubles up.

So now the play pre-flop, on the flop and on the turn makes sense from the perspective of player A. From the perspective of player B this is so weak-tight it is not true (but that is a different story and a good reason why the online PLO games can be profitable).

Back to the core concepts of poker.

Player A bet pot on the river here - why? Or rather, what hands that would call this bet was he ahead of? Trip queens? Trip Deuces??!?

The big river bet will make money here in 2 ways - if your opponent folds a hand that he would have called a smaller bet with (a straight in this case). Or if your opponent calls with a weaker hand... here number #2 was out and by calling pot sized bets on 2 streets player B has suggested that #1 is less likely.

So, what happened here from my perspective is that player A made a bet that would only be called by a better hand... a bet with no positive expectation at all. My preferred line, depending on the exact circumstances, when I feel an opponent may have been drawing is to check and call a reasonable sized bet... this gives your opponent a chance to bluff and usually involves having a read of some kind on their aggressiveness and the way that they play draws.

But then again, I'm only a 'learner' when it comes to PLO strategy! What do you think??

GL at those PLO tables, Mark

(will look at the other 'core concepts' some time later!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Other Side Of Pot Odds - Part #1 (Intro)

Time for a new series of posts here at Plan3t Gong. Starting with this introduction.

'Pot Odds' may seem mundane, but let me assure you it is not - in fact 'odds' are central to the whole game of poker. What is more there are several ways of looking at this subject. Ways that go far beyond your chances of making that flush by the river!

We have all been in situations similar to this:

After raising a legitimate hand we face a re-raise all-in (late in an MTT or in the mid-section of SNG play for example). With dead money in the pot from limpers / callers and the blinds we can see that we need to call 1000 more chips to win a pot of 1500... do we call with 88? With AJs? How about with KQs?

There are 3 factors key to consider in such situations and the odds we are getting on the investment of 1000 more chips is a critical component in any such decision. In the above example we see pot-odds of 1.5 to 1... would the decision be different at 1.2 to 1 or 1.7 to 1??

Often yes, but the other factors are important too.

- Ranges: What is the range of hands our all-in opponent might hold in this situation?

- The Situation: What is the situation? Would losing cripple us? Are there players still to act? Is this the bubble or just before the final table? What is our table image? and so on....

Of course, moving the same question from MTT play to a SNG makes things a little more complex still. At or approaching the bubble we would need to assess the odds and winning chances in terms of $ equity and not just chip equity.

So, there is the introduction.

The next post will look at pot-odds for calling such bets in comparison to your winning chances against different hand ranges.

After that the situational factors will be looked at in more detail and finally I will introduce some ICM into such decisions to see how this affects your decision making process.

Stay tuned!

GL at those tables, Mark

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Got A Great Blog?? Let's Swap Links!

Time, as they say, is not on my side!

While I keep up to date with my favourite blogs (see the blogs of distinction list on the right hand side), there are not enough hours in the day to look at as many as before...

So, I'm probably missing out on some great new poker blogs.

If you have a blog worthy of a place in my 'blogs of distinction' list please let me know... always happy to swap links with good blogs (so no 'banner farms' please).

Did get a request a week or so ago but lost it - oops - please resend if you are reading this.

Cheers, Mark

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bond18's Blog - Things It Took Him A While To Learn...

As much as I love pointing you all in the direction of my own sites (!), today is a case of 'credit where credit is due' with a link to some articles by one Bond18 of 2+2 'fame'.

His series of articles on MTT play entitled 'Things it took me a while to learn' is simply excellent and certainly fits in with the PGong mission of getting people to think!

Bond18's Articles can be found at the bottom of the Two Rags homepage - enjoy! (will open a new window).

In a world where P5's are publishing articles for which 'utter drivel' would be a complimentary label (exceptions of Grapsfan and Lenny here) and 2+2 Monthly magazine seems to have gone down the road of a mathematics degree being a pre-requisite.... it is great to see some quality writing on MTT play!

Gl at those MTT tables, Mark

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Out Of Position Overbets In MTTs

Played a few tournaments yesterday... the usual $10 to $30 range. Came across a couple of occasions where I took the lead in a hand and ended up facing a big over-bet from the single opponent still in the hand in both cases... in both cases my opponent acted first. Todays pause for poker thought involves the question 'what do these bets mean'.

First here are the hands (from memory as no HH).

1) I have 8,000 ish at blind level 160 / 80 and am the largest stack at the table, middle position serial limper, erm, limps (he played 40% of hands this way!), he has 4000 (ish) chips. I reraise from the hijack to 720 with a A-Q looking to take the pot pre-flop or play in position if called.... limper flat calls - flop comes 2-Q-J. Opponent insta-shoves just over 3k chips into the 1.6k chip pot!

2) Different tourney.... I have 6000 odd chips at blind level 200 / 100 and it is folded to me in the C/O... raise my Q9 suited to 600 into 2 short and 1 medium stacks ahead... table is playing tight and most hands going 'raise and take' here... anyway - flat called by the BB with around 3000 chips - flop comes 4-8-Q with 2 clubs - now BB shoves his remaining 2400 (ish) into the 1300 pot!

What to think?

What hands could these be?

Do I call?

Lets look at the logic of the situation step by step. In both cases the flop over-shover had flat called pre-flop - somewhat defing their ranges. We should start by noting that neither player had the right odds to play for set value (these were lower level tourneys so we can not rule it out - just note that the odds were not there!). Monster hands would often have re-raised, in case 1 the player had 2 raising opportunities before the flop and declined both, in case 2 it is conceivable that there is some kind of slowplay going on... just less likely.

What about the flop? I had taken the lead from position in both hands right? The usual play of hands indicates that I would continuation bet a large percentage of the time - almost always in the case of hand 2 where it is just a blind in the hand and 70% to 80%+ in case 1, depending on the texture of the flop.

This tells us something about opponents hands too.

If they somehow flopped a monster then why shove? After all, the player taking the lead will usually committ at least one more bet... so we rule out 2-pair + hands from the shovers ranges quite quickly. There is just too much danger of missing value from their strong hands by shoving.

The hands that fit the bill here are draws and weak top-pair / second pair hands. Draws would be semi-bluff shoves, actually hoping to pick up the pot but with backup if called. Weak top pairs would be a little more horrible, committing all of their chips in the hope that I either missed completely or would call with a lesser hand (unlikely BTW!).

Drawing hands make the most sense in these situations... in fact to me, unless it is a very tricky opponent who is doing this with a genuine monster by 'acting strong' with the over-shove, then the straight and flush draw hands respectively are the only holdings that make sense...

So what does this tell us about how to act?

Ahah, here is the good part - we can now play the hand very easily! Both times here I help top pair... putting my opponents on draws I was able to quickly assess that I was favourite to win both times (less clear in hand 2 as presence of an overcard unknown). The pot was giving me nice odds too, and even if wrong then neither hand could bust me... quick call.

Now what about the weak lead from the out of position player? That, as they say, is another story for another day!

GL at those 'donk bet' tables, Mark

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poker Psychology - 10 Delusions Of The Poker Mind!

The Human brain is a truly amazing thing. For me the most amazing characteristic of all is not how it processes information - it is the ability to filter out the overwhelming amount of data from all of our senses that is not 'relevant' to our day to day functions....

Poker minds are difficult creatures to tame, the enjoyment, challenge and 'buzz' of the game cause us all to rationalise - to 'explain' the external reality in ways that fit with our views of ourselves as a complete person. This leads to many areas where the explanation we give and the reality at the tables do not match - these are the 'delusions of the poker mind!'

As regular PG Poker readers will know my role here is not to be right or wrong - it is to make visitors think!! If you think that any of the points below are off-target (or good for that matter) then your opinion is most welcome - drop me a comment - nothing is better than a good debate!

Delusion #1: I'm an above average poker player

Let us be honest, if you asked 1000 online poker players to rate themselves on a 1 to 10 scale at the buy-in levels they currently play the 'average' score would be at least 7/10. Just like sex and driving skills everyone thinks they are 'above average'... hey, stop for a minute and think about what that means - did you score yourself as a 7?

Delusion #2: If my luck would even out I'd be a winner

See this one again and again, you'd crush the game if you just had 'average luck' right? If your hands would just hold up with the same frequency as other peoples did you'd rake the money in! Let us be honest... if you have played any reasonable number of hands your luck is close to evening out already.... you already win pretty damn close to half of your coin flips. So what was the problem again??

Delusion #3: Bankroll Management does not apply to me

It does not matter if you are playing $100 NL with 2 buy-ins or SNGs with 5... bankroll management is something that the professionals have to worry about right? Wrong! The chance element in the deal of cards (known as 'variance') will catch up with us all at one time or another. Bankroll Management is a method of ensuring that you can ride out the natural swings in the game without going broke - it applies to all limits and all players, no good blaming your 'bad luck', effective bankroll management would have meant you are still at the tables!

Delusion #4: Micro-Limits Are Impossible To Beat Due To The 'Donks'

Yeah, they will call you down with bottom pair (or worse), call pot sized turn bets with a gutshot straight on a 4-flush board and generally make the most horrible bet sizes imaginable. But wait, poker is all about adjusting... not how you play individual cards. The reality is that if you can not forumlate a strategy to beat the very worst players then you have no chance in the long-term to beat players who are working out a strategy to take your money...

Delusion #5: Poker Software Tools are a waste of money

There are some excellent tools available to poker players, from PA HUD (which displays stats online in real time) through to ICM Calculators such as SNG Wiz and SNG Power Tools. These will set you back around $80 to $100. Think about the price here. Thats 2 buy-ins at NL50, or 4 to 5 SNG buy-ins at the $20 level... if you could win one pot a day for a week that you would have lost (or folded) without these tools then you are already in profit... and the tool will be there next week... and the week after that....

Delusion #6: My Aces always end up getting cracked

At the lower limits in online poker there is no other hand played so horribly, so often, as those pocket aces. People limp at passive tables, make small raises over multiple limpers, mini-reraise before the flop (telling any observant opponent that they have a strong hand at the same time as giving perfect odds for a drawing hand / smaller pair)... Face facts here, if you choose to play aces in unraised multi-way pots you will lose with them much of the time. Raise and raise strongly, hopefully someone has a hand they want to go to war with in a situation where you are 80% favourite!

Delusion #7: Multi-tabling will make me a better player

Adding extra tables, 4-tabling, 8-tabling or even 12-tabling, may increase your hourly profits (by a smaller sum for each additional table) but the only poker skill you will improve here is, well, the ability to play X number of tables! If you want to improve, to move up to the higher levels, then you need to play less tables, to think through each action in relation to the opponents and table involved. You need to go through hand histories (yep, use a poker tool) and find your own leaks. You need to study the game and think about situations... multi-tabling will not make you a better player alone.

Delusion #8: I'll move up to where opponents respect my raises

Really an extension of number #4 above, but this delusion is shaped in a sightly different way... if you can not beat the 25c / 50c games then moving up to the $1 / $2 seems like a logical answer right? Here your opponents have the ability to 'lay down a hand' when they feel they are beaten. Wrong again, if you can not beat the micro games then you are not ready to make the adjustments (and read hands / situations) at the mid-limits... in short this is a recipie for losing your bankroll very quickly. Winning at poker is all about adjusting your strategy to beat your current opponents - if you can not beat the worst opponents of all then you are certainly not ready to move up levels!

Delusion #9: I get deep in online tournaments and then always get unlucky

There are a couple of explanations of this delusion... the first is mathematical. If, during a MTT you are all in 4 times.... twice as a 70/30 favourite and twice as an 80/20 favourite then the statistical chances are that you should be out! The other thought is that the players at the end are by definition stronger than at the start (sure, there will always be some bad players too!). Are you being re-stolen from light? outplayed in the small pots? Adjusting correctly to your opponents ranges at the final table bubble? Think about these things - if you had to risk all your chips in one hand this late when why was that??

Delusion #10: Online Poker is rigged!!

Saved my favourite delusion until last! There are a suprisingly large number of otherwise rational people who believe that online poker is rigged. Theories range from the straight up 'poker sites cheat' to something along the lines of 'let the new players win to get them hooked' through to the legendary 'doomswitch'. Reality check time for a couple of reasons... firstly from a business perspective: The online poker sites make millions each year, if they were caught 'fixing' the cards those millions would cease - yep, they would be out of business. Secondly from a checks and edits perspective... thousands of people have hand histories going into the 100,000+ or even millions of hands - yet nothing has ever been spotted to suggest anything but a random distribution of cards. Now, my guess is that the same people who believe that online poker is rigged also believe they would crush the game if only their 'luck' would be average - which takes us back to the top of this list again.

Gl at those delusional tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Link: Interview with The_D__RY

Taking a look at CardPlayer yesterday and came across this interview with successful MTT and SNG (high-stakes) player The_D_RY. From October last year so a little late - however, thought it was interesting enough to post here with points on adjusting push / call ranges and ROI.

Interview With The_D__RY

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Poker Planning And Adjusting + A Nomination!

Re-doing the Satellites section over at SNG Planet at the moment (not ready quite yet!) and working on the Hungarian poker portal too (nope, nem beszelek Magyarol (don't speak Hungarian) - though I will restart lessons next month so you never know!).

Too busy to have a proper poker session I did manage a couple of short sessions at the micro-limits on Pacific between articles... just to relax.

These tables are pretty crazy. The players have little or no idea of how to play at all, any draw is a call (of any bet size), strong hands are either all-in pre-flop or horribly slowplayed... some folks even play every hand, even for a raise, from any position.

Now, even though there was hardly any money at stake I wanted to beat these games, after all that is the idea of poker... if the 'play money' tables were good enough for Chris Ferguson then micro-cash is good enough for me!

This lead to making several adjustments. Will not list them all here (this is a 'high level' thought, not a guide to beating the micros!). In fact I'd go as far as to say the winning strategy at the lowest levels is completely different from the higher ones.... after all why raise pre without a hand when a 5 or 7 BB raise will get 4 callers??!?

What it forced me to do was to come up with a plan. To actually straighten out in my mind what hands to play and how to play them, to think about what I would do on certain flops in advance depending on various factors and so on... the plan was simple and effective.

Here is todays 'thing to think about'.... it is never any use complaining about how totally inexperienced players are impossible to 'read' and play against. Poker is not so much about what cards you play from what position as it is about how you adjust your own game to beat individual players... plans need to constantly adjust depending on who has called, the flop texture and the depth of stacks relative to your position in a tournament, bet sizes depend on the post-flop tendencies of your opponents, will a raise now clarify the situation and let you know if you are ahead or behind? Or will it needlessly build the pot?

Next time you see a forum post where someone wants to move up as they can not beat the donks at whatever level then think of it this way... poker is a game of constantly adjusting - if you can not switch your strategy to beat opponents intent on giving their money away then how will you cope with opponents intent on taking your chips???!?

*******

On a separate subject I have been nominated (twice!) for the '2007 Writer Of The Year' award at the Poker Affiliate Programs site (the largest poker affiliate community online). This is very flattering - thanks to those who nominated me and I hope to continue producing the best quality content for other poker webmasters in 2008!

Gl with adjusting to the tables, Mark

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ugly Side Of Variance - Moving On As A Player!

There is a 'no bad-beat' policy here at Plan3t Gong... been there right since the start. So, you may ask, why is this post titled 'The Ugly Side Of Variance' ??

Well, Saturday evening I took some time out from building the 'Planet Empire' to play a few MTTs... 6 in total ranging from the nightly $50k on Stars, a $20 freezeout on Titan, a couple of $26 KO SNGs (90 player) on Tilt along with a larger MTT there, and - just for fun - a $3+rebuy on Stars too!

So, I made the money in a grand total of 1 tournament... here was my bust out hand: Folded to me in the C/O with 6 blinds... found 9-10 sooooted and shoved. Called by the SB with Kings and 'poof' I'm gone. I actually cheered this one and shouted down to the 'better half' from my study something along the lines of 'Yeah, actually went out getting my money in behind for once in my life!!!'

This moment was made a happy one by the results of the previous 5 tournaments, each time I either had the last raise or bet enough (deliberately) to pot commit myself. Here we go (can not recall which was which so in no particular order!).

- My AA, managed to 4 bet all in against JJ.... 'Poofed'!

- My AK, shoved 12 BBs over 2 limpers and a 4bb MP raise, called by A-8 (!)... 'Poofed'

- Raised my AQ in MP, flatted by BB who lead for 1/3rd pot... on A-7-3 (ish) flop... reraised all-in... (i'm shortish) he turned up A-9 off... 'Poofed!'

- My AA raised in EP, 3 bet from button, I 4-bet (2/3rds of my stack) and he shoves... call and he turns up KK..... 'Poofed!'

- Saved the best till last... 10-10 in MP, standard raise flatted by SB, flop perfect A-10-5! He leads and we get into a raising war until all of the chips are in the middle... he has A-10.... yep you guessed it....' Poofed!'

The great thing is, and the reason for second part of the title above is that my reaction to this night of horrors was very relaxed. Sure, it was dissapointing, but no tilt, no reactions at all on the other tables - just continued to tell myself to make those 'good decisions' and the money would come my way.

Feel like this is a good sign, could have easily picked a low buy-in one (the $3+r) and shoved away... venting some frustration. But the frustration was not there... must have moved on!

GL at those high variance tables, Mark

PS: Any britbloggers know what happened to Intendre? aka 'An Amateur Contemplates' ? getting a 404 'not found' message when visiting his blog - would be a shame if this stopped, was one of my regular reads!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Best PLO Books? Mini-Reviews + Open Question

Was thinking that in 6 weeks time (the time it takes to order an English poker book here in Hungary) i'll be in exactly the right mood to read a couple of Omaha books...

So, why not ask the esteemed readers of Plan3t Gong for some advice on which ones to order (will probably go for 2!). In the interests of give and take below is a quick summary of my thoughts on the PLO books - or those with PLO sections - I have read to date... if anyone would care to drop me a comment with some suggestions that would be great!

1 - Rolf Slotboom 'Secrets Of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha'. By far the best so far (this one actually came from a recommendation) and far more to this than the 'short-stack' strategy which it is famed for... some really nice insights into the thinking process behind the game - would recommend this to any PLO player wholeheartedly.

2 - Reuben & Ciaffone "Pot Limit and No-Limit Poker'. Excellent book with Omaha sections, well written and with a few of those 'hidden gems' as well as solid advice on several games. Keep wondering whether these guys are always scared of 'monsters under the bed' in opponent's hands... then again they do play very high stakes... a great read.

3 - Lyle Berman "Super System II" The PLO chapter does cover some of the basics quite well, no raising from up front etc. The 'Kill Cards' chart is also a + (though a little outdated now we have computers to work out all the probability for us). My gripe with this is Lyle's Ego, there is no reason for so many anecdotes about $1000 blind levels, Lyle - we know you are 'considerably richer than yoouw'

4 - Tom McEnvoy 'Tournament Poker'. UGH, the worst poker book ever and the PLO chapter no exception... I keep opening this one to see if there are any hidden gems, after a few pages it is always back on the shelf... anyone have a table with a wobbly leg?

Well, thats all I have - if you could let me know some good ones to order that would be great!

In the meantime there are tons of articles covering PLO and other forms of Omaha at my latest website http://www.omahaplanet.com/

GL at those PLO tables, Mark

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Full Tilt Knockout Tournament Strategy - Part #1

Really busy at the moment, creating a new blog (for SNG Planet)... Plan3t Gong will continue so no worries - the new one will be more of a 'news' based blog covering the latest developments for online tournaments and SNGs... more on that in a few days!

Right, Full Tilt Poker Knockout Tournaments... very popular at the moment with a bounty on every players head! Will do a brief desciption of what these are and buy-in levels etc then a few strategy thoughts from those that I've played... won a 90 Man KO SNG and bubbled the final table of a larger KO MTT (oh and managed a 20th in the bigger one too!) these were all at the $24+$2 level but hopefully this relates to the lower (and higher!) buy-ins as well.

Quick Description: Knockout Bounty Tournaments work like this, your buy-in is split between the 'normal' prize pool and your 'bounty' for example the $24+$2 KO MTTs put a bounty of $4 on each player's head with the other $20 going to make up a normal prize pool. As you go through you collect $4 for each player that you knock out.

Whats Available: Getting hard to keep track to be honest - they have proved very popular which means the number of buy-ins and games available are growing each day.... here is a quick overview:

SNGS: 60 Player turbo - $6.50 buy-in ($1 / KO), 90 Player $24+$2, $10+1 and $3+30c buy-ins.

MTTs: From $3.30 through $10+$1, $24+2, $70+$5, $120+9... right up to the 'Sunday Brawl' a $240+$16 KO Tournament bunfight! Also saw PLO KO MTTs at $7+70c and $24+$2.

Before I get to my initial strategy thoughts a quick link to Full Tilt for those who would like to check these out for themselves >>> Full Tilt Poker <<< bonus / referral code SNGPLANET will get you the maximum available 100% to $600 bonus (and make you a friend of Plan3t Gong for life too!)

So, initial KO Tournament Strategy Thoughts.

My first observation concerns those times during a tournament when a short stacked player is all-in. Normally there is a fair chance here that other players in the hand will 'check-down' a hand to ensure that the chances of the all-in player being eliminated is maximised... whether this is always 'correct' is a matter of some debate (believe I did a post on this for SNG play last year).

Do not expect hands to be checked through in a KO MTT! It is not going to happen. This leads to adjusting your play... you should be more inclined to raise a player who is all in (from later position that is) than to call if you have a reasonable hand - this shows opponents that you are willing to play and discourages speculative calls behind. You are not doing this for the bounty - you are doing it to win the chips with the bounty as a bonus!

My next observation was that there are slightly more all-in confrontations in the early stages. Thought here is that there are 2 reasons for this. Firstly the nature of these games attracts more 'fun' players compared to MTT grinders (or just more thoughtful players in general)... Secondly a (possibly misguided) thought that the bounty makes a large difference to the ranges of hands to go all in with.

The second of these points will be looked at in more detail - my initial thinking is that the bounty makes a very small difference to your equity (especially in the later stages) and should almost be ignored... however I'll run the numbers to ensure that any differences in ranges are based on facts and not feelings!

My final thought for this post is actually a question - and once again one that I will look into the numbers before later. The question is based on looking at the 'bounties' as an extra bonus and not a reason to make any specific play which should relate to your chances of reaching the final table as in any other MTT.... here it is:

Is the potential extra EV from the bounties worth enough to justify small pot aggressive plays which keep your stack higher than most of the opponents at your table?

The thinking here is why lose out on a bounty by winning an all-in against a player who has you slightly covered!

Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated!

GL at those KO Bounty Tournament tables,

Mark

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Interesting Satellite Hand - What Is Your Play?

After the intensity of work over the last week I had a 'day off' yesterday and managed to fit some poker in... a reasonable run in the nightly $50k Gtd on Stars and a $24 KO on Tilt (planning to write some thoughts on Knockout tournament strategy next week!).

The hand I wanted to cover came in a satellite to the Sunday Warm up... there were 2 key factors here, my very short stack (had lost a hand just before for 3/4ths of my chips)... there were 19 left (of 240 odd) and 13 getting the $215 seats at this point, the second key factor was that the blinds were about to go up (within a few seconds) from 12k / 6k (600 ante) to 20k / 10k (1000 ante)... and I was UTG with around 10,000 chips.

Was dealt Q-J suited and thought, 'fair enough' better than average so in it goes... I won the hand after being called by A-J and almost trippled up... but that does not matter for this discussion... my question is whether this push was worth the risk?

2 factors

- I was guaranteed a showdown (at the very least from the big stacked BB, if someone else flat called then I would have to beat 2 hands)
(and the key factor I have been thinking about) - I was all-in in the blinds whether I won or lost, that is to say the BB and SB (+antes) would wipe me out.

It is the second factor that I think was a bad decision - since I'd have to win the showdown in the next hand anyway there was no sense in pushing a hand, even if this was above 'average' the hand before - even though this feels like the 'natural' play... will not do it again! Any thoughts on this hand most welcome!

Gl at those satellite tables, Mark

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Omaha Poker - My New Site Is Ready!

After an awful lot of hard work, more than 50 pages of content, 3 colour changes and 5 logo's.... my new site is ready (well almost - still need a couple of ads for the left hand side).

Would greatly appreciate any feedback on Omaha Poker Planet (will open new window). The target audience for this one is new poker players and those with some Holdem experience looking to give Omaha a try.... tons of content already and lots more in the pipeline too!

Will be continuing to work hard next week - we are introducing a 'blog' inside SNG Planet and working on a Hungarian language site too... also back to strategy posts here at Plan3t Gong.

If you have any feedback on Omaha Planet, good, bad or ugly please leave me a comment - would be very much appreciated at this stage and I'll make sure any good ideas are implemented quickly!

GL at the Omaha Tables, Mark

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Poker Affiliate Aspirations for '08

Time for the first 'Poker Business' post of 2008... as regular readers will know I created a site last year (www.sitandgoplanet.com ) which has both beaten my initial expectations and served as a platform for learning about the poker affiliate industry.

This year I will be using the knowledge gained to build a full-time poker affiliate income.

'Team Planet' will shortly become Planet Corp Kft (thinking big!) and launching a number of sites this year including 2 in January and at least 1 more in Feb! These will cover a number of 'niches' within the poker world and a number of geographies too.... the challenge is a big one, and something that will take a lot of hard work and effort - to reach a 'passive' income of more than $10,000 per month by the end of the year!

We are just days away from launching a new site... so I thought it would be good to post on what 'launching a site' actually involves - after all google will find us eventually anyway.

Well, let us start with the site itself. Many apsiring poker affiliates simply put up a few banners and room reviews and wait for the cash to come rolling in. It will never happen. The cornerstone of a poker site is content... quality content. To this end we have put together a site with some 57 pages (some mine and some written by partners), the articles are aimed at newer players (our target audience) and optimised for a variety of 'keywords' in the niche - that is terms which new players might be typing into Google.

Getting to the front page of Google for our terms will take a short while, but much of the work is already done - Erika, my beautiful finance, has optimised the 'on-page' criteria which will give us a great SEO (search engine optimisation) boost... the next step will come with the imminent launch and involve getting backlinks to my site from all over the web!

So, that said here is our plan for next week - to launch the new site!

1 - Press Release, costs some money but will give us some immediate exposure and 'quality' backlinks too
2 - Utilize Existing Sites, a post here on Plan3t Gong + links / ads in the relevant pages of SNG Planet.
3 - Mail to the SNG Planet e-mail list, well over 1000 and growing all the time, sure some people will unsubscribe each time I mail (which is why we use the list sparingly and send only quality mailings) but this is not usually more than 0.5% or so.
4 - Article Marketing, again for backlinks, send 10 articles over the week to many of the repositories for gambling articles - good quality will ensure they are republished by other websites... increasing the backlinks still further.
5 - Directory Submission Service - Again for links, plan is to target 1000 or so directories.
6 - DMOZ Submission - Usually takes a while but this is the number #1 directory of all and will involve a manual submission.
7 - Paid Links / Adverts - Just a small budget for this.
8 - Link Exchanges - Start to swap links with other quality poker websites.
9 - Sitemap Submissions - To the major search engines (already did the main URL to these)
10 - Social Boomarking - Submit to Stumbleupon, Del.ici.ous and all the other social bookmark sites.

Quite a list and we have not even finished the layout of the site yet! Plan3t Gong readers will be the first to know about this new site - so come back soon!!

If any readers are interested in the poker affiliate business feel free to drop me a comment with your questions and mail address (will not publish the comment if e-mail addresses are included unless you specify that this is ok) I'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pro Aspirations + Rizen On Cheating + (Not) The Turn!

Had today marked for the start of a new 'mini-series' of posts considering the turn, that often overlooked street that can often make the difference between playing a big pot and a small one... alas too busy for that today (will start later in the week) so instead a couple of poker links worth thinking about!

Firstly, an interesting thread on P5's - someone asked what chance does an average player have of going pro? The debate that followed included a discussion on Maths (and several other things). My view has been recorded here at Plan3t Gong a good few times now... that only a small percentage of those who think they want to be pro would enjoy it when (if) they got there.... here is the link:

P5's Thread


Next, a link to Rizen's (Eric Lynch) blog, always my favourite on PxF and great all round strategist too... the fat-boy of poker is currently running well in the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure - scroll down his blog a little though - the thought provoking posts concern cheating. Rizens thoughts on Multi-accounting, Ghosting, Datamining and Tools in general can all be found here at:

Rizen Poker

GL at those tables! Mark

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ever Made A Reflex Call??

As regular readers will know, my enjoyment of poker books comes from the 1 or 2 'hidden gems' that careful study will locate in each one. Tom McEnvoy's 'Tournament Poker' is no exception here. Though I do not rate this book particularly highly in general, the first 'gem' popped up yesterday... it concerns the 'Reflex Bet'.

The Reflex bet (or more likely reflex call) is something I have certainly been guilty of. You raise up a hand, continuation bet a draw heavy board, pot the 'safe' turn and then instantly call your opponents all-in when the draw gets there on the river... instead of thinking the hand through, assessing your chances of having the best hand and comparing this to the odds it is just 'bam!' a big call...

Can work the other way around too... a missed AK for example, you continuation bet a raggy flop, get called by your out of position opponent and 'Bam!' throw in your chips on the 'safe' turn without stopping to think through what your opponent may have (or even why you are making the bet at all).

These are examples of reflex bets. They may pop up when you are frustrated or maybe just distracted... such actions can ruin a stack carefully built by making 'good decisions' over several hours in a matter of seconds...

I was aware of this in a round-about way before, having a name for them will certainly improve my awareness here - and hopefully give you something to think about too!!

GL at those tables, Mark

Friday, January 04, 2008

Back Home - Kill Phil + AKJHousier Vids

Back in the comfort of my home office for this post - returning to Budapest to find snow and -6c after an excellent xmas break in the UK and now looking forward to building on 2007's success to make 2008 the best year yet (always the same new years resolution for me!).

No play to report on this time, though I have almost finished reading 'Kill Phil' and watched a couple of PxF videos by AJKHousier.

The book failed to live up to it's promising start in several ways. Firstly the 'strategy' (which involves pushbot MTT play to deny 'pros' an edge at the table) was unclear in the layout and excution... the authors suggest purchasing some 'strategy cards' to redress this - I think not! Secondly, there is a fair amount of 'filler' including a very cheesy 'sample tournament' and lots of pages of tournament rules... will give it another read at some point soon as there were a couple of nice insights / thoughts along the way.

PxF continue to impress (and to keep my monthly subscription money rolling in) the latest vids have seen 2 more guest pros, FKScreenames and AJKHousier. Both go through larger buy-in tournaments which are outside the level of what most of us play - however the thought processes behind what they do are worth the time and effort to watch them. Recommend PXF for anyone looking to improve their game this year.

GL at those tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What Hands Do They Flat Call With??

Here is a common situation for us lower limit ($30ish and under) tournament players... you pick up a reasonable hand in mid-position, raise it up.... and, erm, well, get flat called.

Have been thinking more about this seemingly simple scenario of late, in the middle game portion of MTTs particularly. Let us temporarily set aside a tricky opponent on the button or a loose big blind and ask the question: What are the most likely hands that opponents flat call with?

Deliberately specified the mid-game here so as to rule out suited connectors (at least the lower end). Instead let us use a process of elimination...

Premiums? Well Aces and Kings surely want to get the money in pre-flop and discourage callers behind, Queens have even more reason to raise - an ace on the flop is an ugly result. Ace-King likewise prefers to be in control.

Mid-Pairs? The most likely candidates. Jacks through 9's may feel they have enough strength to see a flop but not enough to build a big pot - a flop with only 1 overcard (or none) combined with position will usually mean winning a pot after the flop, if there are several calls behind then there is always the possibility of a set.

Lower Pairs? How about 8's and below?? This depends on the stack sizes and blinds really, without some implied odds then flat calling with this type of hand may get expensive. We can not rule out these hands - just less likely than some others.

Unpaired High Cards? A-Q, A-J, K-Q (particularly suited) and maybe even hands like A-10 and K-J suited are all certainly possible, they can not really stand the heat if re-raised and are 'too good' to fold for a single bet.

Other Hands? Higher suited connectors such as J-10 or J-Q are possible candidates, suited aces may also be in the mix (thinking higher kickers A-8s+ here). We can never rule out the possibility of worse - some premeditated attempt to steal the pot on the flop prehaps??

Ok, so we get to thin the list to the most likely candidates... mid pairs and unsuited high cards.

All very well but can this information be used to help our play?? Well, we could start by thinking about the most likely flop to have hit our flat calling opponent's hands... but that seems like another post for another day!

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Everest Review

Here is the example review from the librarys being offered on the poker affiliate forums...






Declining 4/1 Shots??

2008 is here and time for Plan3t Gong to get back to the important task of giving readers something to think about!

Family visits have left little time for poker over the past week - however I have started to read 'Kill Phil', first impressions are good, certainly well written and some interesting conceptual arguments.

There is a preface by one Phil Helmuth Jr. Just a couple of pages and only one note-worthy comment... it concerned the avoidance of risks early in tournaments, with the idea that even a marginally positive expectation situation will be avoided by the real experts if this were for their 'tournament life'... since they have a bigger expectation by allowing the superior skills to show over a larger number of hands.

It makes sense right? I mean why take a 55 / 45 advantage if you are good enough to accumulate chips with far less risk.

But wait - the quote in the Kill Phil intro stated that Helmuth was actually considering declining pair vs underpair situations in the early rounds. Yep, he would fold even if he 'knew' his opponent had a lower pair as the 20-odd percent risk would not be worth it.

Certainly food for thought, whether it really happened or is just a media-savvy piece of provocative writing we will never really know!

The first thoughts of 2008 will continue with looking into whether there are times in a SNG, during the early to mid stages and indeed at the bubble, when it would be 'better' to turn down a small positive expectation edge....

GL at the tables for all of 2008!

Mark