Friday, January 30, 2009

The Poker Rise Of Europe!

Do not usually start blog posts with a small disclaimer - but this post will be an exception. Going to put down some observations on the rise of Europe in the poker world... but did not want to be seen as against any of my US / Canadian / Antipodean readers... if you are intelligent and articulate then I have never cared what country you are from.

So, the rise of Europe.

2008 was a good year for the old continent... Peter Eastgate winning the main event for those (crazy) Danes... Annette Obrestad moving from a fat internet pro to a fat internationally known live and internet poker pro... Elky rising in prominence after some high profile wins and so on, the rise of Russian pros too.

As we reach 2009 we see a UK player at the top of the P5s rankings (Moorman1), a Hungarian in 3rd (Breeth) (great country BTW, invented the rubix cube, biros and nuclear weapons you know!) and yet more on the outskirts of the 'big time'.

My prediction is that 2009 will be the year that the playing field between North America and Europe is considered level...

Lets face it for a moment, when it comes to poker Europe lags by 5 or 6 years at least. While the first 'internet pros' were sprining up in the US, we were just discovering that a game called Texas Holdem existed. While the US players were dominating the internet leaderboards, most Europeans were donking around in $20 games on Party Poker.

In some ways we need to include the UIGEA into the picture, I think this sped things up as far as leveling the playing field goes. Not by a huge amount, after all anyone 'serious' about poker can still play... its only the average joes who used to regularly lose money who are gone. Maybe we could argue that the leveling off of talent was brought forward by a year or so.

Personally I love reading some small stakes goon on the forum talk about the 'Eurodonks'. Why? because it shows me just how many players Europe is producing at the moment. The huge pool of potential talent... sure there are lots of donks - in 2005 they were US citizens relaxing with $100 at the end of a hard week at work... now they are average EU guys (and gals!)... most will lose and give up, but some will succeed and out of those a small percentage will hit the big time... relieving those small stakes ego's of their hard-ground bankrolls readily.

Yes, I'm happy for the Eurodonks and the level playing field of 09... because in 2010 and beyond it is the Europeans / Russians who will be laughing at the US players they brush aside along the way.

Remember - I'm not anti US (in fact the only prejudice I have is against low intelligence 'animals in human bodies - which just happen to make up 98% of the world's population!!). Just painting a picture on the record of the future... if I'm wrong then let me know in mid-2010!

GL at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Personal Poker Content Challenge!

Rainy January days can somehow drain the motivation, so time to perk myself up with a mini-challenge - focused on the longer term growth of my poker website business.

I will create 120 quality poker content pieces in the next 10 working days. 12 a day is pretty heavy going but definitely achieveable with the right mindset / focus.

Acceptable pieces of work will include:

- Quality blog posts (not the mini-update type ones)
- Strategy Pieces for my own network of sites
- Reviews / Bonus type pages for some of the sites in plan
- Articles for other poker webmasters to exchange for links (traffic - if you want some quality writing give me a shout)
- Extensive re-writes of existing pages (for example I'll be completely redoing my rakeback site pretty soon, not just minor tweaks though, has to be a complete rewrite).

Looked at Stars last night and noticed I needed just 430ish more FPPs to get to silver-star too... so we will throw this into the mix to get there before the end of the month (well, the alternative on Saturday would probably only involve shopping anyway!).

Right, best start writing!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Round-Up Time (Again)

Seem to come around quick these Mondays... would love to give you a fascinating, nail-biting tournament run-down from the weekend - only, well, I only really donked around on the PLO tables for a few hours! Successfully sure, but not notable enough to blog about (though I do have a new 'sport' when particularly bored - min raising every time in PLO, the idea is to spot the player who objects the most to this behavour... then take his stack when he finally 'makes a stand'... maybe i'll do a guide!).

My weeks are always busy, this one no exception - with our second new recruit starting this morning... really pleased that we are moving forward faster than ever, even if it does take many hours to explain / train.

Anyway, just a shorty today - will get my trusty notebook out and make an effort with some longer pieces during this week.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stars Little Stroke Of Genuis That Made Them The Biggest

Not a commercial post, although I will focus on Poker Stars today. As most of you will know, Stars are the behemoth of the online poker scene - with peaks equalling the entire traffic of their closest 3 rivals* and growing all the time.

* thats Full Tilt, iPoker and Party, even more of an achievement if you consider that 95% of poker is played at the top 15 sites.

Anyway, there are several reasons cited as to why Stars continues to dominate, even setting aside the smart way in which they took over the US traffic from Party. My 'food for poker thought' today is that there is an overlooked element when people consider Stars' success... but first, the usual reasons:

- Stars is biggest because they have the best software? Well, its great, I mean one of the best, fast and smooth and easy and all that good stuff - but special? exceptional? that much better than Tilt etc that it could explain almost 3 times as many players?? Nope.

- Stars VIP Club is often cited as 'industry leading', and yes it is very good - especially for those mid-limit or multi-table grinder types... the more recent cash bonuses match some rakeback deals too. But wait a second, your average lower level recreational players do not really benefit that much... I mean no more than a decent rakeback % at Cake or points for cash at Pacific (to pick some random examples!)... this helps because it attracts the grinders which give the games liquidity, but only at the margins compared with other sites.

- Game Selection and number of tournaments... same answer, both are excellent but not different or exceptional enough to explain the huge disparity between their player base and that of other sites.

- Lack of decent competition... could be a factor!

Now, I have a different theory and the clue, as the saying goes, was in the title!

Stars offer a very small bonus compared to some other sites, it is a 100% match on first deposits up to $50, and to me this is the key to all of their success.

Think about it for a moment. New players do not sit at their computer one evening and think: "Hmmmm, I heard that online poker is fun, I'll deposit $1,100 (or even $500) and have a try".

Nope, they are looking for a small initial outlay to 'test the waters', we have all been there - back in the day when I first played (at Party) I'd deposit $100 at a time, lose it, do something else for a month and then find the software on my PC and maybe deposit another $50... yep, I was a regular losing joe who worked hard and blew off money for fun, as most players are even to this day.

So, when you see a $500 bonus and a $50 in those circumstances it is natural to go for the lower one, right? I mean you sub-consciously reason that you'll tackle the $500 one just as soon as you win a few games with your initial $50 right... and once you have a Stars account then everything is in that 'Goldilocks Zone' of 'just right'... so you stay there!

Anyway, the truth - as always - is somewhere in the middle. Stars success is due to a combination of doing everything very well indeed rather than leadership in any one area... my thought is that the small bonus has made a big difference though!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rights, Expectations, Responsibilities And.... Poker

It appears to me that a shift in society over the last 20-odd years has seen an increase in the general awareness of something we call our 'rights'. These take many forms ranging from human rights to freedom of speech rights through privacy and - notably - the new 'right to own things'... graduated recently? Then you have some magical 'right' to a well paid job and house,... Work hard this week? then you have a right to a better car, bigger TV and holiday (just add it to the credit card....).

Anyway, veered off right at the start... my other perception is that society as a whole has become more likely to point a finger of blame to the mysterious 'them'.... 'they should have stopped it', 'it is all their fault' etc - you can see it with the current economic turmoil - everyone wants to blame bankers / governments / hedge funds / property speculators and whoever else.... on a micro level falling over because you were on the phone and not looking where you were walking is now the fault of the local authority for not maintaining the pavement, rather than your own carelessness.

I'm not arguing that institutions and governments did not have a role to play here, just observing that society as a whole appears more likely to point the finger of blame than to accept individual or collective responsibility... that at a macro and micro level the sense of responsibility is lower than ever - at the same time as peoples sense of 'rights' and ' entitlement' is higher than before.

Now, this blog post was triggered by reading about yet another case of CPA fraud over at the poker affiliate programs forums.

It started as they do, with an affiliate complaining that poker site XYZ had not paid them money owed - that this poker site was a sham and fraud etc. Anyway, the director of affiliates (nice made up title by the way!!) at this top 5 site investigated, found that most of the players had deposited but never played, most were from India (where this chap was located) and almost half of them registered from the same computer (!)... basically this guy was a cheat, a parasite on the poker affiliate business - in my own opinion rather naive in thinking he could get away with it in the first place.

So, he has a collection of sites linked in his signiature - pretty standard bonus info that seems to fill the web every hour of every day. Here is the rub - many other affiliate programs are involved, some big names and some smaller outfits.

If this guy is scamming one site for the CPAs (1-off payments for each player) then it is pretty clear to me that the chances all the players sent to the other sites being 100% legitimate are very low indeed.

Now we can tie things together. I considered contacting the affiliate programs involved, pointing out that a case of fraud had been uncovered and implicitly suggesting that they might want to look a little closer at the accounts of this affiliate... after all, the alternative is to sit and think 'well, its not my duty to do such a thing, they should have checks and controls in place which catch this kind of cheat' (actually they do, and will catch him eventually).

While the programs catch up he will probably take $1000's out of the poker economy. You might say that this is fine, since it comes from the 'fat cat' poker sites pockets - but that just does not rub with me... the collective fraudsters (and there are many forms) are a leak of money that could benefit all participants from players through to genuine affiliates.

Long post... will get there shortly.

So, my 'right' is to be protected from such scum as the guy outlined above, but what is my responsibility? Can I, a small affiliate, really be expected to contact a bunch of affiliate programs to let them know? Is it my job to do this?

Been thinking about this question overnight, and however I bend the logic and run the argument the answer has to be 'yes it is'. Its like failing to vote and then complaining about your government. If I want to operate in an honest field as possible then I have to take my responsibilities along with my 'rights'... and spend 30 minutes putting together a few mails.

Finally - only a small percentage of my readers will be in the poker business, what I wanted to finish with is that this relates to players too... if you see something that looks like cheating, hear of multi-accounters or are invited to collude then it is your responsibility to let the poker sites know... assuming you wish to exercise your rights to fair play.

One more, of course this applies to life outside of poker in a million ways. Hopefully this post will get a couple of people thinking about this subject - whether you agree with me or not, my self-imposed role is to get you thinking - so it is job done!

GL at the tables, Mark

Quicky Update - 9 mails sent - one place with no easy contact details out of 10. Only took 40 minutes of so... now I can leave things to 'them' for a month of two!

Monday, January 19, 2009

General Updates - Poker + Poker Business

Very little poker this past weekend... entered a couple of tournaments Friday evening, but kind of expected to lose coin flips and even dreaded the AK vs KK type pots - not the right frame of mind to play a good game at all. Pleased to say that I was able to read the situation well enough to abort the mission before committing too much money - ended up playing the international version of Monopoly in Hungarian (which I can not read)... would 'get out more' only its too bloody cold!

My business is really the focus of poker efforts at the moment, even spent a couple of lazy hours on Sunday writing some reviews to exchange for links. Last week saw our part- time Russian speaker start with us, training in progress at the moment, but a very bright lady so should be up to speed soon enough. Actually have an interview this afternoon with a Polish speaker, we will see how it goes... definitely would like at least one more part-timer, just a matter of when.

Got a huge list of projects to work on at the moment.... here is a flavour of what is coming next!

- SNG Planet Deposit Options: Completed this last week with something like 12 new pieces (counting new versions which basically replace some of the existing articles). Also did a new layout and new visual matrix for this section. Erika is working away at this one right now and we hope to have it up in the next day or two.

- SNG Planet Romanian: This is now getting created, the new lady is doing is under E's supervision... going to be 3 weeks or so (unless I get impatient and decide to step in and do it myself!!).

- SNG Planet Satellites: This weeks big task for me is to completely update the satellites section of SNG Planet, got a ton of great content in plan and a new way of organising it too... will also work on some links for this one as we are on page 1 of the big G for some great terms but not in the top 3 places for very many. Expect the results next week.

- Translations: Loads going on, just started SNG Planet Polish, PB Klub is now underway in Romanian and Russian... more to follow too!

Next in the queue will be the revamp of my rakeback site... feeling motivated (as usual really) anf ready to make a big difference this week!

GL at those tables, Mark

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Well Well Well

It appears to be the latest thing at the moment to do a 'Well'. For those not familiar this is basically where a 'known' / successful player open themselves up for any / all questions in a forum post... these have been around for a while, but to my mind appear to be escalating in number.

Some are interesting, some not - reflecting the diverse people behind those screen-names. In true Plan3t Gong service style I'll list a couple of the better ones found recently...

- First up is Annette_15 Obrestad's Well post over on Poker-Road

- Next Pocket 5's for SCTrojan's Well (would have listed Assasinato's instead, but can not seem to find it - but this one is also quite insightful)

- Finally one for the Omaha fans - the Well of Ben Grundy aka theMilkybarkid, nosebleed stakes may not be everyones cup of tea but this guy owns when it comes to PLO! His well is at 2+2

Any more to add to the list? I would be happy to add a bunch more if anyone out there would like to suggest them.

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Day Of New!

Notice anything different about this post? A certain newness in the spaces between the words? Something about the sentence structure that says 'clean out of the box'?


Oh well... I have a new laptop, it has a gazillion gigs of stuff and a long list of electronic components with numbers next to them. The thing is I hate having a new computer... always have. While others might be excited to have the latest technology I actually kind of dread it, after all there was nothing wrong with my old one really... mind you, taking this logic to the extreme I would still have my Amstrad word processor with WordPerfect (or even m BBC.... a model B no less!!)

Anyway, life goes on and this laptop will be like an old friend in no time, no poker sites on it for the moment... another job for another day!

There is actually a great reason for having a new machine. Today we start our first employee at the Plan3t Corp, part time in the afternoons to help us grow the Russian side of the business. Yesterday we sorted out desk + chair etc and wiped my old laptop... today we start some training.. and tomorrow the world. Interviews are still ongoing for other languages too, interesting times ahead!!

Some interesting outbound links for you soon.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ever Made A Poker Bet Purely On Principal?

Usually have several books 'on the go' at any one time, with 3 currently open by my bedside... among them 'The Poker Mindset' which I'm enjoying a second (slower) reading of very much.

Something stood out yesterday in the section on 'Woolly Thinking'... it concerned acting on principal - that is to say making a bet or call because it is about time someone did for XYZ reason (the example given is to look up an overly aggressive player). After a think about this I realised that there are several areas where I act on principal alone, including:

- In limit games (rarely play Limit Holdem so talking HORSE / 8-Game)... if I continuation bet, another player raises and someone cold calls 2 bets while the betting is not closed I almost always re-raise - out of principle that there are so few situations in which it is correct to call 2 bets cold that this player needs to be shown how stupid this action is. Of course, at the lower levels they will just call 2 extra bets when the other guy caps, creating a big pot which gives perfect odds to stick around come the turn... doh!

- In no limit games my 'on principal' behaviour usually manifests in Blind vs Blind situations. I do not believe the small blind (or button) on principal... and often overplay hands when really they could have been mucked pre flop.

- In SNG tournaments... (cringing to write this one, but it is true so here goes)... I have a decent understanding of ICM and push / fold ranges - yet will often call regulars far to light 'on principal', the erronous point being to show them that I know they are pushing any-2, sure there are weak arguments about meta-game (or even future walks in the same game). However, on the whole this is just principals gone awry... just because I can spew my equity and theirs does not mean this is profitable in the long run!

Anyway - idea was to get readers thinking about whether there are any situations in which you act on principal rather than making the 'best possible' decision based on the current situation. If you can think of any examples then feel free to let me know!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mixed Feelings On Titan Poker's VIP Club

Titan Poker have actually been overdue a VIP club... yet now they have announced what looks like a pretty generous scheme I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Why? Well, they took away almost 100,000 points which I'd accumulated over the last few years.

Strangely, it should not matter, but it does.

These points were not quite useless - but fairly close to it. Being useful only for tournament entries with smallish prize pools and the occasional satellite.. the thing is that there was no warning that the new VIP club would set them to zero. My feeling of irritation is that they should have let players know a couple of months in advance, that way at least there is the choice to join in some of the freerolls etc

Anyway, enough grumbling - more a point of principal for me. There are a couple of pieces of good news here. Firstly that it opens a door for a whole bunch of 'treating VIP members badly' jokes for Melted Felt (gonna write that in just a minute - should be fun!). Secondly, Titan (and iPoker) have grown significantly to be the 3rd largest online poker site without a VIP club of any note - and with one they should be even better postitioned for a huge 2009... so the affiliate side of me is happy that the terms are generous at least!

Titan are unfortunately not US-friendly at the moment, if any non-US players are interested, Titan Poker are actually one of the fishiest sites you will find anywhere - I would personally argue that they beat Party in this respect!. My bonus code SNGPLANET gets a bigger 100% to $500 bonus and $20 in free cash (placed automatically into your account within 48 hrs)... just click the link below to check out those profitable tables for yourself!

Check Out Titan's New VIP Club!

GL at those tables, Mark

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Things Move Fast + Personal 'Chat Ban'

Feeling good after a 6km run this morning... on the treadmill, it is minus 6c or something horrible like that outside... also feeling good about movement with the business!

Have agreed with a Polish gentleman that we start the next translation of 100 pages of SNG Planet (now sorting the details / checks, but all seems legit so far). The Romanian translation is almost done too... just the small matter of creating the web pages now (gulp!)

Also have our first interview this week for a part time assistant to help us with the Eastern expansion into Russia and Central Europe. Not too late for applications (actually I may even take more than one person if the skills / languages fit well!) if any Hungarian readers know someone looking for part-time work in Budapest then let me know - advert link below!

Back to the playing side of poker... I have made a late addition to my new years resolutions, it really concerns working on my game and primarily the emotional detachment required to be successful. This manifests itself in a constant reminder to myself - to 'make decisions for the right reasons' but one small side effect is a personal ban from reacting in the chat box.

Now, to be honest I am not very chatty anyway, and the usual 'worst' comment you would find from me after a hideous beat would be 'sigh' or maybe 'donked'.... (except on a couple of occasions where I blew up at the odd egotistical 'professor' in a low limit game to keep them in their place (never works BTW - like arguing with traffic cone)).

Still these were reactions which tended to personalise things, both on the table and in my mind... and in 2009 they have gone... for my own good reasons the 'if you cant think of anything nice to say then say nothing at all' rule will be applied. Hopefully this will help me focus harder on making the best decisions possible. We will see.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, January 05, 2009

Loving The Poker Business

On a day where millions the world over will return to their desks in various corporations I am taking a moment to consider myself fortunate... the xmas and new year disruption to normal life is finally out of the way and it is time to get fully back to work - and it feels great!!

More business posts to follow as the month goes on. First an update from some new years pokering...

A mild disappointment on my first final table of the year in a 600-odd runner $5 donkament on Titan... came in 6th (or was it 7th?) playing a big pot against an over-aggressive but bad player in the big blind... raised up kings before the flop, and managed to act weak enough at the same time as building a big pot that we were both pot committed on a dry flop. Was one of those reads combined with pot control situations in position which worked out perfectly - until he spiked the river for a horror 2 -pair... no bad beat whining here on Plan3t Gong (it was self-banned a long time ago), did everything right which was all that I could do, the rest is down to chance!

Over on Stars I took advantage of their world record reload bonus and played a bunch of $6+50c SNGs, 9-tables at a time... sure, this is a step down from my previous levels, but based on my bankroll on this site that was what I should be playing (practice what you preach etc!!). Success so far, both in profits and clearing the bonus and now have 65-odd buy-ins for the $16s (next weekend though - too busy to play for a few days).

Next couple of days will be focusing on writing some great content and organising the initial steps for some new projects for '09... can not wait!!

GL at the tables, Mark

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Poker Writing Comp - $1000 + 10 * $100 Up For Grabs

Ummmed and Ahhhed about posting this, but since there are many talented bloggers / writers out there who pop over to Plan3t Gong now and again here it is... a decent sized prize for a strategy article competition.

This is run by Randy Ray, as reputable an affiliate as they come and owner of several highly respected and well known websites - you will have seen them, trust me!

With $1000 for first prize and 10 * $100 runner-up spots + 5 categories to choose from there is bound to be significant buzz around this comp, which closes at the end of Jan. Here are the categories - will link to the forum thread at Poker Affiliate Programs which announces this below:

- General Poker Strategy
- Texas Holdem Poker Strategy
- Omaha Hi Lo Poker Strategy
- Razz Poker Strategy
- Seven Card Stud Poker Strategy

Article Writing Competition

GL at those tables, Mark