Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The PG Online Poker Strategy Super Jump-Off Page

OK - As will shortly be explained in a sticky post at the top of Plan3t Gong this is the Online Poker Strategy super jump-off! This will contain links to many of the articles posted here over the last 3 years - and many of the links to good outside resources too.

This will take a little while to fully update, and will work in categories. If anyone would like to see my current writing on SNG, MTT, Omaha, Satellite and Rakeback (and more) then check the square adverts towards the top right.

We can start with posts which were deliberately put into series - with their own jump-off pages:

Series #1) 10 Post Series On How To Increase Your Profits By 63% By Making Incremental Small Improvements..... Improve Your Poker Profits Idea was that just a 5% improvement in 10 different areas + the wonder of compounding + the wonder of rakeback = $$$$

Series #2) Articles Covering Annette_15... all quiet on that front at the time of writing, but I'm sure we have not heard the last. Updated versions of these articles are available at SNG Planet, but here is a small sticky with the originals: Annette_15 Strategy Annette_15 Strategy

Series #3) PLO Strategy... well, not so much a series as a collection: This smaller collection were my initial musings on PLO, which eventually morphed into the biggest and best Omaha resource online in the shape of Omaha Planet... I'm sure there are more than this, will look for them and add them to this sticky: PLO Strategy

Series #4) The Big One - SNG Strategy: While I played poker regularly the majority of this was SNGs - when PG started it was 'just another poker blog from a SNG fan' until I accidentially found that I enjoyed writing about the strategy.... anyway, this sticky is incomplete too - will make an effort to grab the URLs of all of the SNG posts soon: SNG Strategy Sticky

Going to publish this post now before completion - Double or Nothings, Draw Poker, Psychology, and External Links to be added as separate stickies, followed by a '20 posts which have stood the test of time' (which will take me a little while to pick from the 600+ posts here, but hey!)

See you soon!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Classic PG #1 - Reasons For Checking In Sit n Goes!

First in a few posts from the archives today... noted earlier that strategy posts go into our commercial sites these days.... meaning that I somehow do not feel like posting them here at Plan3t Gong any more. So, develed into 2007 and found one that is the opposite of the 'conventional wisdom' that you should always be raising and betting while playing poker.... entitled Reasons for Checking in SNGs.... enjoy


Any SNG player (well poker players in general) knows there are a whole number of reasons for raising, most - if not all - poker books and strategy guides cover this subject. Well Plan3t Gong is the blog that likes to make you think... so today we can turn our thoughts to a slightly obscure area of Sit N Go Strategy - reasons for 'checking'.

(in no particular order!)

1) Pot Size Control. Sometimes you'll have a hand you are happy to play a big pot with... other times not - a top pair with kicker for example is often very vulnerable. If you do not want to build a big pot then you'll need to check at some point during the hand. This is especially useful when you have a big stack and are in a pot with another biggy - no point going to war when you can pick on the medium / small stacks instead!

2) To Take A Free Card. With position you can check to take a free card to make your draw. Works especially nicely if you bet the flop and missed your draw on the turn, now if you miss you have invested the minumum and if you hit (especially with a straight) you may find your opponent betting into you on the river.

3) To Induce A Bluff. So your opponent is known to usually call a flop bet... now checking on the turn might induce a nice bluff on the river from hands that might have folded if you continued to bet at the pot.

4) To Check-Raise / Slowplay.You know your opponent is aggressive and will keep firing at the pot, you check-called the flop when first to act... against the right opponent a check-raise on the turn can get more money into the pot. Make sure you pick the right players though... you do not want your opponent to check behind and take that free card when there are draws out there...

5) Co-operation Plays. When a short stack is all in and there is no side pot... checking down a hand can be mathematically beneficial to you. The increase in your equity from maximising the chances of knocking out an opponent are greater than the potential to win more chips. Make sure you know the math here though... there are many situations (when the bubble is not yet here) when a bet might be the better option.

6) To Prevent Yourself Becoming Easy To Read. Less common, especially at the low stakes, but if you always lead with strong hands and check weak ones you'll become exploitable by observant opponents. Mix up that play enough to put some doubt in their minds by occasionally checking when you would have bet and vice versa.Any more? drop a comment to let me know!

In the meantime... GL at the tables, Mark

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Poker Basics - Introducing Poker Hand 'Ranges

Get searches in Google et al from players at many different stages of poker knowledge and experience.... so to keep things balanced I'm starting a mini-series on a poker basics topic today - one that is a bit of a buzzword recently, but has been around as long as the game itself - the subject of Poker Hand Ranges in Texas Holdem games.

Todays idea will be to explain what we mean by ranges and point out come common situations in which they can be used. Later we can look at more detail of how your opponents ranges will affect your pre-flop decisions... whether we get post flop will depend on reader feedback for the first posts!

Going to assume that readers have a tool called PokerStove... if not then grab it now, it is free and invaluable for players at all experience levels to compare hands with other hands and hands with ranges of possible hands too... get it from http://www.pokerstove.com/ or search google (there are no strings etc).

Right, with all that preamble out of the way, let us look at poker hand ranges.

Imagine a situation at the end of a SNG tournament (to keep it simple, we will adjust for cash / tournament play later). You are wondering whether it would be a good idea to shove all-in into a single opponent and would like to know whether this is a profitable move in the long-run.

(just as an aside we are ignoring ICM here, this example is to explain the concept of ranges only)

If your opponent folds you will win the blinds, a nice addition to your stack. If he calls then you will bust x% of the time and double-up y% of the time (the x and y depending on the hands you both reveal). We will start at the beginning, how often will you actually be called.

Lets look at 2 opponents, a tight player who will 'only' call with pairs 8-8 and better, and Ace-King or A-Queen - suited or unsuited. And a Loose player who loves to call wide and will play any pair 44 and up, any suited ace and unsuited ace-seven and up, K5suited + and J-9 off + lots of 'any 2 high card' and suited / unsuited connectors 8-10 or better....

Before we make any decisions we should learn the 'how often' side of the equation for these players (and those in-between). For this you click on the 'player 1' (top left) of the PokerStove main screen, and then the 'pre-flop' tab on the next window. You are then presented with a matrix of possible hands like the ones at the bottom of this post:

By selecting the hands that you judge each opponent will call with based on their previous play, you can get a percentage figure which is the proportion of hands they will call with compared with the hands that they will fold.

For the examples we gave these numbers are:

Tight Player: Will have a 'calling hand' only 5.6% of the time (yes, if someone is this tight they are folding more than 94% of the time... change your play at all??)

Crazy Player: Will call you 30% of the time, that is a lot but even someone this loose will fold 70% of the time to your shove.

Next we look at how your hand will fare those times you are called.

Say you have 7-7 and want to know how you will do against the 2 ranges we identified those times you are called. Lets use some really simple numbers to illustrate the point here. After posting a small blind of 50 and big blind of 100 you each have exactly 1000 chips left, we then use information from PokerStove and run the hand 100 times to see what the average loss / gain is:

100 Hands Against Tighty:

94 Times we win the blinds +150 chips * 94 = 14100
6 times we are called.... using Pokerstove we select 6% for player 1 and choose 7-7 for ourselves (as player 2) once ok'd we click the large 'evaluate' button to get the equity of each hand. Here we have a clear 66/33 result (so a ratio of 4 losses and 2 wins from our 6 hands)
- 4 times we lose 1000 chips = (4000)
- 2 times we win 1150 chips = +2250

When we add these up we end up with a gain of 12350 chips over 100 hands or 123.5 chips per attempt... this is huge and clearly shows that shoving tight players has a positive outcome, mostly based on the fact that you steal the blinds to often.

100 Hands Against Loosy:

70 Times we steal the blinds +150 chips * 70 = +10500
30 times we are called, again we need PokerStove to show us how much equity we have against the 30% range, next to player 1 on the main screen type 30%, then choose 77 for player 2 and click the 'evaluate button' ... as you can see we are a small favorite when called, so:
- 16 times we win 1150 chips = + 18400
- 14 times we lose 1000 chips = (14,000)

When the dust settles, our balance is +14900 or +149 chips per attempt, even better than the push against the tighty, albeit with some significantly increased short-term volatility.

Anyway, the examples are just to give you an idea of the thought process (raising / seeing a flop / something else may be optimal depending on stack sizes and situations). To start working with ranges:

- First we estimate all of the hands an opponent would play in a given situation.
- Next we memorize the basics of particular hands against these ranges
- Finally we combine this information to make a decision with a positive outcome over time.

Well, hope someone finds this 40 minutes of my Sunday afternoon useful!

GL at the tables, Mark

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Start Of Month Business Update - Plans Plans Plans!

After the previous more thoughful post here is a more normal one - about my plans for the month ahead for Planet Corp and the ever growing list of sites in our portfolio. As usual I'll go through site-by-site, not going to link out from the article to any of these... but if you are interested there are adverts on the top of the right hand side-bar.

Sit And Go Planet: Well, the Polish version is basically complete, the Romanian is undergoing a nice revamp and we will continue to add some great content (have some top stuff ready on my computer but will ration it through the month). Going to pause a little in June to make sure we are maximising visitors experience (less bounces, more pageviews, more return visitors etc) as well as catching and converting those fleeting visitors looking for specifics. We are planning to take June off from new translations - will start looking for a German translator here in Budapest in the 2nd half of the month with the aim of getting this up by September.

Omaha Planet: My favorite bugbear, growing visitors + revenues... until now was never sure of what to do with this site. Now a plan at last - we are going to focus it on rakeback - as well as a major revamp during June. The thought process is this: People looking for Omaha info are already somewhat experienced (on average at least), experienced poker players are not likely to be signing up without rakeback - especially those who play reasonable volume / value. Makes sense right! This will be a big job and ties into the one below... again some great content to add, and the long-promised e-book (about transitioning from NLHE to PLO) is now in outline form.

Rakeback-Planet: (with the dash!). Redesign actually underway while I type, the big announcement is a move of back-end, hopefully by the start of next week. Previous provider was ok but their CS seemed more interested in closing tickets as fast as humanly possible, rather than thinking about actually helping the customers or adding any value - and PAS (who we are moving to) have a great reputation for service. The back end of the previous provider was my other concern, my 'deals' page still showed offers that were closed months ago... anyway, this should be a real boost and I will tie it in with more content too. Even better we already have Hungarian and Russian versions translated - so as soon as the English one is up we will create these (on their own domains) before transitioning Omaha Planet to this provider last.

Melted-Felt: Really enjoying this one - I'll keep writing those pieces as long as visitors keep coming to read them.

Durrrr Challenge Blog: Bored with this one, oh well, will keep it up now I have started. Might have to start paying its way with the odd link to my other sites though.

PB Klubs: We now have 4 separate bonus portals, in Hungarian, Russian, Polish and Romanian, growing now, with 35ish pages each. We will add some more content and tidy up the reviews on all of these this month... no major plans though (mind you, thinking about it maybe I should get another one done - Slovakian or Slovenian would fit the bill!), oh and increasing visibility for would be good too.

Killer-Holdem: No big plans, needs a tidy up (couple of out of date reviews etc), since we do not have an English 'PB Klub' we use any content created for that network on this site - so could potentially get bigger.

Plan3t Gong: Will continue with its stay of execution, when I get the time and motivation I will 'retire' this blog and start a business / personal one instead. There is a ton of strategy buried here, what I was thinking was to dig some up (well, after all statistcally speaking 85% of those who read it 2 years ago will have moved on from poker by now!). In fact the next post will be the first in a 'Classic Plan3t Gong' series!

Well, thats the plans ahead, we are hoping to make the next interim milestone in terms of players this month. Have a ton of ideas just waiting for the money to invest in them, and will want to be hiring a German speaker for the office here by the end of August to bring the total up to 5 - we will see!

Gl at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Start Of Month Planet Corp Business - Thoughts

New record for sign-ups and revenue last month and steaming ahead with some great plans for June. Always start each week with 'its going to be busy' and June is once again no exception.

Had a thoughful and welcome comment from a reader last week noting that my sites have become 'spammier' of late. This is both correct and part of a premeditated plan (though I still firmly believe we have a far better balance between content and adverts than at least 90% of the competition!). This comment was worthy of a reply - so let me explain:

I had always been a bit of a 'quality content snob', write the best content and the world will be your lobster school of thinking... and you know what - it sort of worked. I managed to create some sites that had top quality articles, very few adverts and that a small minority of readers would think were pretty cool.

Now that was all well and good - but at the end of the month having a site that was kind or amateur but interesting, that tried to get people to think about their game without preaching and deliberately did not 'over-advertise' for fear of being considered too commercial - did not pay the bills, and the reason was simple...

The type of person that the type of site I created already had everything sorted as far as rooms / tools and rakeback deals was concerned. The best I could hope for was someone getting curious enough to check a new room or download SNG Wiz. I had aimed my websites at people who would only ever 'appreciate them' and not at the people I needed to.

Of course I enjoyed the self-invented 'SNG / poker thought coach' role, but even appreciation from that was an illusion of sorts- the kind words in mails and comments were not from people who knew me as an individual, however well meaning (and greatly appreciated) they were. Being cool yet anonymous among a few was nice, but this also failed to pay many bills.

what happened next?

Simple, I profiled my visitors. Figured that there are certain types of players at certain stages in their poker development who want different things from a SNG / MTT / Satellites site. Slowly but surely we have been adjusting the sites to cater for these people (in 3 main groups as it happens!). Yes the quality content continues, but appealing to experienced. established players is no longer our main focus and has not been since around October last year. But identifying visitors and tailoring to those with the most profit potential is not all:

We are now asking those visitors to click things - so simple, but so effective.

Whereas once it would have been fine to give a room review with a nice banner down the side, now we end with a sentence that says 'Visit XYZ Poker Now to See Those crazy games for yourself' with a link - yes, the site is focusing on conversions - something I am personally very irritated with myself about not focusing on earlier (must be my British reserve or something).

This is an ongoing process or course... but while there is tons more to do I am going to ensure that we keep a balance between quality and adverts in a better proportion than our main competitors. Though as long as my income keeps growing I'll never feel shy or embarassed about asking a visitor to click something ever again!

Well, a long post - guess we could boil it down to 'If You Can't Please All Of The People All Of The Time, Them Make Sure You Please Those You Can Most Effectively Monetise' or something like that!

Of course, some of my other sites have a completely different focus and were never designed to be strategy sites at all (but that is another story for another day).

Gl at those tables, Mark