Tuesday, November 13, 2012

End Of My Old PokerStars Account ;(


Thought I’d return here to mark the end of an era, my original Pokerstars account, which was the subject of most of the early blog posts here – is gone.

No big scandal, the Stars affiliate department asked me to create a new one which was not linked to my commercial activities and then transferred my balance to it. The old account will just be for payments / cashouts of my affiliate income and can no longer play or chat.

While half of my brain knows it makes f all difference, the other half is still feeling a little sad… I kind of got attached to that Id, it played a good half of all of the poker hands I have ever been dealt and grew with me from shaky beginnings to actually building up a bankroll!

I should mention that time when I sat at the kitchen table playing just one SNG, a $16, losing would have left just $1 in my account… Sure, the glorious tale of winning the game and building back up from there would have sounded cool. Win I did, but to be honest I was a corporate slave at the time and $16 was no big deal, story does not sound quite as dramatic when I mention I would probably have had another deposit after a couple of weeks.

When I think of the people I knew through poker back then it is remarkable how few are still active. Poker got too serious for many, lost its allure as an entertainment activity. Others probably changed their lifestyle, graduated from college or were simply thrown out of the good games by different laws.

So, farewell to my old Id, and I can only guess that my Full Tilt one will go the same way once there is an affiliate program in place for that site.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Penultimate Nail In The Affiliate Rakeback Coffin

I have never been a fan of rakeback, well, at least the flat-rate affiliate-administered deals which were all the rage a few years ago.

With Pokerstars announcing that Full Tilt will scrap rakeback and combine their old in-house rewards (Iron man / Black card) into a single rewards program when they re-open – I am happy to be declaring rakeback (almost) dead!

Now, before you all write (as many of you do whenever I blog on this topic!) the reason I never pushed the demon RB on this site was simple: I saw this system suck the love of poker out of so many people, that it no longer sat comfortably with my idea of SNG Planet as a site for beginners / improvers – the niche that includes players in that initial enthusiastic burst of loving the game.
Rakeback rewards volume, it turned people who loved poker as a hobby into robots, they suddenly discovered that playing 12 tables reasonably tight and mechanically earned a nice return.

No objection to this in principle.

At this point many people stopped striving to hit the big time, stopped going for that big tournament score, stopped working on ways to see through the competition… and essentially learned a defensive, math based style aimed at making just a couple of dollars from each table per hour, minimizing swings and collecting a portion of their rake at the end of every month to show a profit.

‘And Why Not!!’ I hear you all cry.

I’ll tell you.

Because 3 months later the hours start to drop, by 6 months playing poker becomes a chore and not a pleasure, by 9 months poker is painful rather than fun… and in 12 months the majority have given up.

For me, the path of rakeback grinding was a path to turn a game you love into a game you hate.
If you have the discipline and willpower to turn the game into a job, or for that matter to learn while 12 tabling and move on up the levels – then more power to you. I have nothing but respect for the small percentage of people able to maintain this lifestyle.

At the same time I represent the majority of recreational players here at SNG Planet. I want to ensure you see both sides of the coin, that you understand that rakeback is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – that it at the same time as boosting your bankroll, it will ultimately kill your love of the game.

Right, with iPoker segregating their grinders (with their recent split - Titan are still the place to be!), Merge handling rakeback through their own cashier and the Entraction network on its way out – I had better decide to do with my now-defunct site, rakeback-planet, haha.

Gl at the tables, Mark

Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Reasons For US Players To Be Positive As summer 2012 Ends

I just did a general positive post over on my SNG Planet blog. Noticing the lack of updates here at Plan3t Gong for a few weeks – it seemed like a good time to continue the optimism here.

The title is 5 reasons to be positive for US players – and I wanted to add a quick caveat to this before I get going… I know things are not the same for my friends across the pond as they were before Black Friday! Things are looking up though, green shoots have appeared and online poker in some kind of regulated form is making its way towards us. Once your contest to see who has the most financial backing (you call it an election even though hardly anyone votes, right?) is over, then there is a real chance we could see some movement at a Federal level, we’ll have to wait and see!

#1 – You now have 2 rival networks.

A little while ago it was Merge (Carbon Poker) and the rest… now at least you have the new revolution network giving a choice. Just check the bonus amounts, Sunday tournament guarantees and cool new promotions… the effects are there and the fall should see this battle escalate – great news for players!

#2 – Payment Processing

Deposits and withdrawals, particularly using Visa cards and paper checks (for withdrawals) are going well… it seems like (for the time being at least), the authorities are focused elsewhere. See my dedicated deposits for us players article here.http://www.sitandgoplanet.com/pokerpayments/Best_Poker_Deposit_Methods_For_USPlayers.html

#3 – Tournament Schedules And Guarantees

US players can now get a decent amount of games running at the lower to mid buy-ins by combining Cake and Carbon Poker’s tournaments. Both of these sites are also offering satellite qualifiers to live events, many of which pay their prizes in cash (hint hint!)

#4 – Nevada Legal Sites

This is just a matter of time now… with operators being awarded licenses. Sure, you will need to be a resident of NV to play – however the effect of the states ‘doing it for themselves’ should not be underestimated – this may well be the catalyst to bring forward some federal legislation a little faster in 2013.

#5 – Full Tilt Money Coming Back

I know many players who have had some large sums of money locked up in Full Tilt. These funds should be coming back soon, with the start of November highlighted as the latest date. Since they have your records anyway, you might as well claim what is yours.

Enough optimism for one day – I am off to make nice cup of English tea!

GL at the tables, Mark



Friday, July 20, 2012

5 Reasons I Am Tipping 888 Poker For The Top


Well, ok, I will admit that 888 probably will not be toppling Pokerstars any time soon… however there are some very good reasons to believe that the fastest growing poker site are going to keep on growing – and could be knocking some well known sites off of their ranking spots along the way.

888 were previously branded as Pacific Poker, the rebrand has been gradual, and in 2012 the references for Pacific finally disappeared for good. It is the same site, and same team behind the scenes, this is great news – as their experience goes back more than 10 years.

Another thing to note is that this site is owned by the group who run the 888 Casino, which used to be called Casino-On-Net. This is the biggest online casino. The reason for mentioning this in a poker blog is that there is a lot of traffic  crossing over from the casino into the poker site. If you think that this makes the poker tables soft then you are right – the profitable games are one of the biggest reasons to move to 888 poker!

 
Ok, enough in the way of introductions – here are my 5 great reasons to check out 888 Poker for yourself!

#1 – Cool Software

The software is a hidden gem, it looks great and plays even better. If you are used to iPoker, Party or OnGame then this will seem like an amazing advance. I’m going to go as far as to say that this is a match for Pokerstars when it comes to the client.

#2 – Innovations

888 Are not sitting still, in addition to 3-d effect tables they have introduced private games, webcam tables and even team-poker. 

#3 – Effective Promotions

Many poker sites these days seem to need you to play 80 hours of 10 tables a week to score some cash in their promotions… great for the 2% who are grinders, but what about the rest of us? 888 offer more fun promos, tickets to live tournaments, sporting events and give-aways of gadgets… in addition to many ways to keep that bankroll topped up. Keep an eye on their website for the latest offers.

#4 – VIP and Welcome Bonuses

You’ll get a fast-clearing 100% match on your first deposit (max $400) + some great ongoing rewards through the player loyalty scheme. Points can be spend on bonuses or tournament entries… a great way to keep that bankroll growing!

#5 – Fish

This is the main reason to play at 888Poker, the fish come over from the casino, players loosen up in order to play more hands against them… and the games become super-soft compared to the ‘grinder’ filled tables at other sites. Once you see the games for yourself, I am making a strong prediction that you will never go back! Check out 888 Poker for yourself now and see the difference!

For more info you can see my detailed 2012 888 Poker review over at SNG Planet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ramblings On Quitting Poker!


Here is a question which is very relevant to me at the moment… since my Poker mojo has well and truly gone. I do not have a plan for this post (usually I know what I am going to write before typing a word, this will be more free-form): Why Do People Quit Playing Online Poker?

Now, most people reading this will probably not know my ‘story’ of finding myself in the poker business… if I had not quit my corporate job, travelled the world, discovered poker and blogging, been paid to write some pieces for other webmasters, realized I could make much more using the material myself …. And then made some websites – then I would have quit poker a loooong time ago.

Probably around 2007, and almost certainly by 2008.

Yet here I am in 2012 still playing now and again, keeping up with the new games and strategy adjustments…. Oh well.

I would have followed a very normal path had it not been for my business.

Discover the game, lose money.

Try and get better, study and understand.

Start winning, get seduced by the possibilities.

Add more tables, watch my bankroll grow.

See the game turn from a fascination into a grind.

Start to lose the love of the game.

Next downswing kills the passion further.

Switch games, switch strategy, switch sites… try and get that mojo back

Slowly but surely play fewer and fewer games

Even without noticing… quit.

Giving up on poker is not like giving up the booze or smoking, there is no cold turkey for most people. It is more a peak and trough of passion for the game. The funny thing is that even big winning players seem to follow this path. I have known people who crushed the $2 / $4 for a very juicy hourly rate suffer exactly the same slow and lingering death of their poker passion. In one case taking a job at way below his previous hourly rate to get his life back to a normal balance.

I have become a little jaded about the whole subject.

Most people involved (with honorable exceptions) are ugly unbalanced characters. The business is dirty and risky, and even those who keep their noses clean and mouths shut are tarnished by the reputation. 

I must have mentioned the half-life of 6 months thing many times – from a personal perspective I would have lasted 3 years, putting me 3 standard deviations away…

Of course, most people quit quickly. They lose their cash (very easy to do today with hordes of sharks just waiting for new players to sit down). They feel that online poker is rigged, usually due to misunderstanding the huge variance involved or bad bankroll management. They move up levels too fast, or just get fed up with people insulting their play in the chat and decide that other forms of entertainment are more, well, entertaining.

All very well pouring your heart out Mark, but what happens next?

Fortunately there is an end approaching for me.

Not a clean one – yet.

I’m working with a colleague to exit myself from the business by the end of the year. Delayed once already… but the pieces are definitely coming together now. Eventually I will direct and monitor my network – but the day to day running of it will be in the hands of someone who actually likes poker!

Then of course there is the decision on when to sell up. There is still more potential to be realized from my network of sites, and I really do not want to sell up and be left with the feeling that I would have got more if only I had done X Y and Z… There has to be some compromise here of course, since I am an ideas factory and there are always new X’s Z’s and Z’s coming along.

I just no longer feel the urge to log on and play poker.

Even when I have a winning session, the whole thing just depresses me.

Here is looking forward to the day when I can live my life completely poker-free!

Thanks for indulging yet another of my Plan3t Gong rants… quite enjoying using the blog where I started writing about poker to get stuff off of my chest concerning the end.

GL at the tables, Mark



Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I Feel Rakeback + Multi-Tabling = A Slow Lingering Poker Death

The Case Against Rakeback

This post will win me no friends, posting anything even slightly ‘anti-rakeback’ gets the masses of small stakes grinders stirred up. I’ll make it anyway though, reading a couple of different forums today got me thinking about the subject… and the more I think about it the more it irritates me.

Here is my central view – Rakeback takes people who love poker and first turns them into robots, then slowly squeezes the love of the game out of them.

Of course, the beauty of a nice rakeback deal is it seems so damn sensible – if you can get 30% (or whatever) of your fees back, then why the hell not.

Next the logic becomes this, ‘wow, I played my regular games and got $20 back this week… if I just played more tables I would be able to double it’. Of course it does not stop there, the norm becomes 6 tables, then 8 and finally 12 – any pretense of outplaying anybody disappears – instead poker becomes defensive, the object is no longer to win… it is to avoid losing while playing as many hands as possible.

This is fantastic at first, new players have a cash machine based around the game they love – and of course the support of many other like-minded players reinforcing that they are the cool guys, that they are the ones making the money and nobody can criticize them.

Of course, it does not take long before the grind starts to take its tool. Before the fun of the game seeps away… Maybe they should move to Omaha, the even cooler guys are there.

What about the alternatives?

Here is a thought for all the 1000’s of players such at NL25 and 50 etc out there. Who are not improving their games, but making a ‘great’ living from the tables by putting the hours in.

What if instead of all those hours grinding they focused on improving, I mean really focused, got under the skin of the games and learned to beat the mid stakes. NL400 to NL1000, instead of playing 12 tables they played only a few, working out what opponents were thinking, their ranges and how their ‘robotic’ tendencies could be exploited.

Sure, the grinders would be way ahead in money terms after 6 months, maybe even a year… but in 2 or 3 years time? They will have either quit or be fighting to maintain their volume... I would argue that the player who did not worry about maximizing their rakeback in year 1 would now be looking for a deal – and would be in a position that those who discovered the grind too early will never catch up with.

But Mark, poker is all about maximizing every single edge – so why do without it?

Here is another common argument. My issue with this one is that it misses the entire point of the game for the majority of players. I’ll sum it up:

At it’s core, poker is not about maximizing your income for the vast majority of people who play it – poker is about having fun.

Shocking huh?

When you surround yourself with ‘grinder’ buddies this soon disappears… your $1000 a month rakeback is great money while you are at college, or still living with parents… in the real world, meh, not so great.

My central issue with rakeback is not that players should refuse to get money back from the poker sites, not at all. It that in my experience, once a players perspective becomes rakeback-centric, they swap high volume for learning and slowly but surely poker stops becoming fun.

I could go into more arguments against. The sites offering flat deals are full of break even grinders… making the games less profitable (just compare those sites with the poker networks including sports betting brands like OnGame!!). Even those who make a better living than I have mentioned quit after a few years, sick of the grind. I can personally count at least 10 people who were clearing $5k a month total who have now quit including one who was crushing $2 / $4… and every one of them would have laughed at the notion that they were doing anything other than ‘what they loved’ earlier in their ‘careers’.

My Course!

Of course, I have a SNG course – the ‘$16 per hour SNG Blueprint’ which teaches people to grind! What a contradiction!

I say at the start of this that earning that $16 per hour is to build up a bankroll which gives each player the choice of where they want to develop their poker.

The funny thing with writing an anti-rakeback article, is that the very people who laugh at my ideas the loudest and pour the most scorn on my perspective are those who, after a couple of years grinding has turned their love of poker into hate, will one day realize that – actually, there is another way of looking at this subject after all...

GL at the tables, whether you play with or without RB!

Mark

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The WHY Of SNG Strategy

You can read basic Sit N Go strategy articles on literally 1000’s of websites online. Some advice will be good, some of it bad and some downright dangerous! These articles usually divide 1-table tournaments into three distinct stages, early, middle and bubble – outlining the different strategies during each stage.

What often gets overlooked is a good explanation of why your strategy should follow these stage-specific rules. Once a player starts to understand the reasoning behind the need to stay very tight early, or shove often (but rarely call) on the bubble - their play will often dramatically improve. This article looks at the strategy changes at different stages of a SNG and answers the key question – ‘Why?’

While most articles start with the early stages I am going to start with the bubble, that period where there is just one more player to go before the money paying spots. In a standard 9 or 10 handed game this will be with 4 players. At this point stacks are usually ‘shallow’, each player having between 7 and 20 times the big blind.

These stack sizes explain my first ‘Why?’, since the lack of ammunition for turn and river betting means that post-flop options are limited. While this explains a good SNG player’s tendency to shove all-in a lot, there is another more important reason – the way the prize money is distributed.

Prize Pool Distribution In SNG Tournaments

Usually, prizes are given out to the top 3 players in a 9 handed SNG at 50% / 30% / 20% with the remaining players getting nothing. It therefore follows that the chips held in these games change value as we go through the game. Let me keep the numbers simple with a 10 handed game at $10 with 1000 starting chips per player. At the start of the game each chip is worth 1c, at the end of the game one player will hold all 10,000 chips and be awarded $50 – meaning each chip is ‘worth’ only 0.5c each.

Here is the key to understanding all-ins at the bubble: Since chips change value the extra chips you win by doubling up are worth less than the value you stand to lose if you get knocked out. The numbers can show you how why.

4 players remain, with 2500 chips each in our game – over the (very) long-run each will average $25 profit per game, all else being equal. Now say that player A and B go to war with an all-in, and player A wins the hand – doubling up to 5000 chips. What is the value of this new double chip stack over the long-run?

While it is more than $25, we can not give this player a long-run average of $50 here, player A will not win 1st place every single time – poker is not that straight forward! Also players C and D are now guaranteed at least 3rd place ($20) with a legitimate shot at 2nd and 1st – on average they will win more than $25.

If you do the math using the Independent Chip Model or similar method the average wins work out something like this:

Player A: $38
Player C: $31
Player D: $31

Now we can get to the key ‘Why?’ explaining the frequent all-ins during bubble play. When player A went all-in, player B had to make the decision of whether to call or fold. When he called he was risking equity (average wins) of $25 to win an average increase in equity (wins) of just $13 more. He did not just need to have a better hand than player A, he needed to have a hand which would compensate for him taking an almost 2-to-1 risk with his long-run profits to call. Because player A knew that hands which give these kind of odds are rare, he was able to go all-in with a wide range of hands himself.

As an aside, you will notice that players C and D gained average profits of $6 more in our simple scenario simply by watching the hand play out – nice work if you can get it.


If you want to know more about how these calculations are made then I strongly recommend you grab teh 30 day free trail of SNG Wiz - the leading ICM calculator. Click here to check it out!

Now We Go Back To The Early Stages Of The SNG Tournament

Once you understand the ‘Why?’ of bubble play, the ‘tight is right’ strategy during the early and middle stages makes far more sense. Key to being able to profit from your opponent’s mistakes and your own ‘shove all in’ strategy, is having enough chips to persuade an opponent to fold their hand a large proportion of the time. If your stack is short then someone could call you without risking being knocked out – which means you no longer have the 2-to-1 requirement on your side.
Chip preservation is a dominating factor in the early and middle stages of SNG tournaments. The risk of being short at the bubble means you no longer have advantage of fold equity, and means your opponents will be happy to wait for you to bust.

Having said that there are things you can do early on. Set mining with small pairs or sneaking in with suited connectors can be profitable, and you can often build big pots with premium holdings against the weaker players. Avoiding unclear situations and the temptation to play Ace-X hands where X is not a king or at least Queen is important, staying solid will get you through to the mid and later stages with enough chips to do some real damage!

There are 100's more top quality poker articles covering poker tournaments of all sizes at my main site - Sit and Go Planet is committed to turning players into winners... check it out now! http://www.sitandgoplanet.com/

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quick Poker Tournament Formats

Poker tournaments can be very long at times… the current lower buy-in SCOOP events are a great example… 10k+ players and a good 8 hours to get to the final table. While the rewards can be great, not everyone has the time (or the patience) for this kind of long-winded game.

So, I thought I would do a post outlining some of the faster alternatives – anything up to a few hours for those who fancy a quick game in an evening, only do not want to be propping open their eyelids at 4am.

1 – 1- Table SNG Tournaments

The 1-table games last from 30 minutes (turbos) to 1 hour+ and are officially a tournament format. With the payouts for the first 3 in typical 50% / 30% / 20% format you are never going to get rich overnight playing the 1-table games… These are great when you want to relax for an hour of two and have the safety of a fixed buy-in though. My favorite place for SNGs is Red Kings Poker, a cool OnGame site where you will find a ton of opponents crossing over from the more popular sports-betting brands on this network.

2 – Multi-Table SNG Tournaments

Here I am thinking of the 45 player (5-table) games, and the 90 or 100-player 10 table tournaments, with bigger payouts and the chance to hit a ‘final table’ these games are far more tournament-like than the 1-table equivalents. If you take 1 or 2 of these down you will get a nice boost to your bankroll too!

3 – 180 SNG Tournaments

I am putting these into a category of their own, since these games are practically an institution. With the turbo versions taking less than 3 hours you will have all the ‘stages’ of a normal MTT to go through – and a big payout at the end. These start from $2.50c with the $8+80c and $3+Rebuy versions very popular due to their featured position at the top of the main tourney view over at Pokerstars.com

4 – Short Stacked Tournaments

These start with 1000 chips and have antes which kick in very quickly, meaning you are forced to play a lot of hands in order to keep ahead of the blinds… with fields in the 100’s or 200’s range these games will be over pretty fast – in my experience the standard of play is pretty damn poor too. Again Pokerstars is the place to head for these games.

5 – Timed Tournaments

These are special games which last from 15 minutes to an hour, paying out players still alive at the end of this period in proportion to their chip stack. Crazy would not even begin to describe the play, you can find plenty of these games running at a range of buy-ins. Hate to say it again – but Pokerstars is also the place to find these games.

Separate Subject: My Bonus Club Site Revamps Has Started


This is for Russian and Hungarian speaking readers. The first 2 portals in my ‘Bonus Club’ network are now live – you can see the Hungarian one here and the Russian one here.

The idea for these is to take the great content we have around and make country-specific portals out of it, each with their own local domain and writer focused on keeping them up to date. While these sites are a good few years old now, I was never very happy with the look and design of them – so it a real pleasure to see a nice new look and feel to them. With more than 70 pages each these are not thin sites by any means, and we will be working to ensure that they offer even more strategy and value moving forwards.

As a final note, there are several more of these in the pipeline – I will shout as soon as they are up.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Looking Back At SNGs 6 Years Ago!

A nostalgic post today, only without the detailed research into what appeared when, which would only serve to give me a headache. I first started playing Sit n Goes a long time ago… 2005 to be exact. I started blogging in 2006 and have been playing the damn things ever since while running the biggest website dedicated to this form of poker – SNG Planet (well, bigger tournaments + satellites too, but you get the idea).

When I first started out there were 1-table sit n goes, or steps. I am pretty sure that was that… you could choose 6 or 9 handed than the Stars $16s were the place to be… simply staying snug and profiting from the disaster which was most peoples bubble play. There was an ICM calc available, called SNG Power Tools, though this was a niche thing…. It was 1 or 2 people understanding prize pool equity and the rest not – rather than 4 people knowing ICM to 1 decimal place and 3 knowing it to 2 decimal places, I psycho working exploiting the fact that you know he knows it to 2 decimal places… and 1 fish who keeps complaining that everyone is playing ‘Bingo’ with their 6 BBs.

I digress!

The 180s appeared, and 2 table games came along… there was a gap while the 5 and 10 table games became popular… and heads-up was mostly in cash format if I remember it correctly.

Today we are spoiled for choices, and even though the standard of play is different now I really did want to use this post to emphasize how good things are out there (especially outside of the US) for SNG fans these days.

You have double-or-nothing + Fifty50 games

Knockout bounties…

Extra fast games to cut out all that difficult post-flop play

Different sizes of games which are popular enough that you can multi-table them

Novelty SNGs like the Jackpot games at iPoker and the Helkat (timed) ones at Party

You can play PLO, PLO8, 8-game, Stud and many other games without too much waiting

Satellite qualifier SNGs have not been around for ever either

… 180s now go off every 2 minutes, or even faster at peak times.

Online poker has grown so massive in the 6 or so years since I played my first hands that it really is unrecognizable from what it was back then… now, the big question is what will the SNGs (or online poker in general) look like in 6 years from now??

Gl at the tables, Mark

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Adding A New Room To My Network - Betfair

Adding a new room to my network at the moment… wanted to do a post about it here, since this is not something I do very often. You will see why below when I explain all the different work which needs to go into getting this ready. First though, a word about the only new inclusion of 2012 to date – why I like Betfair and chose to include them.

This site are part of the OnGame Network, while I have already been promoting Red Kings on this network (who I believe are still a great site!) there were some issues with this brand not being well known… it is hard enough to promote poker sites without the extra barrier of educating people on a particular brand.

Betfair are known as a betting platform – one where people can back or lay bets between each other, cutting out the bookies profit (though of course Betfair take a small percent for their service). Since this is well known, it is much easier to point out to people how much of the OnGame Network’s traffic crosses over from betting to poker – and so has no strategy knowledge (well, some people do of course, the majority not though).

I genuinely feel that online poker has become too Pokerstars-centric – in 2012 it almost feels like people have given up searching for the fishiest poker sites… and are just content to play against every grinder and his dog all day long in the same old- and some new – Pokerstars games.

Anyway, I have ranted about Pokerstars enough on my SNG Planet Blog…. Back to Betfair

The games are noticeably softer there. I challenge all readers to have a look and to come back and tell me this is not the case… the tournaments are just daft, if Stars has reached the point of ‘Light 5-betting’ then Betfair is back in the realm of solid TAG-should-win-it play. The cash games were pretty damn juicy too!

I don’t often include banners here at Plan3t Gong – here is one for curious readers to click this time though!





Getting Betfair Into My Network – An Idea Of The Work Involved

To start off with I have to play, and I mean properly play, not just a few hands here and there. The reason is that people can tell if you are writing a generic review or a review based on your own views. If you check out the kind of reviews on generic affiliate sites all over the web you will see exactly what I mean ‘Cash games are very good at XYZ Poker, with tournaments running every…. Blah blah’ lots of meaningless dry bullsh1t which is no use to anyone at all.

After playing I start with the 2 key reviews, the main one for SNG Planet and the SNG specific one… we are talking 2500 words here including all the relevant details and my humble opinion. We then need to think about getting them translated into Russian, Hungarian, Romanian and German (I have let French and Polish go for the time being)… and to link these reviews into the main pages and comparison articles.

We then have the supporting network which are smaller sites based around various sub-niches of poker (I now include this blog in the list). Each needs a review and / or an article highlighting this new site – my plan is that we send people from these sites to the main reviews.

Next the Bonus Club network needs to get updated… main review, updates to the comparison pages and links from all the main pages… in several different languages.

I am not even ¼ of the way through yet. Happy to be doing this though, this is for money of course, but also in the wider sense that I should be highlighting the best sites for readers of all of my websites. I just do not feel that ‘Pokerstars are fan-bloody-tastic’ is going to cut it in 2012, people are ready for a change and – with my continued campaign – hopefully becoming more aware that there are bigger profits and more fun to be had at different poker sites!

Oh, forgot the fish-o-meter, that will need updating too… direct to the php script… sigh!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Spring Full Of Poker Events

Spring in the air… so why am I sat inside writing about online poker events? Never mind that, here is a quick rundown of some of the online poker events (and satellites to some live ones) you can get involved with, erm, should it rain…

1 – SCOOP at Pokerstars

This is the 2nd most anticipated online poker event (the WCOOP each autumn being the first). The preliminary schedule has just been released which puts the start date for this one at May 6th. This event has a low / mid / high version of each tournament… and you can join the 1000’ of qualifiers to get into a higher event than you might normally play. Serious money is up for grabs, some lucky winners will have their lives changed by this one.

2 – iPOPS at Titan Poker

iPOPS stands for the iPoker Online Poker Series… for some reason this one does not roll off of the tongue the same way as SCOOP etc do. Anyway, this one is a series of 5 tournaments, with a twist! They start April 29th, have $1 million guaranteed in prizes and there are satellite qualifiers running right now.

The twist? The main event breaks up with 27 players still to go… and continues in Barcelona in a live-setting. This game alone has $500k guaranteed, so some big money to be had for the lucky final table players!

3 – PokerFest Back At Party Poker

Another successful tournament event leads to a re-run. PokerFest II kicks of April 22nd and has $3.5 million in guaranteed prizes – along with a $1 million guaranteed main event. There are plenty of satallites, leader boards, and those famous party poker fishy players too. One extra to look out for with this are the ‘Side Events’ which pay out WSOP packages as well as special daily dollar games each one with a unique twist… you will have to check out Party Poker to find out more.

4 – WSOP Satellites

These are now kicking off at Cake Poker and Party Poker… Pokerstars usually get theirs going when the SCOOP is over and the other sites are sure to be close behind. I have a dedicated page for these qualifiers over at SNG Planet which will get updated very soon (well, as soon as I finish my million other to-dos anyway!).


5 – More Live Events To Note

The WPT Marbella is soon, and you can qualify online for the UKIPT too – with the upcoming Nottingham event having a cool $1 million in guaranteed prize money these events are getting better and better.

GL at the tables, Mark

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some Cool Poker Tournament Promotions

Plenty going on in the world of poker tournaments at the moment… so this post is a quick run down of what is going on – along with links to places for more info on my wider poker network. If you love poker tournaments then these promos are always worth looking out for… you often find extra bonuses and incentives which can add some nice cash to your bottom line!

Pokerstars: Micro Millions:

I have detailed this one over at the SNG Planet blog in this post… 100 events, a $1 million first main event with a $22 buy-in and a reload bonus with a free token. This looks great!

Carbon Poker – Poker Maximus:

This one has already started, and includes a $200k guaranteed (I believe this is the biggest US online tournament since black Friday). A high roller event and plenty of other guarantees should see a lot of action on this Merge Network site… there is also a 70% reload bonus up to the 15th of March.

Party Poker – Spring Million:

The latest in Party Poker’s popular ‘Million’ series (seems to be about 1 per quarter at the moment), this is not until May 6th… however there are some good reasons for checking out Party now – the satellites. These start at just $1 (haha, sounded like a commercial there… ‘and that’s not all!’) and feed into progressively higher qualifiers. If you have not experienced the fish-fest which is a party poker satellite before then let me urge you to take a look… there is no easier site to win your $640 entry to the big event – and potentially life-changing money at the end of it!

Pokerstars – SCOOP

The spring championship usually gets announced around this time of year… this is always HUGE. Just flagging it for now – when the schedule comes in I will link to it from SNG Planet.

Titan Poker IPOPS2

Well, this is not quite the same as the ECOOP… but a worthwhile tournament promotion none the less. Titan are the biggest site on the crazy-soft iPoker Network, which is enough of a reason to play all on its own! IPOPS stands for ‘iPoker Online Poker Series’ and the 2012 version guarantees $1 million over 5 events. The twist with this one is that the final 3 tables of the main event (which has a $500k guarantee) transfer from the virtual tables to live poker. The last 27 will be flown to Barcelona to play for the big money… oh and you can satellite in too.

Remember that you can take advantage of my exclusive SNG Planet reader offer of a 200% match + $20 free cash ($30 min deposit needed for the extra cash!). Just use bonus code SNGPLANET – Click This Link To Check Out Titan Poker Now!

(PS: If you’d like more info first, you can read my Titan Poker 2012 Review here)

Pokerstars – Hot Turbos

I know, I know, Pokerstars again… these turbos are worth a look though – a bunch of daily guarantees for those who like their poker tournaments a little on the fast side!

Still waiting for news on the next Fishmarket at Red Kings… I am back in the office and updating regularly at the moment… so keep those eyes peeled!

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back To Poker Basics: Knowing vs Doing

Another post for those on the start of their poker journey today… the last one looked at the gap concept, covering pre-flop starting hand selection. Here I will carry right on with the theme – though in a slightly different way. You see, it is all well and good knowing about poker strategy, and those things you should and should not do at the tables… the big difference between winning players and the rest concerns having the discipline to actually see thought the action based on your knowledge.

Let me start with the gap concept. You know you need stronger starting hands when someone has already entered the pot with a raise, yet still play those weak aces? You know what you should do, but in the heat of battle… well, you have not had a good hand in ages… but hey, you might get lucky with 2 pairs this time.

Stop stop stop.

What separates a winning player from the rest is that they are disciplined in their approach… only deviating when there is a solid reason (a mathematical one, not just a hunch!).

There are many more examples, the classic is an ICM mistake in Sit N Go Tournaments. Here a player might be experienced enough to know that calling with their ace-queen (for example) against a shove at the bubble is a losing play over time. Yet that hand feels so strong, looks so good and they are sure it crushes their opponents starting hand range… nope, you call here and you lose money, not some abstract ev measurement – we are talking real money.

That guy raises from the button again and you have junk in the big blind. You know in your clear thinking moments that you should fold, you will find a spot soon enough… or even steal some blinds yourself. Something still makes you call or re-raise… when he re-raises your turn barrel you know you are in trouble, yet he might just be pushing you around… of course discipline would have prevented this ugly situation.

I could easily come up with more examples here… no need for now, as I am sure you get the message.

It is no good just knowing what to do… you need to act on it too!

GL at the tables, Mark

PS: For a great introduction to winning $$$ from the poker tables check out my poker ebook course ‘the $16 per hour SNG blueprint’ over at SNG Planet now!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do You Really Aspire To Becoming A Poker Robot?

Tongue-in-cheek post time… this one was inspired by reading through various poker forums and seeing the incredible exchanges between poker robots… erm, no, I mean between individuals who got good at multi-table grinding and are probably well balanced and friendly types with great social lives and no spots or greasy hair at all.

I love these kids, I really do. They got beaten and belittled at school, they got spurned by the ladies at college.. and now they are ‘free’ they are free to break even over 24 tables and make a comfortable living from points bonuses, they are free to act all superior in front of other nerdy losers who aspire to be just like them.. they are free to get snarky and act cool behind a keyboard towards those who are trying to be like them… they have escaped the world telling them what to do – but at what price?

The price is that they are trapped by their setups, trapped into spending 8+ hours a day alone, focusing on a computer screen, making thousands of utterly trivial dull decisions for every one which is even slightly interesting. They living in a world where the only change in the future might be higher buy-in level, or a new tool to bring in 0.001% more cash, at the mercy of poker sites who might decide to change their calculations in points or even run off with their bankroll completely. Their social interaction becomes a forum where instead of becoming friends with their peers they simply vent their frustration and anger at having such a monotonous and soul-destroying job.

Of course, they made their decision to be ‘free’ and will defend it until their dying breath. You fools who work for the man with your career prospects and social interactions… they will not be trapped into working in that cubicle all day, no way! Of course the irony is that the only jobs ex-grinders are capable of doing are the junior positions which their peers already worked their way out of to enter more challenging and interesting paths ahead.

Once they take the step to grinding freedom nobody can tell them they are wrong. As their friends disappear one by one, and they are left isolated with their computers and post-counts they will hold themselves tall and proud of examples of someone who ‘made it’… while those who once liked or loved them just look on in pity.

Hey, I love poker too.

Tell me though, do you really aspire to becoming a self-loathing online poker robot?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Chance For A Fishmarket OnGame Tournament Free Token!

Anyone who has read this blog for more than 5 minutes will already know that I am a big fan of OnGame’s RedKings Poker. There are a couple of different reasons for this… though it boils down to a combination of the soft tables (thanks to brands like Bwin and Betfair bringing sport bettors to the poker tables) and generous rewards (more on those below).

You can claim a freeby at Red Kings this week, in the form of their semi-regular ‘Fishmarket’ promo. The next one is on Feb 16th – at 20:15 CET (21:15 UK) so you need to act now!

This is a $10,000 guaranteed tournament with a twist. All new depositors get a free entry to this game worth $11. This keeps the standard super-super-super-soft (so soft they named it 3 times) which attracts many more of the recreational players from around the site… which gets the guarantee well beaten, big payouts for the last finishers… which attracts even more players to the honey pot.

If this sounds like a good combo, that is because it is!

RedKings are a cool site with multi-platform software and a great history of looking after their players well. You get to choose from 6 BIG welcome bonuses, and will also get an extra $300 bonus the first time you are dealt the 2 red kings in a cash game (goes up to $500 if you lose with them… now now, I know what you are thinking of!!!).


You can claim your token up to an hour before the tournament begins!


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Back To Basics, There Is Nothing More Important Than The Gap!

I have been thinking about ‘strategy writers bias’ a lot lately. This is the fact that, by the time a writer is ‘qualified’ to talk about poker – they already have a ton of knowledge above and beyond the concepts they are trying to explain.

The result is often a loss of perspective in relation to their audience. For example they assume something is obvious when talking about a particular move… or fail to explain why something is important, assuming the beginner will just say ‘ok!’. I could come up with several examples of this, for example after playing for a while you know that playing ace-rag is a bad idea… however, just saying this without explaining the concept of ‘domination’ to a new player (even an intelligent one!) will make little sense.

See, I just made a strategy writers bias error myself… experienced people will understand the concept of domination, though the new guys will probably not!

Anyway, I thought I’d use this blog for a couple of back-to-basics posts. Each one of these will explain some simple concept that we take for granted in a simple and jargon-free way. This will serve 2 purposes, firstly to help the odd newer player who ventures by. Secondly, it will force me to put myself into the shoes of my core audience – the new and improving players – and hopefully my ideas for material and writing for them will improve on my bigger sites such as SNG Planet!

The Gap Concept – So Key To Winning Poker, Yet Hardly Even Mentioned

After you decide which starting hands you are willing to play pre-flop there is another huge factor which should influence your decision on whether to enter a pot. This is whether anyone else has already entered the pot ahead of you.

There are several possible scenarios here. Someone may have limped (called the big blind), someone may have raised, if someone did raise then there might be a re-raise or a call… and depending on the position of the players relative to each other, the option to make yet another raise could still be there.

What a beginning player should learn to do is factor the betting that has already taken place, how many players are still waiting to act and whether they will have to act first or last after the flop into their decision to play a particular starting hand or not.

This is where the ‘Gap Concept’ starts to become useful.

What this states is that you need a better hand to call a raise made by another player than you need to raise a pot which nobody has yet entered.

This makes sense on a couple of different levels.

Firstly, if someone has raised then your starting hand no longer needs to beat a random hand that an opponent might hold. It needs to beat the possible hands the person who raised might hold.

For example, if a player will only raise with Ace-nine or better, pairs 55+ and a few King-Queen type hands, then your starting hand needs to do well against this range of possible holdings. You might have been happy to raise a pot which nobody has entered with Ace-eight, however against this opponent you will be ahead so rarely that this is simply throwing money away… the ace-eight now becomes an easy fold.

Secondly, we look from the other perspective, if nobody is interested in the pot then you have an opportunity to get hands which you not like to play against when first to act after the flop (a disadvantage I will cover in a future post) to fold. For example you would not like to play a mid-pair against something like King-Ten when first to act, since it will be difficult to know where you stand on the flop. You use the gap concept to your advantage by raising more hands when first to enter…

If you are at the start of your poker journey the key phrase (first published by Sklansky I believe) to remember is this: You need a better hand to call a raise than you need to raise with yourself.

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, February 06, 2012

Extra Special iPoker Jackpot SNG Offer

This is the 2nd time I have been able to announce an extra token for my readers at Titan Poker. This is really a promotion for my main site SNG Planet of course, however it all started here at Plan3t Gong – so what the hell, I’ll do a post here and keep readers topped up.

Here is what I am talking about in a nutshell:

New players joining Titan Poker in February 2012 using bonus code SNGPLANET can now claim an improved combo bonus… this is: 200% first deposit match + $20 extra cash (within 48 hours) + $6 ‘Maui’ Jackpot SNG token.

There is no catch, no hoops to jump through or sinister targets which remain just out of reach. All you need to do is make a first deposit of $30+, use bonus code SNGPLANET – and I’ll make sure the extras get to you within 48 hours.

Click here to check out Titan Poker for yourself now!

Here is a graphic we had made up for SNG Planet with the same offer.


For those who do not know about Jackpot SNGs, here are a few words on them.
The idea is that you win 6 in a row (or 4 or 5 for some levels) and scoop a big jackpot prize. This is between $2000 (for the $2.40c Dirty Dozen games) to $50,000 for the biggest (fort-knox) games… these jackpots are progressive, and I have seen them reach $75k in the past. These SNGs attract a lot of recreational players too – making them very easy to beat.

You can read more about these games over at SNG Planet here.

For those who are not familiar with Titan poker a couple of words on this site too.
Titan are the biggest site on the iPoker Network, a group of sites who share players too offer more games and tournaments, branding each site as their own. This network includes betting giants William Hill and Bet365 – and it is the large number of sports-betting players popping into the poker room which keeps the games very easy compared to other sites. Tournaments are especially crazy, though the SNGs are certainly easier to beat than at other *ahem* bigger sites!

Here is the bigger deal: 200% matched + $20 cash + $6 token this is valid for Feb 2012 only… so make sure you grab your extras fast! Click here to check out Titan Poker for yourself now!

Gl at the tables – if you win the Maui Jackpot, please let me know!

Mark