Archive for the ‘Online Poker Information’ Category

Online Poker Programs

Monday, January 11th, 2010

There are many programs out there to help online poker players increase their winrate. Some consider using these to be cheating, which is understandable, but as long as poker rooms allow them, it is by definition not cheating. Not taking advantage of these programs, if you think they can help you, is just unwise. No one is going to throw you a parade for taking an idealist, ethical high road, by not using any programs to help improve your online poker winrate. Of course, programs that are unethical and blatantly illegal should not be used. But we’re not talking about those. We’re talking about programs that everyone uses, such as PokerTracker. If you’re not using these programs, you’re starting at a disadvantage with each hand of online poker you play.

One of the most important type of programs you need is a program that registers your results. Sure you can do this on your own using a spreadsheet, or more practically you could use our free Check Your Bets software, but the best programs are PokerTracker 3 (PT3) and Holdem Manager (HEM) if you are willing to spend some dollars. Which is better? The majority seems to say HEM is the best, but the difference is not big.

What makes these two programs better than the free options is three-fold:
1) They can be set to record information automatically.
2) They record a lot more information, which to a greater extent helps you find leaks in your game.
3) They can show any information they have recorded about players around your table on a display on the screen. So if you are on a table with someone you have played against in the past, you will know amongst other things if he is loose or tight and if he is passive or aggressive. It is even helpful against players you have never met before, as it will also show statistics of how these players have played while you were at the table. This makes it much easier to get reads.

Another helpful program is Pokerstove. It simulates how different hands or hand-ranges perform against each other on showdown. You can plot in hands or hand-ranges for several players, plot in any cards on the board and Pokerstove will find out how often each player would win on a showdown. For example, you can find out how Ten-Nine suited performs against a range of hands that includes any Ace, any pocket pair and any suited broadway hand to the exact percentage. This helps decision-making with pot-odds related calls you face at the poker table.

If you are a Single-Table Tournament player, you will also need an STT-tool. Unlike in cash-games, the value of a chip in a tournament changes depending on the circumstances. There is a mathematical model of estimating the dollar value of your stack called ICM (Independent Chip Model). There are many free ICM-calculators online, which work for situations where there are less than 10 players left in the tournament.

In late stages of tournaments, especially in turbo STTs, you reach a point where the optimal strategy is to either push or fold preflop. STT-tools are great for helping you improve your play in these situations. They combine the technology of Pokerstove and ICM calculators to do this. The most known STT-tools are SNGwiz and SNGPT. Last time I checked,SNGwiz was superior, but also a little more expensive.

If you want to post a video of your play, so people can help you identifying leaks in your play, or if you want to make a poker strategy video like the ones in our free poker strategy videos section, I recommend Camstudio. It is the best video recording software and they offer a free trial.

Why Tough Ring Games Are Very -EV

Friday, October 16th, 2009

When talking about EV and variance, many poker players prefer to play ring games since the variance is much lower than tournaments and they can grind out a solid profit over time. Back when I was playing poker on a professional/near-professoinal basis,  I played ring games the majority of the time, and rarely had a month where I lost money.

Times have changed though and games are much tougher than in the past. There aren’t $15-$30 fixed-limit games where players will just cold-call a raise with A7 offsuit preflop. Rake has gone up, not down. A higher percentage of players playing poker have been playing for at least few years, and the number of new players as a percentage of online players in general is much lower.

For these and other reasons, ring games have gotten tougher. But one thing to remember about ring games is that even if you are an average player at the table, the game is very -EV. The rake at a ring game is about 5% of the pot (it’s lower at higher stakes since the max rake kicks in, but these games are also shark filled). If you are an entirely neutral player, this means the game has a 5% edge. That’s slot machine type play. You need to be significantly better than the other players at the table. This means you can’t just be good, you need to be confident that everyone else is terrible.

Tournaments are a bit different. While technically the vigorish is around 9-10% for a tournament, you get many, many hands in a tournament, so the vigorish per hand played is much lower. In other words, when factoring in skill, luck, and vigorish paid, when you pay the 5% vigorish in a ring game, the skill you use to make up for that vigorish lasts that one hand only. In a tournament, you have dozens of hands where you can employ skill to overcome the 10% vigorish.

Also, in a tournament, the lottery-aspect of the tournament will continue to bring in the fish. Tournaments also offer better value for skill-neutral players. If you play a $100+$10 tournament for 2 hours, and let’s say you are exactly an average-skilled player, you are paying $10 in EV for 2 hours of entertainment. That’s still pretty cheap entertainment.

In comparison, a ring game where $2 in rake is taken on average a hand, with about 50 hands per hour and 8 players, amounts to about $12 in rake paid. That’s quite a bit more per hour going to the casino, which makes it that much harder for you to turn a profit.

What to make all of this? Well, quite frankly, if you are playing ring games a lot, and your numbers are looking bad, then it may be time and suck it up and admit they are -EV for you. They probably are for 90% or more of most players out there.  If you still want to play poker, try low buy-in tournaments. At the very least, the variance is so horrible that if you continuously wash out, you can trick yourself for years into thinking you’re a +EV player.