July 21, 2011

Television appearances + PokerStars Speed

European Blackjack Open
So last week I went to film the European Blackjack Open in London after being invited on a freeroll by Poker Heaven, where I used to play poker a couple of years ago. It turned out to be a really fun day. There were 14 other entrants, and I was pleased to discover they were mostly on a similar level to me, where they had read a few charts before hand and perhaps vaguely understood tournament strategy, but not too much beyond this.

Most of the players played poker so we had plenty to chat about. I think I was knocked out of my heat in about 6 hands (you only played 10). Sigh, I lost 4 "flips" out of 6 so no shot at the €5,000 prize for me. Ironically the guy that ended up winning was the only player I noticed who lacked any knowledge of blackjack strategy, ie. he did stuff like standing on 15 with the dealer showing 10, and hit on 12 with the dealer showing 6, not to mention his betting made no sense, he had a chance to bet the minimum and go through the heat as best runner up, but he decided to bet a random amount and fortunately for him he won. Skill game then!

After a few drinks at the Casino at the Empire, where it was held (where they still have WSOP-E posters plastered all over the place, might want to take those down now chaps. How they ever held this tournament here is beyond me, it's bloody tiny, the whole casino is probably 1/10 the size of the Amazon Room at the Rio), we headed out for this absolutely lush meal at a French Restaurant. I was a little bit cheeky ordering the Fillet Steak, with Poker Heaven picking up the tab, and we all seemed to have more than our fair share of red-wine, but it was trés bien!

After the meal we all drunkenly headed to this karaoke place called "Karaoke Box". You all get put in a large booth and they bring drinks to you when you push the button (I need to get one of those installed at home!) I kind of like karaoke as it gives me a chance to rap, I tend to roll out one of the classics (This time I gave Boom! Shake the Room a twirl) and then freestyle the last verse. It went down pretty well, although freestyling is a lot more difficult when you're wasted, so I'm sure I jumbled my words here or there.

After the karaoke bar I headed off with one of the guys, called Karim, and we ended up getting on a bike-with-a-carriage to take us to the bar he was taking us to (sounds kind of gay now I'm typing it, but it wasn't!). A couple of minutes later these two European guys came up to us and started drunkenly hugging us. I was thinking "this is a bit weird", and the next thing I knew Karim was chasing after them down the street. I padded myself down and nothing was gone, and he had his laptop with him but it was in the carriage which held on to, so I was a bit confused. It turns out they nicked his £3k watch though, sigh. On top of that he had a gash in his leg after hitting a car whilst chasing them. So he called the police and we had to give a description of what happened and stuff, and he ended up having to take an Ambulance to get stitches in his leg. So a bit of an epic fail of an ending to the night, and I feel bad for Karim, but I still had an awesome time all in all (I didn't feel awesome the next day, ugh!).

Sky Poker
Later today I'm heading back down to London to appear as an analyst on Sky Poker's "Sky Roller" show at 8pm. It's a 4-hour long live show, so I'm pretty nervous, but I'm looking forward to it! I believe I'm essentially analysing hands from two MTTs that are being played at the time on Sky Poker, with random chat and banter inbetween.

Anna Fowler and Tikay will be presenting which is cool because I actually met Anna at the EBO I talked about above, as she was presenting that too, and she's really nice and we got on well. I've known Tikay since I first got started in poker, and it's always good to chat with him, so it should be good fun.

If you are interested in watching it's on Channel 865 on Sky, or you can watch the channel via this link from the Sky Poker website.

PokerStars Dealing Speed
It looks like some good changes have been made to the PokerStars client, which have sped up dealing time in SNGs, MTTs and Ring Games.

The start time for 2-18 man SNGs has also been reduced. Regular and Turbo SNGs with these number of entrants now begin after 20 seconds, a big decrease from the 60 seconds they were before (Hyper-turbos now start in 10 seconds). I'm definitely happy about getting rid of this dead time, as those 40-seconds for every SNG soon add up.

The increase in dealing speeds should also mean getting in extra hands per hour, which should be a good thing in relation to increasing ROI a little, although I'll be keeping an eye on how many tables I can manage at the new speeds!

It's quite weird watching all-in showdowns for the time being, as I became so accustomed to their previous speed. Now the turn and river just go boom boom. At least it speeds up the pain when you get sucked out on, much like pulling off a plaster. In truth, watching showdowns is a waste of time an emotion anyway, so this is definitely a positive change.

Read the full announcement about the changes here.

July 11, 2011

PokerStars New Hyper-Turbo Heads Up SNGs

PokerStars decided to trial non-satellite Hyper-Turbo SNGs for the first time a couple of months ago amidst the SNG changes that were made at the beginning of May. They were rolled out in Heads Up, 6-max and 9-max format at the $7 level.

In that time a certain close competitor to PokerStars which offered a fairly wide range of Super Turbo SNGs has effectively been shut down, if not permanently, then with permanent damage being done to it. PokerStars have seemingly picked up the ball which Full Tilt have dropped.

Presumably they are still evaluating both the 9-man and 6-max versions, which are yet to see much expansion:

$1.50, $7, $30

...but in the last few days the Heads Up format has been introduced across the board at all levels:
$1.50, $3.50, $7, $15, $30, $60, $100, $200, $300, $500, $1000 

The format for the SNGs is below:
Starting chips:
Blinds increase:
Every 2 minutes
10/20, 15/30, 20/40, 25/50, 30/60, 40/80... 

I've given them a bit of a whirl and have played about 100 so far at the $30-$100 level. Although this is obviously a tiny sample, I think it is likely to be fairly representative of the stats below:

Average duration:
3 mins 20 seconds

Longest match:
9 mins
Avg. # hands per match:

Here is a random sample of the approximate number of each Hyper-Turbo HUSNG that were running at 8pm WET today:


When you consider that each match lasts between 3 and 4 minutes on average, it seems like they are proving to be very popular so far.

In my mind there are some pros and cons to their existence:

The good thing about them is that they are fast.

They fill up super quick, and even better they get started after about 15 seconds instead of the 1 minute wait that exists for all other SNGs (which I think PokerStars should either reduce to 30 seconds, or alternatively introduce an "I'm Ready" button for all entrants).

They don't take very long. If you need to finish up your session for whatever reason you can do so with just a few minutes notice. Not only that, you can fit in short sessions that you couldn't with other SNGss. I like to have a few hours available to grind my usual games, but a half an hour patch here or there and I could fit in some of these heads ups.

Of course you could also deem their speed to be a bad thing. Each individual SNG is clearly very crapshooty, and the edge you have over a bad opponent is going to be a lot less than it would be in a slower-format.

The games also seem rather reg infested. Although there are plenty of games running at most buy-in levels, of course the regs are able to play an awful lot of games per-hour, so you see plenty of them in the lobby.

I also question the number of fish in these games. I think most winning poker players in any format of poker have a decent idea of what they are doing. Perhaps the expert-sharks in this format might eek out an edge an opponent less experienced in SNGs, but I think it's quite easy to be at least somewhat competent in these games.

Whether it's a pro or con I'm not sure, but they are quite "gambley". I could imagine people going on a hyper-turbo induced monkey-tilt if they lose a few in a row, and playing too many at the same time, playing above their usual buy-in level, playing rematches they are -EV in etc. In theory this is good for people like me, as I feel pretty immune to monkey tilting in this way these days, but for those of you that don't, I think you could do your nuts playing these if you aren't careful. It could be argued they are tantamount to playing blackjack, which I'm not sure is the best thing for the average recreational player, but I'm not sure it's the worst thing either.

In theory I'm not sure exactly how I feel about them, but this is only because I don't know if I will play them all that much, and I was doing fine before they were introduced and don't need that to change. However, from an unselfish standpoint, I think they are a good addition to the SNG roster and it looks as though they are going to be popular.

For now I think I will keep playing them a little on the side, when I finish my sessions and when I have a spare bit of time for example (not that I have much spare time at the moment, as I mentioned in my previous post!), but I can't quite imagine playing them full time as I think dealing with all the all-in showdowns might drive me a little crazy!

July 07, 2011

June Review and pretty busy time ahead!

With my trip to Vegas taking up a chunk of time, and taking a break after Vegas, I barely played in June so my results were so short-term they are barely relevant, but seeing as I have posted each months SNG resuts, I figure I might as well post them up...

Previous month reviews in 2011:

My play has been a bit disjointed recently. I have been playing a few MTTs recently which has probably only served in distracting from my SNG grind. MTTs are weird because when you take brutal beats deep into tournaments after playing awesome for 7 hours, you swear you're not going to bother with them. A couple of days later you've forgotten about the pain and you want to play some more. I made it kinda deep in the Sunday Million, but frustratingly bust 172/5718, losing a flip with AK into QQ. Even though you're still a good 160+ players from making good money, you start to get a little bit excited at that point.

Just as I'm typing this Phil Hellmuth finished 2nd in the $50k Championship, sick that he lost from a 5:1 chip lead and missed 3 flush draws in a row!

Unfortunately my play is likely going to continue to be disjointed as I have an awful lot going on over the next few months. Next week I'm travelling to London after being invited to play a Blackjack tournament. Although I'm not 100% on what I'm doing it was a big enough tournament to travel to seeing as how I'm in on a freeroll. The week after that I will be appearing on Sky Poker's TV Show, which I'm excited about. It's a 4 hour show so I expect it to be quite gruelling, but seeing as how I can't make a final table to get on TV this seemed like a good way to get on TV :). My only previous appearances on television consist of telling a bad beat story in GUKPT season 1 which was broadcast on Channel 4, and celebrating Lincoln City scoring when I was 11 on Goals on Sunday. Not exactly impressive lol. You can watch the show live online, so I will post up a link closer to the time where you can watch me on the show if you so wish.

I will also be moving house fairly soon, which will undoubtedly be a lengthy and arduous process, and not long after that I'll be getting married and going on my honeymoon.

So I'm going to have to do my best to try and fit in playing poker around all these things that are going on!

Here's a couple of things you might like to take a look at that you may not have seen yet.

Also, don't forget the $100 Reload Bonus on Stars atm, it's effectively free money if you can clear 2000 VPPs in 20 days.