Blog posts

My ZOOM Thoughts

ZOOM has been available for a few weeks now (in beta) and I've been playing a lot of it. In fact, since it's release, 99% of my play has been at the ZOOM tables. So I would like to share my ZOOM thoughts with you guys.

(if you don't know what ZOOM is then check me out on YouTube explaining how it works)


Hands Per Hour

Playing ZOOM is really fast. The increase in the number of hands dealt compared to regular cash games is in the 3-4x range. This depends on how tight you play. The tightest players will naturally be dealt more hands than the loosest players.

4-tabling ZOOM can produce the same volume of hands as 16-tabling regular cash games, but it is much easier to do. If you want to 16-table regular cash games you either need an expensive setup with multiple monitors, or to stack your tables on top of each other which can be tough and confusing. With ZOOM you can play the maximum number of tables, tiled, on a small laptop and still get in some massive volume of hands.

If you 4-table ZOOM you will always be involved in 4 hands. If you 16-table the regular games there will variance in how much action you have to deal with at any one time. There will be periods of time when you have no decisions to make on any table, and then there will be times when you are involved in hands on all 16-tables at once - making it tough to play optimally. This type of variance in how much action you have to deal with is smoothed out completely by playing ZOOM, making it easier and more enjoyable to play.

Table Selection

Table selection has always been a huge pain in the ass for me.

In the regular cash games it is common for every table to have a long waiting list consisting mostly of mass-tabling slightly winning or break-even Supernova/Supernova Elite grinders. These players don't like to start new tables because they are playing too many tables to concentrate on Heads Up or short handed play to get tables started.

I usually start my own tables and they fill up with mostly recreational players. Shortly after, there is a waiting list with a whole bunch of the aforementioned grinders. What generally happens is that the recreational players quickly lose their buyin and leave, or double their buyin and leave. Whatever happens they don't stick around that long, and the table soon becomes 100% winning or break-even players.
So I constantly have to make sure that I figure out who the regulars are (by their stats and number of hands), evaluate the quality of my tables, quit bad tables and start new ones. This table selection process, while necessary, is mentally draining and distracting, and results in me playing less hands per hour that I potentially otherwise could.

With ZOOM the ability to table select just does not exist. Your opponents and their seating position are different for every hand. Sometimes this results in hands being played in situations that I would not allow to occur in the regular cash games, such as a table entirely consisting of good winning players, or having a deep-stacked player to my my direct left who has a high 3-bet frequency and is going to make my life miserable. On the other hand sometimes the allocation of opponents and their position will be entirely favourable. It's just another type of variance, and as poker players we are used to that. This variance does even out quickly, due to the number of hands being dealt, to what I believe are softer games than the average regular cash game table provides. The main reason being the better 'professional : recreational player' ratio in ZOOM.

Pro:Casual Player Ratio

In regular cash games it's fairly standard for professionals to play as many as 12-24 tables at a time. Recreational players generally play 1 or 2 tables simultaneously. So the presence of one winning grinder can be 12-24 times that of a casual player at the tables. This is one of the main reasons for what are perceived as tough games in the current climate.

Over the years PokerStars software has gotten steadily better, along with the release of third-party software such as TableNinja which is "designed to automate the repetitive and annoying parts of online poker so that you can focus on the tough decisions, play more tables, and take your game to the next level.", making it easier for professionals to play more tables and play well when doing it. Needless to say that casual players aren't purchasing TableNinja and upping their own number of tables, so the ratio of pros to casual players at the tables has increased as a result.


Each ZOOM game currently allows a maximum of four instances that one individual player can participate in that ZOOM game.

That means that the presence of someone playing the maximum number of tables (mostly professional grinders) can only have, at most, a 4:1 impact compared to a casual player.

Tighter Games

ZOOM games are certainly tighter than the loosest regular cash game tables. Players have less reason to play trash or even marginal hands when they can just click FAST FOLD and get dealt into a new hand instantly. That doesn't necessarily result in tougher games though. It's not just playing a poor starting hand selection that makes a bad player bad. They still play terrible postflop with good starting hands, stacking off with AA on a JT9 flop for a bazillion big blinds and such.

If certain players are playing tighter than they should in certain situations then a good player can pick up on this and exploit it. For example, players folding their blinds at too high a frequency can be exploited by stealing more, raising with a looser range from late position. Players with a tight preflop range can be outplayed easier on boards with low cards. 3-betting a player to your right can be more profitable as they are less likely to make a stand and play back at you than if it was a regular game, because with the random distribution of players each hand you won't be on their left 3-betting them much over the course of a session.

There are all sorts of situations to look out for an profit from as a result of players playing too tight in ZOOM. Good players adjust to new game formats, bad players don't. If you are a good poker player then you should welcome new games and innovations in online poker that give you a chance to adjust better than your weaker opponents.

Short Sessions

I've already talked about how in regular cash games there are waiting lists to get onto each table, and a reluctance for players to start new tables. This makes playing short sessions difficult because it can easily take half an hour to get the number of tables you want to play up and running.

With ZOOM, you are playing instantly. There have been times when I've had a spare 20 minutes before I have to go and do something. Previously I never would have considered attempting to play a session of poker during such a short time. I'd have wasted that time doing something non-productive like playing a video game. With ZOOM I can now play very short sessions of poker and play a significantly meaningful number of hands in those sessions.

ZOOM just makes life easier for poker players in general. Situations where you get disturbed in life, which for those poor guys with a nagging wife and screaming kids is likely to be a lot, are easy to deal with when playing ZOOM. Just sit out next hand, deal with whatever situation has cropped up, then get back to playing. Compare that to regular cash games where sitting out for a short period of time can cause you to be kicked from the tables, then you need to spend another half hour getting through waiting lists and starting tables again.

Making Reads

One of the concerns that people had about playing ZOOM was that it would be a game that would have to be played readless, because one's opponents are always changing. However in my experience I have found that because hands are being played so quickly, I'm constantly being sat with the same players again and again, so I can make reads based on previous hands played with those players.

In regular games, after a hand is completed, I like to make notes if a player did anything non-standard. In ZOOM games, after the hand is completed, there are instantly different players at my table, so taking notes related to the previous hand may seem very tough to do. What I do is click the replayer button to view the last hand, and use the replayer to double-click on the player and write a note, then close it.

There is an option to fold but view the remainder of the hand, just hold down CTRL and click FOLD. This is useful if you are in a large, interesting multi-way pot and want to fold. You can still see how your opponents play the remainder of the hand. Even if you do FAST FOLD, the whole hand history is recorded, so you can use the replayer to go back and find out what happened.

Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager have already developed HUDs for ZOOM. These work very well, especially with the fact that the whole hand history is recorded even when you FAST FOLD, and are essential for any serious player to use. In ZOOM you will see a lot of players playing too tight, and a lot of players playing looser to abuse the players that are playing too tight.

You really need to use a HUD to know which players are which and play accordingly against them, otherwise you are just stumbling around in the dark.

No Tracking

It is impossible to observe ZOOM hands that you are not involved in. In some ways this is bad, as your friends or fans can't rail you when you play. On the other hand, tracking sites which do bad things such as selling hand histories or compiling stats that show losing players how much they have lost are unable to do those bad things with ZOOM.


Future of ZOOM

[X] Higher Stakes

The highest stakes being run right now (remember it's still officially "beta") are NLHE-200 and PLO-100. I believe it's pretty much certain that it will be rolled out to higher stakes in the future.

A big consideration PokerStars has when deciding where to roll ZOOM out to is that there should be enough liquidity in that game and stake to support both ZOOM (with enough players in the pool so that it runs as fast and smooth as it should) and regular cash games (with enough tables running for those players that don't want to play ZOOM).

I believe that it is even being considered to make all of the highest stakes games ZOOM only, as a way to generate action.

[X] Other Games

In addition to the NLHE and PLO the ZOOM offering has been recently expanded and there are now games at microstakes FLHE and NLO8. I've never seen the FLHE game running, but this may be because people don't know about it yet. The NLO8 game does run, even at offpeak times.

The ZOOM tab in the lobby has 3 sub-tabs. HOLDEM, OMAHA, OTHER. It's safe to assume that OTHER is there because intentions are to roll out ZOOM across the wide array of 'other' games that PokerStars offers (stud variations, draw games and the like). At the very least they will be offered at microstakes initially to test the water.

I actually think the games where the functionality of Zoom will give the most benefit are games such as the stud variants. These games have many streets of betting and are fixed limit. Compared to NLHE, a single hand of stud takes forever. The longer a hand takes to play out in any game format, the more useful ZOOM functionality becomes for the players of that game. To be dealt a new hand instantly instead of waiting over a minute for 4 players to minbet and minraise their way to seventh-street is huge.

Whether there is the liquidity of players playing some of these niche games to support ZOOM I'm not so sure about. A 6-max ZOOM pool needs at least roughly 50 players to be optimally fast. When the numbers dip significantly below that you start having to wait for new hands and the whole point of playing ZOOM is lost.

[?] More Tables

Right now, during the beta release, the maximum number of tables anyone can play of one ZOOM game is 4. There has been some speculation that this would be increased to 6 for the full release. I haven't heard anything official regarding this though.

My gut feeling is that PokerStars probably will increase the maximum to 6. If we assume that a fast competent player can play 4x as many hands per ZOOM table compared to a regular cash game table, then 6 tables x 4 times as fast = 24, which is the same number as the current default maximum number of tables permitted at regular cash games. A player would have to 6-table ZOOM to get the same volume as 24-tabling regular cash games.

Personally I would like to see the tables capped at 4, due to quality of game considerations that I addressed in the 'Pro:Casual Player Ratio' section above. If 6-tabling a single ZOOM game were permitted it would only be the professional grinders that take advantage of it, and the games would be worse as a result.
If anyone does want to play more than 4 tables of ZOOM right now they can do that by just opening more tables at a different ZOOM. I have seen people 8-tabling ZOOM by playing 4 tables of PLO-100 and another 4 tables of PLO-50 simultaneously.

[ ] CAP NLHE

The word is that there are no current plans to roll out ZOOM CAP games.

[?] Heads Up

Nothing has been announced with regards to ZOOM at heads up tables.

I think it is something that should be considered since a major problem with the heads up games is that there are so many people sitting out, not wanting to play each other, just waiting for action versus a weak opponent. If all players were put in a ZOOM pool and matched up randomly each hand it would create a lot more action.

[?] Mobile Gaming

The UK and Italy already have access to some very slick PokerStars software on their smartphones and tablets. The attributes of ZOOM as a game format, being able to play fast and short sessions of poker on a small number of tables, fit perfectly into mobile gaming.

No announcements have been made regarding Mobile ZOOM but I will eat my hat if it doesn't happen at some point.

[?] Tournaments

The word is that there's no immediate plans for ZOOM tournaments but that it is something that could be considered in the future.

In my opinion ZOOM would be ideal for large field tournaments and multi-table-SNGs such as '180 mans'. Because PokerStars is the world's largest poker site, the MTT fields are generally huge and the tournaments take a long time to play out. This can put a lot of players (including myself) off from playing them, because they don't want to commit their whole day.

ZOOM tournaments would give players the opportunity to play a large field, large prizepool tournament in around 1/3 of the time, but still get to play as many hands as a regular tournament. Then if there were tournaments that were ZOOM and TURBO, well.... that would just be crazy. A very, very good kind of crazy.

Overall

Overall I am very happy that ZOOM is here, to the degree that I can't imagine playing non-ZOOM cash games ever again. Now everyone please send a million emails to PokerStars begging for ZOOM tourneys and 180man SNGs so I can be even happier :)

The Ghost Critter

THE GHOST-CRITTER

I now have a new Thai visa, good for the next 3 months, but getting it was a huge pain in the ass.

A few of days before leaving for Cambodia to get the visa I noticed a huge blister on the antecubital space of my right arm. It was huge but I had no idea how it got there. Over the next couple of days it slowly spread into a huge swollen rash, covering most of my arm. WTF? I have no health insurance right now so Google is my doctor. Dr Google suggested that it was probably an allergic reaction to an insect bite, so I took a bunch of antihistamines and used steroid cream and it slowly got better. But I was still wondering what the hell it was that bit me.

My bus to Cambodia was leaving at 4:30am. I don't know if you'd call that super late or super early? I have no idea because I am always on a rotating sleep pattern where I go to sleep and wake up an hour later than the day before. I think my body was designed for a world that has 25 hour days. But anyway, it was 4:20 and I was scrambling around my condo packing all the essentials for the trip, such as Nintendo 3DS and stuffed monkey, and frantically drying off boxer shorts and socks (that had been sitting damp in the washing machine for at least a few days after the cycle finished) with a hair dryer. That is when I felt something on the side of my body, but by the time I looked there was nothing there.

Then I heard something scrambling about! Fuck. There was some kind of beast in my bedroom and whatever it was wasn't small. Fuck! I come from a country where the largest thing that has ever invaded my living space was about the size of my finger nail, and even that had me in a cold sweat and panic.

My condo has been like a fortress for a year now. No creatures at all have gotten in here up until now. Not even any of the girls I've brought back could be described as creatures, due to me being extremely careful with my alcohol intake. You need to be very careful in Thailand. If you get completely wasted it's not just waking up next to some really ugly chick that you need to worry about, it could end up much, much worse. And by worse I mean a really, really, REALLY ugly chick that is packing some meat and hairy two veg.

But anyway, no beasties, spiders, ladyboys or anything had previously got into my home. I'm high up off the ground in a brand new condo that is completely sealed. It's quite an upmarket place so all communal areas are cleaned spotless every day and even a pest control company comes in regularly to take preventative measures against any kind of critters.

I still have nightmares of the night last February when I went to the English fish Amatay's apartment in Phuket to help him fix his laptop that was feeling the strain of all the viruses and malware that he'd collected from the massive amount of porn sites he visits on the reg. I was already feeling pretty disgusted that I was typing on his cum-stained keyboard when a MASSIVE cockroach ran across the laptop monitor. It took me months to get over that incident.

A year later and I now had some beastie of my own that I had to deal with. I didn't have a chance to find out what kind of monster I was dealing with as I had to run for my bus. But before I left I switched on every light in my condo and turned on all the aircon units. Hoping that would drive whatever creature it was back out whatever sneaky way it got in by the time I returned.

I stayed in a casino hotel in the strip of No Man's Land between Thailand and Cambodia while the agents took my passport to the Thai embassy in the Cambodian capital to get me a visa. Usually this only involved 2 nights stay but there was a massive screw up and I ended up being stuck there for 4 damn nights. All that time the aircon was bleeding money and wasting energy in my condo in Bangkok.

When I finally got home to Bangkok I was poking around everything with a long stick to see if there was anything alive in my condo. I didn't find anything. Just to be safe I went straight out and bought all sorts of cans of critter killing poison and sprayed it everywhere, nearly killing myself in the process.

Even though the coast seemed to be clear I was still paranoid that there was something alive and sharing my living space, so I slept the next few nights with the light on. Then last night I decided it was safe to sleep with the light off. I was in bed for about 15 minutes when I heard something moving around. I jumped out of bed and turned on the light. I was in a cold sweat and started poking around with a long stick again but absolutely could not find anything.

So yeah, I'm just being haunted by some kind of ghost-critter, that likes to bite me in my sleep. That's all. Either that or I'm just going insane crazy. Either way F my F-ing L.

TEAM ONLINE FREEROLLS / FROSTY012

We had out monthly Team Online freerolls recently. These are special tournaments for players who are new to PokerStars, you can find out all the details here. I had the pleasure of winning the depositors freeroll, proving myself to be the best Team Online player in the world (aniec).


I beat my Team Online colleague Tyler Frost heads up after he slowrolled the crap out of me with AK preflop. Needless to say he got a nice lesson in karma right there. Get it right up you son.

Talking about frosty012, he has had a short film made about him. It's worth checking out to see how a Supernova Elite grinder balances life and poker very well.




ZOOM

ZOOM was released for beta real money play on PokerStars a few days ago. For those that don't know, ZOOM is a fast moving ring game product. As soon as you fold your hand you are dealt into a new one, being seated randomly against a large pool of players.

I made a little video to show you it in action,




The rate of hands that a player is dealt when playing ZOOM is around 200 hands per hour, per table. That is around 3.5 - 4 time faster than the regular 'fast' ring games that I normally play. Playing 4 tables of ZOOM PLO is no problem at all, and is much easier than multi-tabling the 14-16 tables that I would have to play simultaneously to achieve the same number of hands dealt.

I was initially worried that ZOOM would be a game that would have to be played 'readless' because of the ever-changing opponents. However after playing for several hours I'd been dealt into so many hands that even in a pool of several hundred players I had been matched up against the same players a lot. When playing ZOOM I've been able to make reads and take notes on my opponents and play well against them. It's certainly not a game that has to be played blind. Poker Tracker have already developed a ZOOM HUD and that has been massively useful.

I look forward to playing a lot of ZOOM and I have a feeling that I will be hitting those VIP Milestone bonuses a lot faster this year.

MICRO MILLIONS

The Micro Millions tournament series is well under way. It is a series of 100 tournaments with very low buyins  but huge prizepools.

We had a Pro Special for event 34, a $5.50 Knockout tourney with all the Team PokerStars players having a $50 bounty on their head. I didn't even make the end of the second level. When someone raised me and I had AK, I checked to see if he hand more chips than me then I just shoved all in for a bazillion big blinds. I knew with the bounty on my head being so big in relation to the buyin that I'd be getting called by almost any hand he had. So he snapped called with A7 and hit a 7 and that was that.

I played in one of the PLO tourneys a couple of days ago on the side while I was playing cash games. Of course, I bubbled it, pretty standard. I posted a link to my bustout hand on twitter with a comment of what a hopeless fish my opponent was. I was quickly informed that it wasn't PLO that I was playing, it was PLO Hi / Lo and my opponent wasn't a fish after all. Oh deary, deary me ahahaha. At least I made such a shocking error in Micro Millions where the buyins are so low, but still annoying none the less.

The main event will be this Sunday (March 25th) with a $22 buyin and $1,000,000 guarantee. It is insane to think about the players who will make the final table, becoming filthy rich of their $22 entry. Certainly not a tourney to miss.

Sleep is for Suckers

Interview

I was contacted by QuadJacks recently as they wanted me to be the feature guest on one of their shows, The PKRGSSP Show. Of course I was thrilled to accept their invite.

It was the first time I did an interview that was being broadcast live, and it was about 8 hours past my bedtime, so I was a little nervous about it but it went really well and I had a lot of fun chatting the host, PKRGSSP, who has an enthusiasm for poker unlike any other.

Have a listen to the show here --------->

WBCOOP

WBCOOP (World Blogger Championship) is well under way. To promote the series and have a bit of fun EVhero and I decided we'd create a phony rivalry over which of us is the best blogger, related to the Best Blogger award which is a big part of WBCOOP.

We made videos that were supposed to be a bit of light hearted fun, taking the piss out of each other. But rather than people having a laugh with it and getting into the spirit of it there was just a ton of hateful and negative comments. Most of it aimed at me, with a bunch of personal insults and death threats from EVhero's fanboys who were outraged that I would make fun at him for misclick deleting his entire history of videos on Youtube.

So that was a big fail. We had planned to make a bunch more videos and have some good fun with it but given then feedback we had to cancel out plans and ended up making a video to clear things up. Sorry for the shitty audio.



As it happens, I am not even eligible to win the Best Blogger, Best Tweeter of Leaderboard prizes during WBCOOP since I am sponsored by PokerStars and they want to make sure it is seen as being fairly judged. I have, however, been participating in the events. I've played 4 events with 3 cashes including a 6th place in the 1st event that had over 500 players. When I ran terrible in SCOOP, WCOOP and TCOOP it was obviously because I was saving my rungood for the series that really matters ;-)

In the first WBCOOP event I caught 2 Ukrainian players pull of an obvious chip-dump when we were deep in the money. One was in the BB with only 11BBs, another was on the CO with a deep stack. The CO made an abnormally large open raise to 4bbs, the BB shoved and CO folded. I'm not sure what their biggest mistake was here, making their team play so obvious, or doing it in-front of me.

I immediately contacted security who launched an investigation in to these two players' relationship and playing history. The result:

"We have concluded that the play of 'Basshanter0' and 'zems827' violated the integrity of our games.

They have been informed that they are no longer welcome to play on our site. In addition they were disqualified from events in which their unfair play affected the outcome.

Players who advanced as a result have been compensated appropriately."


Whenever I hear anyone talk negatively about online poker, whether it is in the mainstream media or just some self opinionated yet highly ignorant person, one of the common things I hear them say is that it is impossible to trust poker on the internet because it is so easy for people to collude with their friends. They say stuff like "How do I know that two players aren't on the phone telling each other what their cards are and working together?".

Well yes, when there is money involved there will be people who try to cheat or get an unfair edge, whether it is live poker or online poker. As far as collusion goes however, there is much less chance of them getting away with it on a highly reputable online site like PokerStars compared to playing live. Online, every hand these players have ever played is recorded. Live, there are no records whatsoever.

In the hand that I reported above, the BB shoved his short stack all in over a 4x raise. It is a spot where most players would assume they have almost no fold equity. Now let's assume that he shoved with a total junk hand, that would be a huge indicator that something shady was going on. If this was a live game in a bricks and mortar casino the evidence would be lost as soon as the cards hit the muck. Online, this data is recorded forever. Not only that but the whole entire playing history of the two players is recorded and a security specialist can analyse this, not only manually using their specialist knowledge and experience but by using technology to analyse massive amounts of data.

VISA ISSUES

In my last written blog I talked about how I had to go to Cambodia for a 2 night stay to get a new 3-month visa. Well, right before I was due to go the agent got word from the Thai embassy that  the ambassador had taken leave and that no visas would be issued that week. Thanks ambassador, here's hoping you don't choke a Ferrero Rocher!

The deal with the Thai visas is basically this: Fly into Thailand, get 30 days. Drive into Thailand, get 15 days. Go to Thai embassy overseas (whole process involves staying over 2 nights) and get a 60 day visa extendable to 90 days.

So with my plans ruined at the last minute I had to make other arrangements. I didn't want to overstay my visa because they know where I live and can easily put me in jail then deport me, and even if they don't they can refuse to issue a visa in the future if you have an overstay stamp in your passport.

At the last minute I had to find the cheapest flight out of and back into Thailand the same day. I ended up flying to Kuala Lumpur, clearing immigration, staying in their airport for 4 hours, before flying back to Bangkok in the same exact seat in the same exact aeroplane that night. Nice waste of $200 and a day of my precious time.

The airline I took was Egypt Air and I have to point out how awesome their economy service is. Lots of legroom, nice meals with metal cutlery and a brand new entertainment system that you can hook up your devices to via USB, make phone calls or instant message any other seats on the plane and a bunch of other stuff.

So I am half way through my 30 days and will now be making my proper visa trip to Cambodia in the middle of march. I think this will probably be my last 2-3 months in Thailand.

As I have talked about before the time-zone is a big issue when it comes to playing online poker. Games are bad and in low volume during the daytime here and sleeping all day and staying awake all night gets depressing after a few days.

XMAS COMES LATE

I mentioned in a previous blog how my mother sent me an Xmas parcel in late November and it didn't arrive. I think I may have even accused the corrupt Thai postal service of stealing it.

Well, February 21st it arrived, huge surprise. I think I had to be the only person out of 7,000,000,000 that was opening their xmas pressies on February 21st.

Sorry Thai postmen, I'm sure you are not corrupt in the least. :)

SLEEP IS FOR SUCKERS

As far as my online poker grind goes I am just getting farther behind rather than catching up. It's going to take a big effort in March. Other than the couple of days in Cambodia I will be staying at home and spending the vast majority of playing poker online.

If anyone needs some motivational help they could do worse than check out ET the HipHop Preacher's videos. I checked out his Sleep is for Sucker video after KevinPhwap linked to it.



Right after watching the video I fell asleep and didn't wake up for exactly 12 hours. Yeah, I am a confirmed sucker!

World Blogger Championship of Online Poker 2012 (WBCOOP)



The WBCOOP is a tournament series running from February 23rd until March 4th. It's for bloggers and it costs nothing to enter, zero, zip, nada!

There will be 30 side events, all paying out tickets to the SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker), a $5000 main event, and many big prizes for the best blogger, best tweeter and tournament leaderboard champion.

To enter, write a blog post telling everyone what you would do if you won the $5,000 Best Blogger prize and submit it to PokerStars. If you want to know what I'd use the $5,000 for then watch the video above :-)

All the details of the schedule, prizes and how to enter are here: http://www.pokerstars.com/blog_tournament/

Pump Up The Volume

It's already well into February and my poker volume for 2012 is way bellow what I'm aiming for. As part of Team PokerStars Online I have a certain commitment as far as earning VPPs and hours at the tables go. As part of that my goal is to earn 400,000 VPPs this year but I'm only at 22,000 right now.



The main reasons why I am behind already;

  • The VIP reward changes and at the start of the year mean an extra hour or more of grinding every day for me to get the same number of VPPs. There has also been a recent rake reduction. That is great for improved winrate but means longer sessions to meet VPP goals.
  • Computer issues didn't help, but I have a new setup now with 64-bit Windows 7, good gfx card, lots of RAM and most importantly - an SSD hard disk. If you use Poker Tracker or Holdem Manager then buying a solid state HDD is the best thing you could possibly do performance wise.
  • Playing less tables to concentrate on TCOOP (didn't work out so well).
  • I was on a 'normal' sleep schedule for a while. A good thing for living a healthy life but terrible for playing online poker as the games are pretty bad during the day in Asia with less games running and much fewer recreational players. When it is mid-day here in Thailand, it is 5am or 6am in Europe. I figure the best times for me to play poker are around 11pm-7am Thai Time, which is 4pm-Midnight in the UK.
Despite the low volume my results have been good, particularly at 180s and PLO. Good results are an important motivational factor as far as getting volume in goes. Any poker player knows how tough it is to fire up another session when you have been experience a run of rotten luck.

I will get back on pace if I work hard and pump, pump up the volume. I feel like the 180man SNGs are probably my most profitable game right now, but they aren't going to meet my VPP goals. So going forward I will probably be playing half 180s and half PLO, or something to that effect.

The time zone factor is one of the reasons that I am considering moving back to the UK. When I first settled in Thailand it was before 'Black Friday' and the yanks could still play online. There were good games round the clock. Not so much any more. If I want to take poker seriously then I need to stay up all night and sleep all day. I haven't stepped foot in the UK since the end of 2010, and don't miss it at all, but the better time zone and the UKIPT tourneys may convince me to return.

I could list off a million reasons why living in Thailand is better than living in the UK. So I am pretty much undecided about what to do. There are also more countries in Asia that I want to visit but haven't had the chance yet. Specifically Korea, Japan and the Philippines. It will be a hell of a lot cheaper, quicker and easier for me to visit them from Thailand than from the UK. Heck, even India is only a 5 hour direct flight from here.

I'm feeling like there's a 40% chance I will move back to the UK around June. A 40% chance I will stay in Thailand much longer and a 20% chance I will move to Macau for 3-6 months before moving back the UK.

In the short term I will be leaving Thailand this week, as my visa expires. Normally this would be a good excuse to take a trip somewhere new and fun, but right now I can do without the expense (in terms of money and time spent) so I will just take another bus trip to the Cambodian border (PoiPet).


I will take an agency run trip which for $200 all inclusive in involves a 6 hour trip in a VIP bus to the border, crossing into the scary no-man's land between Thailand and Cambodia and staying in a dodgy casino hotel (with no internet connection) for 2 nights. The 2 night stay is so an Agent can takes my passport to the Thai embassy in Phnom Phen, Cambodia's capital city, which is very far away. When I check out the hotel he's brought my passport back with a brand new 3-month Thai visa. Then get the passport stamped at Thai immigration and bus back to Bangkok.

I've done this trip before. It's not much fun and the food is a joke but it's a cheap and no hassle way to get a visa. The last time I went with an Aussie girl so had some company. This time I will be going alone. Maybe I will try to find a poker game in one of the casinos or find some way to pass the time.

Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP)


Do you like action? I hope so because the inaugural PokerStars TCOOP (Turbo Championship of Online Poker) is about to begin and this isn't your grandmother's tournament series. The faint-hearted among you need not apply.

The next 11 days will see 50 turbo championship events being played out with $10,000,000 in guarantees. That is sure to make for the kind of heart racing, adrenaline pumping action that has never been seen before in the history of poker.

The turbo MTTs have been hugely popular for quite a while so it's great that PokerStars has dedicated a series to them. I'm excited knowing that for a small financial outlay and time commitment I have the chance to bink some huge scores over the next 11 days.

It can be extremely difficult to set aside the time to play in regular speed tournaments, and for that reason I almost never play them them. The TCOOPs are likely to run in the 3-6 hour range and that is perfect for me. I also think the TCOOP structures will suit me a lot. Having played so many turbo SNGs I think that I'm as good as anyone in the world when it comes to playing with shallow stacks. So I'm ready to crush these TCOOPs!

Check out the TCOOP Schedule and give me a shout out on twitter @Daleroxxu to let me know what event you are most looking forward to. For me it has to be Event #2 - No Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, it doesn't get more action-junky friendly than that! I also plan on playing every $22 buyin event. PokerStars has been handing out thousands of free $22 TCOOP tickets to depositors over the last couple of weeks so these events are going to be insanely soft. So my seatbelt is fastened and I'm ready to manoeuvre my way through the thousands of donke... ehh I mean obstacles that stand between me and the finish line.

Two Thousand and Twelve

It's 2012, the year of the dragon apparently. Hopefully that means I'll be dragon a lot of pots. UCWIDT?

What does Daleroxxu and a Jehovah's Witness have in common? They both got the same number of presents on Xmas day.

It was the first year that I was alone for Xmas and New Year as I decided to stay in Thailand. My mother sent me an Xmas parcel at the end of November, but sent it airmail - no tracking, so obviously it got stolen way before it got to me. The Thai customs department are about as corrupt as the police, so merry fucking Xmas to the thief that stole my present.

As Thailand isn't a Christian country, all the shops remain open on Xmas day. I seen that as an opportunity. An opportunity to do some very late Xmas shopping, for myself :)


Video games, whisky and snacks. Happy holidays indeed, thanks to shops selling imported goodness.

People think that everything is ultra cheap in Thailand but I end up buying tons of imported stuff that obviously costs way more than it does in it's country of origin. As I sat recently eating biscuits imported from Scotland, ice cream imported from New Zealand and orange juice imported from Florida I wondered what was bigger, my ass or my carbon footprint.

After a lifetime of runbad in 2011 I was hoping that 2012 would turn out to be less rigged. Sadly my 27" Dell 2560x1440 resolution monitor died on January 2nd and I was relegated to my tiny laptop which is useless for playing poker. Most people's new year resolution is something cliché like giving up smoking or getting fit. My new year resolution - 1366x768. Nice joke. I have gotten the monitor replaced already though, so it's all good.

I didn't set any new years resolutions because it's a bit of a stupid concept, but I have been making an effort to be more active. I've been doing some light jogging around Lumphini Park which is a huge 142 acre park and has a running track around it. You have to watch out for the wild life though. I nearly crapped my pants when I was confronted by this Komodo Dragon.


Well, they did say that 2012 would be the year of the dragon. It's just a type of monitor lizard, which I think is pretty harmless unless you are a small mammal.

Lumphini Park is about as close to paradise as I will get any time soon. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world my fellow Team Onliners are living it up on Paradise Island at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. I didn't make it there but I did make it into the official PCA magazine, showing off my multi-lingual skills.

photo by Donnie Peters
Rather than travelling long haul to brick a single MTT I will be getting my tourney fix this January by playing lots of small and fast events in the TCOOP (Turbo Championship of Online Poker). This is the first year of TCOOP and I love the concept. 50 turbo events over 11 days with buyins in the $22 - $215 range and a $700 main event and $2000 high roller. 

Here is a PDF file with the schedule. TCOOP is running on PokerStars from 19th to 29th January.

If you deposit $60 or more by January 18th using deposit code TCOOP you'll get a free $22 TCOOP ticket.  That should mean the $22 events will have huge fields and be absurdly soft. I'm hoping to win one of them and get the year of a to a good start. Good luck to all my fanboys who play :)

PokerStars New VPP Award Method - 'Weighted Contributed'

As of today, January 1st 2012, PokerStars have switched to a new method of assigning VPPs to players in ring games.

Old and New

In the past each player dealt into a hand was given an equal share of the VPPs earned in that hand. The new method assigns VPPs proportionally based on how much each player contributed to the pot.

With this 'weighted contributed' method the loose players will be rewarded more than they previously were, and the tighter players rewarded less. Winning players, in general, play a much tighter style than losing players, so are likely to be the ones most negatively affected by the change. This negative effect could be anything from very slight, to enormous depending on how tight a player is, but there will also be a few of the loose aggressive winning players who benefit.

Effect

I played my first PLO session of 2012 right after midnight ET. There were a bunch of the usual nitty regs there, probably trying to figure out how much this change is going to cost them. Most of them stopped playing after the first hour and the tables were much, much softer.

I played 2004 hands, would have earned 800 VPPs with the old 'dealt' method, but earned 635 VPPS with the new 'weighted contributed' method. I played 22% VPIP and the table averages were around 33% VPIP.

Of course as poker players we know it's not smart to make assumption based on small sample sizes.

I ran a SQL query on my HEM database for all my hands played in the December 2011 (CAP NLHE + full stack PLO, mostly 6-max). Based on that data it looks like I would take a 10% reduction in VPPs overall.

I also checked to see how the change would affect other regulars.

Most players playing a typical full stacked reg style were affected around the same as me, but mass tabling nits and short stackers were affected to a much greater degree.

I checkéd how the biggest nit that I know would be affected. A guy with screen name b****f**** who buys in for 30BBs and plays a 7.5/1 vpip/pfr style over 5500 hands of full ring PLO. This is a slightly losing player who has previously been making a lot from the PokerStars VIP program. He will be taking a 70% cut in VPPs with the new method. Safe to say his days of leeching off other people's rake and stinking up the games are now over. He and his obnoxious chat every time he loses a pot won't be missed by me, that's for sure.

Most of the 6-max 30BB SSPLO hit and run merchants look to be taking a significant cut. H******J*** who plays 12/7 looks to be losing around 50% of his VPPs and s***t***** who plays 23/17 style a 35% reduction.

Looking at some of the huge laggy fish that make the games juicy, some of them are getting a 300% increase in VPPs.

Going Forward

I expect with this change that most of the break-even and slightly losing nits and 30BB hit and run rats that made the games terrible will either quit or perhaps change their style, with a few of them just taking the hit and playing longer sessions to make up for their pay cut.

So while I see around a 10% reduction in VPPs for myself, I don't mind taking that hit if a lot of the mindless short stack nits who are terrible for poker are basically shot in the head. I'm likely to more than make up for my loss of VPPs though an improved winrate in better games, not just because of less short stackers and break-even nits but though the higher activity of loose losing players. Loose recreational players gaining higher VIP status (e.g. FPP multiplier) and having many more FPPs to spend on higher value bonuses, tournament tickets and satellites will be good for the games long term, as most of that value is going to end up back on the tables.

Of course. what the net effect of the change to the weighted contributed method is will likely take several months to find out. I am feeling overall positive about it but I'm prepared to eat my words if in the middle of the year I have no improvement in winrate and Im having to grind an extra hour a day to make up for the reduction in VPPs.

Whatever the result though it's hard to argue that the weighted contributed method of assigning VPPs is much fairer than the dealt method. In the past certain players have been getting way more than their fair share.

Of course there will still be a lot of negative reaction to the change from the people that are to be affected the most, the ones that have historically contributed little and taken a lot. Most people only care about their own bottom line, and of course that is perfectly natural, but changes like this are made with the bigger picture and all players in mind. The players that are hurt the most by this will be far more vocal, venting on forums about their outrage, than the many recreational players that have never even heard of twoplustwo that benefit from the change. You end up with 1% of the players making 99% of the noise.

For anyone that accuses me of bias, I'm obviously not happy about my own 10% reduction in VPPs either but I do feel like I will benefit in the long run through better games. I think that a 'winner take all' method, rather than a weighted contributed method of distributing VPPs would be way the fairest method overall, as it would still take away from nits that leech of other peoples rake in the dealt method, but reward the more active winning players more fairly. After all, the player who pays the rake is he who wins the pot.

Team Online 2012

I'm thrilled to announce that I have agreed with PokerStars to represent Team Online through to the end of 2012.

In a year where many unscrupulous companies and individuals have fallen and dragged the name of online poker down with them, PokerStars has stood tall, providing a quality of service and a level of integrity that is unrivalled in the online poker industry.

I am proud to attach my name to the PokerStars brand. The combination of World's Best Poker Site and World's Best Blogger is a match made in heaven.

I really need to set some goals for 2012 but I'm too busy grinding my ass off trying to wrap up 2011 to even think about it. After losing a week due to illness I'm now at the point where I can't take a single day off for the rest of December if I'm to hit a VPP Milestone Cash Credit.

It's tough though as I still feel very weak and I'm constantly losing my focus during sessions. It's funny, the recent interview I did with Jesse 'OnTheMac' McKenzie I really wanted to do in one take so that I wouldn't have to spend time editing it. That plan didn't work out too well for me as my mind went completely blank about 5 times during our recording. Editing was required. If I can't even focus on a short conversation with someone then god help me trying to focus during long sessions of poker.

I'm just trying to soldier on for the rest of December and then I will take my foot of the gas and switch my focus to getting fit and healthy. I decided not to travel home to Scotland for the Christmas season. The thought of travelling there and back in a cramped economy seat at the cost of $1600 + 2 days of my life, and the effects of jet-lag twice, just didn't seem worth it.

Christmas and New Year is a time of the year that most people look forward to. A time for people to be merry, have fun and spend time with their families. Then January comes around and everyone is miserable again, the hangover month. For me it's the opposite. I'm just counting the days until it is January which will be a much more enjoyable month for me.

Here in Thailand Christmas seems to be quite low-key. It is a Buddhist country with a few Christians. There's some Christmas decorations up in mostly touristy places, but they went up only recently. Compare that to back home where as soon as Halloween is over every retail outlet is sticking up the tinsel and subjecting its patrons ears to 'I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus'. Just awful.

On Sunday night there was a special $1,000,000 GTD Sunday Storm (yes, a million guaranteed for an $11 buyin tourney) as part of the The 10th Anniversary celebrations on PokerStars. There was also a 72 Billion hand promotion going on, with the 72 Billionth hand due to hit during the peak time of Sunday night. I remember checking the number of online players in the client and it was 400,000 (WHAT???????).

I also wanted to play EVhero's Sunday night home game around the time of the Sunday Storm, but the lobby wouldn't open up for me in the Home Games tab in the client. I kept clicking it out of frustration. I changed to a different tab, went back, clicked it, nothing, clicked it another few hundred times out of frustration, nothing.

So I was busy playing the Sunday Storm, some other tourneys and 14 tables of PLO, playing more tables that I would normally since this big 72,000,000,000 milestone hand was about to hit. About 30 minutes in to my session the lobby for EVhero's home game intrusively pops up from nowhere covering my tables. I noticed it was too late to register so I closed it. 5 minutes later it opened up again, what? So I closed it. A few minutes later, it popped up again. GET THE FUCK OOT EVHERO ARGHHHHHHH AKDOSFJG#$OTJ#$)TU@+)#UIT@#$))J. At that point I realised that the bastard thing was going to open up for as many times as I clicked it, which was an absolute shit-ton.


I thought that probably the only way to stop this from happening would be to restart the PokerStars client. The only problem was that I was playing tournaments, and I had some really soft cash game tables up and running. If I sit out, even for a few hands, my tables break up pretty damn quickly. No, it's not because I'm the fish, it's because most players are only playing so they can brag to their friends about how they bluffed Team Online superstar and World's Best Blogger Daleroxxu in a game of 4-card Hold Thems.

It was a solid 3 hours I had to put up with the lobby popping up over my tables, at an average of once every 5 minutes, until it stopped. Every time it happened I could see EVhero's stupid face in the top right of the lobby, grinning and sticking his tongue out at me like he knew what was happening. It's just as well I was having a winning session or I easily could have went on monkey tilt.

I'm guessing the massive number of players on the site at once was the problem. Fortunately there was no lag or any problems at all in the games, so that is the main thing. I still can't get my head around 400,000 people all playing on one poker site at the same time. Poker is HUGE.

The big promotion that is going on right now for the SNG players is the Battle of the Planets Promotion where not only are all leaderboard prizes doubled this week, but if you beat a target score you will win $10,000. This is a huge opportunity for micro stakes players. Even if you only have $30 in your account, you can play 20 $1.50 SNGs with a chance to win $10,000 if you run hot enough.

The final promotion of PokerStars 10th Anniversary will be the $10,000,000 guaranteed Sunday Million on December 18th with a guaranteed $2,000,000 prize for the winner. I have been saving up my rungood all year for this one, so good luck to you guys in finishing second.

Jesse 'OnTheMac' McKenzie Interview

Jesse "OnTheMac' McKenzie is an online and live poker tournament grinder who has won the PokerStars Sunday Million and finished runner up at ANZPT Adelaide in 2011.



Watch highlights of OnTheMac's Sunday Million victory on PokerStars.tv

To play in Jesse's PokerStars Home Game sign up with ID number: 560983 Code: Join_OTM

Check out OnTheMac's BLOG / FACEBOOK / TWITTER
Dale Philip
Dale Philip
Country: Thailand
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