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Friday, April 28, 2006 

Ignorance is Bliss

I was going over one of the Poker Filipinas articles on the PPT million peso championships, and i came across this comment from a person named jojo. After reading his comments, it became really evident that a LOT of people are really completely ignorant about what Tournament Poker is all about.

To point out some specific comments, he said "Posting of blind structure is immaterial to me..Knowing that it is a two day event means that it won't be aggressive. Simple..Its a test of stamina and skill...". How can the blinds structure be immaterial? It is one of the most aspects of a tournament, if not THE most important, since this is where you will know how much room there is to play and how fast the structure will be. It is the very backbone of the tournament itself.

Another comment that REALLY amused me was "They would have to generate not 80 but close to 100-120 players because I figure the true cost would be around around P14,000 -P16,000 per head after all marketing and operating costs are deducted...." What the hell is this guy talking about?! You absolutely do not deduct "marketing" and "operating" costs out of peoples buy-ins. That is why there is a "Fee", which is usually indicated along with the buy-in (eg. 1000 buy-in+ 300 fee, etc.). A person who buys into a tournament expects his ENTIRE buy-in to go into the pot, since it is essentially his investment. Running a tournament doesnt really cost that much in the first place. And since PAGCOR is using their Casino as a venue, i'm pretty sure that they got a good deal for that.

I've also encountered people who doesnt even question the payout structures and the like. They just focus on the fact that they are giving away 1M to the winner. Well, they are not "giving it away" because that money will come from the players buy-ins. A tournament organizer is not like a boxing promoter or something, "paying" winners. The winners are paid by the combined prize pool from the collective buy-ins of all players who join. An organizer simply hosts the event for the players, providing the venue, structure, and equipment needed for the game.

There was even one guy who was rationalizing that there should be an "option" to buy in at a later stage of the tournament at a more expensive price. I really couldnt understand his reasoning, and it was really evident that he didnt understand what he was talking about either.

A poker tournament is a very simple concept. First of all, it is a great equalizer, since everyone has a fixed amount of starting chips and buys-in for the same amount from the start. Everybody's buy-in goes into a "pot". The pot increases the more people join, and unless there is a maximum number of players allowed to join, the pot can grow and grow to huge amounts. Take for example the World Series of Poker. In 2004, about 2,500 players coughed up $10,000 for the main event, a No Limit Texas Holdem tournament. That gave the field a chance to win a first prize of about $5.6M! BUT, they also payed 10% of the field, about 250+ players. Ranging from $3.5M for 2nd place, gradually decreasing down to about $12,000 for those who finished in the bottom 200+ place, etc, etc. The next year, 5,600+ players joined the main event! This made everyone who made it to the final table a millionaire, as 9th place was $1M, going up to $7.5M for first place. This is a perfect example of how tournaments are run.

The sad thing is, most people dont bother to know. People, do some research! Join tournaments online and see how they do it! Become more educated in the technical aspects of the game since it is your money that you are putting on the line when you join a tournament.

I heard that the PPT tourny might reach 100 players. It will be a very sad day for poker in the philippines if they decide to pocket the rest of the buy-ins instead of adding it into the pot (which is most likely what will happen). It's just plain wrong, a pure in your face rip-off.

I am secretly hoping that they do the right thing at the last minute, and that their event becomes a success not juts for them, but for the players and the whole community. I know it will be the best for the poker scene in the RP.

I'll be crossing my fingers, but i'm not betting on it either.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 

Make or Break

As much as i would want to write something new everyday, i have to admit nothing much has been happening recently. I haven't been playing much, mostly due to reasons concerning the depth of my pockets hehe. Poker IS an expensive habit, if you want to take it seriously. I find myself going back to the good old low-stakes home games where pots rarely exceed the 4-digit mark, and the game is light-hearted and fun. If i ever do play, i pick my games really carefully, since a losing session would mean a week of watching dvd's at home.

How expensive is your poker habit? Have you ever considered calculating how much you have spent on poker ever since you started playing? Yeah sure, almost everyone will say they are "break-even" or up/down a little bit, some would even convince themselves and others into believing they are tremendously up in winnings. My honest self-assesment is that i personally am down a big chunk mostly due to a two-month streak of bad beats and bad bankroll management. It's not much, not even more than what a big time spender would blow on one night in AirForceOne, but still, i take it seriously. Before that swing, i was cruising pretty well, just barely above the upside.

I recently realized that even though i do love the game very much, i really dont HAVE to play every single tournament, or cash game, or Sit n' Go. I used to be excited to play tournaments, 600, 1100, 1600 buy-in games, almost every week, 2 times or even thrice a week. Of course, when you dont win (which is mostly the case in an MTT) there's the side action. Add that up and, to an ordinary joe like me who doesnt have a trust fund or a six-figure income, it takes its toll. I know a lot of players who lose more in ONE HAND what i lose in a week of play, but that's just a handful of people.

Sadly, i also know about some people who have started to disappear from the poker scene due to financial difficulties. Some have been racking up debt, some even spending money set aside for other things just to play poker. It's a harsh reality. Is it the person, or the game? Is poker "evil" as some might say?

Personally, i believe it is the person, and not the game. I know rich people who have gone down in ruin because of the stock market, blowing off their life saving and mortgaging their properties and pawning valuables just to get back up on their feet. nobody blames the stock market for that, so it should be the same for poker. Like i've said before, educating the Filipino Poker player should be a priority in the poker community. We should teach others to treat the game not as gambling but as a risk-management investment strategy. Every peso you put in the pot should be treated as a short-term AND long-term investment if you really want to take the game seriously.

If youre having fun in low limit games, then that's ok too. Nothing wrong with that, i personally love playing the game that way sometimes. It's a less stressful way of enjoying the game. I say don't take it too seriously. Bottom line is, if you cant afford the bigger games, dont play them. If youre borrowing money to play, then maybe you should reconsider and play somewhere cheaper, or not play at all. If youre spending your half your salary to play, maybe you should just save it or play even smaller games. Playing beyond what you can afford will really not help you, since you are going to be playing scared, and scared money is dead money.

Get someone to stake you, or play the smaller games frist and then when you have built your bankroll enough and you think you are ready, then you can go for the bigger games. In the end, it's all about your bankroll, money management and game selection. It will make or break you.


The supposedly biggest tournament in philippine poker history is coming up, and i have never seen anything like this... people are actually on a frenzy of selling their seats at a reduced price (mostly won from sattelite games) and cashing in even before the tournament starts! What a very wise financial decision. They are gonna be making more money than 90% of those who will join the tournament! Good for them.

Hey, whatever happened to the WPT/ABS-CBN deal? i was expecting big things from them by around this time of the year, since they were already signing contracts as of december last year. Where are the WPT tournaments?

Also, i heard Johhny Chan was/ is coming here to have some kind of poker camp. That would be pretty cool. Although since we got to hang out with Doyle himself recently, i dont think we'll be too star struck hehe.

till next time.

Monday, April 17, 2006 


"In line with PAGCOR's limiting of poker games outside Casino Filipino and its start of raids of illegal poker games, the Poker Bar Tour will cut short this season to support this initiative."...


When i received this message and even read it on the manilapoker online group forum, there was one thing that really stuck out like a sore thumb, and it just bothered me a lot. First of all, i dont know why "raids of illegal poker games" were mentioned, as it had nothing to do with the PBT at all. For whatever reasons the PBT is going to be cut short, i dont see the connection between them and "illegal" poker games. It just didnt connect. Correct me if i'm wrong, but that statement, to me, sounded like a threat, like it was meant to instill fear into the "illegal" organizers. I might be jumping to conclusions, but i'm just going with my gut on this.

I have nothing against the PBT and i'm really sad to see such an excellent tool to promote the game and expose it to the general public being cut short for whatever reasons. Why would pagcor want to shut down the PBT? It is no threat to their poker room, since the PBT doesnt even play for money! PAGCOR is really making a big mistake if it is true that they are really the ones responsible for the end of the PBT. I cant see the logic in PAGCOR shutting them down.

But my real topic is the "illegal poker games" statement.

Now, what makes a poker game "illegal"? Actually, any gambling game played outside the watchful eye of PAGCOR is considered illegal. Your home games are technically illegal as long as it is played for money. Yeah there is that one-table rule that most people use as a defense, but really, this is the Philippines. It doesnt really matter. If you got raided for your pusoy games or whatever, chances are, you were not in good terms with the local authorities or you got someone in the higher ups upset about something. Perfect example, BBC. If not for the politics involved in that place (the tabloid articles, the building owner with the multiple NBI cases), we would still probably be playing in that place, or at least it would have now improved and maybe moved to a better venue.

The sad truth of the matter is, if Erap wants a regular mahjong game where millions are at stake on every round of play, the authorities will not do anything about it. If a gambling lord just pays the right amounts of money to the right people in power, they can run their games all they want. If a regular home pusoy game played for hundreds of pesos in my barangay gets raided, it was most likely because that game organizer got into a fight with a barangay tanod or a police officer who decided to get his revenge by sending them to jail.

Now other than the isolated case of BBC, no other poker game, regular or otherwise, has been under any threat whatsoever from PAGCOR, even the worst-raked and shadiest games in town. Right now, dozens of poker clubs with regular games are getting ready for their weekly tournaments or even just their regular ring games. Small stakes, big stakes, name it, they have it. The logic is very very simple. Why would PAGCOR waste their resources on something so petty?

The underground scene is the place where the casino builds their player base. Without it, they probably couldnt fill up two tables at the ACF. A lot of the players who now play in the casino started out in the underground scene, and most of them still play in the underground rooms too. It is simply human nature to seek out new players to play with, and new environments to enjoy the game in. It is also a breeding ground for new players who will "graduate" to playing in the casino after they feel they have honed their skills enough to really put their money at stake in the big games. No matter what legal technicalities are involved, the underground scene is vital to the growth of Philippine Poker.

Know what? Ninety percent of these "illegal poker games" are run not by sleazy gambling lords, but by the players themselves, and most of the time, they just play for small stakes, ranging from 200 to 600 buy-ins that last them the whole night! Very few cater to the high stakes players, and if they do, it is because there are just some high profile individuals who don't want to be seen inside a casino. The majority of the underground scene today is catering to the new blood, the players who are not ready to play in the casino, but are willing to try the game out in a friendly atmosphere where their pockets wont get hurt by the stakes. A lot of them are also just a gathering of friends who don't want outsiders in their games too.

Another thing is, for some reason, the underground scene is simply more informed about proper rule sets, structures, game formats, and the like. For some reason i cannot comprehend, it is these "LEGAL" poker games that seem to not know what the heck they are doing! Just look at the PPT debacles, or the all-in festival tournaments organized by the "legitimate" organizers, or the 10K-max buy-in at the 20-40 ring game at the ACF. As a player, you'll find more quality games in the underground scene, pure and simple.

Why is the underground poker scene thriving so much, while it seems like the "legitimate" games are so messed up and are having trouble even just getting players to come? I believe it is because of the very simple fact that the so-called "legal" games are organized by businessmen with one priority: profit. Compare that to the underground scene, where the games are fueled by nothing more than the love of the game. Yeah i'm sure game organizers make money in the underground scene too, but for most of them, that is just a bonus. The first priority of these people is to promote the game and enjoy playing the game among peers.

The harsh reality is, yes, it IS illegal to gamble for money anywhere outside the jurisdiction of PAGCOR. But if you play poker, you know for a fact that poker players do not consider the game as a gambling game. (that argument has been discussed over and over again, so no need to elaborate.) Just make sure you know what you are getting into when you play in the underground games.

I hope that loose statement from the PBT guys didnt make any of the home tourney organizers and regular weekly small stakes games players scared to go and play in their games. I suggest that underground game organizers just keep it small and simple, so as to avoid any conflict with authorities or the like. We dont really know if the threat of raids are real, if it has any teeth so to speak, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Dont be too public about it, and keep it inside your circle, and make sure the people you invite do not have hidden agendas.

In the end, it will be the poker community who will decide on the fate of the poker scene in the Philippines. If anybody with any authority on this matter will be reading this, i hope they understand that if they kill the underground scene, then they are killing the roots of the poker community, and if you kill the roots, you kill the entire thing. I'd be more than happy if they go after those undeground games run by shady characters without a shred of moral fiber, but i suggest they leave the small, friendly games alone.

In the end, everyone will benefit from the growth and eventual explosion of the poker phenomenon in the Philippines.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006 

Poker Done Right

I was reading the heated discussions on the manilapoker yahoo groups about the PPT million peso tourney. As most of us know by now, the organization running the tournament has been infamous for their totally uninformed and god-knows-where-they-got-it structures and unfair payout schemes. Most people questioned the fairness of the recent payout structure, and the integrity of the entire organization that is the PPT. When i was reading it, i recognized several people who put in their two cents worth into the discussion, mostly because ive known these guys for a long time and we have the same ideas on what a fair and standard tournament structure should be like.

What really amused me were the people who defended the PPT for what they were doing. They said "they are the first, they took the risk, they are not even gonna make money out of it" etc, etc. All i can say to that is, YEAH RIGHT. I will not go into the details about the money they have made through "sattelites" (where the rebuys NEVER make it into the pot) and also the raked cash games they have alongside their "sattelites".

Look, it isnt that hard to look at respected poker organizations around the world and use their standards as a guideline in setting up your own poker organization. Structures are available online, tournament guidelines, payout schemes, all these things are freely given to help other poker organizers all over the world. Dont invent your own please. A poker tournament is a way to promote the sport, it is a tool for casinos and gaming clubs to advertize their venues. It really isnt gonna make an organizer rich, because it is for the players.

Another really amusing thing is one comment this guy made. He said something like "if you dont like how 10th to 5th place pays, play for 1st place. i always play a tournament thinking about winning first place." Wow. That guy must be the best poker player in the world because any world class pro knows for a fact that a multi table NLHE tournament is totally unpredictable and even the best player in the world cannot say that he is playing for first place. If you do make it to the final table, then that is where you can shift your play and go for the win.
Personally, i enter a tournament thinking that i will just play my best game, make the right decisions, and hope for the best, because i know that i cannot control how the cards fall.

i was reading that forum and i saw how a lot of players realy dont have a firm grasp of why tournaments are structured the way they are, and think that it is about "the glory" or "the prestige", about winning first place and nothing else matters. First of all, nobody guarantees first place money. If something should be guaranteed, it should be the enitre pot. Payouts have always been done through percentages, and are always based on the number of participants.

The logic of that concept is this: If you guarantee if you guarantee 1M to first place and 600K to 2nd down to 10th, it means you have a fixed payout. What if, instead of just 80 players, they hit 150 players? Instead of the pot being 1.6M, at 150 players x 20K, it will be 3M! Now, do they still payout 1.6M only? is it still 10 places? still 40K for tenth place? Dont you see the logic???

The sad truth of the matter is, this organization sees themselves as something like a "boxing promoter", where they put up the money for the event, have a fixed prize amount for the winner, and keep the rest of the money for themselves.They see your buy-in not as part of the pot, but as part of their profit. This is already a known fact in the local poker community, when the last tournament they held had a total of about 270K in buy-ins, but only 80K went into the hands of the participants. My good friend who placed 4th in this 90+ seat tournament with a 3K buy-in only got P4,000+ as his prize. If thats not screwed up then i dont know what is.

Bottom line, in my opinion only, is that these people are doing it for the wrong reasons, mainly money, fame, prestige, and god knows what else. I dont know if i'm overreacting but i think the only way to let them feel that the poker community is not something to be taken advantage of is to simply NOT join their so-called "tournaments". Yeah sure they will attract some random players who dont really understand the totality of the game that much and play tournaments "to win first place" or whatever, or even get some super rich casino players to join them by dangling a P1M carrot in front of them, but in the end it will be US, the players, who will decide what is fair and unfair.

The future of philippine poker is not in the hands of some organization who decided to call themselves "The philippine poker organization" or whatnot, but rather in the hands of the players who make up the poker community. The Filipino poker player can reach the success levels of sports legends like Efren "bata" Reyes and Manny Pacquiao. In maybe a couple more years, if we just ensure that our players learn and play the game the way it should be played, we will see Filipino poker millionaires bringing home WSOP bracelets and gaining international prestige as one of the best players in the world.

Poker can only be done right by putting players first.

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Quote of the Day

  • The best poker I've ever played has always entailed peace. A relaxed comfort. Eyes open, ears open, radar up. Absorbing my opponent's every message. Taking them as they come. Not mixing what those messages are with what I want them to be. It's like an aerial view. A view from above the myriad luck-dependent reactions of those many people who never gain such a peace. And when you gain that view, that peace - when you'd rather have the truth, no matter how disappointing, over a false hope, no matter how desirable - then you're a player. The hand you're on slips into a stream of thousands of other hands, no one of which, because of your lofty view, seems unduly important, no false fearful emotions rise within you. When you gain the peace of lofty perspective, you're a player, and when you're a player, you're free.- from "King of a Small World" by Rick Benett
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