Merge To Take US Players; Software in Live Games; Luck and Skill

Report: Merge to Allow New U.S. Sign Ups Within a Week

By Dan Katz
Read more about Poker at the great poker website
According to report from Poker Affiliate Solutions, the Merge Gaming Network will begin allowing new players from the United States to sign up at its member poker rooms within the next week.  One of the rooms on the network,, started accepting new U.S. customers yesterday.

We reported back in July that it did appear that this would happen, thanks to a report by our friends at, and this news, again from a source close to both the Merge

Gaming Network and the original reporting site, further confirms it.  Merge shut its doors to new U.S. customers in the beginning of June, but unlike sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, it was doing so by choice and the plan was to make it just a temporary move.  The Merge Poker Network was the biggest beneficiary of the legal problems of its competitors and saw a huge influx of new U.S. customers looking for a new place to play.  While this was good for Merge and its member sites, it created the problem of cashout delays in an environment that was already inhospitable to U.S. payment processing.

Because of the two week backlog that the network was experiencing, the powers that be made the decision to put a cork in the flow of U.S. refugees so that it could catch up to payment requests and keep its existing, loyal customers happy.  Of course, the question remains as to how smooth payment processing will be once new American customers start to come back.

Merge, while not a particularly large network, is still easily the most significant of the few U.S. facing networks that remain.  It’s seven day average of 1,240 cash game players, according to, makes it the 10th largest poker network or standalone room on the internet.  The next largest is Bodog with a seven day average of 960 cash game players, but it announced in July that it will stop serving U.S. customers at the end of the year.  With a new wave of U.S. players, Merge might be able to push past and the Microgaming Network into the 8th spot in the rankings.  Winamax is 100 cash players ahead with 1,340 on average over the last seven days, while Microgaming field 1,360 per day.  It will take a 50 percent gain in traffic to overtake PokerStars’ French offering, which has a seven day average of 1,840 cash game players.

Year-over-year, the Merge Gaming Network, whose poker rooms include the likes of  Lock Poker, Carbon Poker, Hero Poker, Poker Host, Iron Duke, and RPM Poker, has seen its traffic increase 75 percent, though growth has slowed of late.  The rooms on the Merge Network had been a destination for players looking for a new room for rakeback, but the network stopped accepting new rakeback sign ups on June 1st, opting to use its VIP program as its lone loyalty offering.  Any players who already had rakeback before the cutoff date have been allowed to keep it.

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Luck and hard work go hand and hand in poker

by Johnny Hale
Johnny can be found at where all types of gaming issues are dissected with great skill

Folks, today I am a little concerned about the subject of luck versus skill in the playing of poker.

I have been asked many times: Have I ever had a run of bad luck for a long period of time when I was playing poker?

The answer is yes, of course.

I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. But in Oklahoma we have many sayings, and the one that comes to mind when I am asked that question is, “If the horse throws you off, get right back on it and ride!”

Then, I am often asked if I win all the time when I play poker. The answer is no. But my wife, Carol, thinks I win each time I play because I never tell her bad results of my poker playing and never ever tell her a bad beat story!

Then I am asked if I believe in luck. The answer is, of course, yes.

As usual, I talk slow and write long so I do not have room in this column to repeat all of my thoughts about luck. But I will reiterate a couple of things.

First, I am the seventh son of an only son and that makes me so lucky I just think I will win and stay lucky.

The number seven is a perfect number and by birth being a seventh son makes me, I believe, twice as lucky. On September 30 next month I will have my next birthday poker party. I will be 4x(3×7) = 84!

Did you happen to see that lucky 7 creep into that equation?

You have to believe you are lucky to have lived that long and been in World War II and the Korean War, audited by the IRS 15 times and got a refund every time.

I’ve driven millions of miles without ever touching another man’s car. I had four children and had them all graduate from college. I had four grandchildren, four great grandchildren and been lucky enough to run my toothpick up into a lumber yard!

My poker birthday party will feature a no-limit hold’em poker tournament.

All are invited – just email me and I will send you an invitation.

You must recognize luck when it taps you on the shoulder. It is surprising how lucky people can become when they work hard.

I think the best player in the world of no-limit hold’em poker is Doyle Brunson, who is a member in good standing of The Seniors WCOP/Poker Players Hall of Fame. Brunson is just one of the reasons I believe in luck, skill and hard work.

“Texas Dolly,” as he is often called, won two world championships at the World Series of Poker with a 10 and deuce, off suit! That is why the 10-2 poker hand is often called the “Texas Dolly.”

Doyle was lucky enough to see the beauty in those two cards and worked hard enough to attain a skillful poker reputation so that he can win with any two!

I hear this statement sometimes when a player wins a nice pot. “Well, I would rather be lucky than good!”

I am sometimes asked this question: Would you rather be a lucky player or a good player?

My answer is: I try hard to be both – lucky and good. Then I am asked what I can do to change my luck. The answer is many things, but this is a family newspaper so I will not go there!

In Oklahoma, one of the things that is said is, “you must pay the preacher” before your luck will change. I sure think it helps if you work hard and try to play better poker.

If think you are unlucky and Lady Luck is not being good when losing a few hands of poker, don’t give up. You have to get back on that horse and ride him!

Think of it this way. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, the 2003 Heisman Trophy winner once put the ball up 50 times and completed five of them for touchdowns.

So, you could say he was lucky (or skillful) just 10 percent of the time, and he was unlucky (or unskillful) 90 percent of the time.

If Jason had not tried 50 times he could not have completed those 5 TD’s.

OKJ Tip of the Week

One of our greatest presidents was old Abe Lincoln. Abe was so unlucky he lost every time he ran for office until winning the presidency.

Get back on the horse and ride him. You will get lucky and then you can take the money home and count it there.

Until next time remember to Stay Lucky.


Strategy: Utilizing a Poker Software Program in a Live Setting

By Brett Collson
Brett can be found at where world wide poker news and poker strategy are available
Now that most online grinders in the U.S. have been forced to play cards in brick and mortar casinos, the majority of online tracking programs have been rendered useless for American players. PokerTracker, Hold’em Manager and Table Ninja, to name a few, have been left abandoned on the desktops of thousands across the county and the term “HUD” has been all but forgotten since Black Friday.

There is one program, though, that can still be very useful for those playing in a live setting. While you can’t take it with you to your local poker room, PokerStove is a tool best used away from the table to analyze and study your past hands in order to make profitable plays in the future.

PokerStove is an odds calculating program that determines your probability of winning (or your equity) against a hand or range of hands that you assign to an opponent. It has been a staple for professional poker players in every No Limit Hold’em format, including cash games, sit and gos, and multi-table tournaments, for nearly a decade.

Even the most gifted poker players in the world aren’t capable of putting a player on an exact hand at the table. This is why giving an opponent a range of possible holdings and then plugging them into a calculator program like PokerStove is so important. Several factors can go into deciding on a player’s range: Is the player loose-passive? Loose-aggressive? Tight-passive? Tight-aggressive? How old is he? What is he saying at the table? Does he seem to have a grasp on what he’s doing? A player’s past behavior at a table is the best source of information to decipher his probable actions in the present hand. This makes observation so essential in poker, even when you’re not involved in a pot.

Given that, here’s an example of how PokerStove can be used during a tournament:
Player A is a young, loose-aggressive player and raises to 150 from under the gun with blinds at 25-50. He has 2,000 chips to work with. The action folds around to Player B (our hero) who is on the button and holding a pair of tens. Player B calls with 1,850 chips behind. Player C, an older gentleman in the small blind, moves all in for 750 chips. The big blind and Player A fold, leaving Player B with a decision to make.

This is where PokerStove becomes a vital instrument. First, the ability to assign a hand range to an opponent comes into play. We don’t have a lot of information on Player C, other than he hasn’t gotten out of line and appears to be a tight player. It’s doubtful that he’s attempting anything crazy in this particular spot, especially considering that Player A raised from early position. Therefore, we can assume that Player C is only holding a premium hand. We give him a range of TT+, AQs+, AKo (a pair of tens or higher, ace-queen suited, ace-king suited, and ace-king offsuit).

Inputting this information into PokerStove is simple. By clicking on the Player 1 button under the Hand Distribution label, we can enter Player B’s exact cards (including suits). The same can be done for Player C by clicking the Player 2 button, but in order to include a range, we need to click the preflop tab at the top and manually put in the hands included in the range we’ve given to Player C.

Once that information is in place, the calculation can be performed by hitting the Evaluate button. Results are figured based on numerous repeated trials and the equity for a hand is calculated by dividing the number of pots that won the hand by the number of possible outcomes. Through this we learn that Player B’s equity against Player C’s range is 35.9%, meaning that out of 1,000 trials, Player B would win the pot 359 times, on average.

The next step in our decision making process is working out the pot odds in the hand. After Player C moves all in, there are 1,100 chips in the pot. Player B, who has 150 chips invested already, needs 600 to make the call. To figure out the equity needed in order to make this call profitable, we divide 600 into 1,700 (what the total pot would be) and come up with 0.352 (35.2%). Since Player B’s equity is higher than the pot odds he’s getting, he can correctly call Player C’s all in.

In order to maximize your winnings in the long-run, you need to analyze situations such as this one and make the correct decisions accordingly. Folding pocket tens against Player C in this case has a negative expected value and making similar plays in the future would be like ripping dollar bills in half.

This is just one example of what makes PokerStove so valuable. It is a well-executed program that opens your mind up to the real value of a hand in many situations. Even though it won’t be useful in real-time situations, PokerStove is still an absolute must-have for any serious poker player, especially considering that it has a free downloadable version without any spyware or spam attached. Take notes while you’re playing at a casino. Plug your hands into PokerStove. Use it as a resource, but be sure to analyze your hand ranges wisely!

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