FTOPS Here I Come

Kickass Cardsquad ScreenshotAs my fellow blogger Joanne reported earlier this week right here on CardSquad, Full Tilt is bringing back the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) in mid-February, marking the third FTOPS since last summer as Full Tilt continues to make inroads in the online poker space with this particular series of high-guarantee holdem and non-holdem poker tournaments. The FTOPS is really a great thing for a guy like me, because not only does it represent a nice group of large guaranteed tournaments over a short period of time in all the games I love to play, but many of the events occur at nighttime, which is the only time I ever play online poker.

Well, I am pleased to say that last night I took a big step in my quest to qualify for however many of the nighttime FTOPS events there are, which usually applies only to the weekday tournaments, as the weekend events tend to start in the late afternoon for the most part. I played a satellite tournament called an "FTOPS Holdem Avatar Race", which has been running starting this week every night at 9pm ET on full tilt, for which the buyin is $75, or a Tier II token. The great thing about this particular satellite is that the seat prizes for winning the satellite are grouped into $648 prize packages, representing three $216 buyins to each of FTOPS Event #1, Event #5 and Event #8. This is the perfect satellite for me to play in, since each of Events 1, 5 and 8 will occur during the week, starting at 9pm ET between February 9 and February 18. So, for $75 apiece last night, 57 players went at it in a no-limit holdem tournament format, with the top 6 finishers securing the buyins to each of these three no-limit holdem FTOPS events next month.

Long story short, I played aggressively and got off to a nice chip lead in what was actually my second run in this Avatar Race satellite this week, but I took a couple of bad ass beats that had my stack sitting in 12th place out of 14 players remaining, nearly 2 hours into the tournament. This was when I ended up calling an allin reraise before the flop, with me holding T9s and basically knowing I was well behind to the guy who had reraised me for most of his chips, but I also knew that folding at that point would leave me in a deep, deep hole, way in last place of the remaining players, and with almost no chance of coming back to win my seat. So, I made the call, and my T9s was well behind to my opponent's pocket Aces, until I spiked three miracle cards on the board to make a straight, stay alive, and eventually go on to survive to the end and win my three FTOPS seats, as per the graphic above. I have a full writeup of last night's tournament over on my blog, so if you're interested in reading about what I think is one of the best ways to get into a bunch of the FTOPS events for fairly cheap (relatively speaking), go take a gander at my writeup and see if this sounds like it's right for you.

This really is a great chance for many of you to play not only in the satellites for the other FTOPS events, but also in the actual FTOPS tournaments at a cheap price. There are one or two more events that I may try to qualify for in the coming days and weeks, so hopefully I will see some of you out on the virtual felt.

PokerStars Last Chance For Australia

Still looking to go to Australia? PokerStars will be holding their Aussie Millions qualifier tomorrow, Saturday January 6th at 22:00 ET. Buy-in for the qualifier is $500 plus $30, and they will be awarding one Aussie Millions prize package for every $10,000 in the prize pool. For the mathematically challenged, that is one prize package for every 20 people entered.

Each prize package includes a $7900 entry into the Aussie Millions tournament, plus $2100 for travel expenses. If there are remaining funds in the prize pool, they will be distributing it in $530 rebates as well as a single cash prize for whatever is left over under $530.

If you want to try to satellite into the above qualifier you still have two chances: Stars is running $15 plus $1 tournaments tonight at 22:00 ET and tomorrow at 19:00 ET, each of which is a rebuy/add-on tourney giving away 1 seat to the qualifier for every $530 in the prize pool.

Doyle's Room Last Chance for Australia

For those of you still hoping to win a prize package to the Aussie Millions in January there are still a few sites out there running promotions offering ways to qualify, all of which we will be looking at over the next few days.

Doyle's Room will be hosting their $198 freezout tournament this Friday, December 29th at 6pm EST, offering a 1st place guaranteed prize package worth $11,000. The package includes entry into the tournament (approx. $7850 USD, give or take a bit of exchange rate) with the remaining cash going towards your travel expenses. To enter you can either buy in directly, or win a $24.20 single-table tourney satellite or a $3 daily multi-table tournament qualifier.

The Aussie Millions will be held in Melbourne, Australia between January 6-19th at the Crown Casino. The Championship Event begins on the 14th.

Aston Martin Freeroll at PokerStars

I have to hand it to PokerStars, they come up with some pretty interesting promotions from time to time. Between now and December 9th you can qualify for the PokerStars Aston Martin Tournament, where the first place prize is an Aston Martin DBS just like the one that Daniel Craig's James Bond drives in the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale.

Best part of this promotion (other than the actual prize, of course) is that this is a freeroll - there is no cost to enter any of the tournaments.

To qualify for the main event you must play in the freeroll satellites and super-satellites that are now running around the clock at Stars, with buy-ins ranging from 25 - 10,000 Frequent Player Points. In addition to the first place prize (valued at over $200k) Stars will also be offering an additional $100,000 prize pool for those that finish 2nd through 199th. Not a whole lot to complain about there.

(Source & Image: PokerStars.com)

Heads-Up FTOPS Satellite

Have you ever been in one of those heads-up battles where you know you're better than the guy you're playing, you know exactly what he's doing, but you just can't seem to get rid of him? This could be in a heads-up sitngo,a one-table sng, or, more commonly in my case, at the end of a larger multi-table tournament. Well, that was me last night, as I attempted to win my way in to FTOPS Event #6, the Pot-Limit Holdem tournament of the Full Tilt Online Poker Series coming up next week. I entered the FTOPS Event #6 satellite with 9 other players vying for one seat in the 200k guaranteed prize pool PLH tournament on Thursday, November 16, so we made the final table after just a few minutes when the first player in the pool was eliminated. In the end, I eliminated four of the other eight players at the final table before entering heads-up play at about a 2-to-1 chip deficit, and little did I know then that the fun was just starting.

My opponent in heads-up play was startlingly easy to read, and his overall strategy was in my view highly dubious at best, especially with the chip lead he had at that point in the satellite. But at the same time, as friends jec and JJ can attest after railing me through most of the heads-up play, there was very little I could do to combat the lack of cards I received and lack of flops I hit, which is generally to be expected in heads-up holdem action. First off, my opponent basically failed to raise it up preflop with anything but his strongest hands. This meant he was barely ever raising preflop, which left me to put in a pot-sized raise to many of his preflop limps, and made it easy for me to steal loads of chips that way while holding absolutely nothing.

Similarly, just about every single time I failed to lead bet on the flop, my opponent would min-bet the flop back at me. Like the lack of preflop raising, he made this move almost like clockwork, probably at least once every five hands or so, and again left himself open to abuse by me as I would check almost every hand to him on the flop and then would only continue on with my good hands. This is also a bad place to be in as a heads-up holdem player, because from his perspective, the only times I got involved in a large pot (in pot limit games, it is often not until after the flop that the pot really gets big enough to care much about), I was usually ahead. Couple my opponent's tendency to auto-bet every flop that I checked with his general calling station nature, and the end result was that I didn't even have to bet the few big hands I was able to come up with during our marathon one-hour heads-up session. I just kept check-calling all the way through the river, and my opponent managed to lose a few key large hands to me where I had made something even as small as third pair on the flop but decided to stay in against his basically automatic betting without any real purpose.

Eventually, after I took the lead for the third or fourth time in the matchup a good hour or more after we had begun heads-up play, my opponent finally got tired of the monotony and started playing reckless. He began raising every single hand preflop, after an hour of never raising except with pocket pairs and AK, but this strategy was equally easy to exploit my just keeping my cool, playing good starting hands and not putting too much money into the pot without a solid hand or at least a draw to a winner. It did not take long before I got my opponent to call off his chips with just a nut flush draw against my top pair King kicker, and when his 35% shot did not fill by the river, I took down the satellite for my second seat in one of the FTOPS tournaments that run on Full Tilt from November 11 through 19. So far I will be playing in the Pot-Limit Holdem 200k guarantee on November 16 as well as the Razz 75k guaranteed event on Friday the 17th, and I still hope to win my way in to the 6-max event as well as the Pot-Limit Omaha high tournament through similar nightly satellites sometime this week or next.

And the moral of the story? Although this is true in almost any form of poker and any form of holdem, you simply cannot play a mechanical, unvaried game in heads-up holdem play and expect to beat an experienced poker player. Anyone who has played enough to learn to recognize common patterns will only have you and your play to focus on, and will quickly decipher your strategy and easily figure out the weaknesses. In my case, I just had to fold every time my opponent raised preflop early on since that meant he had a monster, and otherwise just play my strong hands slowly and allow my opponent to repeatedly bet for me on all streets where I had a likely winning hand. It is crucial in the endgame of almost any significant holdem tournament online that you not only be able to but also be ready and willing to mix it up all through a heads-up poker session, to keep your opponent on his or her toes. If you don't, an observant opponent with even an average amount of good cards will be able to pick apart the cracks in your strategy and you will be left needing a good setup of the cards in order to pull out a victory. Always be cognizant of what your opponent knows and thinks of you given your play in any heads-up session, and always use that perception to your advantage. Predictability is definitely a losing character trait, in any form of poker but especially in heads-up holdem poker.

FTOPS Satellites, and the NEW 25k Guaranteed?

Further to Joanne's recent post, not only has Full Tilt brought back the Full Tilt Online Poker Series for its second run from November 11 to November 19, but this time around Full Tilt also seems to have broken the mold when it comes to the regular ways to satellite in to these higher buyin events. After missing out on all of the first FTOPS because I was on vacation for the entire week of the tournaments, and being the longtime Full Tilt afficionado that I am, there is basically no way I would have let the entire FTOPS week of tournaments go by without playing in at least one or two of them. Readers of my blog know how annoyed and disappointed I was that Pokerstars decided to start all of its weekday WCOOP events this summer at the ridiculous time of 3pm ET, making it impossible for me and anyone in the U.S. of A. to participate without taking a day off from work, day care or whatever it is we do during the days. So I already knew I'd be picking an event or two in this month's FTOPS and buying my way in to try my hand at eternal glory, the golden avatar and a steaming pile of hot-off-the-presses cash.

Then I found the new FTOPS satellites.

These days, there are tons of ways to satellite in to the FTOPS events. As Joanne mentioned earlier, the buyins for these satellite tournaments can be a real pittance compared to the amounts you can win in the large guaranteed-prize-pool tournaments. Joanne mentioned the $4.40 buyin satellite tournaments, but for the even more frugal among us, Full Tilt has this week started running $3sit-n-go tournaments as super satellites into a qualifier for its $535 buyin FTOPS Main Event on Sunday evening, November 19. These $3 sng's are constantly filling up and running on Full Tilt, so that can be your chance to play for the biggest prize pool of many of our lives for little more than the price of a few couple one half a gallon of gas.

What's more, the satellites that I'm really in to this week are the token (Tier I) buyin sats that run at regular times every night this week and up until the FTOPS tournaments begin. If you peruse the tournament schedule any night on Full Tilt, you will see several $26 buyin multi-table tournament satellites on the slate, where the winner or winners are awarded seats in the corresponding FTOPS event for whatever game the satellite is playing. For example, this week you've been able to play a $26 token buyin tournament starting between 10 and 11pm ET every night for a 6-max no-limit holdem satellite, where for every 10 entrants, one winner is awarded a seat in the 6-max FTOPS tournament on Tuesday, November 14. Another FTOPS satellite I tried out for the first time last night is the $26 token buyin satellite to FTOPS Event #7 (Razz) on Friday, November 17, and I am happy to say I won my FTOPS Razz seat on my first try after a marathon session well into the wee hours this morning. I have a full writeup of that satellite win on my blog right now. So look for me out in the FTOPS satellites over the next couple of weeks heading into the big week of high-guarantee events on Full Tilt, as well as in FTOPS Event #7 as I attempt to avoid full houses and quads enough to take down my biggest Razz poker title ever.

Last quick note -- not sure if anyone else caught this, but when I logged in for my nightly run at the 20k guaranteed tournament on Full Tilt last night, they tried to sneak in a 25k guaranteed prize pool instead of the 20k guarantee that we've all gotten used to. I guess since the inflow of new players thanks to the partypoker pussout , Full Tilt is gaining sufficient confidence in the participation level for its major nightly guarantees that it can kick things up another notch. Just another way of taking care of their players. Full Tilt does it better than any other site, and they always have. $5,000 more guaranteed in the prize pool every night, at no monetary cost whatsoever to the players? I'll take it!

4th Annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

PokerStars is now running satellites around the clock for the 4th Annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a World Poker Tour event. They will be giving out Atlantis prize packages worth $12,000 which include the $7800 plus $200 tournament buy-in, $3000 for accomodation and food at the Atlantis Resort & Casino, and $1000 credited to your PokerStars account for spending and travel expenses.

The actual event will take place at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas between January 4th - 11th, 2007. For information on their daily satellites / qualifiers, you can check our their touranment information page via this link. Also, they have set up a page of frequently asked questions which can be found here. In their terms & conditions they mention that you must be the legal age to play poker (duh), but I don't see any information regarding US players being/not being allowed to win the prize packages. Anyone have any information on this otherwise?

(image: PokerStars.com)

Satellites to the WSOP Ladies Event

LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) is running satellite tournaments for the Ladies Event at this year's World Series of Poker. The sats will be held at the Gold Coast Casino (which is located across the street from the Rio) on Friday, July 7th at 7pm.

Entry is $100 plus $25 (yes, heavy on the juice) and one seat in the Ladies Event will be awarded to every ten players. They do have a maximum of 200 entrants, so if you are interested plan to get there early for registration. For more information, you can visit the LIPS Tour website.

500 FPP WSOP Qualifier at PokerStars this Weekend

Over at the Official PokerStars Blog, Otis has a big honkin' list of events at 'Stars this weekend, including a WSOP qualifier that just costs 500 FPPs to enter:

"To finish off the PokerStars Five Billionth Hand Celebration (congrats, again, MaraJade), PokerStars is throwing a 500 Frequent Player Point buy-in World Series of Poker qualifier. Everybody at the final table will get a PokerStars WSOP package. Everybody else will be playing for $100,000 in cash. This event pays deep, down to 785 players. Registration begins Saturday at noon ET and is limited to the first 5,000 players who sign up. The tournament begins Sunday at 1pm ET."

If you're planning to play in the WSOP this year, whether it's a preliminary event or the Main Event, it's a very good idea to get some massive field tourney practice at an online room like PokerStars, where you can make a small investment ($11, for example) and adjust to playing against thousands of people. With so many online players anticipated to be in the WSOP this year (and probably for the next several years, at least) you're going to face a similar level of play, too, to what you'll find in one of these large field, low buy-in events.

WWdN Tourney News

I've lost count of the WWdN tourneys, but I think we're near 30 now, right? I must admit, I really look forward to this weekly game, even if it's massively -EV, because it's a minimal investment, and whether I make it deep, Gigli, or bust with the hammer on the bubble, it's always a great time. Here are a few WWdN Tourney news items that I've been meaning to post:

I have finally spoken with the appropriate people at PokerStars, and the first WWdN Tournament of Champions is ready to go, as soon as I turn in a list of the winners. The date and time for the match will be released shortly. If you won one of the first eight WWdN tourneys, look for a notice from PokerStars in the coming days.

There will be no WWdN tourney next week, April 25. Instead, I'm teaming up with TripJax for the DADI 5 on April 24, which will feature a whole slew of prizes, including a seat in a $1500 WSOP event! All the details are at the Donkeys Always Draw Invitational blog. Because this is a WSOP satellite, the buy-in is $28, rather than $11, but the prizes are sweet and make a nice overlay. However, if the buy-in is out of your budget, don't worry: the regularly scheduled WWdN tourney will be back on May 2.

I'm putting the WWdN Thursday games on a break. While I've come to really look forward to the weekly games, playing twice a week, every week, without any sort of break, was starting to take too much time away from my family. I'm going to set the West Coast games up for once a month, just like the Eurofriendly Fridays (which needs to happen this week, I've just realized.) However, for those of you who want to play with the regulars on thursdays, you can look for NOT WWdN in the tourney lobby, and I think you'll be happy with what you find.

Now, questions: how many people would be interested in playing a higher buy-in tournament every couple of months, like $22 or $33? How many people would be interested in the occasional heads-up challenge?

Hope to see you all tonight. Let's get it over 100 for a two-table pay out!

What: WWdN: Change100 Invitational
Where: PokerStars.
When: Tuesday, April 18. 8:30 EST
Password: monkey
Tournament number: 22928623
Buy-in: $10 1

Gracie Wins WPBT WSOP Satellite!

Congrats to Gracie from Sheverb.com. She won the first WPBT WSOP satellite on Paradise Poker this past Sunday. Great job Gracie!

There were 69 poker bloggers who participated. Gracie beat the Surley Poker Gnome heads up to win a seat to any $1,500 WSOP event at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this year. 

Gracie was really sick for the entire tournament too. She played on a head full of NyQuil and still managed to get the victory! 

Last year, the WPBT sent several bloggers to the $1,500 WSOP No Limit Hold'em event. Some of those bloggers included Bobby Bracelet, Joe Speaker, Wes the Big Pirate, and Russell Fox

Thanks to Iggy who busted his butt to set up this event! 

Congrats again to Miss Gracie on her great win!! Gracie rules!!!

Sundays Now $1M Guaranteed at PokerStars

If you are looking for a lot of bang for your online buck, the Sunday afternoon tournament at PokerStars now has a minimum guaranteed total prize pool of $1,000,000.

Satellites are running around the clock, allowing players to enter using their FPP (Frequent Player's Points) or join satellites from $3.00 and up. If you want to buy-in directly, the weekly events are $215, and at the end of the month the tournament is $530.

For more information, and to see who won last week's event, you can visit the official PokerStars Blog through the link below.

Current Online Promotions / Events

Here's a quick glimpse at what is new or currently running at some of the major online poker sites. If you hear of additional events or would like another site added to this list, please let us know.

Poker Stars

  • NEW: $200 plus 15 weekly No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament now has a ith a guaranteed prize pool of at least $750,000. Every Sunday at 4:30 pm ET.
  • NEW: PokerStars introduces their new VIP Club (running year-round)
  • CHANGED: Tuesdays are the new Fridays: WWdN: The Invitational Tournaments are now running on Tuesday nights
  • Thursdays: WWdN West Coast Warm-Up Tournament
  • EPT events in France and Monte Carlo   

Party Poker

Continue reading Current Online Promotions / Events

Win a Seat to the World Series of Blackjack

AOL.com and GSN - The Network for Games have teamed up to produce a new blackjack hub which will go live in April. The site will feature free game play, tips from professional blackjack players, and exclusive video content from the 2006 World Series of Blackjack.

Also, between now and February 8th, players can enter to win one of eight prizes, each of which will award an eight-day and seven-night trip to Las Vegas to compete in a satellite tournament for the WSOB. The top two players will move on to the main event, where a total of forty players will compete for a prize pool of $1 million dollars.

You can find out more information about the sweepstakes and the World Series of Blackjack through the following links:

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