PokerNations Offers Social Network and Advice For Poker Players

published on 12/22/09 at 11:29 am

PokerNations Offers Social Network and Advice For Poker Players

Anthony Martino, founder of, brings a breath of fresh air into the world of poker. He was kind enough to sit down with Street3 and share his thoughts on the Twitter Poker Tour, online poker and social networking.

Have you played many twitter poker tour events? According to the leader board, this was your first December event.
I believe I have played one or two others previously. It’s a fun group to compete against, and I like to play when I can find the time. Sometimes I get pretty swamped running PokerNations.

How long have you been playing poker?
I’m 32 years old, so I’ve been playing a long time. I grew up in an Italian household, so I learned games like 5 card draw, 7 card stud, etc. Then hold em hit the scene and I picked that up, then started learning games like Omaha hi/lo, Razz, Badugi, and 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball.

You are also the founder of PokerNations. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, it’s essentially a Facebook/Myspace aimed at poker players. We have all the regular social networking features (profiles, blogs, photos, videos, forum, etc). But we also have a built-in rewards system where you earn poker chips for almost everything you do on our site. You can then use these poker chips to enter giveaways to win poker books, jewelry, glasses, clothing and even tournament entries and poker coaching. Another nice feature your readers will appreciate is our Twitter integration. You can access your Twitter friends feed directly from within our network and even update your Twitter status when you update your status at PokerNations.

Another thing we do differently than our competitors is we aren’t affiliates. PokerNations does not receive any kickback for you joining, depositing or playing at any online sites, or for buying any products or services. This way we maintain industry neutrality, without having an agenda for or against any particular brand, product or service.

What do you want to get out of Pokernations?
Our goal in 4-5 years is to have the largest and friendliest poker community on the planet.

Too many poker communities permit their members to insult each other, which really discourages people from posting hands and asking for advice to improve their game. If you feel like you’re going to get attacked for asking questions, many people just won’t get involved, and then the community suffers for it. So we don’t permit that type of behavoir, so even newcomers and novices to the game can feel comfortable asking questions and improving their game.

We also want PokerNations to be a place where the players can voice their approval or issues with sites they play on, casinos they frequent or poker books and other products. And where they’ll be able to interact with the companies directly to resolve issues and improve the industry for everyone.

And of course, we want PokerNations to be the place to find your favorite poker pros and catchup on their blogs, tweets, photos and more.

Do you have a favorite hand to play?
I assume you’re asking about Hold Em, because I play a lot of different types of games, some which contain four cards or five. I don’t really have a favorite actually. I suppose if I had to pick something I’d choose 78 of diamonds. At a full table in a tournament if you raise UTG with this hand and get called, most people are going to assume you have an Ace or a pair. So you can either get a flop that allows you to bluff, and represent you hit it, which your opponents may believe. Or you can hit a big flop and your hand is well disguised, and someone thinks you completely whiffed and you get paid off.

What advice would you give to a beginning player?
I would recommend they read up on the game they want to play, learn as much as they can and don’t stop learning. Not all poker books are created equal, so ask for advice from other players and see what they recommend. Post hands you’ve played in your blog or in a forum and get input from others on what you did right and wrong.

Another piece of advice I’d offer is to consider cash games. It’s easy to get caught up in the glory of Hold Em tournaments. But let me drop some knowledge on your readers. If you were to come in 10th place out of over 6,000 players (the year Jerry Yang won the Main Event) for 17 years in a row, you still wouldn’t make as much money as he did winning it once. Think about how sick that is. It would obviously take a LOT more skill to come in 10th seventeen years in a row, but it’s not rewarded as much as busting for sixteen years and winning once.

Cash games generally provide less variance than tournament poker, and are a more stable source of income. Most poker professionals make their living through cash games. Sure, you may not get rich overnight, but the roller coaster ride will be less bumpy. If you want to play tournaments for a living, you really have to be able to lose a LOT, so you can hit one big win that carries you through more losses. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of losing 19/20 games, that gets a little old after awhile. Plus, in a tournament you’re stuck playing until you bust or it ends. With a cash game you can play for 8 hours, 3 hours or 20 minutes and then leave. So there’s a bit more freedom there as well.

Your Pokernations bio says you are a “semi-pro” do you someday hope to become a full fledged professional?
I went semi-pro in Dec 2005, supplementing my income while still working for “the man”. By September 2006 I was losing money punching the clock instead of playing poker, so I left to pursue it full-time. So I’ve actually done the whole professional player thing. I consider myself semi-pro because I’m just too focused on the launch of PokerNations now to play as much as I used to.

I am perplexed by your statement that you “enjoy scratch-off tickets”. What does this mean? You enjoy scratching them or you enjoy them after the scratch or are they just good company in general?
Lol. I used to be addicted to the little buggers in my late teens and early 20′s. But now I only buy a ticket I haven’t played before, and then I’m done with it. I live in Massachusetts, and the variety of scratch tickets they produce on a regular basis is ridiculous, but it’s big money for the State (probably part of the reason we don’t have any Casinos here)

Every poker player has a story, whether it be a bad beat given or taken, a huge win or outplaying someone, etc…, what one story do you have that sticks out?
It was my first trip to Vegas during the 2007 WSOP. I only had 2 hours of sleep the night before (my wife Jenn and I had been at the Bluff Magazine WSOP party at Sapphires Gentleman’s Club, and she had a bit too much to drink, so I had to hold her hair back while she prayed to the porcelain god) it.

So anyway, I’m on 2 hours of sleep and she’s finally resting so I hit the Bellagio for a 40/80 mixed game (this is limit). There were four games in rotation, Omaha hi/lo, Stud hi/lo, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball and Badugi. So three of my best games and one I had never played before (Badugi). I only played for two hours and I sat down with $2,500 and I left with $5,200. A pretty sweet profit for such a short session. I have to admit I was a card rack that game, and no one ever believed me. I’d get three people calling me to the river and I’d scoop or three-quarter them in massive pots, it was really great (and helped offset all the lap-dance expenses from the previous night).

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow has been advocating the power of positive thinking when it comes to poker. I have tried this method and I have found out that no matter how much I positively think I won’t get rivered by a donkey, I end up getting rivered by a donkey. I bring this up because I believe that attitude is important when it comes to poker, what are your thoughts?
Perhaps you haven’t mastered the positive thinking then? All I know is that if you’re miserable playing, perhaps it’s time to take a break, step back and have a breather. Then come back refreshed, rather than with that doom & gloom (I’m going to get sucked out on) attitude.

Likewise, in my line of work I see a LOT of people who are quick to blame external factors for their losses. One of the worst things that can happen to a poker player is to be winning when they first start out. This can create a false sense of skill and entitlement, when they may just be experiencing short-term variance in their favor. So when the luck evens out and they’re losing all the time, they don’t realize they were never very good to begin with. They don’t try to plug the leaks in their game, but instead blame it on this or that.

The best players in the game will analyze hands they won and hands they lost and determine if they played them optimally. There are tons of resources out there to help you, from poker books, coaching sites and communities with people to offer advice. I know from my experience playing the Twitter Poker Tour that the fields are relatively soft. I don’t mean that as an insult to anyone, but there is a LOT of minraising going on and people betting 60 chips into an 800 chip pot, etc. If I was going to recommend one thing to all of the TPT players, it would be to read the Harrington on Hold Em series of poker books. They’re easy to read and offer a great foundation to grown upon. Those books took my game to the “next level” and through experience you’ll continue to grow beyond that.

Some players get tilted very easy, do you get tilted easy? How do you handle going on tilt?
I can’t deny it, I certainly have some Hellmuth rage inside. But I think a lot of people suffer tilt not just from poker, but from external factors. Maybe you’re fighting with your significant other, something at work pissed you off or credit card debt is depressing you. So you repress that anger and then when things go sour at the poker table people freak out because they feel like they just can’t catch a break in life.

To handle my tilt I’ll take a break from playing poker and maybe play a videogame on my computer. Fire up a round of Left 4 Dead versus mode and pwn some n00bs that way, where my skill isn’t going to be influenced by luck (except if I get some n00b teammates, but then I can grief the crap out of them for sucking)

You have an awesome giveaway that is going on at Pokernations where the winner gets to live in Vegas for a week and is bought into a WSOP event. Give us the details man! Also, is living with you for a week really something someone would want to win?
I’ve seen so many companies that give away a seat to the Main Event. But the problem with a prize like that is most players don’t have the skills or experience to succeed in a deep-stacked multi-day tournament. So it’s like giving someone a lottery ticket. Instead of giving a person a meal ticket for one day I’d rather teach them to fish. So our big promotions we plan to include a training element of some kind. The winner of our PokerNations 2010 Vegas Experience will receive:

  • Entry into $1500 WSOP Tournament
  • Entry into $550 Super Satellite To The Main Event
  • Private Home Accommodations Near Vegas Strip
  • Private Poker Coaching
  • (Signed) Winning Poker Tournaments: One Hand At A Time
  • PokerNations Logo Clothing
  • $1,000 Travel & Spending Cash

They’ll be staying with myself and professional player, coach and author Eric “Rizen” Lynch (he trained one of the inaugural November Nine members, Darus Suharto, who went on to win $2.5 million). What’s really great about this promotion is you don’t have to play a tournament with thousands of players and be the lucky one player who wins their way into another tournament with thousands of players, so you can win your way into a third tournament where first place gets the package.

Here, even if you suck at poker, even if you’ve never played a hand in your life, you still have a chance to win this package (because our system will award it randomly to one of our members). You can influence your chances at winning this package by being active at PokerNations. This will help you accumulate poker chips to enter multiple times for this prize package.

As far as living with me for a week, of course you want to, I’m awesome! We can hit the clubs in Vegas and I can bust out my “running-man” dance. It’s the only move I know, but really, it’s the only move you need to know.

What’s your best win, whether live or online?
I’m mostly a cash game player. I’ve had plenty of deep finishes and final tables in a number of events. I used to play the Party Poker 40K guaranteed, which would have over 2K entrants and I came in 50th, 35th, 28th and 12th. It was so frustrating to win a few hundred bucks when first was over 10 grand. I obviously prefer to play tournaments with a few hundred players, rather than 1,000+.

But to answer your question, my best win would be middle-high four-figures in a limit cash game.

Most poker players i know prefer live play to online. What about you?
Playing online is convenient, but there’s nothing like playing with real chips and cards. And players in live settings are generally much weaker than their online counterparts (i.e. a 20/40 limit game online is usually much tougher than a 20/40 live table).

I am currently 1 of 58 in a .25c tourney on PS while I write this. Don’t screw me up. Wait, there’s no question there…um…lets see. Okay, on a board with K52 and two spades, a guy just bet 240 into a 150 pot. Why would he do this? My thought is he hit the K and wanted to discourage flush chasers. What are your thoughts on over betting the pot?
My thoughts on over-betting the pot are “it depends”. Poker is situational, and what works in one spot won’t work in another. You have to factor in stack and pot sizes, current position in the tournament, your opponents style of play, your image and if your opponents are aware enough to consider your hands when making their decisions (i.e. some people can’t look past their own two cards)

What’s funny is that in a .25 tourney there will be tons of players that will chase their flush even after the guy overbets the pot. I’ve played in games where a guy put in 2000 chips on the turn chasing his flush and left himself with 300 chips behind on the river just in case he missed.

Min raising: Is there ever a reason to do it?
I’m not a big fan of min-raises, but again, “it depends”. If this sort of raise has been working at the table and people are folding to it, then you can accumulate blinds with a lot less risk (generally you see this late in a tourney when most everyone is shorter stacked with the rising blinds, although mostly it’s 2.5x the BB raises)

I have a bad habit of protecting my big blind almost to where I’ll call most any preflop raise with almost any two cards. Good idea or bad idea?
“It depends”. Lol. Seriously though, position is HUGE in poker. Whenever you’re playing a hand out of position you’re at a disadvantage. If someone is abusing the crap out of button raises or something then yes, you’re going to need to defend against it at some point, you can’t just let them continue to run you over. It’s hard to give more advice without knowing what you do after you call these raises out of position. How often are you then check-folding?

If you used tracking software to record your hands, you could find out how much money you’ve won or lost calling raises from the BB. That would help you to know if it’s a good or bad idea for your playstyle. Is it working or is it costing you chips?

Have you used any training sites, such as TPT sponsor DeucesCracked?
I have not. I’ve watched a few videos from a few different sites, but generally the voice-over work turns me off from these clips. But I know a number of players who benefit from these sites. I prefer to learn via reading books, playing and discussing hands with friends and members of the PokerNations community.

BTW, I am now 5 of 52. Damn it. Anyway, what’s more important in terms of stats, ROI or ITM%? My take is ITM% because a bad player could luckbox one big tournament and thereby increase his ROI astronomically.
Are we talking SNG’s or MTT’s? Because you could constantly be just barely cashing in an MTT and winning a paltry 1.5x your buyin while having wasted 4-6 hours doing it. So that’s the flip-side of the coin as far as someone luckboxing a big tourney and boosting their ROI.

When someone limps AA and then cries about it gettiing cracked with Poop/Crap Off suit by the Big Blind, I laugh hysterically. Is there ever a reason to limp AA?
Yes. Oh, did you want examples? This is another “it depends” spot. You want to get value out of your big hands. Generally I advocate playing your big hands and your bluffs in the same way, making it difficult for your opponents to know what you hold (i.e. when you bluff, consider the “story” you’re telling with your betting………if you really had Aces there, how would you play them)

There can be times to limp Aces. Examples include where you’ll be up against only one or two opponents, and you really want them to hit something so they can pay you off (i.e. they may not call a preflop raise, so you take a risk of them outdrawing you to give yourself a shot at a double-up because just winning the blinds won’t improve your situation).

Another option is to limp when someone behind you has been playing aggressively and you’re confident someone will raise or shove after you’ve limped.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, do you have anything more to add, something I didn’t cover or any shout outs in general?
Sure, I’d just like to thank all the players and admins from the TPT for making me feel so welcome in your games, and I hope you’ll all get involved at PokerNations, would love to help everyone with strategy advice and see you take down some big wins!

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4 Responses to “PokerNations Offers Social Network and Advice For Poker Players”

  1. Geoff Manning - @cprpoker

    Dec 22nd, 2009

    Street3 you have outdone yourself. Best. Interview. Ever.

    Anthony, as always, great job man!


    Dec 22nd, 2009

    Street great Interview!!!! Anthony gl with PokerNation site ,great site great people !!!!

  3. Street3

    Dec 23rd, 2009

    Thanks guys and thanks to Anthony. They say an interview is only as good as the one being interviewed, so all the thanks should go to him!

  4. del

    Jan 12th, 2010

    Great Interview Guys.

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