Saturday, June 04, 2005

WSOP satellite blues

Well, I'm still taking regular shots in satellites for this year's WSOP main event. As everyone knows, the $10,000 buy-in main event of the WSOP is ~the~ event in poker. This will possibly be the largest WSOP main event ever. When I say ever, I mean that the popularity of poker may be at its peak now, so perhaps next year's event will not be larger. It will, of course, beat last year's record size. Only time will tell when poker reaches its peak, but I am trying to maintain a conservative perspective.

For a break (and some excitment) from limit and no limit ring games, I have been making steady attempts at cheap online WSOP qualifiers.

To date, I have spent a net of $550 on my attempts (with $334 at Party, and $216 at Stars), but a much much higher proportion of time (vs. the money). The amount of money is very low compared to the time spent because I have been playing a lot of the very low buy in subqualifers at Party.

For example, when I am particularly bored, I will play 4 simultaneous $9+1 sub qualifiers WSOP SitNGo's (SNG). (Party's WSOP qualifying system) The $9+1 subqualifer is a single table (10 person) SNG where the top 2 finishers win a seat to a $36+3 WSOP qualifier. The 3rd place finisher gets back $12 cash.
The $36+3 qualifier is also a single table (10 person) SNG where the top finisher wins a seat in the $300+28 WSOP direct entry satellite. 2nd place gets $32 cash.
The $300+28 WSOP satellites award $13.5k WSOP main event prize packages for every 45 entrants (typically there will be around 200 entrants for each of these nightly tournaments, so ~4-5 packages per night)

By the way, the amount of money that Party is making from this whole WSOP satellite system is astounding. First of all they are charging ~10% entry fee at each level, and it works out to substantially more than 10% by the time you actually reach the direct entry level because the fees are charged ~at each level~ (depending on the ratio of players that buy in directly at the $300+28 and $36+3 vs the $9+1).
In addition to all the money collected from entry fees, the prize package itself is overvalued (they are getting blocks of hotel rooms at hugely discounted prices). On top of this, prize winners are asked to wear Party logo clothing with no compensation (compared to Stars that essentially pays you $1k to wear their logos). I estimate that Party makes $3k+ for each prize package awarded (when additionally you take into account that some winners will, for various reasons, not be able to use their package and forfeit the $13k back to Party).

What a great business model! It makes me laugh to hear people have conspiracy theories that sites like Party are "rigged". There is absolute no reason to risk rigging the game when the business model is so ridiculously profitable when running as a honest poker site. Basically, Party is able to charge fairly high fees for a well marketed product. Party's pending IPO should be quite successful.

Back to the WSOP stuff: Through just starting from the $9+1 subqualifiers (my net $334 investment), I have had made 3 entries into the $300+28 events where I managed to finish in the 90th percentile twice and 80th percentile once. Naturally, if you aren't going to finish in the money, you might as well bust out on the first hand, and save the time and grief.... :P None the less, I was satisfied with my tournament strategy in those events. I did not manage to amass a large chip stack in any of these 3 tourneys, so I was only utilizing and practicing medium stack and short stack play.
Despite the ridiculous fees that Party can charge for this system, I'm was quite content to pay the fees because of the even more ridiculous poor quality of play of the participants. To very roughly compare, I'd estimate that Party is charging me ~30% tax to win a seat, but my opponents' awful play gives me a discount of well over 50%. In theoretical poker terms, this is positive EV (expected value), and isn't that what being successful at poker is all about?


At Stars, I have collectively made two attempts at the $30+3 rebuy super satellites. These daily tourneys pay 1 WSOP prize package for each 367 buyins/rebuys/addons. Typically, there are close to 2 prize packages awarded for each of these tourneys that are run. Stars, on average, has better players than Party, although sometimes better players make for more predictable players (since I can at least understand their thinking).

Tonight was my 2nd attempt at the Stars $30+3 super, and it was my most promising run thus far. There was only 1 seat being awarded and 16 places paying out $650 cash because there were just slightly less than 2x times the prize package in entry fees (306 entrants). I say that this was my most promising attempt because I was able to build a big stack of chips in the middle stages of the tourney. My high water mark for the tourney was 2nd in chips with about 80 people left. (At that point, I made a big effort to remove any possible distractions from the room, in particular turning off the TV. My spouse was very helpful regarding this.)

Slightly after this stage, I ran into the following PIVOTAL hand that was my inflection point of the tournament.

hand #1
9 seated, level 7 of the tournament. The two chip leaders at the table with virutally identical stacks are myself (hero) in the BB and villain in the SB (we were both in the top 5 chip leaders, 80 people remaining) each with somewhere around 30k in chips (all top 8 chip leaders have very similar chips stacks ~30k). Avg chip stack ~13k. Blinds were 100/200 w 25 ante.
- folded all the way to the blinds, SB completes, I check in the BB w Tc9s. (pot size T$ 525, 2 players)
- flop comes KdQsJs. Villain in SB bets 400. I decide to trap with 2nd nuts by smooth calling. (I am willing ignore the ugly possibilty he has the nut straight) (pot size T$ 1325, 2 players)
- turn comes KdQsJsTs. This is a awful card for me for 2 reasons, it either gives my opponent the best hand if he has an A or it scares the heck out of him (which would prevent him from putting too many chips in the pot). SB bets 2000. I know full well that my opponent is perfectly capable of limping with an A in this situation. I'm discounting that he has a flush, and I still have an open ended straight flush draw. I call. (pot size T$ 5325, 2 players)
- river comes KdQsJsTs7s giving me 3rd high flush (missed the straight flush by 1 lousy pip). Only As or Ks (or both) beats me. SB bets 4000. I call since I believe I will only be called (or raised) by a better hand.
- SB shows As5h and wins a $T13325 pot.

I still have $~24k chips which is still double the average stack. I only lost T$6625k in the hand, but the main reason this hand was pivotal to me was the lost opportunity to double up from another big stack. Put a 8s up on the river and me thinks that SB goes broke in that hand. (Ks coming on the river would probably have given the same results as the 7s because I would have made the same decision to call only. ----- easy for me to say that now, but try only calling on the river with a straight flush in this tournament situation where 1st place is worth so much more than any other place.... :P)

The only way I win this hand would have been to make a substantial raise on the flop. I believe I made the correct play to attempt to trap (and then subsequently lost the minimum that I could expect to lose based on the turn and river cards) to take the chance to try and double up in the hand from a big stack. My opponent is semi bluffing the flop, and I believe he keeps it up if a blank comes on the turn. However, he hits his 3 outer, and he has the one card in the deck that was truly dangerous to me on the turn (meaning that I only had 1 out on the turn instead of 9; again assuming my opponent does not have AxKs or even AsKs - would he have only limped with those hands?) Does anyone have a differing opinion?

I think my assumptions during the hand that he did not flop the nut straigh nor make a flush on the turn (particularly with AsKs) are reasonable to make in a tournament situation. (especially in a "battle of the blinds" type hand)

There were a total of ~T$ 1 million chips, and potentially doubling up to 60k chips is far from comfortable. However, it is much easier to win a tournament if you are the chip leader and playing reasonably. With the structure of the payout, I think maximizing the chance of winning should be a higher priority than trying to finish in the money.

At any rate, I couldn't get anything going after this point. During the next round, I dropped my stack to around 20k. This worked out to 5th largest stack at the table, and from that point on, my timing was awful. e.g. I'd open raise in mid position w a hand like 99 or AQo, and a big stack would come over the top of me all in (perhaps I should have taken a stand sooner??). After I was ground down to 15x the big blind 3 levels later (exactly 1 minute before the next round where my stack would be 12x the big blind), I raised 2 limpers all in w TT and a solid player with a big stack reraised all in behind me immediately telling me I was in big trouble. Yes, he had A's and they did hold up. So I busted out around 40th place for quite an unspectacular showing.


In other news, I've decided to enter a $500+50 No Limit tourney at a local cardroom. My reasons?
- it is a moderate buyin tourney with a somewhat reasonable structure (reasonable, but not great - 30 minute levels with 3000 starting chips). It shouldn't be a total luck-fest like ~$100 buy in type live NL tournaments that I have often entered.
- the tournament is run locally and on a weekend. This means that I have essentially no travel expenses and I do not have to take any time off from my day job
- I really want more experience in playing live no limit tournaments with at least some decent players
Hopefully I can keep my head on straight for this event. I will be very content if I can make good poker and tournament decisions. Finishing in the money will be a big plus. Otherwise, it will be more hours of ring games to "make back" the cost of tournament entry. (I don't really think about tournament entry fees this way, but I still to try to keep in mind good bankroll management practices.)

No comments: