Flipping Out

Just a few quick thoughts on the new Flipout tournaments debuting this weekend on Full Tilt.

It doesn’t make any difference to US players, since—although people are finally getting their long-held funds—we can’t play on the site at this point. But new formats  get copied elsewhere, so….

The Flipout format is a combination of an elimination shootout and a blind all-in game. Every player at the initial table is all-in every hand until one player emerges as the table winner, then those players go on to play a normal tournament format, having already made the money (or nearly made the money). It’s designed to get you through all the “tedious” early play in the tournament, where you can bust after several hours and still be a long way from the money. For players who want to get to the “action,” it probably sounds pretty good.

From the standpoint of a good tournament player, however, it’s a tradeoff. A decent tournament player makes the money 15-25% of the time. On a 9-player Flipout format round, you’re guaranteed to make the money no more than 11.11% of the time in the long run. So you hit the money between 50% and 75% of what you would normally expect.

The upside might be that because the selection of players making it through the shootout round is random, that better players will go deeper in the money, but in order to counter the reduction in ITM%, there has to be a corresponding increase in money earned. If you’re making the money only 75% as often as you do in regular tournaments, you need to have a 33% increase in profit to make the tradeoff equitable. If you make the money 50% as often, you need to make twice as much.

Asa a hypothetical, say you’re a player who always wins top place in a tournament when you cash, which is 22% of the time. If you continue to win top place in every Flipouot tournament you play, you’re only winning half as much per tournament as you did previously.

The upside may lay in volume. If you can skip most of the time you spend playing tournaments (i.e. the time before the money bubble) you might be able to play enough volume to make up for the reduction in the percentage of cashes, but winning tournament players will need to go deeper in Flipout tournaments than they do otherwise to maintain the same ROI.

Stupid Stupid Stupid

Bovada $100K NLHE (T5,000)

This was my first attempt at the Bovada $100K Guarantee, and despite not cashing, I was mostly pleased with my play until the end, particularly since I’d gotten into the game by winning a seat in their weekly Lucky Draw satellite. My second attempt (coming soon) made it into the money, again through the Lucky Draw.

Hand 13 [kh th] CO T4,940 10/20
Raised and got a call but the board was low and I folded to a turn bet from [ah kd] after a jack peeled off.

Hand 14 [9h 9d] HJ T4,850 10/20
UTG1 raised to 105 with [tc ts] and I called, with BTN coming along holding [6c 7c]. The flop was [7s 3s jh] which froze everyone. A [jc] hit the turn and I bet 200 after a check from UTG1. We both checked the [3h] on the river and I lost the showdown.

Hand 17 [jd qd] UTG1 T4,545 20/40
I opened to 120, getting called by BB with [qs qc]. The flop’s about as good as it can be for me in the situation: [2s 4d 5d], and I c-bet 150, only to get re-raised to 460 by the black queens. I call that and a bet of 630 on the turn [6h], but have to give it up when [4c] hits the river. Down by 30% of my stack in the first half hour.

Hand 23 [as 8s] BTN T3,275 20/40
Get moved to a new table. UTG ([ks ts]) raises to 100 and gets calls from UTG2 ([tc ac]) me, and BB with [td 7c]. The flop is [7d 5h 9h], BB takes a stab at it for 80, I’m out. but he extracts some more from UTG and ends up winning the pot.

Hand 24 [ks ad] CO T3,175 20/40
UTG2 raises to 140 with [tc kh] and I re-raise to 500 to take the pot.

Hand 27 [7c 7h] UTG1 T3,375 30/60
With this many people in the hand, I might just throw this away, normally, but I opened to 120 and took the blinds. BTN had [8s ac], the best hand in the mix.

Hand 37 [as ja] UTG1 T3,375 30/60
The Mutant Jack. I raise to 180 and get a call from UTG3’s [qs 9h]. Bet 300 on the [2h ac 5s] flop and it’s over.

Hand 48 [4c 8c] BB T3,525 40/80
I’m not the shortest stack at the table, but  I’m second to the bottom. Third from the bottom UTG makes the mistake of limping in with [qc jh] and letting me through to a [kc 9c 6c] flop. I call his small bets down through the [7d] turn and [8h] river, then call a bet of 560 on the river and my small flush holds up.

Hand 49 [qh qd] SB T4,605 40/80
UTG raises to 160 with [jc kh] and gets a call from [as 6d] in UTG2. I clamp down for 2,800 and they fold. Back to starting stack!

Hand 57 [kd ac] BB T5,005 50/100
UTG1 min-raises with [td ad] and fewer chips; I re-raise to 700 and he folds.

Hand 68 [qd as] CO T4,980 75/150
UTG1 opened with [8d 8s] to 150 and called my re-raise to 500 without knowing both the other eights were already dead (as was one of the queens and an ace). I’m actually ahead of him in equity because of that. The flop runs [6c jh ac], I bet 700 after his check and he folds.

Hand 80 [ah qd] UTG2 T5,405  100/200
I opened to 600 and took the blinds.

Hand 88 [7d 7c] UTG1 T5,405 100/200
I’ve been moved again, to the table where I’ll spend most of the rest of the tournament. There’s a guy who’s pretty loose on my right (although I don’t know it yet). We’re only seven-handed at the moment, so I once again uncharacteristically open-raise with my sevens. There’s an [ad 9c], a [3c ah], and a [9h 8h] out there, but nobody contests.

Hand 90  [qh kd] BB T5,705 100/200
SB opens to 477 (one of those) and I call. The [kh as 5s] flop slows him down, and we check it through to the river, with his [qc ts] picking up a pair but not making the straight.

Hand 97 [as jc] BB T6,484 125/250/25
This one stung. UTG1 min-raised with [6c 6d] (something I’d likely never do in that position in a full table). SB went all-in with 3,678 and, as usual, I called from behind his [qc ac], sending my stack tumbling down near the bottom.

Hand 99 [4s 2s] BTN T2,631 125/250/25
Never say die. Action folded to me and I shoved to take the blinds, which at this point were a not-inconsiderable portion of my stack.

Hand 100 [jh kd] CO T3,181 125/250/25
Sometimes you just pull the trigger and get lucky. UTG1 raised to 1,075 with [jd jc] and UTG2 smooth-called him with [ac as]. I shoved in, UTG1 went all-in for 5,810, and UTG2 naturally called, with 5K behind. The board ran out [8d 9h qd ad th], making Broadway for me and giving the jacks the queen-high straight, with the set of aces coming in third. With the various cards that were out of play in others’ hands, I was down to 7% equity in that hand, pre-flop.

Hand 105 [th kh] BB T9,943 125/250/25
Naturally, I blew it almost as soon as I (virtually) stacked the chips. UTG3 raised with [as 8d] to 525 and I called, along with BB holding [jd 7d]. UTG3 checked the [tc 8h 9d] flop, I bet 1,000 into BB’s made straight, he called, and UTG3 folded. The eight paired on the river, but I shoved with top pair on the straight and he doubled up, leaving me back below starting stack and feeling sheepish.

Hand 107 [as ts] BTN T4,446 125/250/25
I opened to 750 and took the blinds and antes.

Hand 109 [8c 9c] HJ T4,971 125/250/25
Got a little frisky with an open to 750 and managed to take the blinds to get over starting stack.

Hand 124 [3s 3c] BB T4,301 150/300/30
I promised not to look any gift horses in the mouth for a while. Treys aren’t my usual territory, but UTG raised to 680 with [ad 9d] uncontested and I called after watching my stack dwindle. He checked his middle pair on the [kh 9c 7s] flop and let me get to the [3h] on the turn. I checked, and he raised me all-in. He caught [ac] for two pair on the river, but he was slow-play toast.

Hand 126 [8h 8d] BTN T8,782 150/300/30
An action hand. The loose player in CO min-raised with [jd 3c], I called, SB came along with [jc qh] (and 20K), then short-stacked BB shoved for 2,600. I was the only caller, hit an [8c] on the flop and had the best hand in the mix, as it turned out. The win moved me up to the edge of the cashing field of 180 players, though there were still over 600 left. Caught a pocket pair of fours on the next hand but threw them away.

Hand 136 [td 9d] HJ T11,869 200/400/40
Loosy McLooserson on my right min-raised with [5s 7h], getting calls from me and CO with [7c 7d]. The fl0p is [6c 3s 4h] and wallops the worst hand of the three, the sevens bet (I fold) and the straight walks him down to the river where he’s forced to call a bet by going all in and winning the hand, the poor bastard.

Hand 138 [tc ts] UTG2 T10,989 200/400/40
I open to 1,200 and everyone folds.

Hand 143 [ad ks] BTN T11,149 200/400/40
Loosey CO raised [8c jd] to 800 and, having seen in him in action for a while, I re-raise to 3,000 which ends the hand.

Hand 146 [ad qd] UTG3 T12,789 200/400/40
Loosey min-raises again with [9h js]. I just call this time, he checks the [7s 7c ah] flop and I bet 1,400 for another win.

Hand 148 [6d ad] UTG1 T14,469 250/500/50
I don’t hang around in this hand long enough. Loosey min-raises UTG, I call, UTG3 calls with [jc ah]/The flop is [8s 7d 2c] and UTG3 bets 3,000 from a stack of 23K, blowing me of but failing to get rid of UTG. They both check a turn of [9d] and [5s] river, which would have finished my straight. UTG wins with [4c 5c].

Hand 167 [9s jd] BB T11,019 250/500/50
Ordinarily, I’d fold this none-handed, but action folded to The Loose One, who min-raised from SB with [ts 3d]. I called to see the [5h 8c kd] flop, and folded to a bet of 1,200.

Hand 175 [ac tc] UTG T9,249 300/600/60
Opened to 1,800 and took it down.

Hand 185 [qc ts] BB T9,189 300/600/60
I wasn’t going to let Loosey take advantage of me again in the blinds. He min-raised with [8h 7h] and I shoved on him.

Hand 186 [js jc] SB T10,809 300/600/60
UTG3 raised to 1,320 with [9h as]. CO called with [kh th].n was all-in for the second hand in a row. Both players had me covered nearly three-to-one but didn’t call, a lesson I should perhaps have taken to heart.

Hand 192 [qh th] UTG1 T14,169 400/800/80
I opened to 2,400, HJ called, holding [4c 4d]. The flop was [3h 2h 3c]. I bet 4,000 and HJ shoved. I didn’t make the flush, but I caught a queen on the river and suddenly I was up in the middle of the cashing field, with about 100 players left to the money. A couple hands later, an all-in from Loosey kept me from calling a raise that would have gotten me to trips to knock him out.

Hand 200 [9d td] UTG2 T28,338 400/800/80
Loosey was down to less than 3,300, and went all-in from UTG1. I called and went HU with [ad kd]. Not so loose when he’s short. I caught an open-ended straight draw and a pair of tens on the flop but a river king swung things the other way.

Hand 205  [6c 6h] BTN T23,496 400/800/80
I opened to 2,400 and won.

Hand 208 [ac qh] UTG3 T25,096 500/1,000/100
Annnnnd here’s where I blew it. I open to 3,000 and get a call from UTG4 with [3c 3h]. BTN shoves with a little over 14K, more than half my stack. Do I fold or flip for more than half my chips? Or am I in worse shape? I shove, the threes drop out, and I’m up against [qs qc]. The board runs out [3s 8h 5c 6s 6d]. I could have folded with more than 22K left. Thirty players went out in the last seven minutes before I busted out. There were only seventy more to go, and even with things slowing down near the bubble, they could only linger so long, because the average stack was about 25BB.

Hand 211 [qh kc] UTG T10,705 500/1,000/100
Shove it in with less than 11BB. BTN calls with just a few more chips and [ac jd], I get a king on the flop an ace hits the river.

VPIP: 14.7%.

Three hours and forty-five minutes. 211 hands. 251st of 1,328 entries. -100% ROI.

Lots of poker coming up this next couple of weeks. Muckleshoot Casino has their series this weekend, the Deepstacks Poker Tour is at Chinook Winds all next week, Bovada’s Black Diamond series starts on Saturday and runs for a month, the last weekend of March is the Tulalip Poker Pro Challenge, and there’s so much more….

Return on Investment

So, a few weeks back, I contacted Martin Harris (aka “Short-Stacked Shamus”), the editor at PokerNews’ LearnPoker site about doing a revamp of my recent post following up a Card Player article by Bryan Devonshire (behind a paywall). Martin was about to head off to EPT Deauville at the time and didn’t have anything in the budget for me, but I’d already written a long piece for nothing, to be read by virtually no-one, so re-writing it to get a wider audience was not a problem for me. By the time he got back to the States, I’d finished the piece that ended up on PokerNews a couple of weeks back.

The day after it went up, I got an inquiry from Kyle Wagner at Deadspin about re-publishing the longer original piece, which ended up with the title “Why You’ll Never Make a Living Playing Live Poker Tournaments.” I would have thrown a “Probably” in there, but I’m just a writer, not an editor (in this case).

That spawned a Reddit and a 2+2 NVG thread, in addition to the comments at LearnPoker and Deadspin, which I’ve tried to address to the extent I can. Then Tuesday, the Deadspin article was mentioned by the hosts of the 2+2 Pokercast, at the 29:00 point in the same episode where they’re interviewing Daniel Negreanu, so I expect that will get some more attention.

Thanks to Martin and Kyle for picking up the pieces, and for everyone who responded (either way) in various forums. Thanks to a load of new followers and readers. If I’ve missed any points, please drop me a line on Twitter @pokermutant.

Just as a follow-up, I’d like to point folks to some statistical analysis from 2011 by Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, who used a “1,000 Shaun Deebs” model to determine a range of results from online play. Part I, Part II, and several subsequent posts where he predicts results for HU, STT, and 6-Max online tournament players.