Folding for Fun and Profit

Long-time Mutant Poker reader BP and I had this IM exchange after Day 7 of 2013 WSOP Main Event:

BP: How about Anton Morgenstern? He could have blinded off yesterday and had an average stack in November.

Mutant Poker: Could he? There were a lot of hands between the time he was leader and the final. Maybe I’ll sit down and figure it out unless you saw the numbers crunched somewhere.

BP: I just made that up. Gut feeling that he would not be busted out by having his 20M+ stack blinded off.

Anton Morgenstern entered the day with a sizable chip lead over his opponents. With 27 players remaining, the German had just under 22 million chips, and his nearest competitor, Sylvain Loosli, had less than two-thirds that amount. Morgenstern had over one-ninth the chips in play.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll track multiple versions of Morgenstern’s stack:

  • Morgenstern actual is what really happened, we won’t be tracking this long;
  • Morgenstern rock assumes he does not play a hand from the beginning of Day 7 until the final table (assuming he gets there);
  • Morgenstern maximum assumes he halts play at the point he knocks out Steven Gee and nears 30 million chips (over 16% of the chips in play).
  • Morgenstern brakes assumes Anton shuts down at the end of Level 30 after he’s lost chips from his peak.

The first level of Day 7 went well for Morgenstern. He was seated at the feature table, which played 46 hands at Level 30 (60K/120K/15K). By the end of the level, he’d increased his stack to 26.455 million, and at one point just four hands before the end of the level, he’d reached a peak of 29.325 million after eliminating Steven Gee.The first elimination at the feature table came on the fifth hand, Morgenstern’s BB. Cost so far: 195K. Gee was the next elimination, on hand 44. Forty hands of antes: 585K. Five SB: 300K. Five BB: 600K. Total cost so far: 1.68 million. This is the starting point for Morgenstern maximum.
Over the last four hands of the level, Morgenstern paid a SB and four antes, for a total of 120K. He also lost another 2.75 million, most in the last hand of the level against JC Tran. The 26.455 million he ended the level with is the starting point for Morgentern brakes.The cost of blinds and antes for the entire level was 1.8 million. Morgenstern rock would not have played a hand during the level and would have ended with 20.155 million. Morgenstern actual and Morgenstern brakes would be at 26.455 million. Morgenstern maximum, sitting out the hands after Gee’s KO, would have 29.205 million.

End of Level 30 (23 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 26.455 million
  • Morgenstern rock: 20.155 million
  • Morgenstern brakes26.455 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 29.205 million

The feature table was seven-handed throughout Level 31 (80K/160K/20K). 46 hands were played during the level. Because of the placement of the button at the beginning of the level, Morgenstern paid seven pairs of blinds. Cost for the level was 2.6 million. But this is where it all went wrong for Anton Morgenstern, as he twice doubled up Mark Newhouse.

End of Level 31 (21 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 5 million
  • Morgenstern rock: 17.555 million
  • Morgenstern brakes: 23.866 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 26.605 million

The next level (32) saw Morgenstern’s elimination as well as the redraw to two tables. Blinds were 100K/200K/30K. 58 hands were played at the feature table before the redraw. Even with his short stack, Morgenstern stayed in the game through most of the level, so action wasn’t moving particularly faster because he wasn’t there. The object in this type of calculation is to plan for the worst, anyway, so the more hands and the higher cost, the more accurate an estimate you’re likely to get: eight rounds of blinds and 56 antes (4.08M total).

End of Level 32 (18 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 0 (out in 20th place)
  • Morgenstern rock: 13.475 million
  • Morgenstern brakes: 19.786 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 22.525 million

About 50 hands at 120K/240K/40K for Level 33, about 30 of which were nine-handed. About 4.1 million is the cost.

End of Level 33 (15 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 0 (out in 20th place)
  • Morgenstern rock: 9.375 million
  • Morgenstern brakes: 15.686 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 18.425 million

Level 34 was 150K/300K/50K. 53 hands played, with almost all of them 6-handed because of two early eliminations at the feature table. A cost of around 6.625 million.

End of Level 34 (11 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 0 (out in 20th place)
  • Morgenstern rock: 2.75 million
  • Morgenstern brakes: 9.061 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 11.8 million

The last level played was Level 35 (200K/400K/50K). Just seven hands were played at the feature table before an elimination set the unofficial final table, which would have cost 850K. One round of 10-handed play led to the final elimination, at a cost of 1.1 million, a total of about 2 million chips.

End of Day 7 (9 players remaining)

  • Morgenstern actual: 0 (out in 20th place)
  • Morgenstern rock: 0.75 million
  • Morgenstern brakes: 7.061 million
  • Morgenstern maximum: 9.8 million

BP wasn’t entirely correct. Blinding off for the entire day (Morgenstern rock) would have left Anton with barely enough for his next round of blinds, much less antes. Putting the brakes on after the first level of the day (Morgenstern brake) would most likely have left him as one of a couple of short stacks: the actual November Nine short stacks are David Benefield with 6.375M and Mark Newhouse (7.35M), the man who damaged Morgenstern to climb to the chip lead, only to end up within striking distance of where he began the day (5.785M), but with 18BB instead of 50BB.

Still, the difference between 20th place and 9th place in monetary terms  is $285,408 vs. $733,224, or over $450,000. Not a bad payday for doing exactly nothing and still with a chance to win the top prize of $8.36 million. It might have been an incredible story.

Something to keep in mind the next time you have 30 million chips at the final three tables of the WSOP Main Event.