Size Does Matter

Hearkening back to the discussion of median return on investment (mROI) from a couple months back, what tournaments should you be playing to maintain profitability?

The big determining factor is your in-the-money percentage (ITM). If you’re some sort of poker god and cash in half the tournaments you enter, you should be profitable, assuming your mROI is above 200% (i.e. you aren’t always min-cashing). When you’re in the more mortal realm of 12% to 18% ITM, however, the math gets a bit murkier.

Let’s assume you have a solid but not outrageous ITM value of 14%. You’re cashing in about one out of every seven games, not just small games but across the board including games with more than 100 players. If you’re playing in casinos where tips are taken out of the total prize pool, your mROI needs to be +600% or better in order to be profitable. If you’re playing in something like Portland’s social gaming clubs where the winning players need to tip the dealers in order to keep the scene going, your mROI needs to be +440% or better to stay ahead. As an example of the latter, if you enter a tournament with a $25 buy-in, a $10 add-on, and a $10 door fee, your payout needs to be about $350; pay $35 as a tip and subtract $45 for other costs, and the remaining $270 buys you the six tournament entries you don’t cash in. Although the overall mROI for social clubs is lower, the tip means that the prize has to be a higher multiple of the other costs (buy-in, add-on, door) for a positive average return (+677% in the example above).

A $350 payout for a $25 entry tournament is a fairly decent-sized prize, though. Depending on the prize structure, that’s more or less the top prize of a $1,000 guarantee tournament with 25 or 26 players. The median payout in a tournament that size would be less than $300; unless you got the top spot, you’d be dragging down your mROI.

This is why the Poker Mutant is focusing on larger fields, these days. Aside from a preference for the blinds structures of deep stack games, larger fields are simply the only way to maintain profitability. A tournament like the Encore Club’s $25K Guarantee earlier this month paid 12 places with a scheduled median ROI of +490% (the 9-way chop actually made the median ROI +1150%). But that required a field of 150 players.

Small-field tournaments in Portland—i.e. those with 20-30 players—pay about 45-50% for the top prize, with three or four places total paying (before any bubble agreements), and with the median payout in the range of 20-30% of the pot. The pot to basic cost ratio varies considerably depending on the tournament structure and club. An 11am $250 guarantee freeroll tournament at Portland Players Club ($5 door, $5 pre-add-on, $10 add-on) with close to 30 players can generate a pot to cost ratio of nearly 25:1 with a third of the players re-buying (I don’t include re-buys in basic costs because as I’ve explained, rebuys are the death of ROI). That means the median payout in those tournaments is approximately 625% of your basic cost. If you tip your dealer 10% of your 625% prize ($125), your ROI for the game is +285%, which sounds great, but only if your ITM is better than 26%. Of course, if you win the top prize in that tournament you’re doing better, but then if you cash in third you’d better be cashing in almost every game you play.

Games that induce a lot of re-buys, like the afternoon Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo tournaments at The Final Table ($10 door, $20 buy-in, $10 add-on), can change the math a little. It’s not uncommon for there to be nearly as many re-buys as original entries, which can juice the pot a bit. One game late last year had 28 entries, 21 re-buys, and 22 add-ons, for a $1,200 pot (30:1). That’s still not a great number, though, with the median payout at just under 16% ($190), for a potential ROI of only +222%; more money but not as high a return as the median payout in the PPC game. Again, the top end does better—+450%—but that’s just keeping your head above water for someone with an ITM of 14% (and it means you need to take first place every time you cash).

Is there a sweet spot? Is there a magic number that makes it more likely that your tournament cashes will be profitable cashes? So much of that decision rests on variables like re-buy and payout structures, but in Poker Mutant’s humble opinion—in the world of Portland poker rooms, at least—you’re more likely to be profitable in events with 75 or more entrants. Apart from the opportunity of winning a big stake if you take down the top prize, which can have a pot to cost ratio of 20:1 or 30:1, the average cash in a field of that size is large enough to maintain profitability for most above-average players. You’ll still find Poker Mutant at the tables for smaller games, but our focus is on those bigger tournaments for the time being.

Anyone heading down to Reno for the World Poker Challenge?

Loss Weekend(s)

Looks like I’ve got some serious catching up to do. Here, first of all, but really at the tables.

The Final Table Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Another one of those PLO8 experiences where you get a wad of chips early on only to lose them, re-buy (resolution broken again), make it to the add-on break, then bust out half-way through the first round after the break.

Eighty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 26th of 28 entries.

Carbon Poker $200 Guarantee HORSE Freeroll

In the interests of getting this update done, not going to bother with a hand-by-hand for this brief game.

Thirteen minutes, 15 hands. 2,566th of 2,798 entries.

The Final Table $1,000 Guarantee

Didn’t rebuy. First player permanently out.

Sixty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 39th of 39 players.

The Final Table Big “O” 5-Card Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

I hadn’t played Big “O” as a tournament before this, but I’d been intrigued by it and my early exit from the $1K Guarantee gave me the chance to give Final Table’s alternate Friday early afternoon game a try. I did reasonably well, I think, except for the part about not making any money.

Two-and-a-half hours. -100% ROI. 16th of 34 entries.

The Final Table $10,000 Guarantee

It’s the game I was waiting for. Didn’t make it as far as the second break.

Three hours. -100% ROI. 107th of 144 players.

Portland Players Club $200 Guarantee Freeroll

Wandered over to PPC after I got booted from the $10K. Came in a few minutes late but started to pick up chips and made it to the bubble. Dropped my median ROI by a bit.

 Two hours. +0% ROI. 5th of 24 entries.

Portland Players Club $250 Guarantee

It was the first anniversary of the new regime at PPC and CB had a bunch of prizes added to each of the day’s tournaments. The early game had a month’s pass added to first place; I only made it about half-way through the field.

Two hours and fifty minutes. -100% ROI. 21st of 44 entries.

Portland Players Club No Limit Hold’em

Slid over to the well-in-progress second tournament of the day. I did not last long.

Ten minutes. -100% ROI. 9th of 9 players.

2011/12 Puffmammy Poker Tour Event #14

Couldn’t play the later PPC events on their anniversary because of the home league game. Busted out twenty minutes into the tournament after I was out-kicked by WA. Re-bought (resolution doesn’t apply to the home game), then busted the next two players myself within an hour. Several reversals of fortune happened: I ended up in second place to JT, the first of the players I busted out. The two payouts went to two of the three players who re-bought. Median ROI dropping like a rock.

Three and a half hours. +62% ROI. 2nd of 7 players.

Oak Tree Casino 2-10 Spread Limit Hold’em

After the home game, I headed up to Woodland to see if I could get into some Omaha but there wasn’t anything going. Played spread limit for the first time.

Two hours. +8 big blinds.

Aces Players Club $1,500 Guarantee

I’d really like to play the noon game at Aces more often but it’s just gotten so large that I can’t make obligations in the early evening if I go deep. Not that I did here, but I don’t plan to go home early.

One hour and fifty minutes. -100% ROI. 30th of 44 players.

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee

This was my first big game at Encore for the new year and I managed to hold on through round 12. I avoided a nasty encounter on the last hand before the second break that would have busted me; my hand was strong but wouldn’t have won. By the fifth hour, I was up to more than 125,000 chips; more than half-again the chip average at that point. Then in the middle of the hour I lost all but 16,000 of it in a hand I can’t recall at this time but likely one of those scenarios where I probably shoved incorrectly. I was out less than two minutes later.

Five hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 24th of 112 players.

D’s Dealer’s Choice

This is usually a money hole for me,  but surprisingly I came out on top for a change. A couple good hands of Omaha made my day.

Four hours. +50 big blinds.

Oak Tree Casino Limit Omaha 8

In my constant search for Omaha action, I drove up for one of the morning tournaments. I have to say, the lack of info screens, low number of chips, and the small size of the field doesn’t really make it worthwhile for me.

Two hours. -100% ROI. 10th of 28 players.

Portland Players Club $200 Freeroll

Nothing like a late-night game at PPC. I mean that quite literally. It can be sort of crazy when people who bust out can re-buy and immediately have more chips than your stack after you busted them.

Two hours. -100% ROI. 11th of 23 players.

Encore Club $1,000 Guarantee

Another game that ended for me half-way through the round after the add-on. Got my double-stamp for the day, though.

Eighty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 27th of 32 entries.

Encore Club $5,000 Guarantee

Didn’t even make it to the add-on in this game.

One hour. -100% ROI. 112th of 117 entries.

Oak Tree Casino 3-6 Hold’em

I had an hour after the $5K before another tournament started. I figured Oak Tree might have some Omaha running on a Friday night and I headed up there instead of waiting. Big mistake. I’d forgotten about their grand opening celebration, they were giving $500 away each hour in a drawing, and every table was packed. Every waiting list was packed—except for 15-30 HE, and even that had a waiting list—there was only one Omaha table, and I was about #15 on the list. As it was, I could have made it back to Encore before anything opened up. I went in on a table, made a little bit, lost a little bit, then players started drifting away after the last drawing of the night and it broke.

One hour. -10 big blinds.

Oak Tree Casino 2-10 Spread Hold’em

I took a seat at this table despite my best judgment.

One hour. -130 big blinds.

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee

If you’ve made it down this far you know that it’s been a little while since I posted a win. More importantly, it’s been a while since I posted a substantial win. Surprisingly, my In The Money (ITM) percentage hasn’t faltered much; although there are a lot of games listed in this one post, they were played over a period of three weeks and represent a fairly small number compared to the total number of tournaments in my database. But I can’t live forever on past winnings. So I resolved to play this past week’s $10K at the Encore very tight at the beginning.

It didn’t help much. Before the first break, I was down to just over 20% of the starting stack. I did manage to chip back up to 7,500 by the break, then did the add-on, but it was rough, as the most premium hand I’d gotten was TxTx. Then, in round 6 on my big blind, I looked down at QxQx and decided to go for it. UTG raised, there were a couple of calls, and I shoved with about 10,000 chips. Everyone folded but UTG, he flipped KxKx, they held, and I was out.

Three hours and forty minutes. -100% ROI. 58th of 80 players.

Encore Club $500 Guarantee

Hung around the club this time for the next game.  Don’t remember much about it. Maybe I’m going to start keeping notes again.

Two hours and ten minutes. -100% ROI. 16th of 27 players.

Encore Club Midnight Madness

Not a big field. Not much money. Not a very good showing. At least I didn’t re-buy.

Twenty-one minutes. -100% ROI. 6th of 7 players.

So, a couple weeks of garbage in there cleaned out. On the definite up side, though, a shout out to reader DS who came up to me between games at the Encore on Saturday and said hello after she’d spent a little time to figure out just who the Poker Mutant is (it’s not that difficult now that I’ve grown my beard back). When someone with more success than you have takes the time to say hello, you really can’t complain.

Speaking of which, this next week I get to host a visit from a WSOP bracelet winner and someone who was in the top dozen of the Bluff 2010 Player of the Year list (they’re the same person).