Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sex toys and tractors

Big thank you to everyone who listened to and commented on our new podcast, The Chip Race. We were all pretty overwhelmed by the positive response. Our second episode, featuring Fergal Nealon, Dan Wilson, Chris Dowling and Ciaran Cooney (and starring Jamesy Walsh who uniquely conflated sex toys and tractors), went out on Monday evening. Traditionally podcast listenership tapers off after the first episode, but we are hoping to buck that trend. We have committed to giving our time and effort to an 8 week first season: beyond that it will depend on listener response and numbers as to whether it's worthwhile to continue. Most of the credit for the show (and the response to date) goes to David Lappin, who not only is the host but effectively the producer and editor. For those who don't know, Dave's dad Arthur is a pretty successful movie producer ("In The Name Of The Father", "My Left Foot"), and clearly Dave inherited some of the family production skills. The most common comment I heard was the show sounded as good as radio (presumably in contrast to most podcasts which can sound like two guys Skyping each other from separate bathtubs).

Online has continued to go well. My return to satellites continues to be profitable, and I final tabled two biggish ones on Sunday, the Bigger 8.80 and the Hotter 44. Unfortunately I busted the latter in 9th after being crippled just before the final table when my kings lost out to AQ and Ace rag in a three way all in for chiplead. I started the final table of the Bigger 8.80 3/9 with what seemed like a decent shot, but barely won a pot and my first shove (with 7 left) ran straight into aces. It was a good Sunday generally for the Firm: Daragh got 2nd in the 888 major, Nick made the second last table of the Milly (busting just before Gavonater), Kevin Killeen got 5th in the Bigger 55, Jesse won another smaller Stars game, and Lappin scooped a couple of satellites.

On the live front, the Norwegians have landed. Citywest has been invaded by them on their annual visit to our shores to play their national poker championships. As ever, JP is to be commended for organising the biggest festival of the year in Ireland (and one of the biggest in the world). I've played a few events so far without troubling the scorers, including yesterday's High Roller. I was pretty psyched up for it as I saw it as a great chance for me, and took the night before off to be fully rested for it. As it was, it was one of the most dismal tournaments ever for me personally. Almost nothing playable for 3 hours and then when I do pick up a hand (kings) I smash right into aces. Hope on the QJT flop, and even more outs after a king of the turn (meaning any river card over 9 won or chopped the pot), only for a tantalising 9 to hit the river.

It's fair to say I was pretty tilted on the drive home, as I felt at the top of my game, like I was picking up everything except cards. I'd sold a significant amount for it, which only added to the tilt factor. As much as I hate losing my own money, losing other people's money annoys me even more (which probably explains why I rarely sell these days), and at the very least I was hoping to give investors a better sweat than a few tweets of me dwindling from 30k down to 20k, then getting in kings against aces. But it was not to be.

Nothing clears tilt better than a slow drive home through rush hour traffic. Wait, what? That should read "Anything clears tilt better than a slow drive home through rush hour traffic". But still, I'm not the type to dwell on setbacks for too long, and had recovered by the time we got home to fire up an online session. Poker is one long session that lasts a lifetime and the outcome of any one session doesn't matter in the long run, but that said it's always nice to book a winning one after a live disappointment. And thankfully I managed to do just that, mainly thanks to satellites.

On the subject of satellites, Paul Seaton did an excellent interview recently with Tamer Kamel. One comment by Tamer caught my eye:

"They can be very time consuming and also if you’re not careful you can spend too much money on them and find yourself having bought in already in terms of sat buy-ins. However if you treat them correctly they are great value. They are becoming harder and harder and it is the same pros you find yourself playing against time after time and that maybe discourages others from playing them but if you want to play against the best you have to beat the best sooner or later.

Some online players spend most of their time just grinding these satellites because after you have won a package or a seat you get the buy-in in tournament money. I personally am against this as I’d like to see new players winning the seats to ensure the live event is busy. If the same person wins two or three packages then that could have been two people who would have played the live event who are then missing."

On the first point, while I often see amateur players link the buyin to a tournament with how much they want to spend on satellites (and I think that makes sense as they have a budget they want to stick to), I'm surprised to see a pro do so. I (and I'm pretty sure most other pros, and certainly all the ones who specialise in satellites) see no link between the two. Amateur players have a budget, pros have a bankroll, and the only real issues to consider as a pro are whether you are rolled for the satellites (and the target tournament), and whether the satellites in themselves have a positive expectation for you if you play. A satellite is just a tournament where the prize pool equity is paid in buyins to another tournament (or monetary equivalent for supplementary seats), and it shouldn't matter how much you spend on them in relation to the target tournament's buyin. To me, it would be like a 6 max sit n go grinder saying you should quit playing if you brick four in a row, as you have now "spent" more than you can win in the next one you play.

On the final point, again I've heard this argument before, but again, exclusively from amateur players. Again, I understand the frustration of an amateur player trying to qualify for a UKIPT or an Irish Open and not managing it, while seeing specialists like myself win multiple seats. I also understand how that frustration can spill over into a simplistic view that "if they didn't let those guys win more than one, they'd get more people into the tournament". But it is just that: a simplistic (and in my view false) view. The reality (as Stars cottoned on to years ago) is that the sites need repeat offenders like myself to provide liquidity to ensure satellites even run.

I could search for an actual example, but I wouldn't have to search for very long. Last year, Paddy Power offered a cash in option for Irish Open repeat offenders like myself, and I ended up winning seven "seats". This year, after initially announcing they'd do the same again, they did a U turn and decided they wouldn't: anyone winning more than one seat had to sell it to another person. It's not clear to me how exactly they thought this would increase numbers. By definition, you can only sell to someone who was going to buy in anyway, so all this does is place an unnecessary middleman between Paddy and this other person who is now responsible for collecting the money for the ticket (and may have to sell at a slight discount to get the deal done). Once I heard of Paddy's reverse, I reversed my own decision to grind the satellites religiously (and I'm sure other grinders did likewise), meaning less rake for Paddy, less satellites that actually run (most that were scheduled had to be cancelled due to insufficient numbers), and bigger overlays in many of the satellites that did run. And guess what? Despite scrapping the Winter Festival so they could run Irish Open satellites for a full year, it's pretty clear that there will be LESS qualifiers this year than last, and fewer players in the Open itself (when the odds for this year's Open went up, this week's chip race guest Chris Dowling tweeted that the fact that the outsiders were at a mere 200 to 1 shows how pessimistic the sponsors are on numbers this year). Who could have predicted that? (Answer: anyone with half a functioning brain). Right now, Paddy are running their Last Chance Saloon qualifiers nightly. These have been the most successful satellites in previous years, but tonight's had to be cancelled (due to insufficient starters). Meanwhile, Stars who have stuck with allowing multiple winners to cash in for tournament money, ran three UKIPT satellites tonight (despite the fact that many of the regulars are otherwise occupied in Malta or Citywest), generating 5 seats, only one of which I won.

I don't want to pick on Paddy here, it's just that they are the most visible illustration of the point I want to make (that discouraging people from winning more than one satellite actually reduces rather than increases the number of qualifiers for a tournament). Credit to Paddy for running so many satellites at overlays, and the Last Chance Saloon ones at effectively zero rake, but really, they need to look at the matter again and realise that they got this wrong and Stars have got it right. I've given this exact advice to other sites I was involved with in the past who were struggling with live tournament numbers: encourage people to qualify multiple times and that will keep the satellites running. But every time the response was the same: "But if you qualify more than once, that's one less person in the tournament". None of those tours are still around.

Related reading

- Satellite strategy (Poker Player)
- A piece on rebuy strategy for Poker Player


I agree on Paddys stance with one seat per person fwiw Doke.
I want a fair chance to win a seat if i play not be up against an army of sat regs grinders like yourself.
Whats killing paddypowers numbers is the buy in 3500.
Even a sng sat costs 400 to much for many amatuer or even semi regular players.
The Norweigans have there main event at 1500.
i see no reason why the irish open couldnt be 200O.
I dont care about foreign big names coming id like to see as many irish people as possible play.
If it was 2k buy in every small club would have a few representatives.
3500 is just too much giving the economic times we arein.

Fair point, I do agree the buyin is too high for current economy. I don't think it's the only reason or even the main one sats didn't run though. Even a lot of Cheap Seats feeders and finals didn't run.

I still think Paddy's stance of making it a hassle when you win extra seats (note they just make it a hassle, they're not actually putting a total stop to it) does them zero favours. Seems to me to be the worst of the three options available, as when someone does win a seat, they have to sell it to someone else, and that person was obviously going to play anyway, so makes zero difference to numbers. If they really want to be rigid on the one seat per person, then just ban people from playing more sats after they win one. That's what other networks (other than Stars done). It's never worked out for them, but who knows, there's always a first time.

Hi, Dara. I am a fan of the blog, and I agree with most of the opinions you express, but I do not agree with your position on allowing multiple satellite wins. I understand your point about the need for a decent player pool to make the satellites run, but I think your logic is flawed.

If there are enough non-qualifiers to make 50% (for example) of the satellites run, but allowing repeat qualifiers would let 100% run, then if you make the reasonable assumption that the repeat qualifiers are pros, each satellite will have at least 50% pros.

I think this makes it almost impossible for a recreational player to bink a satellite, given that most have a decent structure and a small percentage win tickets.

The most extreme example of this that I have seen was the Stars EPT satellites. Although I have managed to win Irish Open ones for the last 6 or 7 years, I gave up on the EPT ones. If I got down to four players competing for two tickets, I invariably found myself up against at least two world famous online beasts, and I decided that my chances were near enough non-existent.

I think satellites are a great way of giving recreational players a chance to live the dream. Restricting it to a single ticket per player keeps this dream real.

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