October 2022
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Americans worse than average at poker - official

This week, I’ve been working on processing the World Series of Poker results to generate some stats for discussion on a well known poker web site.

All the information is out there if you want to try this at home.  You can get the full player lists in a PDF file for every event, and the list of winners is on a web page.

The challenge is that the player details are prone to mysteriously change from one list to the other.

For example, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi appears to have moved from Miramar to Miami in between buying his ticket and picking up a $1.5 million second place prize.  A whole bunch of players also seemed to suddenly move to Las Vegas from all over the country as soon as they picked up their cheque.

I expect their occupation also changed overnight, to “professional poker player” (or “adult movie star”) in anticipation of an inevitable Full Tilt (or Ultimate Bet) sponsorship deal.

Even having to contend with these delusions of celebrity, I don’t think I’ve done a bad job of getting some talking points out of the data.  A handful of players will have their wins recorded against someone else with the same name (but that happens to the best of us!) but mostly it’s a decent set of figures.  I’ll link to the full thing once it’s live.

But for now, the item that caught my eye the most is actually one where the player’s names don’t even matter, so I’m pretty confident in these stats.

In aggregating the entry fees and winning, and then calculating a return on investment by country, we can see that players from the USA are, as a whole – gasp – long term losers.

It’s not really any surprise to see a loss here.  Americans make up about 80% of the field and it’s a negative expectation game.  There’s juice of 6%-10% taken from every buy-in, no prize pool guarantees, no sponsor money added.  So, having the largest number of results available by far, you’d expect to see Team USA’s ROI tending towards this range sooner than any other country.

But it’s much worse than that.  After 16 events, they’re down a cool five million (about $350 per entry), with a combined ROI of nearly 20% in the wrong direction.

Across all players, the ROI comes in at roughly -9% (it’s skewed towards the top end of the range by the massive field sizes in the cheaper events, which are taxed more heavily).

Here’s the soundbite: Americans lose twice as much money at poker than the global average.

Sample size, yada yada yada.  Yes, possibly – but most of these events don’t have seven-figure prizes to quickly turn around that $5m national deficit.

I just thought it was an interesting number, and I’ll be watching it to see if the trend continues.

Gambling – :thumbup: Erick Lindgren likes this

The Facebook of poker shirts.

Photo gratuitously borrowed from Wicked Chops Poker, it’s just too good.

Want to stay at the Rio for free during WSOP?

All you have to do is take me with you.  I still have oodles of room comp, including 5 free midweek nights at the Rio throughout the Series.  I’m open to offers 🙂

The 2009 World Series Of Poker schedule is here.

Multitasking man

I’d been meaning to fish out this clip for a while but forgot all about it until I started to hear the results from the WSOP final table.

Craig Marquis is awesome.  He can like do twelve things at once cos he like grew up with computers man.  If you’re struggling to multi-table at online poker, the reason is probably that you’re not young enough.

Steve Friess from The Strip podcast was not impressed. (3 minute clip, direct link)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Craig finished ninth.  Say it ain’t so.

Main Event begins, casinos hover

The four month slog to become World Series of Poker champion began earlier today.

Which means that about six thousand lucky Poker Stars qualifiers will have taken the special VIP shuttle they’ve put on to get you from Palms to Rio.

Seriously?  You’re about to spend (potentialy) fourteen hours sitting at a poker table and you don’t want to walk a couple of hundred yards across the street to get there?

I expect it’s a little quicker than walking if the bus takes you directly to the Rio Pavillion entrance so you don’t have to walk right through the casino to get there, but there’s probably not much in it.

[Rio’s hotel towers are the two red and blue buildings. Palms says "Palms" on it like twice]

This is the first time I’ve played with Google Earth with the 3D buildings turned on.  Give it a go, it’s pretty cool when you have this many massive buildings so close together and can zoom and spin around them in great detail.

Zip code 89109 gets you pretty close to the Strip, or fly direct to "36° 6’52.99"N 115°10’49.83"W" to get to the intersection with Flamingo Road.

However it would be even better if all the building models were on the right z-plane.

The view doesn’t quite look like this at the start of CSI

Time is money

Harrah’s are labelling their decision to delay the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event until November an "enhancement".  From a player’s point of view I really can’t see why it’s a good thing.

Taking a day or two off in the middle of a marathon tournament is one thing.  Indeed, if you are drawn to play on Day 1A you already have to take a 4-day forced break before day 2A begins, then everyone gets at least a day off before all the players merges into a single Day 3.  Another day off before the final table after 6 long days of poker is probably a welcome break.  But a four month hiatus once the end of the road is in sight – and when you must be In The Zone to have got that far – is just a bit of a nonsense.

The point has been made that you could use this time to get some coaching and study the play of your opponents, but how exactly are you going to study the play of the eight other unknowns who haven’t played a single hand on TV yet.  That’s actually the whole point of this stupid rearrangement – to accomodate ESPN.  Are they really going to give the players a few hundred hours of unedited tape to wade through?  I doubt it.

What I really wanted to know though was just how much the players might be losing in potential interest on their payouts as a result of having to wait nearly four months between Day 7 and Day 8.  This is the richest "sporting" event in the world, after all, and the prize pool is pretty hefty.

I’m going to base the calculations on last year’s field, because that means the full payout information is readily available and there’s no reason to assume there will be wildly different numbers this year.

In 2007 there were 6,358 entrants, each paying $10,000 to play.  There’s a total 6% taken from the prize pool for the house and tournament staff which, accoording to my calculator, is about twenty grand more than the $59,784,954 prize pool published.  I have no idea how this number could end in anything other than two zeros.  It’s must be just good old-fashioned skimming.

Just over a third of the total prize pool is given to the top 9 spots – $22,019,901 in total.

This year, once the final table has been determined, each of the remaining players will be given 9th place money straight away and when they return in November they’ll be playing for the difference.  9th place last year was worth $525,934, so, based on last year’s numbers, that would be a further $4,733,406 paid out in July.

Therefore the amount of the prize pool left unpaid during the hiatus is $17,286,495.  A cool seventeen million – or about $1.9m per player – still to play for.

The interest rates for savings on the US Dollar are far from great at the moment.  However, after a quick shop around the net I found a certificate of deposit product that offers 3.3% APY, but over a four month fixed term.  That’s almost a perfect example – the delay before the final table is 117 days.

I just plugged these numbers into an online interest rate calculator and the answer comes in at round about $180,000.

That’s 18 Main Event buy-ins.  Or, it’s twice as much as the nine remaining players will have paid for their seats in the first place.  Although it pales in comparison to the $3.8m total rake taken out of the prize pool for this tournament, $180,000 is hardly insignficant.

Quite what it’s worth to Harrah’s for hanging on to it for the same amount of time I couldn’t really say.  $17m is probably just a drop in the ocean to the world’s largest gaming corporation, but nevertheless it’s money that doesn’t belong to them, yet they know that they will have custody of it for a fixed – and reasonably long – period of time.  It’s certainly investable, one way or another.

Suddenly the offer of an all expenses paid trip for two for each of the finalists to return to Las Vegas in November to play out the end of the Main Event doesn’t seem quite quite as generous.  Even I can get a free suite at the Rio!

WSOP too early again

Not that I’m especially bothered, but qualifying for the Main Event would have been something to aim for, even though I’d have taken any opportunity to cash in my ten large and play smaller tournaments with it instead.

The World Series of Poker 2008 will take place between May 30th and July 17th 2008.  I’ll roll into town a few days after all that.  Oh well…

Crapshoot #2

I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t know how to adjust to the standard of play in the EPT satellites.  Particularly on Sunday, it seems I had a lot to learn.  The following mania all happened during level 2 (blinds 50/100).

The under-the-gun player raises to 350.  A frustrated Scandinavian calls and the next player re-raises to 900.  The re-raiser only has 700 left, so he’s going nowhere and I’m suspicious about why he hasn’t just moved all-in already.  I find pocket jacks in the cut-off.  It’s the best hand I got to see in either tournament, but with an UTG raiser who has me well covered, it’s not a good spot to gamble my stack so I fold.  UTG makes the powerplay of a smooth call.  Obviously he wants to take the flop 3-way, but the other guy dissapoints him.  Naturally with a pot of over 2000, the remaining 700 gets thrown in on a low flop.  We see the re-raiser’s pocket 9s hold up against UTG’s T8s.

Lessons learned: Pocket pairs are always raising hands.  Folding to a re-raise is weak.

I stayed out of the way for this one.  All folded to the button who raised to 350.  He had 98o, but the steal attempt is OK.  Big blind defends with J5, a little stubborn but in fact the best hand.  Soulscan successful.  When the flop comes J97, carnage ensues.  BB check-raises all-in with his monster top pair and the button decides it’s a great idea to not get pushed around, calling his last 4000 chips to win about 6000 with a gutshot and middle pair.  Seat open.

Lessons learned: Always defend your blind by calling out of position with garbage.  Folding a straight draw is weak.

That bustee had used up all his luck in an earlier hand when he had raised small preflop with pocket aces, followed by a massive all-in overbet on a 952 flop.  Just go ahead and tell everybody how strong you were before the flop and hope nobody caught up.  For sure you won’t get called now unless they got very lucky to outflop you.  But outflopped he was, by pocket 2s.  Then turn 5, river 5 put him back in front in the cruelest way possible.

Next, I limp after three others with 67s.  One more player calls and the short stack big blind moves all in.  I’m starting to get desparate and wonder if there’s any reason to call here after it’s folded back to me.  I decide it’s not even close – the pot odds aren’t good and the raiser has been quite tight.  In fact, in the land of the results-oriented, my 67 would have made a straight.  I know this because the player on the button called and also made the straight with 63o.  Pocket aces went home.

Lessons learned: Limp with any old shit if you have position.  Folding once you have put chips in the pot is weak.

I didn’t survive long into level 3.  In fact the levels were a complete trainwreck.  We were sent on a break at what I thought was the end of level 2, but when we got back it was still the same level.  "Another 2 minutes at this level", they announced.  About fifteen minutes later, the blinds actualy went up.

In level 3, blinds are 100/200.  The only reason there are still t25 chips in play is that antes kick in on level 4.  And to think I was worried that I might not be able to make an 8pm train home if I did well.

I was down to a thousand and change on my small blind and with 3 limpers already wanting to take a cheap look I completed with 78s.  The big blind pays no attention to the action so far and makes it 500 to go.  One of the limpers now decides to fold, but two do come along for the ride.  Having been unable to find any spots to gather chips so far and expecting to be called if I actually get chance to open-push in the next orbit, I decide I have to play this hand.  I could call and close the betting, then be the first to throw my chips at any flop that looks good, but I don’t fancy pulling a stop-and-go against three other players, and with less than 1/5th of the pot size left to bet.  By moving all-in here, I want to re-open the betting to allow the agreesor to isolate, and leave plenty of dead money in the pot to give a reasonable payoff if my second-best hand improves.  Not a superb situation to be in, but I’d run out of time and couldn’t expect to see much better.

In fact we take a flop four ways, and it doesn’t really surprise me – even though one of the callers has left himself with just 300 chips now.  Never mind.  I’m right back in the game if I get lucky here.  Flop: 89T with two spades – a pair and open ended straight draw.  Could be worse, until I see the other cards.  67 is loving his made straight and I can only split with him.  But we’re both actually drawing dead to QJ in spades – the current nuts with a flush draw to boot.

So there ends my EPT journey.  £660 for less than three hours of poker.  Next year, I think I’ll probably not bother.

Live updates: EPT London Satellite

I’ve had to set this all up in advance in case I can’t get online while I’m in London.  Haven’t even decided if I’m taking my laptop yet, because I can’t check into my hotel until after 1pm and the tournament starts at – obviously – 1pm.  So I think I’ll have to travel light.

So here is the live update graph for the benefit of the new and improved 11-man Team Donut: Darren, David, Geoff, Jill, Kevin, Larry, Matt, Paul, Rich, Vicky and Vij.  I should get some football shirts made up or something.  Who wants to be goalie?

Click the thumbnail graph to see the full size version on, which I really honestly will finish some time soon, then write the instructions for it and consider making a bit prettier.  Meantime, if anyone else wants to give it a try to create your own chip graphs with real time text-message updates, give it a spin and drop me a line if you hit any problems.  The main thing – the actual graph – does work!

As things stand, I didn’t quite raise enough stake to play both satellites although it’s close (24% sold, I would need at least 30%) so there’s a chance that I will get more and still be able to play them both anyway.  But unless I post here otherwise before kick off, or use one of the first text messages to my chip count graph to announce that I’ll be playing on both Saturday and Sunday, it’s just the one satellite this time.

I realised that it would be unfair to wait until after I’ve played the first tournament to see if I could convince myself to make up the shortfall, so I have to make this decision before things get going.  I have to draw a line somewhere, and I did originally say that it was 30%.  As promised, I’ll refund your stake if you only wanted to be involved with the two chances of qualification, rather than the larger share from one satellite.  Just make sure a message lands in my mailbox or post a comment here before 1pm Saturday.

I had no joy trying to book a free train this Saturday so I’ll end up travelling on an open ticket, which makes me pretty flexible and so I’ll take donations right up until the last minute.  It could still happen! 🙂

The chap I spoke to at Virgin Trains said he had no idea why every single West Coast train to and from London on Saturday was restricted (Friday and Sunday were just fine) but agreed with me that it was very strange.  Something must be going on, but I don’t know what.  Usually you can book a ticket right up to 6pm the night before; the seaside trains tend to have limited availability for comp tickets but I’ve not had to pay to get to London at the weekend in a long time!

EDIT @ 9am: I’ve made the 30% so it’s two satellites as planned.  Team list above updated 🙂

The triumphant return of Team Donut

After my spectacular break-even performance at the Orleans Open in July, I’ve decided to put together another sponsorship package for anybody who fancies a piece of my action.  It was great fun last time (not just for me, I’m told) with the live chip graphs and all the winning. So let’s give it another shot.

Well actually I’ll be trying to putting something together along the same lines for my Christmas Vegas trip.  I doubt there will be a festival on – it’s very unlikely over Christmas week (as it’s the quietest time of year) or over New Years (as everybody is too busy getting drunk, or getting their tits out, or watching others get their tits out) – so I’ve not quite worked it out yet.  I’m thinking it will probably be a crawl along four of the major cardrooms, playing whatever the best value tournament is at each.  It’s only a ten day trip, but I’m sure I can figure something out.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with another adventure to share.  This time it’s a real shot at greatness and fortune – albeit a long shot.  And I’ve left it until rather late to start begging for money too.

Two weeks today – Saturday September 21st – I intend to play a £330 super-satellite at The Vic to try to win entry into the EPT London Main Event.  That’s a £5500 buy-in, so there’ll be one seat awarded for every 18 players in the satellite.

I’m quite keen to double my chances of getting there by having two attempts to qualify via a satellite, and so I’m going to sell myself off in small chunks to try to get there.  Here’s the deal.

The bankroll I need for the two days rounds up to £700.  That’s 2x £330 for the poker, and I’ll use the other £40 towards accomodation in London – I don’t think that’s exactly taking the piss.  A 1% share will therefore cost £7.00.  I take many different payment methods – but a player-to-player transfer on a poker site is usually the easiest, and makes it easy to pay out winnings too.


That was for the benefit of anyone who was just skimming the blog.  They’ll go back and read this entry in ful now, maybe.

Ideally I want to sell 50% – a pretty big chunk, but that way I’ll still be paying the same amount to play as I was always going to but will have doubled my chances of making it to the Main Event.  This is more about the chance of getting to play in a major tournament than it is about winning a life-changing jackpot.  Although half of £750,000 isn’t exactly insignificant…

However, with just two weeks to go I’ll be amazed if I come anywhere close to that.  So:

If I sell 30% or more (£210) then I’ll definitely play two satellites.  It’ll cost me no more than £450 for the two stabs, and that’s just about within my budget.

If I sell less than 30%, I’ll only play one satellite.  I’ll offer backers the option to take double their percentage in the single tournament, or to withdraw completely for a refund.  So if you bought 5% for £35 and I only played one satellite, you’d could actually end up owning 10% of me when I make it into the money and onto the TV table.  With Vicky Coren sitting to both my left and my right, hopefully.

If I intend to play two satellites but win a seat in the first one, then I can’t double the percentages, or I’d end up with nothing left for myself!  So in that case if I was allowed to play the second and sell the seat, I would.  Otherwise I’d play another £330 tournament, like the second-chance event at the Vic on Saturday 29th.

Sounds good doesn’t it 🙂  To get involved or if you think you can pick holes in my masterplan, email chris at