Saturday, March 27, 2004

More on Tournaments

First of all, I did in fact end up more than $250 up yesterday. Up $337, I decided to play that $50+5 Multitable tournament ... was that a mistake.

I shouldn't have played because I had a buddy over, and I was distracted, as I should have known I would be. And I really didn't get any starting hands to speak of. In the whole 30 or 45 minutes I played, I got 99 in late position fairly early on, but that didn't turn into anything, because (predictably) all overcards came. And a bit later I got AQ in late position, but just as I hit "raise," planning on taking the blinds, I started having connection problems. I think they were on my end this time, or at least, not PartyPoker's end, because of the way "Trace" responded on PP's network status window. The raise didn't seem to be recorded, because I still had my all-in protection and someone else seems to have won the hand.

Finally, having never won a hand, and the blinds plus that 99 having knocked me down to around 400 when the average stack was up to four times that, coupled with my increasing distraction and frustration, lead me to push all in in middle position with 44. Predictably, I lost the hand, and went out 163d of 272, having never won a hand of a tournament I shouldn't have been in.

But more on yesterday's topic. For those who don't read the comments people leave to my posts, Hdouble points out that luck plays a much bigger factor in tournaments, because if a player goes all-in an 80% favorite five times, he has only a one-in-three chance of surviving all five chances. My response was that this is true, but even so, the skilled player is going to get into the money more than the unskilled player even if he doesn't get into the money today. Tournaments are indeed high-variance—but my theory means that your paydays more than make up for your losses if you're one of the top 30% of the players in the tournament, and probably if you're in the top 50%.

Johnny Flopboot asks whether I've considered the single-table tourneys, STT's, the Sit'n'Go tournaments that run pretty much constantly on all of the poker sites. Well, yes, I have. When I first started playing poker online for real money, they were primarily what I played, PartyPoker's $5 and $10 no-limit single-table tourneys. Later in my amateur career, I played more limit tourneys, $5, $10, and a number of $30 tourneys. My performance was good but not great. Looking at the STT's I have records for, going back to January 7, I finished 2 3 2 3 9 1 1 2 1 5 5 7 5 4 1 1 8 8 2 5 7 7 | 3 7 6 3 9. The | marks the beginning of my professional career, which I date from February 3, so you can see I played far more STT's before I turned pro. Those tournaments are at several different buyins. Mostly $10 tourneys before February, they became qualifiers to bigger tourneys afterward. But assuming they were all $10+1, then (doing the math) I earned $113 at these or $418 apiece. In other words, for each $11 I spent I earned $1518. (Actually, it's $1518.518518518 · · ·, but who's counting?)

Okay, so I've reached a conclusion regarding the STT's that I didn't expect. For that, JohnnyFlopboot, I thank you. I find but a single $30+3 STT in my records, in which I placed seventh (it's one of the 7's right before the | ), but I wonder, if I got in practice at STT's again, if that expectation would hold true. If so, I could expect about $13 in profit for each $30 tourney I play.

I think I all but gave up the STT's because they are high-variance, as Hdouble points out, and a pro shouldn't engage in high-variance play. But I don't forego all high-variance play. I'll play a suited one-gapper under some conditions, even though they're about 7-to-1 against flopping anything useful, because it's a profitable play even if it's high-variance. So why my reluctance to jump back into the STT's?

I think it's the "exaltation of the grinder," which is such a good phrase I should trademark it. The grinder, the true pro, plays low- to middle-limit poker, earns his one big bet an hour, maybe a bit more online, and that's his living. Tournaments aren't grinding, they're "going for the big score," part of "rolling up a stake and going to Vegas," to quote "Rounders." I'm not immune to that—witness my play in the multi-table tournaments—but to rely strictly on tournament play seems to go against the grinder ethos, notwithstanding the results of Chicago Phil. (Hmm, the "grinder ethos" ... I bet someone has an entry in his archives where he quantified exactly what is the grinder ethos. If not, maybe I'll do it.)

But this little dive into the records shows that my belief is unfounded, that tournaments—limit tournaments at least—are profitable. I wish I had records of my $30+3 STT's; I've played about a dozen. I know I've had one really good session with them, and I know I've had a bad run with them. I wish I knew how they balanced out.

Oh, wait, I know PP keeps a record of account activity; depending how far back it goes I might be able to find out. . . . Okay, that wasn't very helpful; the log only goes back a single day. But it was a good idea.

The conclusion: Consider more single-table tournaments.