My beef with tournament specialists

Posted: April 6, 2009 in poker

In the past year or two MTT’s have become very trendy. Between the media coverage and the $$ that comes w/winning an event poker players far and wide have been drawn heavily to these events both live and (even more so) online. Which I personally am thrilled about. It keeps the young poker savvy minds away from the live cash games, and the ones who do try to pull double duty often lack tons of fundamentals. However, after living w/3 guys who strictly play MTT’s for a living and meeting 5-10 of the “biggest names” in the online MTT world I’ve acquired some gripes…

First I’ll go into why I despise tournament poker, keep in mind this is merely a rant as I would hate to see tournament play go by the waste side. My biggest beef is the significant rake casino’s charge on top of the standard 3-5% that they withhold from the prize pool. It pains me to see sooooooo much money being taken out of the poker economy, and as interest in MTTs grows casinos indirectly pull more and more money out of my pocket. My second beef is that there hasn’t been a wide-spread standard structure developed yet. This is absurd to me, if there are TDA rules there should be a standard TDA structure. To further elaborate on that, the new trend toward deep starting stacks puts me on life tilt. Why can’t these tournament directors comprehend that no one wants to sit around and fold for 6 hours only to find that there is zero play when it matters. Deep stacks leads to tighter play in the early rounds which leads to less busts and a significantly lower avg. stack in accordance to the blinds. Flipping for stacks in the early levels is way better than having to do so when there are 5 and 6 digit scores on the line. Besides don’t they want business else where? Don’t they want people to bust in the first 2 hours and move on to cash games? I remember the days when the only time I could expect to find a big NL game going would be during a tourney series, as people busted these games filled and got juicy. No longer, now no one busts til 4-6 hours in and at that point they are exhausted.

Prelims in general are another thing that make me wanna die. There are just soooooo many frickin events, there is no anticipation, no excitement to play. The market is so saturated. Look how small these Bellagio prelims are, 26 people for a 5k? Like who the hell sees value in an event like that. And it’s not just 26 randoms, it’s a tough field. So far I’ve mostly attacked live events but I actually think they are 100x more profitable than online events. With the exception of Sundays, these fields are essentially laden w/solid competent players. The only long-term winner is the rake. Variance in online MTT play is higher than what you would find in limit holdem or even omaha. Given the knowledgable fields and essentially shallow stacks online MTT’s play out very hot n cold, in the sense that most of your hands play out to their truest equity due to the high rate of all in hands. Since MTT’s are played more as a strategic game of cat and mouse rather than as poker itself, there are a lot of moves and counter moves leading to light shoves/calls significantly increasing variance.

Now the MTT’r is a special beast. Sorry if I step on any toes here, but these guys are of a different breed. To some degree understandably so. I mean these guys see more all in hands in a day than I do in a month playing cash. They are constantly playing w/their tourney life on the line and yet they support this faulty way of thinking that variance is a myth and that actually since everyone plays soooooooooo badly the millions aren’t far away. Lemme first touch upon the poker riches…none of us are going to be millionaires via poker, least not anytime soon barring a 7-figure tourney score that someone doesn’t have half of. Fact is poker is a great way to make an above avg. living, but no matter how high you are playing it’s pretty tough put your expectation at the 500k-mil+ mark/year over a 5 yr+ span. That being said there’s a reason why 95% of MTT guys are backed, because the majority of them are always broke. Find me a guy who has made 100k profit for 5 years in a row (a task easily done at the 2/5-5/10NL level). All these big name guys w/all this attention(live and online), but in the long run they can’t beat the variance. This is indirectly what leads to the broken monitors, the bad beat forums, and the two phrases that absolutely make me want to die: “One time…” and “NO ONE RUNS WORSE THAN ME!!!!”

Just a typical Sunday in my house is enough to put it all in perspective. Everyone up bright and early w/excitement on their face for the torture they are about to endure. We’re all chatty at breakfast w/the prospects of who will pick up the elusive 6-figure score, reality of the situation is mathematically as a household we’re <.01% to pick up said score and considering half the house is staked and 25k+ in makeup even w/such a score you won’t have shit to show for it. Fast forward two hours, one by one we fall from the warmup and one by one we angrily explain our bust hand to whoever is listening(which no one ever is) w/o ever removing our eyes from our monitors. As the day goes on Gatorade bottles go flying, return keys are dislodged and obscenities become a second language. occasionally something great happens, generally everyone is 2-5k poorer. You try to chalk the busts up to variance, hell sometimes even poor play on your end but the fact remains that even if you are the best player in the tournament your expectation can’t be more than 50% ROI??? Which is fine if you are playing 10ks. But $330 return on a $215 = a torturous grind that I never want to endure. Funny part is MTT guys understand this, but they ignore it seeing each day independent to the other. Because honestly if every time they signed up for a tourney they said to themselves, “Well there’s another easy hundo in my pocket.” insanity would either set in, or they would just get a real job w/less stress that was actually enjoyable.

I’m going to just take MTT’s for what they are, poker lottery. I’ll continue to buy my ticket on occasion, but I promise you this. If I’m fortunate enough to pick up life changing money, you can bet your ass I will put in the smallest tournament volume of any known player since moneymaker…

*Again this is just a rant as I actually love what MTT’s have done for poker in general. They bring a lot of interest and money into the game as well as have bred a new type of player, one whose biggest strength is preflop play…a street in cash games that is damn near meaningless.

  1. Jack says:

    Great objective comments ,as I am one of those whose biggest strength is pre flop play understand limitations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s