Rambling about Tournament Profitability

“Knowledge without discipline is wasted, and talent without
knowledge is merely unrealized potential.”

–Lou Krieger
Party NL Sit-n-go Profitability
Short entry today, as I’d like to actually get to play some poker. I’ve been thinking about the profitability of the Party $30 NL sit-n-gos after email exchanges with the infamous Grubby and my buddy RDub. I’ve done pretty well in these games, and although I prefer the limit ring games, my gut tells me that the $30 SNGs may be where it’s at for profitability. Both RDub and Grubby reported finishing in the money 40% of the time (they are both rock solid). RDub’s bottom line:
167 entries
26 1st
23 2nd
66 3rd
As you can see, he plays for first. That gives him an average profit of $9 per tourney– not a huge win rate for 45 minutes or more, but the big win here is the tiny variance that comes with it. Conventional wisdom says that tournaments have extremely high variance, since you either hit it big or get nothing. However, this applies more to tourneys with large fields and strong players, characteristics not applicable to the Party $30 SNGs. You’ll also find lots of RGP posters claiming that the SNGs are a crapshoot because of the rapid increases in blind size, and the relatively low number of starting chips.
Ignoring this, I plugged in RDub’s numbers into the “Risk of ruin” formula, which allows us to determine the probability that we go bust before we double our bankroll. In other words, if we enter 10 $30 SNGs ($300), what are the chances we double up ($600) before we go broke?
I think my math is right, but the surprising answer is this:
There is only a 10% chance that we go bust before we double up.
Of course, this assumes that we can finish in the money 40% of the time. I don’t like the low rate of $9 per tourney, but the relatively low risk involved makes the SNGs a pretty good option if your bankroll is hurting. You put up $30 for the hour of play, which around the same cost as betting a single hand of $3-6 from preflop to showdown.
I’ve never tried playing two SNGs simultaneously, because I think it would be difficult to play three-handed (assuming we can make the final three) on 2 tables. However, you could compromise, and stagger the tourneys 10 minutes apart so you can avoid this problem. If we could continue a 40% in-the-money-finish, this would put our hourly rate up to around $15 or so, or 2.5 BB/Hour on a single $3-6 table (with a lot less risk involved).
I’m still on the fence as to how profitable these games really are, but it’s definitely something to explore on a short bankroll. These tourneys are fun, but only after you get through the first 15 minutes or so (where you’re folding 95% of the time). Ever wonder why Hellmuth shows up late for tourneys?
How to fit more than one table on your monitor
Ok, if you’re not asleep after that mathematical diatribe, I’ve got a tip on how to make your multi-table experience more profitable. Most people already know this, but if you increase the “Screen Area” in your display settings, you can fit 4 tables on your screen (note: unless your name is David Ross, I don’t recommend playing more than 2). To increase your “Screen Area”, click the following on a Windows PC:
Start Button –> Settings –> Control Panel –> Display
Then click the Settings tab, and slide the “Screen Area” bar all the way to the right. The tables will be tiny, but still big enough to follow the action. This way you don’t have to keep clicking back and forth on the different tables you’re playing.
There is so much great poker blogging going on out there. I’m truly grateful, as rolling through them really makes me think critically about the game.
One of the things I like about poker is that the good players are playing only for themselves. It doesn’t matter who you impress or how “good” you are. What matters is your ability to make the right play at the right moment, and your ability to determine your skill level relative to the other players at the table. Self-knowledge and brutal honesty about your game is the most important factor in being a winning poker player. Of course, we all aspire to be the best player in ANY game, but on our way up we’ve got to know where we stand.
I’ve had an extensive background in academics, and anything I approach, I approach as a student. Absorb as much knowledge as you can, and then go do it. But I’ve often wondered if studying something takes away from the instinctual feel for that thing. I can’t picture Stu Ungar poring over Sklansky, but I also can’t picture Sklansky winning any money from his “feel” for the game. I guess you’ve got to walk the line and find the right balance.

Academic poker: it’s been interesting to me to see all of the recent interest in poker from all walks of life. The old vision of drunken thugs in a smoky barroom–where Wild Bill is gunned down holding Aces and Eights– is being replaced by slick Dot-Commers and ex-CEOs ruling the poker world. Somehow it’s sad to see some of the original kings (Doyle and TJ) being outplayed by the new kids. You don’t have to pay your dues in a crooked home game to learn poker, you can fire up a simulator on your PC.
Jumping the shark: reruns of both “Will and Grace” and “King of the Hill” featured poker games. Grace actually cheated her way to a huge win, and Hank’s boss lost Hank in a poker game. Worst poker joke to end the show: “In this house, a queen beats a straight every time!” Genius.
I have heard from dealers many times that low-limit players tip better (on an absolute scale) than high-limit players. Maybe they should play online instead.
At what limits do you have to worry about cheating online? I never worried about this before (the games were easy to beat, so who cares?), but as you climb the ladder, it becomes more of a concern. I think there are probably a lot of small timers playing as low as the $3-6 games. It’s just so easy to hop in instant messenger and share your cards, I can’t imagine that a lot of the high schoolers and college kids playing on a short bankroll aren’t doing this. But I’m sure there are lots of cheating packs at the higher levels, so I’ll stick to the casino if I can ever get enough cash to play consistently at $15-30.
Where do you even start when looking for RGP posts these days?

Maybe you start by looking at Lederer’s posts. Like a true chess player, he sees many, many moves ahead. And many more than me.
Limit Hold ‘Em is so much more popular than other poker games because it offers both the bad player and good player the best opportunity to win. How is this possible? No hand is an overwhelming underdog (any two cards really CAN win), so an unskilled player can win in the short run. But in the long run, the small advantages add up, and the expert gets rich. If the odds were more skewed towards the expert in the short run, new players would not enter the game.
Cya at the Party.

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