Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Online MTT Circuit

Today I am going to respond to a few things I've seen out on the Internets over the past week or so. One of them is a comment that Jordan left on my blog earlier this week, and the other is something that Blinders wrote about earlier this week or maybe even last week. I've been meaning to post about that one but just haven't gotten around to it yet, but today will be the day.

But first, wtf is wrong with Terrell Owens? Now it turns out that he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pain medication last night in Dallas. Apparently TO told a friend he was "depressed". Cheesus is that guy messed up. Now maybe it's easier for people to see why / how he single-handled ruined not only my Philadelphia Eagles, but the San Francisco 49ers before that. This guy comes to a team, and within a couple of seasons he has the locker room divided, dissension across the board, and of course a majorly losing record for the team. It's only after TO leaves a franchise that that franchise is able to start recovering from the destruction that is Terrell Owens.

And speaking of destroying Philly sports teams, all you baseball fans out there have got to be enjoying this year's annual installment of the Phillies collapse. Two days ago the Phils were a game up on the Dodgers for the NL wildcard lead, with just 6 games to play. Now two days later, and the Phillies are a full game out, thanks to losses to non-playoff teams at Florida and now last night at the hapless Washington Nationals. Different year, same story. Longtime Phillies fans like myself, I'm sad to say, already knew how this story ended earlier this week. I barely even paid attention to the Phillies games the past few days, because I knew they would lose them, since we have to lose them in order to make sure we don't play our way into the playoffs with this team. Philadelphia sports, what a joke.

OK enough off-topic ranting. On to poker.

One week ago today, Blinders ran this post in which, among other things, he issued a kind-of open call to the MTT'ing crowd out there to provide some information about the buyins required to make our big scores, etc. Here was the relevant part from his post:

"There are a lot of bloggers out there, who post huge MTT results, and claim that they are winning MTT players, but they are pretty silent about all of the buy-ins that were required before the big score. It would be really cool if someone would do a MTT challenge that detailed the daily wins/losses when playing only MTTs, so I can get a feel for how they deal with the day after day of losing before the big score. It would also be very interesting to see someone calculate thier hourly win rate when playing only MTTs. I would imagine that it is much smaller than most people realize."

This is an excellent question from Blinders, and it is one that I have spent a good deal of time thinking about as I recently recorded my second major mtt win of the year last week with the pokerstars $11 rebuy event. I am going to try to answer here what I can of Blinders' questions. Of course these answers will only apply to me, as I can't comment on amounts spent by anyone else in playing the large mtt's. Also, it is important for me to point out that, at least in my case, everything will be approximations only. As I've written here many times before, unlike it seems the majority of regular online poker players that I run into, I truly do not play the game to make money. I'm not saying I would continue playing if I was a long-term loser at the game, but the simple fact is that I play poker because I love it, and I love learning about it and improving my game. I especially love the excitement and strategy involved in the large mtt's, so this is what I focus my play on for the most part. That said, since I am really not concerned about making money per se from playing poker, I am definitely not one of those guys who keeps a spreadsheet of my play, or really who in any way officially tracks my performance. So I don't have a place I can look to quickly tell you all exactly how much money I have spent playing mtt's online in order to come up with the few big wins I have had. For me this analysis can only be estimated, as I have no desire or interest in keeping an official tally of all my play. That said, I know what I play and how long I've played them, and I believe I can give estimates to within probably 10% margin of error in most cases.

So let's see. In late May of this year, I won the nightly partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament, taking home just a shade under $10,000 for my efforts. Other than that particular night, I would estimate that I have played the party 40k probably 80 other times total. Let's say it's been 80 entries, and those come at $22 a pop on partypoker, so that's a total buyin of $1760 over my lifetime of playing the party 40k tournament. Of those 80 entries, I have probably cashed in the event 10 times, for an average payout of probably around $60. So, I have put about $1760 into the party 40k in my life, and I cashed out around $600 over 80 entries into the event. Plus, I won the tournament on May 26, 2006 for $9737 and change. Thus my total investment in the party 40k is $1760, plus $600 won in random cashes, plus $9737 won in my one big score. In all, it looks like I am up about 8 grand in the party 40k. Of course, this is all basically thanks to my one big score, without which I would not be a winning player overall for the party 40k.

Turning to the pokerstars Rebuy Madness tournament that I won last week, this one is much easier to quantify. That's because in this case, I had barely ever played this rebuy tournament before I won it earlier this month. I would say I probably played the $11 Rebuy Madness only 4 times before my big $6800 win, and in those 4 instances I probably bought in for an average of around $45, or $180 total invested in this tournament. Even if you also throw in the earlier $3 Rebuy Madness that runs every night at 8:15pm ET, even that I have only played probably another 5 times total in my life, probably again at an average total buyin per attempt of $13, for another $65 total invested in these Rebuy Madness tournaments. So in this case, in total, I have invested under $250 in this tournament over my online poker career, and have only cashed the one time when I won the $6800. Now that's some good ROI right there!

The only other major mtt I tend to play quite a bit is the 20k guaranteed every night at 10pm ET on full tilt. This is the hardest calculation of all as far as my total buyins, because many times I obtain my $26 buyin token via the $8 buyin token sng's. This is a total estimate (but an educated one), but I would guess my average buyin, taking into account all the tokens I win, and taking into account how many token sng's I typically need to play in order to win my tokens, that my average buyin for the $26 20k guaranteed tournament is probably around $18. And I would estimate at this point that I have probably played in this event around 140 times, which, at $18 a pop, amounts to a total buyin to this event of around $2500. Thus far, I have come in 5th place in this event once for a payout of $1400, and I've finished between 10-20th place on two other occasions for about $150-$200 apiece each time. I have also probably cashed about 20 other times for an average of $50 or so apiece. In the end I am going to estimate that I have basically broken even (or very close to it) for my play thus far in the 20k. I've spent about $2500, and have probably taken out about that same $2500 in winnings.

One thing to notice in each case above is that it has clearly taken a really big win in order for me to move significantly into positive territory with respect to any particular large regular mtt. The thing is, I have a high confidence that I can make that top-2 or top-3 finish in any of these tournaments that I regularly play. If I did not have that confidence, and did not have the final table experience and the large online mtt victories that I do, then I would be the first to admit that making your money back from these mtt's is a difficult proposition. For me I have found that the trick is to play the tournament as often as I can (assuming I have a sufficient bankroll to do that), and just to be there to take advantage when it is "my time" -- that is, when I'm getting the cards, winning the races and the 2-to-1 leading hands, etc. that get me to the final table. More than that, my record once I've made the final table in these events is very, very good. I very rarely go out in 9th or 8th place from the large mtt's, and again, if I did go out early at these final tables, there is no doubt that my overall financial statistics with respect to regularly playing these tournaments would be worse. You have to cash as often as you can, and you especially need to take advantage and run deep into the final table -- winning if at all possible or at least locking in a very solid payout with a deal at the final table -- when you have the opportunity to make it there.

One other item I wanted to respond to today comes from a comment that Jordan made here earlier this week. Jordan said:

"Hoy, I've finally started using BlogLines again, mostly so I can read your posts (no freezing issues there). I was hoping you could offer me some advice as to what nightly (or weekly) MTTs you play, including the buy-in amount, site, day of the week, start time, and average amount of participants (or for that matter how long the tourney usually takes). I'm really interested in trying some of these larger MTTs, so I know your insight would be invaluable."

First off, I want to say that I don't know if the lack of "freezing" your computer is as a result of Bloglines, but if it is then more power to them. Because I tend to post so many screen shots on the blog from time to time, the site can be hard to load on some slower machines. To combat this, I have tried in many cases to limit the number of screen shots I post, opting instead to go screenshot-heavy only for my big tournament wins, etc. Secondly, I have also limited the number of days' worth of posts that appear on my blog's homepage. This should help get the large screenshot days off of the main homepage and make the site easier for everyone to load. So the ease of loading the page might be related to Bloglines, or it might be related to something I'm doing on my end. Either way I'm thrilled it is loading better and I will of course remain committed to working on ease of loading of the blog now and in the future.

Secondly, as far as the content of Jordan's question, I am more than happy to post here the information Jordan is seeking:

1. I love to play the full tilt 20k guaranteed tournament. This tourney goes off at 10pm ET 7 days a week on full tilt (on Sundays it is a 30k guaranteed, but the other days it guarantees at least a 20k total prize pool). The buyin for this tournament is $26. Alternatively, you can also use win one of these TO suicide tokens in $8 buyin token sng's, effectively making the buyin for this event as little as $8 if you can win a token in one shot. The TO suicide token sng's that I prefer are the $8 buyin, 18-person structure, because the whole thing tends to take only around an hour, and the top 5 finishers out of 18 players win themselves a $26 token. As I mentioned, this tournament begins at 10pm ET every night of the week, and having made the final table before busting out in 5th place, I can say from experience that the winner is usually crowned at around 4am or so, give or take maybe 20 or 30 minutes. Average number of participants is around 1100 or so during the weeknights and 1200+ on Sundays. I've never seen this tournament with more than, say, 1350 or 1400 players on any occasion, which is one of the things I like about this tournament. It is way large, but it just doesn't even compare with the party 40k and its 2500 nightly players, nor with the ridiculous 3000, 5000 and 10,000 person freerolls constantly going off on pokerstars. Lastly, first prize in this tournament is usually roughly 6k, with roughly 4k to 2nd place and 2500 or so to 3rd place.

2. I also play the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament many nights. This event is also 7 nights a week, at 10:20pm ET every single night. As I mentioned above, this tournament is the largest of the regular nightly guaranteed events at any of the sites I play, with between 2300 and 2600 players almost every night of the week. The buyin for this event is $22 on partypoker, which has no mechanism or structure for players to qualify with tokens for a smaller buyin, so it's $22 every night you want to play it. As I won this tournament back in May of this year, I can tell you that the winner will generally be crowned sometime between 4:30 and 5am ET, for a total running time of about 6 1/2 hours. It is a long time to sign up to play (especially on a weekday, for those of us working stiffs), but the payout is generous, with first prize usually between $9300 and $10,000, second prize getting around 6k and around 3k for third place. Also, one other nice aspect of the party 40k is that it starts you off with 3000 chips, as opposed to most of the pokerstars and full tilt tournaments which begin with starting stacks of 1500 chips.

The first two tournaments above -- the ftp 20k and the party 40k -- are easily my two favorite regular large mtt's to play. They are every night, same time every night so you never need to remember any different schedules, and I am comfortable with my bankroll with paying the $20-something it takes to enter. Both of them run later into the evening (morning) than I would like for a guy who tries to play every night I can, but who also is woken up at 6am sharp like clockwork every morning by two screaming talking Hammer Girls, but in the end if the powers that be at these sites have determined that the 10 o'clock hour start times are when they can get the most people to play, then I am ok with the schedules if that's what helps get the payouts for these events so high up there. I try to play these two events whenever I am able at night, and per the above discussion, I have found them to be a profitable play for me over time, especially the 40k with my big win earlier this year.

3. After the ftp 20k and the party 40k, I guess the next thing to discuss are the Rebuy Madness tournaments on pokerstars. Every night at 8:15pm ET is the $3 Rebuy Madness tournament (unlimited rebuys during the first hour, plus one optional add-on after the first hour), which has a 25k guaranteed prize pool, and every night at 10:15pm ET is the $11 flavor of Rebuy Madness, which has the same rebuy rules and carries a 55k guarantee, making this the largest nightly guaranteed tournament of any of the sites that I play on. These events tend to have around 1500 players per night, and in the end there tend to be between 3 and 4 times as many total buyins (with rebuys and add-ons) as there are original entrants in the tournaments. Having just won the $11 Rebuy Madness this month, I can say that it starts at 10:15pm ET and will end sometime around 5:30am. So, it is going to be more than 7 hours of time invested to really score in this event, but as with the party 40k tournament, the payout is well worth it, with usually around 15k going to first place, 9k to second place and 6k to 3rd place.

4. In addition to the tournaments I've discussed above, other regular mtt's that I enjoy playing on pokerstars, partypoker and full tilt include first the $5 turbo mtt on pokerstars. This event goes off at 10:39pm ET on Tuesday and Thursday nights only, and it has 5-minute rounds which means that even lasting through the first hour is quite a feat. This tournament generally has around 1500 players as well, and due to its turbo nature, you tend to hit the cash positions only about 15 minutes or so into the second hour of the tournament. In the end this thing tends to run about 2 1/2 hours or so from start to finish (ahh the wonders of 5-minute blind rounds), and first prize is usually around 3 grand, with second and third prize also generally at or above a thousand dollars. This is a nice one to play because it just does not involve the huge investment of time that the other regular tournaments involve. The downside, of course, is that it is turbo and that means that the pushmonkeys will be out in full force from the beginning. And, if you think that online mtt's in general become too much like donkeyfests near the end, then you really won't enjoy these turbo tournaments because basically every elimination of the last 300 or 400 players occurs on a preflop allin move and call of some kind.

I also enjoy playing the $20, 180-person sng's on pokerstars. As I've written about before on the blog, I think this is a great size for someone who is getting started in the large mtt's online, as it is just large enough to really give you the full gamut of the large mtt feel, while also still being small enough to be winnable by the average good online player, and not to take the entire night up playing. As they are sitngo's, these tournaments are constantly filling up and running on pokerstars -- 24/7/365 as far as I can tell -- and the event tends to last around 4 hours start to finish to crown a champion. The nice thing about the 20x180 sng is the payouts, with first place paying a nice $1080, second prize in the $700 range, and third prize around $500. It's more than enough to make playing in one of these tournaments interesting for just a $20 buyin, and as I said 4 hours is much more manageable for most people than the 6 or 7 hours or more that the largest mtt's are going to run you, especially again for those of us who need to be up in the morning to go to work to pay the bills.

Lastly, full tilt and pokerstars also run all kinds of $5 and $10 no-limit holdem mtt's at various times during the evenings every day on the respective sites. I don't know the full schedule for these events because I don't tend to play them very often, but my point is that if you are looking for such an event, you just need to look at the tournament schedule for the night on either pokerstars or full tilt, and you'll find what you're looking for. For example, full tilt now runs what they call "Midnight Madness" every night at midnight ET, and this is usually a $10 tournament that will have somewhere less than 1000 players. I don't even know how late this ends up running, but I would assume it's a safe guess that it takes around 6 hours start to finish to play one through. Also, I have also played the $20 mtt that pokerstars runs every night at 11:30pm ET, which generally tends to attract around 600 or 700 players and generally tends to pay out a few grand for the top spot. Again this is later than I usually prefer to start up a big tournament being that I am an East Coast guy, so I don't know exactly when this tournament ends, but again I'm sure it is generally around the same 5 1/2 to 6 hours or so that most other similar-sized mtt's run.

I hope this helps everyone who is interested in finding out more about and/or playing in the mtt circuit on the largest online poker sites. The fun thing about playing these things right now is that there is a large (and ever-growing) group of bloggers who are attacking one or more of these events on a nightly basis these days. So there is always someone you know in these events, and someone (or, usually, a whole group of people) on the girlie chat who are involved in making a run.

See you all tonight at the Mookie -- 10pm ET on full tilt, Private tab, password is "vegas1" as always.


Blogger slb159 said...

Gl tonight at the Mookie Hoy. Nice post. Hafta try that 3$ rebuy sometime. I tried it once before, but that was the only rebuy tournament I ever played. Was fun and I lasted past the push-monkey fest in the first hour, but didn't go far after than. See you there.

6:21 AM  
Blogger TripJax said...

Thanks for explaining all that info. Very cool of you.

You should look into using PokerXFactor for your hand history screen shots. That way you could just use a link and it will link to an animated hand history. It gives a great idea of how the hand went down.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

How do you plan on paying taxes on your winnings for the year? Or, do you plan on not paying them since you don't keep accurate records?

7:43 AM  
Blogger TechGuyTom said...

I'm the kind of person that would go insane without proper records. I even record donking off money if I'm at a blogger table. I know exactly how much money I've spent in each individual tourney and what my hourly rate is.

Guess I'm anal that way

9:37 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

i don't keep records of my MTT play either. but, my NETELLER account makes me very happy.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Grind, I think it makes total sense to keep a detailed record if you are concerned with your financial performance. I'm not. At the stakes I'm playing, I would want to know if I was bleeding money so I could stop playing right away, but otherwise I've never been worried about going bankrupt from playing at these levels. So my actual exact performance is not something I need to know for any reason. It really is true that I play for fun, and that's it. So why bother keeping detailed records? I can always use Neteller to know generally how much money I've put in, and how much I've taken out.

Wes, again I point to Neteller as the method I will use to pay my taxes this year. The truth of the matter is that they're not going to be exact, and that's just the way it has to be. You can count me up there with the other 99% of people in the world who have to report gambling winnings some year and are forced to estimate (tell the truth, but estimate) the total gambling gains and losses.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Thanks, Hoy. You've convinced me that (a) I do not have the time to play those large guaranteed tournaments, and (b) you are fucking crazy -- but in a good way. More power to you!

9:47 PM  
Blogger drewspop said...

Hoy, good overview. I agree with Jordan, you are a crazy fucker. Since I suck, I had no idea those things lasted until 5am. I do like those $5 and $10 turbos on Stars though.

That is more my speed I think. Keep up the good work man.

10:30 PM  
Blogger BigPirate said...

Nice post Hoy. I will try to put up something this weekend about my experiences with the MTTs.

As for anyone who would like to play MTTs without having to stay up until the wee hours, I would suggest True Poker. I often play the 8:30 $30 NLHE, the 9:00 $20 LO8, and 9:30 $20 NLHE in a single night. The NL tournaments usually have 30-40 players and the O8 usually caps around 20. It gives a players some experience in MTTs without having to invest six+ hours to win. True also offers a number of $5 and $10 MTTs that have a few more players but nothing approaching the levels of the big boys.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Nice post. I am more of a record keeper, like LAG. I really think if you are serious about improving your game, you need to keep records. It would help to determine what MTTs that you do best in, or if you make more at cash games vs. S&Gs, vs. MTTs. I play poker for fun, but my ultimate goal is to make money. I keep detailed records to determine what direction I should go to improve my hourly win rate. I am probably a long term loser at MTTs, but one big score whould turn that around. See you in the 20k tonight!

11:31 PM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

Man, when I go on and on about how this blog has helped my game, these are the posts I am talking about.

Since ya asked, two nights ago, the 40k gave me the worst single MTT run of cards I have ever seen. It was amazing just cause it was the first time its happened to me. I went 150 hands without a pair or a GroupI hand. Then I got AKs hit the K on the flop and west busto to slowplayed Aces. Still...she seems doable, even if the interface is less pleasing than FT.

12:30 AM  
Blogger mookie99 said...

Thanks for the pimp and for playing last night.

I can barely stay awake for a two hour later night tourney. The real question is what do you take to keep you awake until 5am ?

1:36 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Kudos on a nice uber post. Lots of good stuff here.

Keeping records is either a blessing or a curse - depending on how you look at it.

I think we all are looking for that one big win, but ya, all the misses we have out there really tell the tale. Would you still be proud if that big win never came? For those of us still waiting on that big win, it's all about the thrill of the chase. Many will eventually hit one but by then - what will it really have cost? (time has a bigger cost)

1:42 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Ha guys, thanks for the comments as always.

Mookie, I take nothing but pure adrenaline. Take it from me, regardless of the hour on the clock, once you're getting down to the final 20 or 30 players in a tournament where the final table basically guarantees you at least a four-figure payout, all traces of tiredness disappear. You won't even be able to imagine being tired at that point, trust me.

And Chipper, you have hit the nail on the head as far as not yet having hit a big mtt score. That was me for several months before my big party 40k win, and I have to say, I was still satisfied. Even knowing I had lost money overall thus far in playing the partk 40k tournament, I still always felt like I was learning, getting better, improving my game and my reads and my consistency, etc. And plus, when you haven't yet won or final tabled a major tournament like this, every time you make a new personal best it is always thrilling. I never get to feel that anymore about any of these big tourneys, and I do miss it. That was the best part about winning that $11 Rebuy Madness on pokerstars this month. I had hardly ever played that tournament before, so riding it all the way to the end is a thrill almost unmatched in any other aspect of holdem or poker in general.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Quick hourly rate calculation:

FullTilt 20k

Two tries on average at $8 Turbo Token
1.5 hours

140 MTTs ran, 2.5 hour averade

4hr x 140 = 480 hours.

Lets assume you had one other high finish for a $2500 profit instead of just break even. Then you make about $5/hr even with a couple of decent finishes.

4:45 AM  
Blogger RoccoBoxer said...

One of my favorite posts. Great info. Your a good dude.


6:43 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

blinders is a bitter, bitter little man.

win a large MTT an we'll see that tune change.

8:53 AM  
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12:23 AM  

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