Ben86 Wins PokerStars $51k SHR, No Top-20 Betting Favorite Pays Out

Alex Weldon : September 22nd, 2015


PokerStars WCOOP event #47, $51,000 8-Max Super High-Roller is in the books, and has produced some interesting results. With its $1 million guarantee, the tournament was expected to produce a field of slightly more than 20 entrants, but ended up more than doubling that, with a final tally of 46.

First place would have paid out over $800,000, but the final three players – Ben “Ben86″ Tollerene, Jose “Cejakas14″ Angel Latorre, and Nikita “fish2013″ Bodyakovskiy – ended up agreeing to a three-way ICM chop, leaving only $20,000 to play for. Their chip stacks were relatively even at the time the deal was made, so each got between around $560,000 and $595,000 from the deal, with Tollerene ultimately winning the battle for 1st and taking home a grand total of $616,518.34, including the $20,000 for first.

An agonizing bubble

Although the deal meant that the culmination of the tournament was a little bit anticlimactic, the bubble was anything but. The short stack throughout 7-handed play was a net-losing Russian player by the username of “Nopaleva,” whose previous best tournament result was for $1800. He had won his way into the $51k by way of an FPP satellite, and now found himself sitting on just over 10 big blinds on the stone bubble of an event with $126,500 for a min-cash. I think it’s probably safe to imagine that this was a stressful situation for him, and those of us watching the stream on Twitch were sweating him hard.

Meanwhile, Mike “Timex” McDonald and Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz were both facing a reversal of fortunes. McDonald had come into the final eight as the chip leader, while Holz had a fairly healthy stack as well, and both were considered favorites in terms of skill edge from the start. Nonetheless, things went badly for them on the bubble, as Tollerene was successfully able to exploit his position to push them around.

At one point, it seemed like it was going to be a toss-up between Nopaleva, McDonald or Holz being the bubble boy, but ultimately, it ended up being none of them, as Bodyakovskiy and David “dpeters17″ Peters ended up in a nearly-inescapable preflop battle, with close-to-even stacks and AQ for Bodyakovskiy and AK for Peters. Although Peters flopped a King and turned another for trips, Bodyakovskiy managed to make a classic river flush to bust him and send the Twitch railbirds into hysterics.

No big results for the favorites

Holz, McDonald and finally Nopaleva were in fact the next three to go out, however, in that order. Although McDonald and Holz were disappointed in their results, Nopaleva, one would imagine, was anything but, taking home $230,000, well over 100 times his previous best result, and flipping him from being a long-term loser to a pretty substantial winner.

What’s most interesting about Holz and McDonald’s finishes, however, is that they were the last two players left who had been top-20 favorites in the betting lines for the event which PokerStars had advertised last week. All twenty of those players had been given odds between 12-1 and 16-1 by PokerStars, causing many – including McDonald himself – to remark that the edge being taken by PokerStars wasn’t exactly great value for the customer, and that was even before we knew the tournament would produce a larger-than-expected field.

Although other players were available to bet on, it was only those top 20 who were listed in the promotional emails and blog posts from PokerStars, so they would likely have produced the most action, and as it turns out, precisely zero of those bets would have won. Even though PokerStars was offering each-way betting, meaning that a 2nd or 3rd play finish would pay out a smaller amount, none of the favorites even made it that far.

Now, to be fair, only 11 of the 20 actually played, and those who bet on the other nine – moorman1, PokerNoob999, philbort, ZeeJustin, ElkY, Mrsweets28, zangbezan24, jcarverpoker or SirWatts – had their bets refunded. It’s also important to note that setting lines in advance for a poker tournament is extremely difficult and risky for the bookmaker, because it’s impossible to know the final size and composition of a field until the tournament runs, which impacts players’ odds considerably.

Still, given the turnout we actually saw, any of the players on that top-20 list would have had to hold nearly a 3-1 edge over what was arguably the toughest field ever produced online in order to be a profitable bet, which is a fairly absurd idea; based on the markups they set for themselves when selling action for such an event, most of these players presumably rate their own edges at under 10%. McDonald actually said that registering was a last-minute decision for him, as he didn’t feel he had any edge on the field at all, until a few weaker players made it in through deadline satellites.

Of course, I have no way of knowing how many people actually placed bets this time, but given the results, I would expect that many of those who did now have a sour taste in their mouths. If PokerStars plans on repeating the experiment of laying odds on their own tournaments, I think they’ll have to be considerably more generous in their odds the next time around, or perhaps use some sort of variable odds which will adjust payouts based on the actual final field size.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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