Forum Files: Money Matters

Alex Weldon : October 26th, 2015

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Poker players are a diverse bunch in terms of politics, if not demographics, but one thing we all have in common is an objective interest in money. It is, after all, the scorekeeping system for our game, on top of its importance in our regular lives. It’s not surprising, then, that it’s the second most common subject of conversation on poker forums, after the game itself. In this week’s Forum Files, we’re looking at three money-related issues that are currently trending as hot topics on Two Plus Two.

How much does Hellmuth charge as a coach, and is he worth it?
Thread: What do you think about Phil Hellmuth as a coach?

Last week, it came out that November Nine short stack Federico Butteroni has enlisted the services of the poker brat himself, Phil Hellmuth, as a coach. Hellmuth, of course, is far and away the most successful WSOP player of all time, with 14 bracelets to his name. That would seem to make him pretty good value as a coach, but Hellmuth’s success is largely due to his amazing knack for live reads. Are Hellmuth’s skills really teachable, and if so, what are they actually worth in terms of a dollar value?

Although the exact terms of Hellmuth’s deal with Butteroni have not been disclosed, poster “maverick6972″ tossed out 15% of winnings as a figure early in the thread, which ended up shaping the ensuing discussion, even though this is unlikely to be the actual figure and no evidence that it is has been presented. Almost everyone seems to agree that if this were the case, it would be absurdly high: after all, with $1M for 9th and over $7M for 1st, it would mean Butteroni would be paying a minimum of six figures for coaching, and potentially over a million if he somehow ended up winning.

Going by ICM, Butteroni’s stack entering the November nine is worth just under $700,000 in equity (on top of the $1M he’s already guaranteed). The real value of Hellmuth’s coaching, then, is that $700,000 multiplied by whatever increase in edge the coaching can provide. There’s only so much one can do with a 12 BB stack, however, so it’s hard to see that added edge being more than a few percent, in my opinion.

Timex overtakes Gold
Thread: Mike McDonald pasts Jamie Gold on all time money list

Mike “Timex” McDonald has just won the €25,000 High Roller at EPT Malta and, in doing so, moved himself into 15th place in all-time cashes. The former holder of that spot is none other than Jamie Gold, winner of the 2006 WSOP Main Event.

Gold and McDonald played a famous hand back when the latter was still relatively unknown, in which McDonald snapped off Gold’s attempted flop bluff. McDonald held Jacks on a Ten-high board and Gold only a pair of Threes, but Gold spiked a Three on the turn to bust him. Gold couldn’t resist adding insult to injury, telling McDonald “that’s what you get for calling with Jacks.”

McDonald therefore celebrated this latest accomplishment on Twitter by turning things around, announcing “It took 8 years instead of 1 week, but here’s what I get for calling with jacks.” There’s nothing like interpersonal drama and trash talk to get the forums going, so these shots fired by McDonald naturally garnered some applause. On the other hand, it’s also been pointed out that Gold has played far fewer tournaments and paid far less in buy-ins than McDonald, and thus still has the much higher ROI. That’s unlikely to change any time soon, unless McDonald manages to make the November Nine himself one of these years; it’s hard to beat a Main Event winner in terms of percentages, regardless of relative skill.

Site-side variance in Spin-and-Go’s
Thread: Spin and go Jackpot money (where it goes)

Spin-and-Go’s are increasingly popular on PokerStars, but the random prize pool format muddies the waters a bit when it comes to the house’s take. In conventional poker tournaments, a certain portion of the buy-in is explicitly taken as a tournament fee, but the calculation is less evident in Spin-and-Go’s.

With three players paying a buy-in, when a minimum 2x payout is spun, the site ends up keeping a full third of the money, but ends up taking a loss on any higher payout. The probabilities of various payouts are set up such that PokerStars should end up profiting by 5-7% (depending on stake level) in the long term, yet the site still experiences a great deal of variance of its own in the short term. This has led some to wonder where this extra money is going to, and coming from. In the case of the limited-edition $1M Spin-and-Go’s, which are now running again, even a slight difference in actual versus expected jackpots can mean the site’s actual take can end up being millions of dollars more or less than the rake on its own.

Although no PokerStars representative has yet commented on the thread, I suspect the answer for the $1M Spin-and-Go’s lies in their limited edition nature. PokerStars has never specified how long these tournaments will be on offer, so they can allow them to run until such time as variance roughly evens itself out and discontinue them at that point, thereby ensuring that their actual profit is in line with the listed rake. For the regular Spin-and-Go’s, meanwhile, the relatively lower jackpot payouts and volume being played means that the site will never drift that far off from expectation one way or the other.

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