Hit and Run: Simulating the November Nine, PokerStars New Jersey Festival, Amaya/William Hill Merger

Alex Weldon : October 7th, 2016
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PokerNews tries to predict the outcome of the WSOP Main Event by way of a simulation. Amaya and William Hill in merger talks. 888poker to offer WSOPC satellites. And more.

PokerNews Dabbles in the Prediction Business

Geez, spoilers, guys!

Marty Derbyshire at PokerNews decided that it would be fun to try to predict the outcome of the November Nine in advance by running a simulation, based on the interviews the site conducted with the players, and the bios that were then written up. His first idea was to get nine people involved with PokerNews to join him in playing out their own WSOP Main Event final table, each attempting to emulate the style of one of the players in question.

When that proved infeasible, he thought of computer simulations, and got in touch with the guys at Advanced Poker Training, who create software which allows players to practice against bots with configurable personalities and playing skill.

It seems like a reasonable idea in theory, but in practice, modelling even simple systems numerically is a big challenge, let alone something as complex as the Main Event final table; the idea that the specific individuals who will be playing in a few weeks could be adequately modelled by setting a few parameters in an off-the-shelf program, based on verbal interviews and some basic Google-searching of their results is… not one that would occur to anyone serious, shall we say, and Mr. Derbyshire does admit in his article that he does not expect his results to hold much scientific validity.

So, the model might be a fun thing to play with, but before you start placing your bets based on Mr. Derbyshire’s results, there are a few flaws in the methodology and results you may want to account for:

  • The November Nine is an event with nine possible outcomes. The sample sized Mr. Derbyshire and the APT team used was 100. An average player with an average stack should win 11.1 times out of 100, but on such a small sample size, we expect players to be, on average, 3 wins away from their expectation (this is called the standard deviation). So, even if the model itself were mathematically flawless, a result of 11 wins actually means the player should win anywhere between 8% and 14% of the time, which we likely could have guessed just looking at the chips.
  • The simulation has chip leader and most people’s pick for best player Cliff Josephy coming out five wins and 7% profit below ICM expectation. Meanwhile, it has the least experienced player at the table, Qui Nguyen, winning over 50% more often than Josephy. Naturally, seating position matters and Nguyen’s big stack and reckless play style may actually serve him well as the medium stacks attempt to wait for the short stacks to bust before taking any chances… however, it should seem implausible that one of the worst players at the table, with the second largest stack, is expected to win more often, and more money overall than one of the best players who also has the deepest stack.
  • Mr. Derbyshire attempts to explain and justify the results, but it doesn’t appear that he actually took the time to read them properly before diving into his analysis. He explains that Griffin Benger manages two wins above expectation in the simulation due to his skill edge… but a quick glance at the table shows that in fact, the simulation has Benger coming out two wins below expectation. Oops.

Quick Hitters

- PokerStars has released the schedule for its upcoming PokerStars Festival in New Jersey. These Festivals are part of PokerStars’s newly unified poker tours (formerly EPT, APPT, LAPT, etc.) and are the more casual companion to the higher-stakes PokerStars Championships. And very casual they are; in addition to poker, the inaugural Festival will feature cash competitions in miniature golf, pinball, hoops, and more.

- With former Amaya CEO David Baazov facing insider trading charges, his proposal to buy the company and take it private seems to have been discarded. Instead, it now seems that a merger with William Hill is in discussion, which might also explain why the latter recently refused a deal with 888 Holdings.

- 888poker has struck a deal with the WSOP to run online satellites for its new international WSOPC stops. 888 has also had the exclusive rights to offer official satellites for events in the summer WSOP for the past two years, so this is a natural progression of that deal.

- Liv Boeree, who holds a degree in astrophysics, did an interview with Business Insider in which she discusses the similarities between poker and science.

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