Poker Central, the recently-launched 24/7 poker network, is offering a special freeroll contest to US poker fans in order to promote the Super High Roller Bowl (SHRB). To participate, all that you have to do is draw up a list of the players you expect to take 1st through 7th place; theoretically, one million dollars are up for grabs, but the odds against anyone actually winning that prize are quite slim. Fortunately, a more modest $10,000 prize will be awarded to whoever comes closest to winning the jackpot, and the top 25 entries will also get a free watch from MVMT Watches (worth in the ballpark of $100), one of Poker Central’s sponsors.

The SHRB is an annual high-stakes tournament organized by Poker Central and held at the Aria casino in Las Vegas. Last year’s SHRB had a $500,000 buy-in and was held in early July, coinciding with the tail end of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). This year, the buy-in has been lowered to $300,000, and the event moved up to the end of May, just before the WSOP kicks off; it has been officially sold out as of mid-March, which is unsurprising, as the lack of tournament fees and addition of a $300,000 overlay make it great value for anyone with the skills and the bankroll required to compete against the best in the world.

Just predict the final table, how hard can it be?

The tournament has a 49-player cap and sold out back in March. It’s being played in an unusual 7-max format, with all final table seats being paid. If you want your shot at free money and/or a watch, all you have to do is visit Poker Central’s website, sign up for an account, go to the promo page, examine the player list, then drag-and-drop seven names into your predicted finishing order for the final table.

Like picking lottery numbers, predicting the exact final table and its finishing order is a task that only takes a couple of minutes at most, yet something you’re extremely unlikely to do correctly. If all players were of equal skill, your odds of guessing correctly would be approximately one in 433 billion; picking more talented players will skew those odds slightly in your favor, but calling it a longshot would still be a fairly massive understatement.

Although the $1 million jackpot will only be paid out in the event that someone manages this nearly-impossible feat, there will be $10,000 awarded to the closest answer, and watches to the top 25, as determined by the following scoring system:

  • 1st place correct – 30 pts.
  • 2nd place correct – 18 pts.
  • 3rd place correct – 12 pts.
  • 4th place correct – 8 pts.
  • 5th place correct – 4 pts.
  • 6th place correct – 2 pts.
  • 7th place correct – 1 pt.

What’s the strategy?

At several hundred billion to one odds, your equity in the hypothetical $1 million jackpot is a tiny fraction of a penny, so if that’s what you have in mind, it’s not even worth the time it would take to click seven random names. If you’re going to participate, then, your focus should be on maximizing your odds of winning the $10,000 (or at least a watch).

Because of the way the scoring works, the winner is almost certainly going to be someone who gets 1st and 2nd place correct; the odds of a randomly-generated entry managing that are 1 in 2352, and I’d expect the contest to draw at least that many entries. On the other hand, I don’t expect it to get over 100,000, so it probably won’t be necessary to get all of the top 3; I’d say the most likely winning ballot will have the top two correct, plus any one other correct answer. There’s also some chance it could go to someone with a 1st-3rd-4th combo of correct answers, or even just a naked 1st-2nd if it’s an oddball pair of players who don’t get selected by more than one person.

What that means is that there’s a similar force at work here as in large-field daily fantasy sports contests, namely that although picking stronger players for the top two spots makes it more likely you’ll get them right, it also makes it much more likely that others have made the same guess, and that you’ll therefore have to get another right answer as well in order to win.

Balancing those two factors against one another, I’d say that what you probably want to do is pick either two medium-strength players for your top two spots, or one stronger and one weaker player. You probably also want to avoid choosing any of the names likely to be familiar to more casual fans, like Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu, as you’d expect them to be chosen by a disproportionate number of entrants.

On the other hand, duplicating others’ choices for the remaining spots is much less of a problem; if your 5th place choice is correct and happens to match several other people’s, it’s unlikely that any of them also picked the same players for 1st and 2nd as you, and if they didn’t, then they’re not in direct competition with you for the prize. So for 3rd on down to 7th, your overall odds are probably best served by simply going with whoever you think are the strongest five players in the field.

Unfortunately, as a Canadian, I’m not allowed to participate in the contest, and posting a list of who I’d pick would be pointless, as no one could actually follow that advice without running a high risk of duplicating the choices of someone else who has read this article. There’s probably enough difference in the perceived strength of players, however, that you can safely follow the above strategy without being particularly likely to make the same choices as others selecting players on that basis.

Good luck, and if you win $10,000 following my advice and want to send me the watch as a thank-you gift, I won’t complain.

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