Thursday, June 24, 2010

Online HORSE and razz tournaments

When I play poker online these days, it's mostly either HORSE or razz tournaments. These are often sit-and-go, single-table things, but I also enjoy taking on a multi-table tournament sometimes.

I have found it annoying to have to check the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker lobbies repeatedly to figure out when a MTT in one of these games might next be starting. (And, by the way, kudos to Full Tilt for making the tourney lobby much easier to navigate than Stars has managed to accomplish.) So today I made a first attempt at compiling my own little database of the daily events. I limited it to the price range that I prefer to play, roughly $10-$30. Obviously, there are games both higher and lower than this, but if you're interested in those, you'll have to make your own list.

This probably has some errors and omissions, but it's a start. If you see problems with it, let me know in the comments. Also, if you know of online sites other than Stars and FTP that sponsor HORSE and/or razz tournaments (open to U.S. players), please tell me, because I don't know of any others, and I would like to.

Which site has better MTT structures? I didn't know, so I checked the structure sheets for comparable events. Here they are from an $11 razz tournament from both places:

FTP starts you with 25 big bets. You get 10-minute levels. After 60 minutes of play, the next level has limits such that your original stack would be worth 7.5 big bets.

With Stars, you start with 60 big bets. You get 15-minute levels. After 60 minutes of play, the next level has limits such that your original stack would be worth 10 big bets.

Clearly, then, the Stars structure is significantly slower. Conventional wisdom says that this means there is a higher skill factor and lower luck factor involved in winning.

FTP does put more into the antes, though: 1/5 to 1/6 of a small bet, while Stars (after the first level) keeps them at 1/10 of a small bet. So if you prefer larger ante:limit ratio, Full Tilt has that going for it.

How about HORSE? Here are the structure sheets from a $22 HORSE MTT from each site:

Both use 12 minute levels. Full Tilt starts you with 37.5 big bets, Stars with 45. However, FTP progresses through the limits a bit more slowly (Stars jumps from 40/80 to 60/120; FTP from 40/80 to 50/100, which accounts for the difference), so that at the end of an hour of play--one cycle through the five games--you will be starting a level in which your original stack would be 9.4 big bets on FTP, but only 9 big bets on Stars. After two hours of play, you will be starting a level in which your original stack would be 3 big bets on FTP, but only 1.8 big bets on Stars.

Because having a big stack relative to the bet sizes isn't too important early on (you can only jam the pot so full in limit games, no matter how hard you try), I think I'd have to give the edge to Full Tilt for the better structure because of progressing through the levels a little bit more slowly.

In games with an ante, Stars keeps them at a constant 20% of a small bet; FTP hovers between 16% and 20% of a small bet. So if you like larger antes, there's a tiny advantage to the Stars structure, but not much.

All else being equal, I still prefer playing both razz and HORSE on Stars because at the showdown and in the hand histories you get to see exactly the order that the cards came in the three stud games, whereas Full Tilt continues to shuffle the three down cards, which I find annoying and confusing. Some people like that feature, though.

As the saying goes, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

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