Saturday, August 09, 2014

The math of monster stacks

Jonathan Little has an excellent blog post, in which he dissects the nutty idea that so many amateurs apparently got this year that the new "Monster Stacks" event at the WSOP was a better value to enter than events with the same entry fee but shorter stacks. Little shows why this is exactly the opposite of the truth; in fact, the pros' edge over the amateurs increases with bigger starting stacks.

There's an old saying among trial lawyers: "If the law is on your side, pound on the law; if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; if neither is on your side, pound on the table."

In poker, there's a tension between the skill factor and the luck factor. If you're at a skill disadvantage, you want to increase the relative role of luck in a tournament. You do that with smaller starting stacks, with faster blind structures, with more aggressive all-in betting (as opposed to the pros' preferred "small ball" approach), with taking more coin flips, and so on. If you have a skill edge, you want the exact opposite on all of those variables.

Of course, it's possible that the mistake the enormous field of amateurs made in selecting Monster Stacks over more conventional tournaments was not in having a misunderstanding of the effects of stack size on the skill/luck dimension, but a misapprehension of where their skill lay with respect to the whole field. It is a truism that most poker players think they are much better than average, and the great majority of them are simply wrong in that assessment.


Memphis MOJO said...

Most of Little's books are quite worthwhile.

Tony Bigcharles said...

ive read quite a few of littles published articles and they are quite good.

Raph said...

Unlike pros, amateurs may not be entering these tournaments because they believe they have a huge skill edge/advantage over the field. Amateurs often play only a few tournaments per year and enter for the very reason that they are putting their skills to the test.