Friday, November 28, 2014

The Min Cash is Too Min

My last post (see here) told the story of my long run in the Aria tournament, where I earned the minimum cash (or min cash for short) after 7-1/2 hours of play.

The buy-in was $125 and the min cash I received was $174.  They paid 18, I was the first person to bust out after we were all in the money (actually, another player busted out on the same hand, but the last two places were both $174).  That’s my buy-in back and an additional $49.  I left the four singles as a tip for the staff (that’s almost 10% of my profit).  So for all that time, I made $45 on a $125 investment.

That’s not enough.

I have no math formulas to give you, no numbers to crunch, no scientific method at all.  Just a gut feeling.

It’s not enough.

In general, the min cash amounts for the tournaments I play are not enough.

I’m not talking about really small tournaments, with small buy-ins and small turnouts.

But the two tournaments I most often play, this Aria $125 and the Binion’s $140 Saturday tournament, have really nice prize pools that pay many places (almost always 10 or more).  They take hours and hours to play.

You’re into early evening if you cash at the Aria 1PM, and even later in the evening if you cash at Binion’s.  Last time I got a big cash at Binion’s, it was after midnight before I had the money in my hand.  The tournament started at 2PM.

That’s a lot of poker.  And also, $125-$140 is a reasonable amount of money.  Now granted, 90% or so of the people who make that investment walk away empty-handed, out that money.

But it seems to me, if you make that investment, if you make it into the 10% or so who actually get paid, you should at the very least get double your money back—your profit should be at least the amount of the buy-in itself.

I’ll go one step further….it should be $5 more than the amount of the buy in.  That’s to encourage the players to put that extra five bucks in the tip pool and still walk away with the amount of the buy-in as pure profit.  So the min cash at Aria should be $255.  The min cash at Binion’s should be $285.

Keep in mind, all the tournaments at this level allow re-entries (in the case of the Aria tournament, you can only re-enter once).  As revealed in a comment to my previous post, Cokeboy99 (Nick) played in that Aria tournament with me and did indeed have to re-enter.  He didn’t cash, but let’s say he had, and joined me in min cashing.  He would have gotten paid $174 and still lost money--$76 to be exact (more if he left a tip, which he might not want to do since he actually would be losing money on the deal).

It just seems to me that if there’s over 50-60 players, if the buy-in is over a $100 and it takes more than four-five hours to cash, the least you should get, if you do cash, is double the buy-in.

These tournaments have nice prize pools.  The Binion’s event has a $10K guarantee, usually has over 100 players so they almost always surpass the guarantee.  The total prize pool in the Aria tournament I just played was over $16K.  That might be higher than average for them, but I suspect they are almost always at $12K at the least.  So there’s enough money in there to give those min-cashers a decent payout.

How should they adjust the prize pool to make them less “top-heavy”?  Definitely not by paying less spots.  No, that won’t do.

They need to take the money off the top, just slightly reduce the amount they pay the first two or three or four places.

As I said in the last post, first place in that tournament was nearly $5K.  Surely they could have reduced that a few bucks (along with second & third) to give the bottom of the pay scale some more money.

Easy for me to say, you say, since I am more likely to min-cash than finish first.  Ok, that’s true.  But I believe there’s incentive for the very best players—the ones most likely to score 1st place— to want to make the pay scale a little “fairer.”

I recall a few years back, someone posted on the AVP forum their opinion that tournaments should all be winner take all.  Just one prize.  No matter how big the field.  Winner gets it all.  Second place is the bubble.

Of course, others pointed out how foolish that was.  If you did that, very few players would play in the tournament and the prize pool would be virtually nothing.  Maybe even literally nothing.  If players didn’t think that had at least a semi-decent chance of winning some money, they wouldn’t play.  But if the field was somehow the same size (although of course it wouldn’t be), the odds of winning—no matter how good a player was—couldn’t justify the investment. 

If it was a one-time event, it wouldn’t make sense for even Phil Ivey to play it, assuming a 150 player field and that the rest of the players are at the same level as they are now, and not other top pros.  Phil Ivey isn’t going to win that tournament every time.  Even against a lot of fish.  There’s too much luck involved. 

Of course, in the long run, it would make sense for Ivey to play that every day, because then he would win it enough times to make it profitable.

I think that if they offered more incentive for the marginal players to play, a promise of a better pay out if they did survive into the money, they would attract more players.  More players mean a bigger prize pool.  I’m thinking that taking money off the top and giving to the bottom of the pool would therefore pay for itself (for the top finishers) and then some. 

It could not only bring more players in, it would bring worse players in, another incentive for the best players.  Of course, the more players, the more you have to eliminate to get paid, but that’s the nature of a tournament in the first place.

But basically, I just think that making the min-cash double the buy-in is the right thing to do.  Certainly if the tournament pays 10 or more, it shouldn’t be a problem to do that.

What do you all think? 


  1. My first thought, without having much time to analyze, is that you need to adjust your figures as far as the buy-in goes. You should only count the amount of the buy-in that goes toward the prize pool. In the case or the Aria, that is $100 I believe. The rest is the house fee. Since the house fee doesn't go into the prize pool, just forget it. It's a sunken cost, the price to pay for them running the tournament. So, per your thoughts, the min cash should be $205 at the Aria ($100 buy-in x 2 + $5). Aside from that, it's not a bad idea.
    The current payouts are based on a percentage which is calculated based on the number of entrants and the number of spots paid out, yes? If so, then it's probably easiest to use that as a standard rather than have to figure a new amount for every tournament. That makes it easier to show the payouts for those who want to see a formula ahead of time, which may also attract players who might not play if they don't know the payouts.
    Just my take on things.

    1. Thanks, Nick. Yeah, I'[m sure there's some complicated formula but I'm sure it could be adjusted easily per my suggestion.

      NOW....I don't agree that you need to adjust for how much of the buy in goes to prize pool. So what?

      I look at it as, at the very least, it should be an even money bet. Like blackjack. You bet $10, you either lose $10 or you win $10 (or you push). You can win more with a BJ, a double or a split, but you can't win just $5, it's gotta be at least $10.

      That's why you should get at least the same as your original bet back. In my humble opinion.

  2. GO LA UCLA over stanford( hopefully). also,good job on closing on 500k views. SWEEEEET!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks, anger, yes...GO UCLA. Game starts in a few minutes. Surprised you're not for Stanford tho.

      Thanks for noticing the pageviews....looks like some time tomorrow I will pass HALF A MILLION views. Wow.

    2. 21-10 halftime FORNICATE!!!!!! nah, dont bet with my heart LOL.. i was think that UCLA would JET UP and play their A+++++ game hoping to get in the playoffs if FSU/BAMA does lose.


  3. Part of the buy-in is also for the dealers tips, at least here on the East Coast. I have not cashed in any tourneys in Vegas due to only having been and played there a few times. Being the tip is already paid, I normally don't tip. Depends on how friendly and helpful the dealers have been, and how much I have won.

    1. Thanks, Tino

      There usually is something taken out of the buy-in for the dealers. It varies from room to room. And tournament to tournament.

      HOWEVER, it is always a very small percentage. I guess I'm sensitive to it because I have become pals with so many dealers. But it's really small, and dealers make much more money when they deal cash tables than when they deal tournaments. I've heard that a typical tournament down (1/2 hour) gets them $6-$7....they'd get much more dealing cash. And that's with people adding tips as they get paid off. If no one did that, they'd get even less.

      I understand not tipping or tipping light if you are at the very bottom of the payout scale, but if you have a decent payday, tipping is definitely the right thing to do.

  4. There once was an online poker site that had many tournaments with a flatter payout. Talk about a great way to build a bankroll! Just play solid poker and you had a great chance of cashing.

    1. I'll bet that worked out well for the site too, great idea. Not quite a Double or nothing, but more incentive to play.

  5. 499,834 page views as we speak, er write.

    Agreed that tilting so much of the prize pool to the top is short-sighted. The fish are only going to play so many times, then give up. If they increased the number of players who cash only slightly, and increased their payout only slightly, it we be good business imo. The best players will still enter and be happy with whatever the first few places pay, and the lesser players would love it, too -- good for the game as they say.

    1. Thanks, MOJO, Coming from such an accomplished tournament player as yourself, I know I've really hit on something.

  6. Dear Anonymous:

    I would have approved your lovely comment about how this blog is "literally the dumbest" bleeping blog you've read but you spelled out the "f-word" and I prefer not to have that word spelled out here. I've made some exceptions, usually from commenters who are at least identifiable. Since you are not identifiable, by your choice, I feel no obligation to post it.

    But thanks for commenting. I hope you enjoy future posts at least as much as this one.

    1. actually, Rob's is one of the most professional and well written blogs out there--why do u think i instantly trusted him?

  7. which site was that lightning? which tournaments?

  8. Hey Rob,
    Great blog! Didn't the venitian run a tourney that had a level payout when u hit the money? I believe the tourney was stopped after the money bubble had burst and everyone got the same payout.....I never played in it but thought it was a good change of pace because I felt the same way about the min cash thing and this seemed to solve that. It also would add a bit of a different dynamic as to how to play as the bubble approached.

    1. Yeah, for at least year the Venetian ran a Friday nite "survivor" tournament. As soon as the field hit the final 10%, it ended and everyone got the same amount. However, they recently took them off their weekly schedule, they just weren't getting enough players. They still run them occasionally as part of the Deepstack series. Other rooms also sometimes run them as part of a series.

      Thanks for kind words, Anony.