Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Mega Millions at The Bike—Pass or Play?

Last Saturday, after a whole lot of deliberation, I ended up heading down to the Bike to play in a  tournament.  But don’t worry sports fans.  This post is not one of those lengthy tournament summaries, filled with “boring hand histories.”  That will have to wait for next time.  This is just about making the decision to play there.  An entire post for that, you ask?  Dear reader, do you not know who you’re dealing with by now?

The Bike is currently running a big tournament series.  It started with the WSOP circuit, and now has the “Mega Millions” tournament going.  They’ve actually been running this particular tournament for years, and until this year, I’ve managed to be fairly oblivious to it.  This year I heard about it and looked into it.

It’s unlike any tournament I’ve ever played in before.  For one thing, there’s a shitload of starting flights.  I think something like 30, give-or-take.  And not all the starting flights have the same entry fee.  And also, you can buy directly into Day 2 if you like.  That would only cost you $4,300.  But hey, you start with 250K in chips.

The Bike has been the pioneer in tournaments with multiple price points.  They are the original home of “Quantum” tournaments which can have three differently priced entry points on a single day.  See here for my only experience with them.

They don’t refer to this as a “Quantum” tournament but it sure is similar.  Although most of the starting flights are $160, on the weekends they also have $550 starting flights. 

There are two $160 starting flights a day for 11 days. I think the $550 starting flights only run on the two weekends.  What’s the difference?  The $160’s start with 5K in chips, the $550’s start with 25K.  However, the $160’s have an optional $100 add-on for another 8K in chips.  Otherwise the structures are the same.

The other difference is the qualification to advance to day 2.  Both versions begin payouts on day 1.  The last 10% of each flight (at both price points) get money.  In the case of the $550’s, all those who get paid also advance to day 2.  For the $160’s, they play down to 5% and that last 5% advance to day 2.

If you advance to day 2, they give you $1K—apparently right then and there.  You don’t have to come back on day 2 to get the money.  I assumed the payouts for the players who finished between 5% & 10% would be pretty small. So, in deciding whether or not to try the tournament—and if so, which flavor, as it were—I had a bunch of considerations.

Did I mention that the tournament has a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000,000?  Although, that doesn’t quite seem like “Mega Millions” to me. It seems more like one million to me.  Maybe the “Mega” refers to the large number of starting flights, not how many millions of dollars they are giving away?

To win the tournament, you have to play four days.  And the last three days would all be mid-week.  But if I was playing on the last day, it would surely be worth it.  But I really like the fact that they begin payouts on day 1, so I know the return trip, in mid-week, isn’t a total waste of time (although I later found out that is not necessarily true).

I first noticed the $160 version and that really appealed to me.  I always complain that there are never any good tournaments to play in here in L.A. (at least for me).  I guess I’m spoiled by the Aria $125 daily. The value in that tournament is great. That’s really the standard for me, and there’s nothing even remotely close to it on a regular basis in L.A.  The $160 version seemed like a pretty good approximation, with the potential for a much bigger payout if I ran super good.  Of course, when I saw the note about the add-on, I knew it was really going to be a $260 buy-in.  It wouldn’t make any sense to not do the add-on.  You get more than 1-1/2 times the starting stack for less than 2/3’s of the original buy-in. And besides, only with the add-on do you get what I consider a decent amount of starting chips.  I mean $160 for a 5K start is actually pretty bad.  But $260 for a 13K stack is decent.

So it was really a $260 buy-in tournament I was considering playing.  Then I found out about the $550 version.  Well, first of all, I really wasn’t looking to pay that much for a tournament.  It’s getting close enough to summer to start thinking about squirreling away some funds for some of the big buy-in events I want to play in Vegas.  I figure I want to play in a couple of pricey (for me) events then, can’t spend that money before then.  I’ve only played a $500+ tournament a very few times, and I didn’t want to play one here when there was a lower price option available.

But was it a good option?  I wondered if the set-up put those that bought in for $160 at too much of a disadvantage versus the $550 players.  I wasn’t sure, but I decided that if you look at it as each flight being a separate tournament (which it kind of is), then a potential $1K for a $260 buy-in was pretty good.  I like that four-figure payout for a day’s work.  Actually, I just finally did the math and if everyone at the lower price point takes the add-on, the average chip stack taken to day 2 will actually be more for the lower price than the higher price.  But it’s impossible to know for sure since you don’t know how many add-ons there will be.  If no one took the add-on, the lower buy-ins would have much smaller average stacks than the $550’s.

The other thing was that with either buy-in, your payout for day 1 if you make it to day 2 is $1K.  So that sounds pretty good for a $260 buy-in, not so good for a $550 buy-in.  Of course, you only had to be in the top 10% to advance, not the top 5% as with the $160 buy-in.

One other consideration I had was the levels.  The day 1’s all have 25-minute levels. Odd level time, right?  Of course I would have preferred 30-minute levels, and for that price, it should definitely be 30-minutes.  But at least 25-minutes was better than 20-minutes.  I don’t think I would have spent much time even considering playing if it had been 20-minutes. So I looked over the structure, you can find it here. It is really player-friendly, very slow progression of the levels, lots of levels you don’t usually see. BTW, the levels on Day 2 are 50-minutes, and on Day’s 3 & 4 they’re 60-minutes.  I figured the 25-minute levels were acceptable to me because of the good structure. 

The first flights were on the Friday before the Saturday I was considering playing.  So I was able to see what the pay scale would really look like before playing.  All I really needed to see was what the pay outs were for the players in the second 5%--the ones who got paid but didn’t advance.  And it was pretty bad.  There were two tiers.  The top half got $400 and the bottom half got $300.  So since it was gonna be a $260 tournament for me, I could “cash” and get what would have to be considered the “min” of all min-cashes…a $40 profit.

But I already knew it was going to be low and it didn’t faze me.  I had my eye on the $1K and a ticket to day 2.  As I said, I was considering it more of a one day tournament for $1K.  Actually, it was more like a satellite for a tournament that started on day 2.  A satellite to a $4,300 tournament, in fact.

Except that in a satellite, you’re only playing for an entry into to a bigger tournament (although occasionally there’s a token cash payment).  This time, you’d playing for the entry and a significant cash payout.

Now I don’t usually play satellites. You may think the reason is silly.  But I figure that even the best poker players in the world don’t cash in every tournament they play.  I don’t know what a good percentage is for cashing, but I have the figure 25% floating in my head, dunno where I got that.  But it sounds right.  Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed, I am not one of the best poker players in the world.  I figure I would have to run/play good twice in a row (once in the satellite, once in the main tourney) to make it worthwhile to play a satellite.  That’s asking a lot.  I’m not sure if I could do it in back-to-back tournaments.  If I do well enough to win an entry in a satellite, I’d rather have the cash to show for it than an entry (even if I was gonna turn around and take the winnings and buy my way into a tournament).  I dunno, maybe just a weird mental thing I have.

But this tournament…this “satellite” would be different.  I would be getting some tangible cash if I scored…and the entry to the bigger tournament (aka day 2 of this tournament).  I liked that.

Of course, one difference between this tournament and a real satellite would be that everyone who wins a seat to day 2 would have a different starting stack, whereas a true satellite would get you an entry with the same starting stack as everyone else.

So I did play in it on Saturday. And while there, I heard something that made this event more like a satellite than I realized.  Of course, I only heard this from another player so I can’t say it is 100% accurate.  But it sounds right.  Apparently, even though the money bubble bursts on day 1, they don’t keep making pay outs right away on day 2.

My thought initially was, if I made it day 2, whether they gave me the $1K right then or I had to go back for it, I’d make more money right away just being there for day 2.  So if I lasted just a few hands into day 2, I’d end up making some amount over $1K (total) for the tournament.  But I don’t think that’s how it works.  I heard the guy say you have to be in the final 30% of the total players they get for day 2 in order to get any more money (that’s what I heard, but if they were going to do it this way, I dunno why it would be as much as 30%, that seems high.  But that’s what I heard). 

Anyway, this has been the introduction to my summary of my experience playing the Mega Millions at the Bike. I haven’t started writing the actual tournament summary so I don’t know whether it will be one or two parts.  We’ll see.  Hopefully I’ll post it soon.  (Edited to add: Good news!  It's posted, it's only one part and you can find it here, and now there's more on the subject, the final postscript can be found here.


  1. But it’s impossible to know for sure since you don’t know how many add-ons there will be.

    I've found that virtually all the players take the add-on. That means you absolutely have to as well.

    1. Thanks, MOJO. I always intended to take the add-on. I said that in the post, I guess I didn't make that clear enough.

      My point in mentioning this was that the number of add-ons taken would affect what the average stack would be coming out of the Day 1 and into day 2. So, if NO ONE took the add-on, the average stack size for those who went to day 2 would be 100K. If EVERYONE took it, the average stack size at the end of day 1 would be 260K.

    2. When I was writing for Ante-up, I covered the Bike a lot. I was told that it's pretty consistent that 80-85% of players take the add-on. Doing the math, to me it looks like 93.75% taking the addon in the $160 would be the breakeven to have the same average stack as those playing the $550. I think another thing to take into consideration is that the $550 players who advance also only get $1k.

    3. Thanks, Dave. In fact (spoiler alert), I remember seeing that they had 195 add-ons and there were 225 players, so about 86%.

      I did take that into account, about the $550's. that $1K seems like it's not enough for that price.

      Are you still planning on playing tomorrow? If so, good luck. I hope you make it to Day 2 and as always, I hope your health is improving.

  2. O played the facebook event, which was only $125 after the add-on. Almost every series at commerce and bike have one. The mega is tough because your top 10% isnt very high due to so many flights.

    1. Thanks edgie. The number of flights doesn't really affect the average chip stack, just the number of players you have to mess with if you make it to day 2. Of course, the sheer numbers mean that some people will be well below the average and need a miracle to last long into day 2.

    2. Right, but your top 10% number will suffer if demand dips due to excessive supply of flights.

    3. Not following you. But I will say if there are a lot of players playing multiple flights and advancing more than once, it will bring up the average chip stack on Day 2.

  3. Sounds like a fun tourney with decent value.

    So are we going to see you on LiveAtTheBike after you bink this cool milly prize pool? ;P

    The poker here in St. Louis is pretty good imo. Two of the four poker rooms have recently had an upgrade so that should mean something right? We have daily tournaments at Hollywood, and Heartland Poker comes around usually twice a year (next week actually) to Ameristar. Hoping to get into their 100k GTD for $350...maybe even satellite in for $85 like I did last time.

    Personally I love satellites as I don't have the bankroll to buy into the $1650 main event. Single table $75 satellites pay $200 in 'tourney cash' that you can use to buy into any other event, such as a 1 in 5 ticket to the main (which I bubbled for $1200 last year). I have also heard several times of people winning multiple seats to the main, and just selling the extras for cash.

    Keep up the good work!


    1. Thanks TDiddlez, I suppose I should reconsider my position on satellites. But the other thing with them...they're all basically turbos. I really don't like that.

      If I do make a major cash, playing at Live at the Bike is not anywhere near the top of my list to do with with money, but I do appreciate the thought.

    2. Yes I absolutely understand that. The bigger the buyin the better the structure though. The $75 STS is 2k chips, 25/25 blinds, and 10 minute levels. Unless u catch some cards quick, it's a shovefest by level 3. 10k, 50/100, and 20 min levels is a fine structure though for $200.(also the norm for the daily tourneys around here)

      Fun related story though...(years ago)I lost a big pot UTG and had less than a blind left. All in blind next hand, caught a straight. Then caught two more the next two hands in a row and was chip leader within an orbit. Went on to get the tourney cash. This was early in my poker days and will always stick with me.

      -TDiddlez (I use too many parentheses)

    3. Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I don't know what the %ITM for a good live tournament player is either, but 25% seems high. If we define good by ROI, then the %ITM would be even lower.

  5. Found this thru Google, a very interesting and sobering read.

    1. Wow, great (and depressing) article, thanks for that find, Pokerdogg.

      Have you been reading the blog long enough to remember the great female poker player I met a few years back...Alicia? I eventually wrote a piece on her for an online magazine. You can find that here:

      She is probably the best poker player I've ever met. Honest. OK, I guess I've met Chris Moneymaker so perhaps I mean "got friendly with." Anyway, she is really good and is especially great at tournaments, and also prefers to play them than cash. But if you read my article, you will see that when she moved to Vegas to make a living at poker, she had to play mostly cash, because good as she was was, she couldn't make a living just playing tournaments. And she had a much bigger edge at tournaments than at cash.

      I dunno where I heard the "25%" number. I think maybe someone said that in a comment on one of my blog posts.

  6. Some more on this topic

    1. Great research. Shows how difficult it is to score in successive tournaments. Of course, if you're running hot....

  7. The more important question: do the cocktail waitresses there take your diet soda before you have finished it?

    1. I'll take your smart ass question seriously.

      At the Bike, the cocktail waitresses don't serve the soft drinks. There used to be porters to do that, but due to minimum wage increases in the state, they fired all the porters a few years ago. Now you have to flag down a food server to get a soda or coffee.

      The porters being gone means pretty much NO ONE comes by and takes empty or near empty glasses away.

      The easiest thing for me to do was just get water from the water cooler myself during the tournament.