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.