Sunday, September 10, 2006

Guaranteed Tourneys --- Hidden Value on the Smaller Sites

Can you say "overlay?" Welcome to Sunday Truism School, and here's the morning lesson:

Small, new sites, in the pursuit of name recognition and market share, are consistent in one thing --- they offer great values to those adventurous enough to risk a few bucks with a not-qute-sure thing.

Most often, the customer has to put up with a lack of traffic, too, but that's often what makes the guarantee tourneys the preferable deal. After, that's one of the hidden banes of online bonuses, no matter what the site: it quite often turns out that the conditions, games and traffic flow necessary to complete the bonus requirements just don't exact in any real form. A 300% bonus to $10,000? Sure --- and we'll credit you one point for every hand played and raked at $2/4 and above, and release a dollar every 100 points, and you'll even find enough players to fill a single table from 6-8pm on Tuesday eves.

Oh, and the offer expires after 30 days.

It's because of this that I tend to look less and less at the dollar values of the site offers, and more and more at the traffic and the tournament guarantees. But there's a catch: the best values aren't on the smallest sites, but rather, the small independent ones. It's the key distinction.

I've spent some time on three sites that fit into this category lately, Mansion Poker, Tony G Poker and All are independent sites, not part of a larger family like the Tribeca or Microgamimg networks. Interestingly, Mansion Poker and Tony G Poker are sites that you'd swear were skins of some larger corporation; they've obviously gotten their software from the same source. But they aren't skins on a larger network, at least as far as I can determine --- each is a new, independent entity.

Now, I've mentioned previously that they are some great, great tournament values on Mansion, and I'll point out another example today from Tony G. Here's a screengrab I took from a tournament I played this morning:

It tells you not too much without explanation, but note that strangely flat prize structure. Weird? Well, it was a $500 Guarantee "speed" tourney with a $20+2 entry. And it gathered 20 entrants, for a pool of $400 paid, which meant that the $500 paid out was a 25% overlay.

And it paid seven places, of 20 entries, meaning a better than 1-in-3 chance of cashing.

This is normal on these new, independent sites. It is, in the technical parlance, +EV. And this is where you can build bankroll, even if you are, as I am, a poker player of modest means and skills. (I'd also like to point out that the "speed" tag is a misnomer; the software setup used by Mansion and Tony G includes the slowest-increasing tournament structure I've yet encountered on an online site. This means that "speed" tourneys here play like regular ones elsewhere, and regular ones here are a real test of poker patience.)

Is there a hidden downside? I'm not sure --- though I do wonder on occasion about server connectivity and network stability. I'm in the midst of the worst weekend of bad-timed disconnections of my poker life, and I'm about to throw my computer through the wall. And yes, the problem is as much on my end, or moreso, as it is with the servers that drive these networks. I say this despite this weekend's network adventures having cost me not one, but three chances at big paydays --- there's nothing worse than waiting to come over the top with an all-in, over-the-top reraise (when you know you'll get two callers), holding aces in the pocket and having aces full made with the board, and everything freezes. In a $10,000 freeroll with only a few hundred players, with lots of donkeys at hand, two of whom then crack your pocket kings, on consecutive hands, when your connection does come back. This happened to me today on And yes, I'm on tilt --- I won't play any more poker today.

But I wander, in the midst of my steam bath. The point is that these tournaments, on these small independent sites, offer exceptional values, far more than you're likely to find on the 138th Tribeca skin, whatever that might happen to be.

Pay less attention to the dollars of the bonus offers, and more attention to the opoortunities that the traffic (or lack thereof) creates. Great values await.

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