Thursday, 2 December 2010

Current state of upper-micro / low-small games on Stars

Something needs to change in 2011. Either Stars has to unkill the games or I have to get better. Hopefully both. Prepare yourself for a very long read. I suggest an x-large coffee.

Jesus Lester posted a very sobering comment about the current state of the games and I am tending to agree with him a lot on these points. I'll just quote him in entirety (names wrt graphs omitted, bold is my emphasis):

"At $0.5/1 20-50 tables, the games are almost unbeatable right now, I don't know if this is true at other limits but I'm guessing everyone's winrate has taken a hit. Very good shortstackers like xxxxxx or xxxxxx are still doing well by feasting on chumps like me, as are solid fullstackers like xxxx or xxxxxxx who adjust well to the games. However, their winrates have also taken a hit and if they aren't beating the game, nobody is.

It's not that the 20-50 games are a terrible idea, however; it's that the games are loaded with semi-competent regulars who can still be beaten by great players, but the edge for anyone who is actually going to put in time at 100nl is so small. Take a look at the graphs of myself, xxxxx, xxxxx, xxxxxxx, and others starting at about the middle of this year and while all of us are terrible, we're all losing a lot more than we used to, so much so that if the games continue to get tougher many of us are going to be forced into retirement. I don't know how much those guys in Mexico are willing to play for but I'm not gonna go crazy next year for $50 an hour, it's either get better at poker, which I am unlikely to be able to do, or go back into the workforce.

Now, looking at these graphs, or the graphs of any other serious volume player at 100nl, will surely bring a huge smile to many in this thread, but remember you reap what you sow. It's not only shorstackers that are suffering, but the weak, nitty fullstacked regs who the solid players used to crush. These guys are playing 20-50 because, though most of them are losing there, having to play in the deepstacked games against solid regulars is even worse. Guys like xxxxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, or xxxxxx have all seen their winrates drop precipitously.

I know MT2R gets absolutely no respect on here, but his concerns about the games being broken up and the shortstackers unintentionally protecting the fish are on point; this is demosntrated by the dwindling winrates of the weak regulars post-changes. Many of these regulars were sick of playing against shortstacks but they, like many of you, cannot see the forest through the trees.

Now, there may be other explanations for dwindling winrates or a bunch of previous winners becoming losers-- for example, capping the buy-in at 50bb is obviously going to hurt the winrates of the fullstacked regs-- but primarily it is about the new environment the games were in, and the failure of the whiners and complainers to recognize that they had it a lot better than they thought they did. The current system is going to lose players one-by-one as the effect of the rake upon a game that has gotten significantly more difficult is huge.

Unfortunately for me there is no going back to the times where a pretty awful poker player can make money in games. I guess the best fullstacked regs are really getting over on this sytem, but even they should be suffering as the number of games they can play dwindles while all the breakeven-to-losing regs try to hold onto their glory as it slips away from them in the 20-50 games.

I know it might be classless to list weak players by name in this post, I want to make clear that almost all of these guys play better than I do and while it is obviously an insult to list them in this manner, I did so only so those of you who don't know what has happened to the games can take a look at PTR graphs and see the horror that has been foisted upon a significant portion of the population by a vociferous population of the best players (along with weak fullstacks who foolishly thought the changes would benefit them) and foolish Stars executives."

So I did some research of my own to figure out if it was true that other people were experiencing the same thing as me. There were a lot of players who's games are far better than mine that are still crushing everything they play and are still able to move up. But there are also a lot of players who's games are better than mine that seem to have severely stagnated like myself. I'm providing a sample of what I've found, my graph is included here as well. Names are obviously not needed. I'm just trying to establish a trend. The red line indicates approximately early June:

To add to what Jesus Lester said while thinking back to pre-changes, I can kind of see where everything went wrong now. Thank you captain hindsight. Fullstacks were complaining about playing against shortstacks. I was one of them. We were begging for a change -- although I don't think any of us wanted or anticipated the 20-50 games but rather hoped for 20-35 and 40-100 games. I do recall a lot of comments about overlap in game structures being a bad idea immediately after it was implemented.

That said, we used to have 20-100 and 50bb min games and I think a very important point that hasn't really been discussed is exactly how the segregation and migration was put in place but here's a snapshot:

20-100 --> Shortstacks + Fullstack Regs + Fish in nearly equal amounts
50bb min --> Fullstack Regs + Fish, my estimate being a 3.5:1 ratio.

20-50 --> Shortstacks + Halfstack Regs + Fish, 4:2:3
40-100 --> Fullstack Regs + Fish, 7:2

The fact that a ton of fish are playing 20-50 is only half the problem. And fwiw it's only in terms of the ratio of fish per table compared to regs. Less regs playing 20-50 obviously results in "more" fish and I think the argument about fish preferring shallow games is kind of silly. Take for example a pool of 5 players, 2 fish and 3 regs. 3 regs play 5 tables each while 2 fish play 2 tables each resulting in 15 reg seats and 4 fish seats. Reduce it to 2 regs and 2 fish. Now it's 10 reg seats and 4 fish seats. No more fish than before but it looks like there's more of them.

But back to segregation and migration... Pre-changes, regs were evenly spread out between games. Post-changes, regs have migrated to 40-100 in swarms. So what's happened is that you now have a choice between reg-infested 100bb poker with a smaller skill edge if any at all, or tolerable shallow games with a smaller inherent edge than what you were used to pre-changes due to stack size. Thus, Stars relatively killed their games by restructuring the ratios of player types per table along with buyin amounts.

I'm not sure how I would go about fixing this at this point. There will always be fish depositing and there will always be geniuses waiting to take their money. But I think the vast majority of a site's profit comes from the average non-genius regs (short and fullstacks) like myself who fill the tens of thousands of seats in between trying to get their small piece while sifting money through the rake machine. If you eliminate their edge and their piece and force them out of the game, you destroy your profits as money moves fast between fish and geniuses. We are the middle men grasping to hold on to nuggets here and there while they get chipped away by better players and the site.

I'm coming to accept that from a business standpoint, shortstacks generate a lot of rake and they will probably never get rid of them. That said, somebody in management really needs to come up with something to make everyone happier than they are now by adding more skill edge back into the game. I don't know if that means scrapping current structures and going back to 20-100 to right the ratios, or reducing rake a point or two, but in my opinion the current system is very clearly not sustainable when I, as a 200k VPP Supernova have to seriously consider site selection because tables are that bad and/or I'm just not that good and competition is only getting tougher, nevermind the guys that run closer to breakeven winrates or put in less volume.

I already used my one time applying for Online Pro so hopefully the player panel will step in and use their's to turn this thing around. I don't know first hand about what the games are like higher or lower, hence the title, but hearsay says the higher games are even worse off. 30 days and counting.


  1. Interesting...missed this thread on 2p2. I have migrated to the 50NL 50BB max tables. I agree a better answer is prob 20-35 and 40-100 but not sure how realistic that is ST.

    I do think if our (US) gov't ever removes head from ass there will be a hug influx (2nd boom??) of fish that will mask a lot of these problems at least short term.

  2. Very thoughtful ideas! I can not imagine stars will change a lot for next year but maybe that is just a wrong read I have atm.

    IMO the dropping WR are not only a result of the BI changes but are a general sign of the curent state of NLHE FR.