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Old 12-24-2019, 11:13 PM   #401
YugiohPro
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

2019 Wrap Up Part 4: Online Poker in 2019 (except Stars.com) Continued


So the first part of this post contained all of the sites that I think are pretty strong and have a good future outlook. This post will feature the rest of the sites all of which I think are suffering from some combination of problems.

I might have mentioned this earlier but I remember about a year into my job an opening for head of poker at Microgaming opened up and some colleagues and I were discussing it. I still feel very loyal to the people who offered me the job at Stars so I didn't approach it but I have often considered the challenges facing the smaller operators and what a difficult job it would be.

Many issues that come up in the industry are "chicken or the egg" in the sense that you can't tell if the symptom is the cause. ex: did Stars become the dominant industry #1 because of tournaments like the Sunday Million? Or is the Sunday Million the Sunday Million because of the Stars liquidity? For smaller operators it's not even a chicken or the egg problem. You need the egg (raw $ investment) to prop up the chicken (tournament market share).

So I want to preface this somewhat critical post by saying it must be hard as hell to claw out market share as a smaller operator especially without a parent company providing you $ to expand. I've often thought about what you need to do to even be in the picture and we'll talk about that a bit more when I get to IPoker/Microgaming. Let's start with a few companies that aren't small operators but have lost the plot a bit.

5. 888 Poker

888 has suffered the most from Party's rise and has made a number of questionable decisions over the years including a few mini-scandals in the tournament community. 888 is unusual compared to other operators because it's basically an Israeli company and all of its open positions (as of this writing) appear to be based in Israel. So I think in general you're going to have a different way of doing things based on this.

I don't think it's quite over for 888 poker yet but their poker business is in steep decline dropping 37 percent year on year (according to PokerNews) from 2017 to 2018 and almost certainly dropping as well from 2018 to 2019 based on their early period reports for the year. As an overall fan of 888 and a frequent player on their site I'm quite concerned by the direction they're taking to recover business

My perception as a player is there have been a few wins for 888 this year to build on. I think the Big Fish $33's have been quite successful and robust. The $1K 200k Dragon is missing the target but I think it's an ambitious step forward for the company and more of what they need to do to get back in the picture. The flagship $215 100k Mega Deep is a reasonable success and also keeps them in the picture. And then 888 continues to offer a mix of offpeak tournaments both earlier and later than the standard EU times that probably generate some revenue and keep them active when the .FRESPT markets and UK-facing operators basically shut down for the night.

However there's a lot more that's not working. Daily tournaments have basically hit a floor and the flagship birds of the day are an $88 8K PKO/$109 10K/$55 10K all with unlimited re-entry. Basically very unattractive value propositions. They've also removed the $215 and $109 PKO's they were running. And the most popular tournament on their schedule is the $33 Big Fish which I'm pretty sure is one of the more recent additions to the schedule.

It seems like they are spending most of their promotion/budget capital on rake initiatives. First with Rake or Break (which seems dead) and now through a $215 Octopus and $320 Whale that are advertised as Low Rake (which looks to be 50% of the normal rake). In general this is a terrible idea for a number of reasons and I'm very worried for a company that thinks that these kinds of initiatives will be the difference maker.

1. Poker companies need to make revenue. Customers understand this. I would never want an operator I'm rooting for to offer tournaments or pricing at a loss. It's not sustainable and they're going to go out of business.

2. High stakes tournaments make the most revenue (on a tournament by tournament basis) for the operator so not being able to generate rake or halving the rake you're making from these tournaments is not a good business decision

3. All of this would be fine if pricing is what drove players to tournaments but it seems pretty clear through history that pricing does not motivate players very much. The industry leader is offering by far the lowest rake incentives with numerous price increases. If anything you could just attach yourself to Stars's analysis instead of embarking on your own initiatives.

4. I personally think players are driven to register tournaments based on a combination of the following: guarantee/first prize/toughness of the field/CRM and promotions. Pricing has become standardized across the industry so I actually think pricing is one of the last things players consider and I'd almost argue that pricing doesn't factor into the calculus at all. If PokerStars suddenly made every $320 a $280+40 overnight I actually think maybe half of the high stakes field wouldn't even notice until it's pointed out to them.

So we have a company that thinks pricing is the key to unlocking success basically cutting its own revenues off with an axe. And then the initiatives fail (because nobody cares about pricing) and the company is in a worse spot than it was and has less revenues to boot. This is a vicious cycle and nobody wants to see this unless he/she is actively rooting against 888. And I choose not to actively root against any poker companies that aren't doing outright scandalous business practices.

So what do players want? Players want to play big tournaments. And players absolutely don't want to play unlimited re-entry tournaments against tough fields for withered prize pools. 888 has a number of wins this year (Big Fish/some series/US markets) that show they can still get back on the right track. Here's hoping. If this was a sports management sim like Football Manager or 2K I'd actually pick 888 as one of the "franchises" to try to steer. I still think they have all of the tools.

SHOULD YOU PLAY: Yes 6/10. 888 offers a few attractive tournaments that are worth your attention. I don’t mind the software either and the structures are a bit faster than other sites but that’s not always a bad thing. 2020 will be an interesting “make or break” year for them.

6. Winamax Poker

Winamax and Stars Europe (FRESPT) are quite interesting because they’re basically locked neck and neck. I think Winamax had a much bigger lead prior to shared liquidity and my assumption is the Stars.FRESPT team basically copied a lot of elements in Winamax’s schedule because they are quite closely aligned. I think this is a pretty smart strategy and I’m proud of them for doing this.

So now we’re in a spot where the schedules are basically mirrors of each other but there’s a few key differences that have positioned PokerStars Europe to perform better. And my perception is Stars Europe tournaments are doing better. Unfortunately the schedules are difficult to compare right now due to Winter Series coming up but:

- The two sites are basically pushing on a lot of popular tournaments such as the 50e 6-max progressive (although the PRIMETIME performs better)/the daily 250 High Roller/the 100e PKO Xtrem vs Eliminator. This is probably because Stars copied these elements and set up direct competitors I think.
- However Stars has a number of attractive daily tournaments that Winamax is unable to replicate including the 30e Hook/30e Turbo Progressive KO/50e Hot BigStack Turbo/20e Midnight Express.
- Their approach during series is also different. I’m currently seeing an upcoming Winter Series that is much sexier than anything Winamax does. Winamax seems to have lately made their series just a bunch of spamming flights to big tournaments which is fine. This might be a matter of personal taste but I much prefer the Winter Series model.

I have three main problems with Winamax:

1. They’re just running way too many 6-max tournaments. I think at some point you should realize that you’re a shared license site now and you’re competing against the rest of the world combined. The industry will eventually have to move away from the “one site provides all tournaments” model. We’ll talk about this more in the Stars section.

But we see that PokerStars is suffering heavily from this new poker world. Tournaments that used to perform well are just continually receding in guarantees. This is because they are now competing against the best daily flagships from a number of strong networks. And the average player is playing 1 table at a time. 2 if you’re lucky. For me personally Winamax is the site I have to cut out the most because there’s just way too much 6-max.

2. Winamax has a poorly optimized offering as the peak EU schedule winds down. The Shooter is garbage. Rush Hour is pretty great but everything after that is garbage as well. In general I think all of the sites are losing out on a ton of revenue at the end of schedules due to a lack of compelling hypers and a lack of understanding of how players want to wind their schedules down. But I do think Stars Europe is doing one of the best jobs at it by closing with the Hot BigStack Turbo and then the Midnight Express. That’s a very potent double whammy.

3. This is a side issue but in my research for this piece I’ve noticed Winamax Employees might be caught in another scandal over an Algerian Soccer match-fixing scandal. For me Winamax is tainted with how they handled their Spin&Go bot scandal and I don’t trust them to police their games properly.

Having said all this I still think Winamax is a strong network. They just need to make a few tweaks to the changing demands of their global customers.

SHOULD YOU PLAY: Yes 8/10. This is a 10/10 for French customers or players in other markets that don’t have every option. However I think Winamax still offers a number of great tournaments especially during their series promotions. You can avoid most of the bots and stuff by sticking to the super juicy 50e and lower type games and some of those have massive series guarantees.

This is getting way too long so I’ll save IPoker/Microgaming for another part.
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Old 12-25-2019, 02:26 AM   #402
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Crazy amount of useful information and a fun read. Great job!
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Old 12-25-2019, 05:20 AM   #403
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

yugioh, why do a lot of professionals avoid playing 6-max tournaments? Is it because you can't play as many tables as you could with 9 Max games? But in 6-max you play more hands and with wider ranges so it should lead to higher ROI or am I missunderstanding something?
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Old 12-25-2019, 06:23 AM   #404
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Amazing update(s) sir, thanks fir sharing and I wish bright NY for you and your family
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yugioh, why do a lot of professionals avoid playing 6-max tournaments? Is it because you can't play as many tables as you could with 9 Max games? But in 6-max you play more hands and with wider ranges so it should lead to higher ROI or am I missunderstanding something?
I think yes. Also think that no 6max thinking is bit inconsistent w OPs hating on nits fwiw. I personally hate nits but enjoy 6max and am hoping even stars goes at 8max. 8max is just inf better than 9max
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Old 12-25-2019, 11:58 AM   #405
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

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Originally Posted by 9tablingnit View Post
Crazy amount of useful information and a fun read. Great job!
Thanks GL with the rest of the challenge!

Quote:
Originally Posted by iAudrius View Post
yugioh, why do a lot of professionals avoid playing 6-max tournaments? Is it because you can't play as many tables as you could with 9 Max games? But in 6-max you play more hands and with wider ranges so it should lead to higher ROI or am I missunderstanding something?
Hey Audrius thanks for your posts in this thread. Yes you're definitely right. 6-max is a format where you can't really hide so you keep repeatedly getting in the same spots. And I think better players will have higher ROI's in 6-max games and I personally prefer 6-max.

Unfortunately recs don't seem to like 6-max and in my time at Stars I'd say 6-max might slightly suppress guarantees or be neutral at best. But if your entire schedule is like 90% 6-max that's just obnoxious/unreasonable and it's not going to work when people are trying to 6-15 table. It makes sense if you're the only site in France or something and everyone prefers 6-max but it's not like that any more.

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Originally Posted by nomalice View Post
Amazing update(s) sir, thanks fir sharing and I wish bright NY for you and your familyI think yes. Also think that no 6max thinking is bit inconsistent w OPs hating on nits fwiw. I personally hate nits but enjoy 6max and am hoping even stars goes at 8max. 8max is just inf better than 9max
Hey nomalice it's been very fun reading your old blogs and battling with you this year. You're absolutely crushing it and it's been fun/inspiring seeing your progression but not so fun having to play against you. Best of luck in 2020
************************************************** *

Reflections on the Eve of Battle

Winter Series is starting today. Because it's kicking off my new year with new plans it's going to be one of the most important series of the year for your boy. Possibly bigger than SCOOP and WCOOP even. I've done the best I can in terms of preparation and one thing I've taken away from the advice of others is that series grinds should be about grinding and recuperating; not about last minute study to fill in the gaps.

I was very heartened by the Sunday grind. I was running quite poorly and bricking but at the end of the day I mananged to find a few 3rd/4th places and while the deepest/biggest runs didn't pan out I managed to break mostly even. Lately I'm starting to feel like the edges I've built can insulate me against the variance. But still.

I feel like one of those Disney heroines standing in front of their reflection wanting to sing about what fate has in store for me. Since October I have piled up an elite winrate with dareisay elite distributions. 2x 1st place compared to 2nd place and an avg finish in the low 3's that might be my career best.

I'm getting a bit tired of just piling up the EV and taking the moral victories. There's been so many close calls including: 4th BBHR/11th Sunday 109 BB/22nd BBS 215/7th 30/30 Sunday Warmup and more. I feel quite strongly I''m on the precipice of something major and I've been using visualization techniques. One of the reasons I sing a wistful lament for the missed WCOOP scores is if I get bankroll padding like that I'm just never looking back.

Best of luck to all grinders let's get it.
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Old 12-25-2019, 07:05 PM   #406
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

i appreciate your love for frespt but jesus christ these 750bb starting stack tournaments are so ridic

edit : OP just joined the table lol
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Old 12-25-2019, 07:58 PM   #407
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

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i appreciate your love for frespt but jesus christ these 750bb starting stack tournaments are so ridic

edit : OP just joined the table lol
In a sick case of "don't get to know the regulars too well" the homie nomalice just took my sweet cheeks out with 13 left in the $530 BBHR after winning 17 flips in a row. Enjoyed his post in my thread and posted in his and it couldn't have happened to a better guy and I'm sure we'll trade chips back and forth this year.

Hope you take it down for real

Also shoutout to Triple J James Jarrett
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:08 PM   #408
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Winter Series Day 1 Update

Had an absolutely outlandish day today. At one point I had stacks in the $530 BBHR/$109 BB/$215 Battle Royale/FT of B215/F27 of the Winamax 100K and more. I managed to close the $109 BB for 17k+ adding a healthy dose of bankroll padding and getting the "big score" monkey off my back. Also managed an 8th in the B109 and a 6th in the B215 along with 13th in the BBHR (lost a big flip for 100+ BB to nomalice). Still ended with a healthy bounty total and a decent score of 3k+.

Game selection was pretty poor today. Ended up 3-bulleting the $530 300k which I think was a good spot. And I actually misclick registered the $1K 6-Max PKO Turbo because of muscle memory. Normally the higher buy-in tournaments are above the lower buy-ins but in this case the higher buy-in tournaments are actually below for Winter Series. So I tilt registered the $530 Daily 500 when it was a weak lobby as well which is just an awful tournament. Ended up busting the $1K Turbo with TT losing to A6o in a massive 50+bb pot that would have put me in a decent position to make a run.

At one point I was absolutely buried and just regretting my life. But at the end of the day I ended up breaking even nearly without counting the $109 BB score and was in prime position in the BBHR/Battle Royale/and more. One thing I've noticed that I need to keep in mind going forward is a lot of elite players show up late to tournaments like the Daily 500 and the Supersonic. I see weak lobbies and recs so I register quickly to try to get matched up against them. And then the sickos start flooding in a few minutes later and the table breaks and I'm in a terrible game.

I ran super hot today and I'll take it. Feel like I'm playing at a super sharp level right now but this job is nasty because you need the scores and $ to validate your approach to a certain extent. I do feel super validated today and I have a lot of momentum going into the rest of the series.
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Old 12-25-2019, 10:38 PM   #409
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

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Originally Posted by YugiohPro View Post
In a sick case of "don't get to know the regulars too well" the homie nomalice just took my sweet cheeks out with 13 left in the $530 BBHR after winning 17 flips in a row. Enjoyed his post in my thread and posted in his and it couldn't have happened to a better guy and I'm sure we'll trade chips back and forth this year.

Hope you take it down for real

Also shoutout to Triple J James Jarrett
4th, meh. team can't close bb530 whatever happens here, had 4 fts this month. not that I'm complaining time to do some reviewing and come back tmrw for moarrrrrr. wish u gl sir
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Old 12-26-2019, 08:26 PM   #410
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

The damage has spread on my keyboard and now my "n" key is broken along with my comma/period/numpad. So unfortunately I will be unable to continue blogging until I find a replacement. It is not fun/pleasant to have to hit ctrl+v to paste an n everytime I use one. Quite a common letter this one is too I sure have noticed fml
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Old 12-26-2019, 09:07 PM   #411
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Congrats sir. Think I'm going to try and do some real tournament learning this year and branch out from PLO, haven't played against you since the mean streets of ygo online.
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Old 12-28-2019, 01:15 AM   #412
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

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Originally Posted by YugiohPro View Post
The damage has spread on my keyboard and now my "n" key is broken along with my comma/period/numpad. So unfortunately I will be unable to continue blogging until I find a replacement. It is not fun/pleasant to have to hit ctrl+v to paste an n everytime I use one. Quite a common letter this one is too I sure have noticed fml
lmaooooooooo ole 25 letters of the alphabet, ash equilibrium ass : laugh:

Last edited by kleath; 12-28-2019 at 01:16 AM. Reason: ,#
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Old 12-30-2019, 05:19 PM   #413
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Winter Series Week 1 Update



First week is in the books and it's been a good one. I'm a bit of a "front runner" mentally so it was really good to get off to a great start. The Winter Series heat starts where I won the $109 BB for 17k along with 13th in the BBHR. The next day I finished 2nd in the $215 BB for 6k+ along with multiple wins and another second for a nearly +10k day. At this point I was at around +22k over 2 days and figured fk it let's go for 100k in Winter Series.

The third day was not so smooth. I was stuck about 4-5k. Managed to win the Hot 109 to breka even or so. Was talking to my homie kleath and told him I almost don't want to bink my way out of this one because then I'll think I'm untouchable again. Throughout this I was making a lot of questionable fires in the name of "riding the wave" and pushing the limits.

Fourth day was not very good. Dropped 5-6k. The start of Sunday was not so great either. Was stuck quite a bit but had a few runs in the tuck. Finished 15th in the Sunday BBHR for $4307 where first got $94k which would have left me at about ~$15k after an honest week's of work.

But all this time I was running deep in a ~4500 player field 50e Warm-Up on Stars.ES. And when I busted the Sunday BBHR I was a bit sad and didn't even really think about the ES tournament. But then I managed to close it out for 27k Euro and now I'm back on track baby.

Don't leave when you're hot that's how Mase screwed up. I try to live by this and keep it burning while it's hot. Unfortunately but also fortunately I do have to visit my grandmother out in the farmlands of Korea and spend some quality time with my wife baby and dad. I was grinding way too ferociously all week so the break will be pretty good and I'll be back on it on Friday or so.

What I've Learned

Despite a respectable ev bb/100 at both deep and sub 40 stacks and some solid finishes in the BBHR's for 15th and 13th, I'm still stuck ~8k at 500+ in this time span and all of my winnings have come from midstakes. At the end of the day it's just all about midstakes that is my home and happy place. Expenses add up; I've multi-bulleted many of the $530 Winter Series events because I think they're good spots to take shots.

The plan is still to fire everything during this series, especially since it's going well, and then move back to the responsible grind in between series times. Overall game selection has been pretty marginal/bad. I ended up cutting out the thinner $500's especially on the non-Stars sites like WPN. If the field is composed of elite regulars and possible bots and everyone is still firing anyways and you're just surrounded by everyone at $400+ ABI.. what does that mean?

I've also been making some super marginal fires in that $530 Supersonic. I have very good hyper results this year and I had a theory that a lot of players might not be playing the end game FGS and hyper ranges that well. But I haven't had a chance to test it because I have one 12th bubble and then no other deep runs. Meanwhile I've been getting consistent tables with elite HS regulars which I don't like. I think the Sonic is something like a neutral EV gamble you can flick in if you're rich or running well. I like my hyper game but that one is probably not the best fire esp. when I'm not doing well.

Other than the misclick registration in the $1k earlier I think the series shots I've taken have been quite solid and I'm happy with my decisions. I was also fortunate and drew some great tables for most of the 1k's. The high stuff is pretty interesting because most of the whales/bad players that show up aren't the "fold and pray" kind. They're more volatile player types and some of them are super lag/splashy.

Last edited by YugiohPro; 12-30-2019 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 12-30-2019, 10:33 PM   #414
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Love the insight and posts man, your view of the online poker industry is refreshing to hear. HUDDGE props on the 109 BB & the 55 ship!
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Old 12-31-2019, 03:41 PM   #415
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Congrats on the successful first week of the series. I wish you a great new year and continued success in 2020.
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Old 01-02-2020, 12:04 AM   #416
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

2019 Wrap Up Part 5: PokerStars.Com in 2019 and Performance Reviews

I don't know why but yesterday after returning from my grandmother's I had a lot of PokerStars related stuff in mind for this piece before I fell asleep. This section will discuss PokerStars.com and then I will write a final section about IPoker and Microgaming.

Overall I think it’s been a mixed year for PokerStars but a great year for operations.

GOOD
- Despite a marked increased in series run, execution has been very on point

BAD
- The main schedule has gone years without a full update despite a major change in landscape and it’s clear visually that many tournaments are left behind
- Poker revenue is falling every quarter. This can be due to closing markets and factors out of their control

UNKNOWN
- How are the market share numbers compared to last year? I no longer have the data so I don’t know!

In the spirit of the new year and resolutions I’m actually going to give a “performance review” to my old team. This is limited to my own personal experiences at the company. After I discuss this I will go into how the year shaped out in the context of this performance review.

My goal for this is simple. I still love and respect everyone on my team. I just want a better place for online poker. I know many people at PokerStars read this and I’m even hoping the highest people will take a look and have my perspective to reflect on.

The Proud Tradition of Poker Innovation and Operations (PIO)

I think it’s fair to say that PIO was in a period of flux/transition when me and my partner James joined the company. That’s probably why we were hired! I’d probably split the era of PokerStars into B.A. and A.A. (Before and after Amaya). I wasn’t around pre-Amaya but I think back in the day Isai was the seat of power and it worked more like a feudal kingdom where you had to huddle around and hope to get some influence.

Nowadays it’s more modern but PIO has a culture of working hard. I look at the people on my team as sheriffs of old western towns. You had to do a little bit of everything including rescuing kittens from trees, being polite to the townsfolk, shooting criminals, lassoing horses, milking maids, etc.

Or you can look at it as we are members of the Sparta 300. Anyways, the point is everyone in PIO is a pretty seasoned operative with a lot of job-specific knowledge and has a lot on his or her plate. I found the department to have a proud culture of working beyond the call of duty and there are numerous examples of this. Unfortunately, I think this culture, while noble and great for management, has caused problems for the team in general.

It wasn't always like this actually. The cadence of series releases started rapidly speeding up once James and I joined. We thought up a few automation tools (ultimately finished by him) that rapidly sped up the ability to deliver series on time. Before I left I generated two templates for MicroMillions and Bounty Builder Series that form a good foundation for future versions. He did the same for High Rollers. And then SCOOP/WCOOP have been refined to the point where they're drawing from previous years data quite often.

Unfortunately when you start delivering more and more series faster, that then becomes the new expected baseline. And management does not understand that you're already straining at max output to make these things happen. They think they can just continually place the burden upon the team because that's how it's always worked. I think it's very unfair to elite workers that they're essentially punished for their output. It would be the equivalent of an NFL RB running for 2000 yard so next year you remove his backup and tie all of his incentive bonuses to running for 2000+.

My Role (Ground Level):

Operationally I was responsible for a wide variety of tasks including: deploying tournaments, scripting tournaments, planning series, handling affiliate requests for tournaments, managing overlays and guarantees, running satellites for big series, etc.

I joined the team with another respected member of 2+2. I’ll call him James since that’s his name :P. James and I joined very close to each other and we knew of each other on 2+2 so we hit it off pretty quickly. Our relationship had some ups and downs in the early-middle portion; I wasn’t always super pleased with certain aspects of his “relationship building” and “work process” and didn’t always handle it with him in a nice way. Credit to him though he has a lot of perseverance and an ability to just kind of deflect the BS. Over time we grew into great friends and then lov.. wait that’s my wife. No we just became really good friends and are still in touch to this day.

James and I had a lot of learning to do at the start and we were trained by Luke and Luke’s colleague who is an OG of Stars that we will call the Grand Wizard. And then we had Baard (who you may know as PokerStars Baard) who managed SnGs along with other members of the team. I’m not listing everyone out but just giving a general picture.

One thing I noticed about pretty much everyone in the department is they are working overtime. The Grand Wizard would always be in the office around 8 AM (we work 9-5). James would pretty much always stay late past 6. I worked pretty quickly and efficiently and stayed late if it was necessary but I definitely noticed I wasn’t bringing it quite like James, Luke, and company in terms of raw man hours put in.

One of the key questions at PokerStars hinges on how important people like me, James, and Luke are to the overall scope of poker operations. Poker is an interesting industry because in my view it looks like the operations people who truly “get it,” as in played poker themselves/were fans/contributed to communities like 2+2 and others/understand intricacies of online poker are shrinking by the day due to the poker boom receding in the distance.

I consider most of the people in PIO at the time of my leaving to be similar to me. We are “cut from the same cloth” in the sense that most of us have been lifelong poker fans, understand online poker and PokerStars quite well, and have mastered most elements of our job. I might be guilty of overvaluing my own worth and my team’s worth but I think PokerStars (and by extension online poker) suffers quite a bit every time you lose an operative like one of us. When I departed I knew the team was still in good hands because of Luke and James and others.

But I told both of my managers at my exit interview that I think PIO is benefiting by the overtime output of exceptional workers like Luke and James. I’ve done a lot of interactions with every department and while other departments have superstars, I would not be surprised at all if Luke/James/GW were 3 of the highest output “pound for pound” players in the entire company and I don’t think it’s close. It’s even possible they’re actually the 3 best, especially when you consider Poker was the largest chunk of $ for The Stars Group for the majority of its existence. What happens when they're gone? Or worse, if you overwork them to the point where they burn out?

I think the managers have been conditioned through books and training and corporate speak to believe all workers are fungible. And this might be true, I don’t know. Like I said, I could be biased and overrating how valuable certain people are to the company. But I don’t think these people are fungible. I didn’t think I was very fungible either. I think I brought a lot to the team that was kind of ignored or neglected; part of it is my fault for just not knocking on more doors and speaking up more.

Even right now I can think of a number of ideas that would improve tournament revenue across the board. The other question is whether the top guys even want tournament revenue to be high necessarily. Other forms of poker (Zoom/Spins) make more.

Takeaways from the Ground Level

Members of the team gain a lot of very specific knowledge that makes them very specialized and tough to replace quickly
There is a difference between operatives that have breathed online poker for years and those who have not. Often this difference can mean a lot of $ in the details.

Members of the team are working beyond their call of duty due to the hard-working and elite Sparta culture of PIO.
Now each member of the team is an intelligent specimen and obviously makes a cost-benefits analysis of the job hours for themselves. The job is objectively great in terms of perks/hours/support/etc. But I think they collectively suffer because this leads to continued oversight by the management team. The fact that X workers are all working at 125% capacity of an average worker, or even 160% the output of a slacker, shouldn’t prevent you from realizing that the team is understaffed.

Speaking for myself I did not have a say in overall strategy decisions so I characterize ground level members as elite workers who are unimpeachable for any failings by Stars.com.

Big Luke, The Dark Knight

So let’s talk about Luke a bit. I call him the Dark Knight because he does so much for the community despite eating nonstop **** from it all day err day. Luke AKA IWEARGOGGLES is a hazel-eyed beauty from America who found his way to the Isle of Man. He was my direct manager and we met every week to discuss my experiences on the job. Through talking with him I was able to piece that we think very similar about the job in a lot of respects, which makes sense considering we played a lot of the same games, and probably grew in the job similarly as well.

The differences are he was a better poker player than me, achieved more/knew cooler people/wore fresher clothes etc, and he was better at this job than me overall. Never forget this guy was part of the SHIP IT HOLLA CREW probably doing eskimo kisses with durr and raptor at some point.

James is more of a methodical worker but very consistent/focused and generally mistake-free. I work at a faster pace, my mind wanders to other interesting projects, and I’ll generally put out more mistakes. Luke is like an unholy fusion of the two of us. He works extremely quickly and accurately.

Luke’s main fields of interest are with the series stuff and I’ve found over the years that the big series have been pretty much flawlessly handled. Outside of being “in the weeds” with series planning though Luke was always available for a variety of tasks, like a true PIO operative.

The interesting things to me about Luke:
1) He monitors all player feedback through direct e-mail updates. I get the sense he “truly cares.”
2) Like I said he was very successful at poker even the year right before joining. He’s not doing this job for the money.
3) He has a very high opinion about the then head of PIO (now Poker MD), Severin.
4) Most of the people he worked with when joining are gone, except the Grand Wizard and Mike Jones.

Again, at this level of the PokerStars strategy tree I think Luke is unimpeachable. He performs exceptionally at his job, like in the top 0.1%, and when I complained to him about the lack of input we have in the strategy setting, he defers to Severin and just works on the parts that are under his control. And the things he owns unfold magisterially.

If I had to be critical I would say I think Luke’s own value system has left him a bit of a blind spot. What I mean by this is he’s not driven by money or influence or any of those pursuits. He shows up and you see his eyes light up when he talks about scripting tournaments played by thousands of players. He doesn’t consider working overtime or putting in too many hours to be a grind to him personally. I think originally James and I were hired because he was working 18 hour days or something absurd to finish out SCOOP + satellites.

The average person is not wired like this. I wasn’t. I was working for a salary. I wanted some influence and ownership over my decisions. And constantly grinding some of the more monotonous tasks like generating satellites got to me. The job is filled with some very cool aspects and then some very not cool aspects. And the very not cool aspects outnumber the cool aspects like a 95:5 ratio or something. I think this ratio is much better for Luke because he’s in charge of us and gets to plan the really cool stuff.

Takeaways from the Big L Level

- Luke managed me directly but was functionally similar to me in terms of what he worked on
- He’s one of the 2+2iest people in the world so he “gets it” from that perspective
- He is extremely sharp and cares a lot about his job and getting it right. He’s a bit stubborn as well but I chalked this up to just being very good at his job. I’ve always thought the smarter you are more the more set in your ways you’re allowed to be
- He contributes, by example, to a culture of exceptional output from PIO workers. His exceptionalism has masked the understaffed nature of the team to all of our detriment
- In my view people like Luke (exceptional worker + “gets poker”) are irreplaceable to any great poker site
- He doesn’t deserve the **** he gets and actually deserves praise for trying to mitigate some of the more out of line adjustments called by the top. He’s not calling the shots.

Okay I’m going to stop here. Again it’s getting a bit long and I want to make sure this was a fair/balanced portrayal before discussing where I think the flaws at PokerStars are coming from and the solutions to these problems.

I also want to make it very clear that I’m just discussing people in my vicinity of employment. The actual PIO team was much bigger than just me, James, and Luke so I don’t want to give the impression that it was just the 3 of us working or something.

Last edited by YugiohPro; 01-02-2020 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 01-02-2020, 01:33 AM   #417
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

I figured I should throw in a point of clarification too. When I say the team is overworked I don't mean it in a sense of "wah wah I don't like doing work." I mean that there is a burden placed upon all of us to work at 120% to finish tasks (such as a series rollout) that prevents us from being able to perform additional tasks. Often these additional tasks would lead to much more revenue than the cost of increasing headcounts.

The job is very interesting because you can sometimes make a mistake that easily outpaces your yearly salary and sometimes you can make a contribution that easily 10x +'s your yearly salary. Let me just give a few concrete examples of improvements if the team wasn't understaffed.

- The main schedule would be a lot better
- Live events would be a lot better
- There would be way less overlays
- There would be much more planning of new products and innovations

Right when Fortnite started taking off I noticed how similar the battle royale format is to an actual poker tournament. I thought working on a Battle Royale format for poker with accompanying graphics and stuff had incredible potential. Unfortunately we got too busy and nothing ever came of it.

Or even less pipe-dream examplee like the Sunday Million Anniversary fiasco or the PCA Ultra Satellites that both ate six figures +. The Sunday Million Anniversary overlayed by 1.2 million which would pay for a lot of new hires. That happened because the shot callers decided hey let's put the Million and the Storm on the same day. And no specialists were really in the room to reflect on it and say hey maybe that's not a good idea. And then once the plan was finalized we were just busy or grew complacent.

I know this because I was put on Sunday Million Take 2 that same year and we smashed it easily. And I put in a number of structure changes that led to a higher re-entry rate than the first edition. And I monitored the satellite offering every day with extreme tender love and care and provided daily progress reports. In general there's so much room to make improvements to the offering and that's why the job is so attractive and enticing. There's so much unexplored space to improve revenue and make things better for players as well.

Real world example: A number of the Stars.FRESPT tournaments start with very wonky structures. Like 25/50 with 20k chips or something with no ante. This is very bad because nobody busts in the early levels so there's no re-entries. And then late registration closes with 20+bb still remaining.

If you optimized this structure you could improve the overall guarantee (and revenue) of that tournament by 10%+ easily. You could do this 500 times throughout the entire schedule.

So when I look at the Stars.COM team innovating with $33 on demands, which seem to be flourishing and should have been implemented years ago.. or experimenting with Bounty Builder UFC Series formats where you start with 62.5 BB or something and re-entries to fuel the prizes. It's brilliant. More of that!
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Old 01-02-2020, 06:04 AM   #418
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Really interesting writeup overall.
If you would still working for Stars what do you think about the decision to let out of market people enter the closed FR-ESP-PT-market. I know you would now argue against your best interest but do you think this was a wise, foolish or necessary decision?
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Old 01-02-2020, 08:28 AM   #419
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

What do you think is the propability to see usa in the common pool the next five years?
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:29 PM   #420
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Very interesting stuff here. Kudos for the effort and time u put Jae.
I Want to ask u whats your opinion for discontinuing battle of planets and the downfall of the sit and go (especially 180s) and also why tournaments like phase are not it the schedule any more. Also your POV in raking rebuy tournaments and especially satellites(the latter lead to more shrunked gtds imo). Lastly im curious if there's a cup in how many tournaments stars is able to offer which i think will answer the previous quote.
GL in 2020 in all aspects
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Old 01-02-2020, 09:45 PM   #421
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habsfan09 View Post
Really interesting writeup overall.
If you would still working for Stars what do you think about the decision to let out of market people enter the closed FR-ESP-PT-market. I know you would now argue against your best interest but do you think this was a wise, foolish or necessary decision?
Hey Habsfan. This is out of my specialty. The .FRESPT team is actually based in Malta and we didn't interact much. But my personal lean is I think it was a necessary decision. I think merging all of the markets to create the best liquidity is key. For me liquidity is almost always king.

Quote:
Originally Posted by belthazorrrrr View Post
What do you think is the propability to see usa in the common pool the next five years?
I'd say close to zero mostly due to the mf'ing US government.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grammen1985 View Post
Very interesting stuff here. Kudos for the effort and time u put Jae.
I Want to ask u whats your opinion for discontinuing battle of planets and the downfall of the sit and go (especially 180s) and also why tournaments like phase are not it the schedule any more. Also your POV in raking rebuy tournaments and especially satellites(the latter lead to more shrunked gtds imo). Lastly im curious if there's a cup in how many tournaments stars is able to offer which i think will answer the previous quote.
GL in 2020 in all aspects
I think Stars was too generous to regulars for too long, and I'm speaking as someone who absolutely lived for the yearly MTT TLB. I can see why Battle of the Planets was discontinued. In general the leaderboard and grind it out type promotions will favor the regulars which I don't think is a great approach. I'd rather have the promotions favor the recs.

Rebuys- I think this was a pretty greedy and marginal decision. I doubt it impacted the revenue numbers very much so it was just not cool. And now rebuys are dead. Welp.

Satellites- I think satellites are a win-win for players and operators when done right. Because successful satellites are such a win for the operator, I think the pricing should be reduced on them even though players aren't really influenced by pricing. I think it's kind of gross that Stars and other companies are charging full price on satellites and that nasty hyper rake on the hyper satellites as well. At least other sites are throwing a lot of money into satellites.

Satellites could be a lot better on PokerStars, that's for sure. If it was up to me (and I've argued this many times) I would actually just remove like 95% of the satellites running in the lobby. I think they just lead to clutter. And then you can explore a lot of nifty ideas with that space.

There is no cap in the tournaments Stars can offer. Thanks for the great questions and great luck in 2020 and beyond.
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Old 01-02-2020, 10:57 PM   #422
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

I finished writing a long part about my experiences at Stars and where I think structural problems come from. But I did some reflecting and I think there's a more constructive way to frame this post so I'll work on that next.

Last edited by YugiohPro; 01-02-2020 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 01-03-2020, 04:31 AM   #423
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

Do you know why stars still have 9 handed boredom and not everything 8 handed or less? Do you think there is a chance they will change this? Why there is no 215$ bounty builder on peak hours? Why there are not more turbo bounty builders?
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Old 01-06-2020, 11:55 PM   #424
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

PokerStars in 2020

Quick Recap of the Structure of Stars

Opening Disclaimer: These are just my personal takes on the situation from my own experiences and observations. I'm also a year removed from it so it's even less clear at this point.

So in part one I established that the operations team is a group of elite workers but spread too thin. I think this is true at the very top as well. Séverin was the head of PIO and is now the Managing Director of Poker. He is respected and well-liked by the entire team top to bottom. I found him very intelligent and fair in all of his dealings with me.

However, from what I observed I think it's just too much to handle for one person, no matter how able the person is. When I was working he was basically in meetings every hour for the entire day receiving presentations and reports from all of the different teams that report to him. Because his time is so valuable, all of the teams have to spend their time distilling their presentations to very digestible and concise chunks of information.

Overall I think he's doing a sharp job of keeping it all together. Maybe even better than one man can be expected to do. But it's clear to me that a lot is lost in these types of exchanges. PokerStars would benefit a lot from having a few lieutenants that could bridge the gap. I think people like Luke and James are great candidates and it always surprised me that Luke wasn't getting hours of face time per week with Séverin. Currently there's just way too much context and nuance missing and I don't think the leaders have a clear idea of what our day to day looks like. And maybe that's understandable because there's so much on his plate. But if he can't do it there should be someone linked beneath him who can.

The person directly under him on our chain is a PokerStars lifer and someone I respect. As someone who scripted tournaments 15 hours in the pre-Amaya days, he has been in the trenches and walked the walk. Luke is the one that recruited and enticed me but this man (MJ) sealed the deal. I knew right off the bat we would get along great. MJ is a great manager of men and took interest in keeping our morale high and making us feel protected. I've seen and experienced stories of him giving personal gifts, making hospital visits, having heartfelt one-to-ones, and showing great qualities. However, I think in the name of job security (he must have seen dozens of colleagues and friends either leave the company or get fired) the scale has moved too far to that side. And the team has understaffed ever since the move to more regular series rollouts (which have at least 3xed but probayly more like 6xed in frequency by now from when I joined).

I also think there is too large of a gap of responsibility between Séverin and MJ. I think part of this is credit to MJ for just always staying relatable to us but the gap from me to Luke, then Luke to MJ seemed pretty reasonable. And then the gap from MJ to Séverin is just incredibly wide and all of us could feel it when it came to making decisions or mandates from above. I think this leads to a spot where MJ can't convey as much information and can't assume as much authority as he should for his position. The man has been at Stars for 10+ years!

In summary: the top line is too busy to be fully aware of what operations is doing but is calling all of the shots nonetheless. The operations manager wants to protect his team, which has lead to the team being understaffed, and doesn't really have the authority or autonomy (despite a wealth of relevant experience) to run the department. And then the team is just overworked and can never get to the difference making ideas it should work on. Oh and the team never meets with the top line outside of rare occasions despite being only a few rungs below on the structure.

And the results of all this: the SNE debacle (this came from the CEO at the time and Séverin was not behind this), Power Up, PokerStars Duel and Social bombing, Live Events, Morph variants including Unfold which was backed the most from the top line and imploded spectacularly, historic overlays ($1.2 million in the SM Anniversary, $574k in PCA Ultra), anti-player pay tables, dishonest pricing, nitty guarantees leading to shrinking prize pools, shutdown of customer support hub leading to terrible customer reviews and reports, and declining poker revenue across the board. Other than the introduction of chests and the slashing of rakeback, which is a corporate "win" but not sustainable, it's hard for me to see many wins under the current regime.

It might seem harsh to list out all these L's like this but I do want to stress that overall I think PIO has still done a pretty good job over the past 4 years or so. Despite many challenges facing poker (mainly market regulations), PokerStars has mostly maintained revenue numbers and even increased then sometimes. Which I think is actually pretty great given the circumstances. Kind of like Jose Mourinho getting 2nd with United.

Constructive Changes I’d like to See in 2020 or the Future

So let’s talk about how to improve PokerStars. Again, the reason I'm writing all of this is because PokerStars is tied to online poker for me and I love online poker. When PokerStars's revenue declines it will need to improve its revenue from somewhere and I'd prefer it come from natural/clean energy sources rather than dark Sith pools of energy. It’s an absolutely massive enterprise so there’s a lot of room to optimize here in my book.

1. Maybe your overlay threshold is bunk

It’s pretty clear to me that Stars’s overlay policy is set on some bullshit corporate cost scheme that could very well be “penny wise and pound foolish.” I wrote earlier about the duty that poker sites have to keep guarantees at their naturally sustainable level. When you artificially cut them down you end up with situations like the Sunday Kickoff death spiral where it went from 100k to 50k in the space of a year or so.

We’ve recently seen Stars expand the Sunday $530 BBHR to 500k. The $530 BBHR has historically always outperformed its 300-400k guarantee and pretty much never overlayed. I no longer have the data to run the models but I can guarantee you a tournament that can sustain $500k will run a lot better at that mark. Because running at $500k provides room for growth, as evidenced by the one on 12/30 hitting 647k. And it avoids death spirals. The only argument against is massive overlays which can be observed easily if the team isn't understaffed.

Tournament players are attracted to big prize pools like moths to a flame. When you’re running your guarantees based on corporate 101 cut and paste cost reduction policy, you should reevaluate if you’re suppressing your own revenue growth.

At the time of my departure we hadn’t even run a study (to my knowledge) on the relationship of guarantees to player participation. Yet how are we so confident that running the overlay budget at the extreme end of the curve is the right approach? Party's budget must be at least 5x Stars (or more) despite a massive gap in market share. History shows that every time someone dared to dream on Stars, it smashed. From the special edition Sunday Storms, the WCOOP low and high main events, the Anniversary Millions and Storms, the MicroMillions main event, even the recent BBHR to $500k jump, and even the audacity of the original Sunday Million and the Sunday Storm. If you build it they will come. Those legacy prize pools stick out like a sore thumb in this decayed landscape.

Let’s try one. $530 BBHR at $350k with 40% avg margin vs $530 BBHR at $500k with 10% avg margin

$350k * 1.4= $490k. 490k/500 * 30= 29,400 in weekly revenue * 52= 1.529m per year
$500k * 1.1= $550k= 33,000 in weekly revenue * 52= 1.716m in revenue per year

So that’s 187k you can sustain alone in additional overlays due to the jump in revenue alone. And then a few points:

1) The 40%/10% margin could be overly favorable to the $350k. Who knows what the $530 500K will top out at with such a massive guarantee
2) This assumes the tournaments will hold. But we’ve seen with smaller tournaments this is not the case. And repressing them leads to continual retractions such as the Kickoff or the Big $109 or the Big $215 or countless other tournaments
3) Obviously if the $500k prize point starts whiffing a bunch you reevaluate. But the point is they’re not even getting to the point where they can reevaluate!

The $530 BBHR is kind of low hanging fruit but there are hundreds of tournaments on the schedule that can be optimized like this. And I might be wrong. But what if I'm right? What if the person who has looked at the most data regarding this and has some of the most experience as a customer on your site feels in his gut "believesies" that he could be on to something? And then what if he can't even get into the room with the top brass?

You want to try something neat-o? Have a bigger than big week and set a bunch of daily tournaments to $100k with re-entry as a hedge, branding, pinning, and satellite support. See what happens. I'm talking turning withered Big 109's Big 55's and Big 215's into 100k's. What is the difference between a Winter Series $55 100k or a Turbo Series $55 100k and the Big $55 at 15k (sad)? Other than a few tickets and some CRM, not much. And if anything you could just have CRM e-mail players to tell them the Big $55 is now $100k daily with multiple shots to win, right?

How can Stars.ES stretch from a 50e that's usually 30k or 50k on a Sunday to one that is 200k or 225k during Winter Series and easily clear? And you're telling me there's no wiggle room in between to be a bit more ambitious? Malarkey!

I’m trying to keep these pieces under 1500 words so I’ll be back with more in the future.

Last edited by YugiohPro; 01-07-2020 at 12:05 AM.
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Old 01-07-2020, 10:45 AM   #425
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Re: YugiohPro: There and Back Again (MTT Discussion Thread)

very good write ups.

In my opinion though Stars doesn't care much about having large daily guarantees across their vanilla non series MTTs. They are tailoring their product towards attracting deposits but also leading the herd to their higher raked lower edge games(spins,etc) or no edge games(casino, etc). They run more frequent series, special Sunday Events, etc to draw in these deposits and appeal to their recreational crowd but overall they have very little interest in having a grand schedule of large daily guarantees.

The reason seems obvious as they do not tailor their model at all towards a winning player and by having a schedule that would incorporate more of these events on a daily basis they would also be attracting alot more winning regulars to their site. These events are some of the last standing highest ROI per game left for a stronger winning regular on their network and while they also return a higher profit on these games by raising the guarantees, so do the winning regulars.

Stars doesn't want in my opinion to have games in which winning regulars can also have a large ROI but is forced to keep these games to keep up with the industry and draw in the deposits. During the week though when much fewer recreational players are playing and have much less free time in their daily schedule Stars is fine in limiting their offerings and appeal to their lower edge, higher raked, faster formats.
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