The Answer

I always encourage all of my friends to shoot me questions about poker. I like for questions to drive my blog posts and it almost guarantees that at least one person will read my post. Did I mention that it keeps me from having to generate a topic? My brain hurts and I am getting old. This all brings a lack of creativity.
A local casino is running a promotion and it is a very strong promotion. Many of my co-workers are considering taking time off of work to play at the promotion. The first day the promotion ran the world of poker rained down free chips upon everyone in the area. If half of the people on Facebook who have claimed to have made hundreds that day were actually at the poker room the room would have burst at the seams. I asked around and the casino pulled in blackjack dealers and was able to spread seven tables of nine handed poker. I also heard the list was obscene and most players stayed put for the entire eight hours that the promotion ran. The promotion runs two days a week and from 8 AM to 4 PM. Rumor has it you need to be there at 5 AM to get a seat. That is strong marketing. I would say it is almost too strong for the size of the room.
The question comes to me in many forms from several people and it all revolves around, “How much is the promotion worth?”
The promotion is called Aces and Faces Cracked. If you lose with a pocket pair jacks or better you win $100. If eight players hold large pairs and lose to the ninth player they all get $100. I doubt that would ever happen, but it answers the question about two players losing holding jacks or better.
I was told one player had 13 large pairs cracked in eight hours that first day. That story is hard to believe but certainly possible. I was also told the least anyone received was three pairs cracked. After that story, I had to start asking questions. Apparently the table was colluding as expected in this type of promotion, anytime a player had a pair jacks or bigger they would declare family pot and everyone would oblige. If all live hands went to the river in an effort to crack the big pair it would be possible to lose the maximum number of times.
I started with basic statistics to tackle the problem. There are 1326 possible starting hands and 24 of those qualify for the promotion. Six each of aces, kings, queens and jacks. This means you will be dealt the big pair once every 55.25 hands. The casino uses shuffle machines and my understanding is that players are folding most hands and playing for the promotion. I was told by a couple dealers that they are getting out around 40 hands per hour which seems high. If the 40 hands per hour is correct, you can expect to have about 5.8 qualifying hands in the eight hour session. With a nine handed table somebody will declare “family pot” every six or seven hands. Pure statistics says every 6.13 hands but there will be some hands where there are two qualifiers in the same hand meaning that family pots will be less frequent. I figure that the nine handed table will have about 52 shots at the bonus over the eight hour session.
The prevailing sentiment appears to be everyone collude and chop up all the money. This basically means that all profit is split up at the end of the session with everyone getting back their buy-in. The only tax becomes the drop that the house is taking. The drop on this particular game is $6 per hand and for sanity sake I will add another dollar for a dealer toke. In the eight hour session we will play 320 hands and pay $2240 for that privilege.
I have now reduced the problem down to the point of 52 chances to get a big hand cracked and make $100 for the cost of $2240. Will half of the big pairs be cracked if we play in the absolute best possible manner? Absolutely. Pocket aces are the hardest hand to crack and they hold up about 50% of the time against four opponents. Eight random opponents must bring that percentage up to about 66%. Pocket jacks are the easiest of the four hands to crack and against eight random opponents going to the river the jacks will go down approximately 80% of the time. On average we are going to be able to crack the big pair 75% of the time. While this is slightly conservative the math involved is so cumbersome as to make simulations the only practical way to solve the problem. I will say that an expectation of cracking 39 hands in an eight hour session is fairly reasonable.
The $3900 made from the promotion is offset by the $2240 cost of playing to yield a net expected value of $1660. The $1660 profit would be split among the nine players giving each about $185. An expected hourly rate of $23 is pretty strong for a promotion.
Now for the down side of things, I mentioned earlier that players have to arrive three hours early to get a seat. If the confederates manage to get situated at the table they will have to fade an additional $840 of rake and tokes until the promotion actually begins. This brings the total taxes to $3080 and reduces the profit $820 or just above $90 per person. With the day now being an eleven hour shift the hourly rate is reduced to less than $8.25. The casino is a short drive of about 20 miles away and gas is outrageous these days. The drive time cuts my hourly rate to $7.50 and when I deduct my gas costs I am down to about $6.66 an hour.
I am not sure I want to get up at 3:30 AM to leave my house by 4:00 AM so I can get a seat at a table where we are going to grind out a meager six or seven dollars an hour. Mind you this entire scenario does not involve playing poker. The team is purely grinding to maximize the bonus. This is a great promotion, but it is simply not attractive to me. I have a good day job that requires me to work during the hours of the day that this promotion is being run. I could take a vacation day to play this promotion and I was actually considering it until I took the time to grind out the numbers.
On a more positive note, if I were to play this promotion, I would advise playing the poker straight up and doing your best to win as much money as possible. Adjustments in strategy to collect the bonus would be required and would require paying off with your big losing pairs. While I can beat most $2-4 limit hold’em games, fading a $6 rake is very tough and requires a fairly wild game with weak opponents that are giving ridiculous action. I am not sure the texture of the promotion games is that good. The biggest point of contention strategy wise between myself and the players who are up there grinding for the eight or ten dollars an hour is whether to raise pre-flop with these big pairs. In a normal straight up $2-4 limit game I would raise and re-raise every time I held a big pair. The reason everyone is telling me to limp is that they want everyone in the pot and my thought is that most $2-4 players are seeing the flop with the exact same hand range for two, four, six or eight dollars. This level of player is playing their hand and rarely considers the strength of the pre-flop raiser. When my big pair holds up I want to win a big pot. When my hand gets cracked I will take the $100.
I wrote this for my co-workers and somehow I convinced myself that it is a good idea to come to work and miss this great promotion.

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One Response to “The Answer”

  1. goodluckcharmsthatwork Says:

    What are your feelings on good luck charms?

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