Get It Quietly

Football, bollocks and a bit of poker if you're lucky.

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Friday, December 17, 2004

It's Our Party And We'll Pick You Up By The Ankles And Shake You Until All The Money Falls Out If We Want To

Party Poker have started The Step Challenge . It's very clever, in the same sense that Three Card Monty is clever if you have the necessary sleight of hand. The basic idea from the suckers, sorry customers, point of view is that you can pony $11 up to $9000. The basic idea from Party's point of view is that you keep as many players "alive" as you possibly can, by shifting them up and down the steps, paying a rake for every "step" they take.

Jim Geary has posted an excellent analysis. He concludes that if everyone started at Step One, the rake on what is essentially a $20,000 tournament would be $10,456.85 . Now not everyone does start at step one (you can buy in at any step you like, including the last one, which at $1000+65 is not a bad deal). But if you start at the bottom, you're basically trying to overcome a 52% rake.

So please don't do it. Stick with the Sit and Goes. Even though I rule at Sit and Goes, you're still much better off in my game ! Party are playing very cleverly on the greed and ignorance of small-time players. The ignorance here is two-fold : ignorance of precisely how long a long shot is, and of the effect of the rake.

I wish I could play somewhere like Stars which has excellent customer support * and a much better attitude all round, but there is so much valyoo on Party it would be cutting my head off to spite my nose. All I can do is make sure people are aware of the most egregious rip-offs on the site and trust people to rely on their intelligence rather than their greed. Hmm. That's not going to work is it. Well I tried.

* While browsing through Party's bonus details I came across the " Players' Club" which promises "exclusive privileges". Should you become a Silver Member, one of your exclusive privileges is "priority in answering queries". In short, a professional level of customer support is an exclusive privilege that you have to earn. Marvellous.

Update 27/12 : Barry Shulman, editor of Cardplayer, devotes his latest column to these tournaments. And guess what - he thinks they're fucking great. Guess what else for a bonus prize - the rake goes completely unmentioned. So he's using his own media outlet to push these tournaments because - well choose any or all from the following

1) He wants more fish to play against when he buys in for $1000
2) As a nice bonus for one of Card Player's biggest advertisers
3) (speculation) I have no idea who has a piece of Party Poker. Let's just say I would be unsurprised if Mr. B. Shulman was among the list of investors.

People say I'm cynical - I'm a realist. It's not poker that has made me this way, it's the whole world and the way it's going. Put your own spin on everything you can just to shake a few more cents out of the suckers so you can buy a second fucking RV. Alright I'll stop. Next time you pick up one of these "free" magazines, have a think about who they're written for. You ? Don't make me laugh. Don't make me LAUGH. They are written for the advertisers and the writers themselves, and you're so far down the list you're on page 55.

PS I know I said I wasn't going to post for a bit but when I read something to angry up the blood, I need to vent !


Blogger Felicia :) said...

I'm glad others are finally starting to "get it." I used to tell people all the time about the atrocious juice they pay in multi-tier tournaments/satellites. They all just rolled their eyes and talked about paying "no juice at all" since they won their way up.

At least others are starting to realize what is going on here.

Did you see my post about Hollywood Park? Oy!

5:09 PM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

28% wasn't it ? Ai-ya !!

We're very lucky in England because the rake is limited by law to 10% of the first buy-in only. So for a £20 rebuy comp where people rebuy on average 3 times, you're only paying 2.5% rake.

Well we're lucky in that respect. If only it wasn't for, let's see, everything else !


6:19 PM  
Blogger Luckyblind said...

Looking into this had opened my eyes. I initially looked at it from the same perspective as many others. Turning $11 into $9000 seemed like a good idea so I have ante'd up and am lingering on level 3. I then read your's and Jim's post and started to work out the juice myself. I hear you are good with maths so would you check these figures before I post them anywhere.
I am working backwards and assuming everone starts at level 1.

To fill level five it takes 2.5 level four tournaments, so therefore requires 2.5*20 players = 50.
To get those 50 players requires 8.1 level 3 tournaments which equates to 162 players.
162 players at level three = 40.5 level 2 tournaments which is 810 players.
To get 810 players in level 2 there must be 202.5 level 1 tournaments which is 4,050 players paying $11.
So 4,050*11 = 44,550.

Payout is $20,000 @ level 5
$75 at level 4
$283.5 at level 3
$1215 at level 2
Total = $21573.50

So total rake = $44,550-$21573.50 = $22976.50
This is 51.57% of total paid including initial $1 reg fee!
Now I have just realised that is the same % as Jim got but maybe a bit simpler for non-mathematicians. However he says rake is only $10,456.85 - Am I on the right track?

6:55 PM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

I'm not sure. Sometimes trying to find a mistake in someone's working is harder than doing it all yourself ! Have you taken into account what happens when people drop "down a step" ?

What I think we do all agree on is that this is raked to the eyeballs !


12:06 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I agree with you that these STEP tournaments are both idiotic to play in and ingenious for Party Poker, but I don't neccesarily agree with the 52% rake idea (not that I don't agree with the math). The only difference between these step tourneys and normal SNGs is that you get your prize in a tourney entry, instead of in money.

If you wished to play in Tourney B, and Tourney A is a sattelite to Tourney B, you'll be paying rake twice by entering Tourney A, but hey, that's a satellite. Now, if (counting the rake) it would be, on average, more profitable to buy in directly, then the sat is a -EV move, but that has nothing to do with the rake. Now, if you don't want to play in Tourney B, then you'd be pretty dumb to play in Tourney A, obviously. The ingeniousness here for Party is the structure (pay little, win a lot) which always ropes in the fish, but it's really more a triumph of marketing than rake gouging.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

I do see what you're saying, but I think Party are taking this to a new level by the way they make so many of the LOSERS play another tournament, complete with another rake. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it wasn't for all these "consolation" prizes where you step back down.


7:42 PM  
Blogger chaos said...

This is why it surprises me why people believe poker-rooms have no reason to cheat. Do they have a reason to be greedy?

There is precious little doubt in my mind that Party would give the bad players a helping if they could. Whether they deem that they can get away with it or not, I'm not sure. Evidently it isn't integrity that stops them from doing so.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Titmus here,

You are absolutely right as usual chaos. There is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL between a competition that charges willing participants a relatively steep (but numerically small) rake, and deliberately giving particular players specific cards to make them win hands that they would not otherwise have done were the cards not rigged.

Absolutely one and the fucking same.

Are you ever going to post anything on any poker site that makes even one tiny iota of sense? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way)

1:10 AM  
Blogger chaos said...

A Spade is a spade: you really do have the IQ of a rocking horse. Have I stated that they are the same?

I have merely encouraged people to extrapalate rather than interpolate, which is all you seem capable of doing.

Consider the following:

Party poker put up their rake without informing the customers, clearly hoping their customers wouldn't notice that their charges have gone up.

Party poker sell an opportunity to their Mickey Mouse punters where they are likely to pay 50% rake.

If such an analagous deception occurred in business's in the uk, they would receive an absolute bollocking.

I find it incredible to think that you are incapable of thinking 'well, these are the visibly sly ways poople are trying to rip me off, what other tricks do they get up to that I can't see'. Only a fool would not ask the question. Nothing I have witnessed suggests they have any integrity, unlike Poker Stars who certainly appear to do the right things.

'Are you ever going to post anything on any poker site that makes even one tiny iota of sense? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way)'

You have issues. On this I have nothing to prove, you, on the other hand, have plenty. It is you that need to hurl abuse when you lose an argument - the archives can vouch for this. And, rumour has it, someone who is often guilty of the acidic anonymous postings and harrassments of fairly innocent posters. If this is incorrect, then I apologise.

That last statement testifies to the fact that it is me you have issues with (strange as we've not met) and not what I say. Whilst 'talking sense' is subjective, I don't think I've come across anyone on the net who thinks I'm incapable of talking it or ever said so: even if they often disagree. To say such a thing would imply I am always wrong.

If some guy accpeted a pot that he knew he'd lost, I'd be a little more careful with my wallet. Clearly you wouldn't: two different things, right? Correlation.

As soon as I mentioned the rake a while ago, you stated that as long as you win 'you don't care what you pay'. You decided that you had to marry this position. I levelled many reasons why I believed you or any winning gambler should care, and what was returned ? Reasoned argements? Or insults? No odds offered on the latter.
Well for the first time you've picked up a couple of insults from me, probably only a 5% return on your investment though, never mind.

Andy I aplogise for this BS. You escaped the THM for this sort of crap. Keep up the good work.


2:01 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

Take it outside you two :-)

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Titmus again.

As usual, you seem to think (?) that a posting a thousand words is in some way a substitute for making sense.

You said this:-

"There is precious little doubt in my mind that Party would give the bad players a helping if they could. Whether they deem that they can get away with it or not, I'm not sure. Evidently it isn't integrity that stops them from doing so."

What you are SAYING (and I am not interpolating or extrapalating (sic) ) is that because you believe that Party Poker's rake for this competition is high, they would knowingly cheat by awarding pots to preferred players. This is analagous to saying that because Waitrose charge more than Tesco, Waitrose are likely to employ muggers to steal your wallet in the car park.

If I were Party Poker, I would sue you.

3:11 PM  
Blogger chaos said...

This will be my last post on this here. Whilst you have quoted me correctly, you have failed to intepret what I have said correctly'

I did not state that because of this promo, they must cheat their customers. I said that, judging from their stunts, integrity wouldn't stop them from doing so. There are other reasons for them not to cheat - such as being caught and destroying their buisiness model. That is an issue of risk/reward.

I will concede that in my mind 'evidently' referred to a number of stunts party have pulled - two of which I highlighted, rather than this specific scheme. However, few could accuse PP of playing with a straight bat on this scheme and would make certain jusgements of the site on this basis alone.

Some of these sites aren't bound by law, they are bound only by ethics in their pursuit of maximising their return. It may well be that ethical behaviour supports their business model in certain areas. But in others it doesn't. I would consider it unethical to put the prices up of rake without informing their customers, many of whome won't even know it has happened (in fact 'hoping they wouldn't notice'. I struggle to find which ethics would kick in to prevent a site cheating their customers, that aren't required to prevent the site deceiving or coning more cash out of their punters in the ways they have. Particularly, when they make huge profit margins (and yes i have had some information backing up my initial guesstimate of 90% + profit margins).

Therefore, I don't believe they are bound by ethics. I consider myself to have ethics, and consider much of their behaviour to be unethical and deceitful.

My opinion on PP is that they may get up to a few tricks, but good players will win and bad players will lose. Other sites such as Laddies and the crypto sites I believe are straight: they have a brand to protect. And as I have said, I consider PS to be very good.

When it comes to gambling ethics are strained. Plenty of people don't honour gambling debts because they are less real in some way. So what if one guy wins a bit less than he should and the other guy wins a but more.

If they were a regulated business, the regulators would be all over them. Conclude from that what you will.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apology accepted.


6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lul, I must have missed the apology. Nice try tho.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Big Dave D said...

In this case I find myself agreeing with Chaos. When we originally debated the rake thing, my argument was that the lack of competitive pressure on the web meant that it was highly unlikely that the rake would come down. Despite what many think, the internet in a commercial sense is often manipulated to create monopoly-like situations. Unsurprisingly I was right in this (so far.) This argument about cheating is the flip side of the coin. Businesses, left to themselves, without competitive pressures, will behave as best suits themselves and ethics only very rarely comes into it. For day to day examples look up that no-brand book; look at how oil companies behave outside the first world. A lot of US companies got rich off Hitler during WWII, as did some of the German businesses responsible for building the Holocaust. Party Poker to the Holocaust is a bit of a stretch :-) But the fact remains that PP will do whatever they think they can get away with, at least whilst the going is good. And as long as the US keep on driving this madness, they will keep on like this for a long while to come.



11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon G here....

Talk of PP increasing rake on the quiet as a dastardly thing to do.

2 things sprung to mind - firstly anyone that counts the pot ( and we all do - right?) would spot the rake hike immediately.

I also remember a building society that reduced the interest rates on their child savings a/c significantly and, upon enquiry, refused to apologise for not sending each a/c holder a letter - almost placing the onus on the customers to check what rate they were getting.

So, I would put the building society in a lower bracket than the poker site. That still doesn't mean that, with questionable business practices (advertising 6% best in class then reducing to 4% and hope no-one notices) I could ever make the assumption that they are deliberately moving money to prefered customers or anything else. It's just a leap too far. But then, perhaps I am inadvertently a losing player kept in the black for the last few years by PP's antics....

1:05 PM  
Blogger chaos said...

With Andy's permission (delete at will), I'll re-enter the debate as it appears to have taken on a sensible course. Hopefully, I will say nothing that might lead to my collar being felt.

Dave: Little has changed since our discussion, except that it is perhaps now harder for a low-rake site to break in. The party poker madness is killing progress, they are making more per capita, not less: it isn't supposed to work that way. I expect the smaller sites will be the ones to lead the way on rake. I'm curious as to whether your tolerance of the rake has changed in the last couple fo years. Needless to say, i agree with your comments.

Simon G: I think one considers it a leap because of the practices we see in the UK. We are used to banks, credit card companies and the like screwing us over, but stopping short of other activities. It maybe that they stop there because they feel that to go any further would be unethical. Alternatively, it may simply be because it is illegal. Regulators, law courts, watch dogs can punish companies directly as well as indirectly. Market forces is of course another reason for drawing a line. Many of these poker rooms aren't shackled the way English business' are. Their practices has lead me to believe that they try and get will get away with what they can. However, they may not risk killing the golden goose by manipulating hands this way. The follow up question is how easy would it be to test for this to any degree of confidence? Not very, I would suggest: risk/reward is more attractive.

To FT : Don't confuse a concession for a retraction (let alone an apology). I only indicated what I meant by evidently. Other things included rake back and inparticular the requirements to claim bonuses. I stated what was in my mind by 'evidently' (another log on the fire), rather than this singular incident. However, that doesn't suggest that such a duplicitous scheme isn't a sufficient condition for me to believe that they are bound by market forces and not by ethics. My positon, though, was clearly weaker citing this alone.

As for your comments in general there is no benefit to me in pursuing them. The fact that you have never responded to my comments without insulting me speaks volumes (excluding your last comment, the less said about that the better). I am happy to have my opinions challenged as I am to challenge others. It is pretty obvious that I can play the never-ending thread game, but it is such a complete waste of time and I can't recall much gratification from doing it or indeed winning it. It is seldom anything other than a complete waste of time, unless it reason prevails, which it seldom does. If you enter a thread with insults, it shows the course you wish to take: your comfort zone. It is a waste of time having an argument with someone who is at the behest of their emotions.

If I never talk sense then I suggest you ignore my posts and leave it to others to correct my thinking. It is clearly a futile task to educate me, I'm a lost cause.

It is discourteous to Andy to start fanning the flames in his blog and of course I accept some blame for this. If you want to bait me then you'll have much more joy on the forums, but of course I'm seldom there these days.

These issues are, though, important. I make no apology for rasing them, even though I'm bored talking about them. There are more interesting things to discuss, but when I consider I could have bought a place in the south of france for the money I've dumped to rake, it's hard to ignore.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

First of all I don't mind what anyone posts in the comments (within reason), the more the merrier. After all, 17 comments makes my blog look like a hotbed of discussion, even if half of them basically are two cats fighting in a sack :-)

If I can add anything to the discussion, a couple of points : first of all I do think Party are a bit out of order to do these things with the rake, but actually rigging flops and unfairly influencing the action would be much, much worse. I've never seen any credible evidence that this is happening anywhere, and will dismiss it is ignorant paranoia until I do. Believe me, studies have been made, there are people out there recording all the hands and certainly creating "action flops" to generate more rake would have been picked up ages ago if it was happening.

The other, more subtle, point is that rake just cannot be considered in isolation. I can't go and play somewhere that has $100+5 Sit and Goes if they only manage to run two of them a day and they're full of tough players. From a financial point of view, I simply have to consider the overall rate. It's better for me to be in a game where I make $25 and the house makes $20 rather than one where I make $20 and the house makes $10. It's true that the former game might be less stable, as the losers are losing much more, but make hay while the sun shines. This is why there is no genuine competition in terms of rake between the sites, and why Party can charge basically what they like in rake. As indeed they are doing in this Steps thing. All I can do is point it out. It would be nice if they charged less, but even I'm not enough of a socialist to demand that they do so, or be forced to do so.


10:05 PM  
Blogger chaos said...

The X factor is what could they could away with?
If they did things it would be nothing too overt down in the minutia. Moreover you would have to know what you are testing for and any proof would likley require 10's of millions of hands to show that, say the bottom 10%, are shaved a few tenths of a % here or there on certain hands. If I were assigned the task and had a bit of time to think about it, I'd be confident of escaping the net and so what if a headline shows that 'bad players with AA flop the Ace 0.1 % more often than good players' Who is going to run to another site upon hearing that?

My suspicions aren't based upon paranoia, I'm being objective. The only thing that party did that pissed me off was the requirement to play 700 raked hands in a week to get a bonus back. I rarely play there. I can have no truck with folk citing personal experiences of freaky flops or rivers as evidence against cardroomS: we are incapable of storing such information objectively

As for the rake I've never suggested that people are wrong to play high rake sites, it is often the right decision. I play at the worst of them.

My opinion on Party is that if they can, they will. There are many things they could get up to that would be tough to prove without an enormous amount of data and with someone who knows which questions to ask. I wouldn't, for example, trust analysts, at say, PWC to come to validate the data.

No site has really done enough on rake for me to sacrafice EV to support it. But if one came alone that maxed out at 50c a pot or say 1% on STT's I'd put the hours in regardless of the quality of oppositon.

I think the lower juice on STT's could be the game where people would migrate on rake: particularly the bad players. The cost is up front and in your face, and players will notice how they are saving money by playing elsewhere.

It will all change with time, at some stage we will only be maxing and a couple of thousand (adjusted) dollars a year for the service of poker rooms, but it looks a long way off.

If you had to bet at even money on whether any of the medium to large sites had every manipulated the code , or played a bot player. Where would your money be?

1:24 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

Let's break that down into separate questions :

1) Do I think any medium to large site has ever used bots ? Probably
2) Do I care ? No
3) Do I think that any medium to large site has ever at any time manipulated flops or unfairly influenced the action ? Probably not, but it is possible
4) Do I think that such manipulation is happening now ? Definitely not.


10:03 AM  
Blogger chaos said...

Well, your first and third answer suggests that you don't believe they are bound by ethics. The rest is down to market forces alone - they may believe it is too much of a risk. They may not. That is the point I made. In general, it does concern me that these organisations have nobody to answer to, trusting to market forces alone is dangerous, especially giveb the addictive nature of gambling.

3:46 PM  

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