May 10, 2011

Sorting it out?...

It looks like PokerStars are responding to the uproar that has occurred because of the SNG changes that were initiated on Friday.

So far the problematic increased time-banks have been reduced back to what they were in most games (most notably the 45-second increasing to 90-second timebank in turbo SNGs has been reduced back to 15-seconds).

Also, the structure for "Fifty50" tournaments has been changed back to what it was before "Black Friday II".

Furthermore, it was announced that :

"PokerStars will directly address all questions/complaints posted here, including those referencing rake, by the end of Wednesday [11th May 2011]"
So let's hope this mess is fixed come tomorrow. I foresee a server restart on Wednesday morning (a fairly common occurrence) that will bring in the new software update (detailed here), and hopefully along with that will come a fix to the changes.

I see two directions which PokerStars could go in. They could either "abandon ship", and simply revert everything back to how it was before Friday, and then subsequently "tweak" things such as rake and structure to make improvements, rather than having a complete overhaul. Or they could make substantial changes to their new system.

I think one of the main problems PokerStars has experienced is that the buy-ins they already had were firmly established. Although the new standardized system is perhaps more logical and streamlined, sometimes people just prefer what they are used to.

It has also had a big impact on reg's bottom lines. Below is a table showing the difference in what is being contributed to the prizepool by each player:

Old Buy-inNew-buy-in% change

Although this was expected from the announcements made prior to the changes, I thought the impact of this would be less of a concern because of the potential ROI increase if lower rake was introduced. However, the 3 buy-ins where the % change is the highest are also the 3 buy-ins which have experienced an increase in rake. So the $-per-game each player can expect to win has decreased quite significantly in places.

For example, a player earning $1.60 per game at the $15+1s, will only make $0.89 per game at the $10+0.85s, assuming that the skill level of him and everyone else remains the same (to see this calculation, click here). That is a huge difference.

Whilst the overhaul was an attempt to create consistency, there's no reason they couldn't make little tweaks to buy-ins in order to achieve this to some extent. For example the $7.70 180-man could be changed to a $6.50 180-man, the $36 180-man could become a $38 18-man, and so forth.

If Stars were to revert everything back to how it was, and keep it fundamentally the same, lowering the rake must still be a priority. My last rake table went down well on 2+2, so here's my attempt at one if buy-ins were kept the same. Again, I think this is reasonable enough for Stars to incorporate, would satisfy the regs, and would have a positive impact on traffic across the board.

Old Buy-inRake %*New Buy-inRake %*+/-*

The old structures worked fine so just revert back to them. They were already fairly consistent, and I don't think many people had a problem with them. Tweaks could still be possible, for example adding a 150/300(25) level would make reasonable sense in the SNGs where it jumped from 100/200(25) to 200/400(50).

Fix the current mess
They quite simply must move to rounded numbers. As I talked about in my last post, the lobby is just a huge mess, and this post on 2+2 depicts the problem very well:
Imagine a fish who wants to play a $5 SNG. He customises the lobby to only feature $5 buyins of NLHE, and is faced with the following:$5.50 180man
$5.43 180man turbo
$5.50 90man
$5.43 90man turbo
$5.50 45man
$5.43 45man turbo
$5.50 27man
$5.50 18man
$5.43 18man turbo
$5.48 6mx 12man
$5.50 9man
$5.43 9man turbo
$5.48 6man
$5.40 6man turbo
$5.23 9man hyper
$5.21 6man hyper
..he thinks "lol **** this" and goes out to buy some scratchcards or something.
One alternative might be to add a "rake" column, so at least the "buy-in" column is cleared up, but I still think rounding the buy-in+rake, and only displaying the buy-in in the lobby, is the way forward.

The changes made to rake were just ridiculous, and must be sorted out. Having alienated so many regs with the changes and the whole way it was handled, here is a chance to appease them.

There has been discussion on 2+2 about the positive effect vastly reduced rake. I argued for it in this blog post, and in this post on 2+2, but given PokerStars' first shot at a "rake decrease" last Friday, and the effects they will be experiencing, I don't see them making those kind of radical changes. There has been good feedback for this table that I produced, and I think basing a new rake structure on this, or something along these lines, would suffice for the time being:

Old Buy-inRake %*"My" Buy-inRake %*+/-*

Whilst there was nothing particularly wrong with the idea of changing to 3 minute levels and flattening them out, it was seemingly naive to think that every type of SNG would be able to mould around the exact same structure.

I'm quite concerned about 18-man SNGs as things stand. These are my bread and butter, and as the highest earner in them in 2011 (apologies for the sick brag), I don't want to see them deteriorate just because a bad structure was introduced. The general consensus from all the regs is that the current structure takes all of the skill out of the end-game, and will take a lot of a good player's edge out of the game.

Most suggestions seem to agree that one or two of the early levels are unnecessary, but that there aren't enough shallow blind increases from 300/600(60) onwards. I don't see a problem with average time going up by a couple of minutes if it helps to improve the structure overall, and just because you add a 3 minute level, it doesn't mean that the tournament will directly last 3 minutes longer on average. Adding some more levels, or perhaps switching to 5 minute levels later on, must be the thing to do here.

Other improvements
Now might not be the time to suggest further improvements, as it is important to fix everything that has been recently broken first, but I think cleaning up the SNG lobby was one of the goals of the changes, and so I'm going to take a quick look at how this can be done further...

There are certain games that just never run, or run so infrequently that it becomes unnecessary them being there. They are taking up too much prime real-estate, in return for little to no rake.

For example, there are currently nine 90-man SNGs registering from $3+, and none running. Just get rid of them. People play 45-mans and 180-mans on Stars, and these 90-mans are just taking up lobby space. Sometimes you can give people too much choice.

I also wonder if non-Hold 'em SNGs should get a sub-tab. On a random sample taken at 13.15 WET on 10th May 2011, this is the approximate state of the lobby:

Texas Hold 'emAll non Hold'em
SNGs running2750125
SNGs registering13001250

Okay, yes, you can filter them out. But for the average fish logging onto PokerStars who doesn't bother with the filter, the lobby is just so clogged up with non-hold 'em games that aren't running.

I'm not hugely sure which route of either complete U-Turn or fixing the changes that were made is the best one to take, but I think it could well be the former. An interesting article was published yesterday on the BBC, detailing a couple of big changes by big companies went wrong, and they ended up reversing the changes completely, such as when Coca-Cola changed it's recipe.

I really wish I could do something hands-on to help PokerStars, other than write these blogs. I have so many ideas and thoughts. I just hope someone there is taking the time to read this blog, and the suggestions that have been given on 2+2, and manages to rectify the situation. Something needs to be done ASAP, and I really hope the response from PokerStars tomorrow reflects that...

Shortly after this was posted, PokerStars restored the old structure to 180-mans, which is certainly a step in the right direction!

(Blind structure graph and Rake/Tall building graphic jacked from this thread)

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12 Comments to "Sorting it out?..."

Unknown said...

Awesome post james, as someone who plays the 18 mans myself, i agree with everything you've said, especially the rounding up of the buy in.


Anonymous said...

I hope pokerstars read this post before making further silly changes to sng!

Unknown said...

Very nice work

You could have earned a shit load of VPPs while you were writing it.

Limels said...

Agree with all and

The old structures worked fine so just revert back to them. They were already fairly consistent, and I don't think many people had a problem with them. Tweaks could still be possible, for example adding a 150/300(25) level would make reasonable sense in the SNGs where it jumped from 100/200(25) to 200/400(50).


Anonymous said...

Hey James,

although I appreciate your calculations, I think Pokerstars SHOULD NOT lower the buy ins. If every level is lowered, then it really hurts the bottom line of the players, don't you agree? Not only are we losing rakeback, we are losing profit as buy ins are lowered (assuming skill level remains the same)

IMO, the best solution is the up the buy ins and keep the rake the same (only in dream world would they reduce the rake for number of tables they run, significantly anyway)

Since you have a larger following than I do, I would recommend something that is (example) instead of 35/36+3, 40+3 etc...adding money into prizepool is where the grinders will win, as well as the site, since they definetely aren't going to be lowering it substantially to make a big difference....


Niedman said...

Big respect again James,you really writhe everything down,every single problem e players have.I pray that they have on Stars somebody like you!Sad thing is that they dont work really with somebody together who really plays poker.Otherwise we will be not in this mess.

Martcho said...

lets give this new structure of blinds a chance. we need a larger sample of games before get our opinions.

Anonymous said...

Always nice to read a good blogger. Pokerstars should hire by comission somebody who understands the regs point of view. (Could be James)
The important thing here is lowering the rake overall and put a decent blind structure so the regs can make their living. Obv having the fish happy its important to.

DM said...

Let's hope Stars Steve hurries up and gets around to talking about rake soon enuf instead of masking that problem with all this talk of structures. My theory is that this has been the plan all along. To make an almighty cock up alongside increasing the rake so that we have TWO things to complain about. Then Stars (all pre-planned) fix that problem so we then think they're all wonderful and listening to us, but then fail to rectify the rake problem. Well fact is people have a bigger problem with the rake than they do the structure, as well know! We need the $16's back James, you're little tables has shown $16 players income has HALVED!! So let's scream that from the roof tops now.

Nalsa said...

nice blog !

and agree with DM, it all seems a bit like a cover up (may be unintended) for the rake increase...

Anonymous said...

Your blog is the best i've seen, you're so dedicated to this game. Doing all the calculations, all your threads and i bet you have used a lot of your time where you could have played/accumulated vpps instead.

Just glad that we who plays the 18s have someone like you. Keep going :)


Unknown said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. Appreciate it :)

Sigh that it did no good!