Then, when I was in L.A., I found out they changed the format in a way I personally didn't like, and I was sure I’d never play in it again.
Old format: Play 15 hours to qualify. Everyone starts with 5K in chips. Total prize pool is $10K, and first place gets $2k. There’s a sliding scale down to $75 for the min cash; 30 players get paid.
Revised format: Play 15 hours to qualify. But the starting stack is based on how many hours you play in the qualifying period. It’s 5K in chips for each increment of 15 hours. So if you play, say 60 hours in the qualifying week, you start with a 20K stack. Or, if you play 29 hours, 59 minutes….you start with 5K.
Also, there’s no longer is a $2K guarantee for first place. In fact, there is no first place. The last 25 players standing all get $400. No more. No less. I feel that is a bit unfair and not to my liking. Players who play more hours in the room get an advantage.
What kind of people get the advantage? People who can play hours and hours at one poker room all week long. Grinders. And players who play tight. Because if you want to play 45 or 60 or even 75 hours in a week to get a lot of “bonus” chips for the freeroll and therefore make it easy to cash in it, you are likely to be going to be extra, extra careful about getting your chips in the pot during the week. Not tourists, that's for sure.
Of course, every promo you could think of favors some players over others. High hand bonuses favor limit players, since those games go to the river more often and see more high hands.
The football promo at MGM (which I absolutely love, btw) might be unfair if you are unable to play poker during the NFL games. They take the promo money on Wednesdays when there’s no game, just as they do on Monday nights.
The cash drawings I write a lot about (which I also love) might be unfair if it is inconvenient for you to be in the room at 12, 4 and 8 (am & pm) when they have the drawings. I get that.
Still, if you are going to make some of the promo funds available in a competition (ie, a tournament) where everyone who qualifies has a shot at it, I personally would prefer it be a fair fight. It just doesn't sit right with me to stack the deck in favor of some players over others.
I understand that it might be considered fair to give more chips to the players who put in more hours because, after all, by playing more hours, they did contribute more to the promo fund than those who just played the minimum.
If you look at it that way, I would prefer it if they would just skip having a tournament and give $400 away each week to the 25 players who played the most hours. Why even have the pretense of a tournament? Especially since the players who qualify are playing cash games, not tournaments? I guess I've just made an argument against freerolls in general….play cash games to qualify for a tournament. It's a bit counter-intuitive.
But arguing against freerolls in general isn't the point of this post. I know some people really like freerolls. We can have that discussion at some point. My point here is that doing the freeroll this way, with different starting stacks—vastly different starting stacks at that—for different players, is not the way I favor.
And when you start people off with stacks four times bigger than the normal starting stack—in what amounts to a turbo structure—what you are playing doesn't feel like a competition--at least in my opinion. Because I was fairly certain that if a player started with 20K or more, they wouldn’t even have to play a hand—ever—in order to cash. Remember, since there’s no incentive to finish first instead of 25th, there is no point to building up an even bigger stack with which to bully the table. Why risk it? You can just fold your way to the money. Having a 150K stack is no better than having a 10K stack when the 26thplayer busts out. You get $400 either way. With a 20K starting stack, you’d be foolish to even play Aces or Kings. Just fold. In fact, you could take your seat, go to Starbucks or the Sports Book, let them take the blinds and antes, and just come back in two plus hours to collect your winnings. Doesn't that seem a little odd to you?
I know that MGM isn’t the first poker room to set up a freeroll this way, to give more chips for more play. But I don't love those other poker rooms...and never play in those rooms. I do love the MGM. Always have.
And I still do. It's just this one promo I'm not loving.
As I previously indicated, even under the original design of the freeroll, I was disinclined to ever play in it again, just because of the inconvenient hour. Of course, I understand them having it at an early hour when the room is not otherwise busy. Makes perfect sense. It's just not very convenient for me. So honestly, I just never should have ever considered playing it, and all would be fine.
When I heard of the change, knowing that, even as much as I play at MGM, it would be extremely unlikely that I would ever play 30 hours there in one week in order to get even an extra $5K starting stack, I was absolutely sure that I would never play in it again. You see when I’m in Vegas, I’m not on vacation. I work almost all weekdays. So I only have the evenings, Saturday and Sunday to play. I usually play a tournament on Saturdays. So it would be really hard to make even 30 hours, let alone 45 or 60.
And honestly, if I was able to play poker all day and night, I’m sure I’d get pretty tired of that one room--even MGM, my favorite--and would want to spread my play around town, to a few other rooms.
So for most of my visit to Vegas, I completely put the thought of playing it out of my mind.
But I kept running into MGM regulars who, recognizing me as someone they’d seen a lot lately, kept asking me if I cashed in the previous freeroll. Because they had. I started asking these regs how many chips they had started with. The most common answer was 20K. Some said “only” 15K. Others boasted of 25K (that’s 75 hours of live poker in a single room in a week). I quizzed them and of course I was right. When you get to 20-25K, you don’t need to play, and basically, they didn’t. I suppose their competitive nature made them play a hand or two, for old times’ sake, but basically, they just folded their way into the money.
I asked these guys if they ever saw anyone who started with the minimum 5K stack cash since they changed the format. A few said they knew of a few people who had, but they said it was difficult and fairly rare. I did in fact meet a felllow who had cashed in the previous freeroll with just a $5K starting stack. So of course it could be done.
I should point out that the MGM Invitational seems to have created a lot of new MGM regs, which means more games being spread more often. That’s good for the room. Of course they want the added business. That’s why they are doing it this and why they are unlikely to change it. And although intuitively I would think that would make the games not as good, I can’t really say the games were bad--certainly based on my personal results.
It didn’t really matter. I never bothered to check to see if I qualified (I mean the min-qualify of 15 hours) for any of the freerolls. I assumed I had missed my last opportunity, and in reality, I didn’t “miss” it all.
But then….then….well, originally I planned on leaving town on Saturday, January 3. So that precluded any possibility of playing in the tournament the next day. But I had been running quite well, and a few days before I was scheduled to leave, I decided to extend my stay a couple of more days, so I could play in a tournament on Saturday. I thought that weekend, being essentially part of the New Year’s weekend, would be a good weekend for poker.
Then I realized I had played a lot of poker at MGM that last week. One weekday I didn’t work was New Year’s Eve. Because I couldn’t even work from the Starbucks as planned (see here), I ended up playing 7 hours that day. I thought I might be close to 30 hours. Did I want to check to see if I could get double my stack and give it a go on that very last Sunday I was in town?
Now, a 10K starting stack wouldn’t guarantee me a thing. I’d actually have to play poker, unlike those 20-25K guys. But….but…..
I started to realize that there would be a fair amount of folks with those 20-25K stacks. And as I said, those folks wouldn’t have any incentive to play poker—to risk a single chip they didn’t have to. It occurred to me that if I got a table with a lot of those big stacks, it might actually work to my advantage, not disadvantage. When I raised with Queen-10 offsuit, they wouldn’t bother to three-bet me with their pocket Aces. They’d just fold. Sweet!
Hmm….maybe if one time, just this one time, I hauled my ass out of bed early enough to play on this particular Sunday morning, I’d have a good shot at getting an easy $400.
But only if I had enough hours for a 10K stack. I knew I had no chance of getting to the next tier (45 hours for 15K, no way). But I figured the 10K stack would be makeable. And a 10K stack would give me a decent shot, depending on table draw. I wanted a lot of players with really huge stacks, and two, maybe three players with the minimum stacks. That seemed like the perfect mix to get me in the money.
The alternative, if I didn’t get the right table? I could play good poker to cash. But what were the odds of that?
So, Friday night, when I was ready to call it a night, I checked my hours for the week. It was a tad more than 27. Three short of the next tier. That should be no problem. I should have no trouble playing three more hours on Saturday, after I was finished playing the tournament I decided to play (which was still not decided upon at this point).
I went back to my room that night convinced that I would easily qualify for the extra 5K in chips and that I would almost as easily score that $400 prize. I would beat the system—the system that I was fond of. Just this one time. It was all falling into place.
And damn…..once again, talking about this damn MGM Invitational, I have to make it a two parter. And part two is now posted and can be found right here.