Sunday, September 16, 2007

Last Man Standing

Scenario: 14 person tourney $30 buy in. There is an optional $30 "last longer" or "last man standing" side bet. Marsh, Joe, and I are the only players to partake in the LMS so the payout is winner take all. Shockingly enough the three players who wanted to put more money on the line ended up placing 4th, 3rd, and 1st. After I went out in fourth it was Joe and Marsh and Andrew with Andrew being the only player who did not have an extra $90 riding on placement. Payouts for the main tourney were $210, $105, $63, and $42.

While the final table is shorthanded, Marsh tells me that he that he wants to talk to me about something after the tourney. My heart goes pitter patter. After he donks his way to the checkered flag by getting all in with AA pre-flop (hello...five more cards to come), he pulls me aside and brings up his point that Andrew had the opportunity to hammer on pots knowing that Marsh and Joe each had an extra $90 on the line and had extra incentive to wait each other out.

I have two thoughts on this:
* That there is not that much to be gained with this knowledge. The tournament structure to begin with is predicated on trying to take as much chips from each other as possible. And it is your right to steal from a player who is playing tight, whether it is their playing style, due to a side bet, or because they are stuck for the month and really wants to get into the money. This doesn't really seem much different than a bubble situation and two short stacks trying to wait each other out.
* It wouldn't be that hard to implement a system of silent entry into the LMS. If people paid me then I'd be the only person to know and since I'm doing it also then there would not be undue advantage. However, in that case I would know everyone I needed to beat whereas everyone else would only know that they had to beat me. I could complicate matters by giving everyone an envelope with their name on it and leave a drop box out. If at the end of the tournament there is LMS money in your envelope then you are eligible. If your envelope is empty then you are out of the LMS. More complicated but that would ensure that no one knew who else was doing the side bet though I think we all would have opinions on who would or wouldn't partake. Kinda gimmicky but I like that there is a perfect solution possible.

I am getting feedback from the forum and one of the comments is that a LMS bet can affect your performance because it is taking you off of your A game. So one thought on that is to not get into situations where the stakes are going to make you change your game. By the same token, that's what tournament strategy is all about and why you would play hands vastly differently in a tourney than in a cash game situation. I'm torn on this: on the one hand I see Marsh's point and the procedures geek in me wants to come up with a solution that gives complete anonymity. On the other hand, the LMS scenario above is not so different from tournament pressure in general.


Bob Loblaw said...

I wasn’t one of the LMS guys last night, but after talking with Marsh about it, I can see his point.

I like the idea of the anonymous envelope, but even that’s not TOO anonymous, as we're all buying in in a tiny room, and only those who are actually playing in the LMS portion of the game are going to be clandestine about putting money in the envelope. The other people will simply take their envelope and drop it in the box without caring whether they're being secretive or not.

Any chance of having a red-chip blue-chip situation, or something like that, where you have a number of red chips and a number of blue chips that each equals the total number of players in the tourney. When you buy in for the tourney (paying only the tourney fee and not the LMS fee) you tell the person to go into the next room and to take either a red chip or a blue chip, indicating whether or not you're in for the LMS. That way, after the tourney gets underway, each player can know how many people are indeed in on the LMS buy-in (an important factor that can affect your game-play) by seeing how many red or blue chips are left in each stack, but not exactly WHO is in which camp.

The flaw here is that the person indicates they're in the LMS tourney by holding a chip, but doesn't end up having to pay for their portion of the LMS tourney until after they're busted out of the tourney. Involves a little trust, but I think in our home game we all trust one another, right?

Is this too much to go through pre-tourney? Will it scare away too many new players? Just a thought.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Yeah, we're both on ths same page about those issues. I like the simplicity of the blue/red chip idea.* But as you point out, if someone decides that they are going to game the system in order to renege on their obligation they would get a freeroll in the LMS. Grabbing a red and blue chip early for instance then they could produce whichever color favors their placement. Unlikely, but I don't like allowing for that possibility.

The envelope idea in conjunction with a red/blue chip idea would seem to cover all holes in the system. Everyone would receive two personalized envelopes, one that *clearly* indicates participation on the inside of the envelope and one that *clearly* indicates not playing the LMS. Then everyone puts the LMS entry fee into one envelope or the other and inserts both of them into the drop box. It also would give reason for anyone to be asking for change instead of that being a dead giveaway that they want to play in the LMS. Unless someone is directly over someone else's shoulder as you are putting money in, no one should know anyone else's participation. Lot of work to go through and an inconvenience to those who do not want to participate but would be the best solution for assuring anonymous participation. Everything is a trade off.

I think that this situation was exacerbated by a) all three of the LMS players ending up in the last four spots which were the four cashing spots btw and b) so few players in the LMS that it was winner take all.

After digesting Marsh's comment more I find myself agreeing that not knowing who is in the side bet is preferable. But I am not sold on the idea that it is worth it to take the measures of implementing any sort of protocol.

* Reminds of the process that gave us the term "blackballing".

Sushi Cowboy said...

Riddle me this Batman. Marsh's comment was aimed at Andrew knowing about the side bet. But what if he didn't know about the side bet? Isn't the tight play of Marsh and Joe brought upon themselves? Let's say that only me, Marsh, and Joe knew about the LMS bet. Andrew wouldn't have been playing any differently but Marsh and Joe know that there is $90 on the line to wait each other out. Now let's assume that NOBODY knew who was in the side bet, wouldn't Marsh and Joe play more aggressively if the weren't sure of who was in? So I think changing your game due to the side bet is just part of the side bet. If the $90 is weighing heavily enough then you are going to adjust your play accordingly, just as though you were concerned about the difference between 7th and 6th place money in a big tourney.

But I think it makes more sense to know who you are up against in the side bet. It is only fair. If you don't know who you have to outlast and the stakes, you can't make proper tournament and side bet decisions. I think the only part that needs to be adjusted is that people who are not participating do not know who the LMS players are. That simplifies things a bit. So when everyone is paying, they can just pay tourney or tourney+LMS. Then I can just discreetly inform the LMS pool who the other participants are. If I have to disguise who is getting the info, I could always incorporate it into a generic rules/blinds/chip denomination tip sheet and include the LMS info only to the ones doing LMS. That way, players outside of the LMS pool do not need to do anything extra or different.

Marshall said...

A few things here.

1. I don't think that Andrew did anything wrong or questionable. I think he played well.

2. The situation that we were in just got me to think of a potential drawback to the LMS system.

Joe and I playing tight could or could not be a bi-product of our LMS sidebet. But it does give the 3rd player in that spot quite an advantage. It's like being on a 2nd money bubble, but not for the 3rd person.

I don't like the ideas of chips and envelopes much. I prefer just to not make it open until the end who is in the LMS and who isn't. Most people don't care much, or pay attention. Also it takes a pretty unique situation to have this affect anything. I don't think we need to go to too many extremes about it.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I agree. I don't think Andrew even considered that he might have extra leverage because of the LMS bet. I think he played a little too tight overall short handed but you can't argue with a second place finish.

Your point is valid that it benefits no one to have the LMS participants announced openly. Next time I offer LMS I will amend the procedures.

* I will not announce who is participating until the entire tournament is complete so anyone out of the LMS will never know if they are up against LMS players or not.

* I will inform everyone in the LMS who the others are.

* I will request that everyone in the LMS not disclose who is or is not in.

Marsh, thanks for pointing out the issue and for setting up the blog so we can hash this thing out.

jsola said...

It totally affected my play when we were down to the final three. Generally when I make it to the money I loosen up and get aggro and steal left and right, but even when it was just me, Marsh, and Andy, two of us were still on the bubble!

If Andy was ever in a pot with Marsh, or could potentially get into a pot with Marsh, I was looking for any reason to get out of the way so he could knock him out.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Yeah, but that would have been your strategy even if the players in the LMS were not openly known except to each other, right? That is classic tournament bubble strategy.

Are you suggesting that the LMS be handled differently than what I had planned for the next time?

jsola said...

Hmm, no, it wasn't anything you did, I felt like the LMS standing bet was handled just fine even without any of the proposed provisions, and I doubt my play would have changed at all if it were done differently.

I think the fact that I was in the LMS bet made it a much different tourney experience for me, and I was not expecting that. I don't know if I will do the LMS bet again unless more people are in it. The winner-take-all format of this tourney's sidebet created a pretty nasty bubble to be on.

That said, I don't think you can completely remove the advantage that non-sidebettors have. They always know for sure that they are not in the sidebet, so against multiple opponents who are likely to be in the sidebet, they might be able to eke out a little extra fold equity even without knowing for sure that they are in.

I'm also not sure how you would tell the people in the sidebet who the other sidebettors are without non-sidebettors catching on. You'd have to have them sign up for the sidebet well ahead of time and then disseminate that info via private e-mail or something.

Marshall said...

Joe, you and I should have just chopped the sidebet so we could play normal and not worry so much about the extra bubble. I really think it was a pretty unique situation though, not going to be a routine problem.

Ryan said...

A late comment. Somewhere up there, Martin says, "I think changing your game due to the side bet is just part of the side bet."

Bingo. I don't see what the fuss is about. If you don't want your play to be influenced by a side bet, or put yourself at a disadvantage because one person has leverage against you due to your side bet, don't make it.

Complicated shenanigans to somehow try to hide or partially hide side bet info is just asking for more trouble.

There's no problem to solve, here. There is simply new awareness of how side bets in a small tourney can affect how you play, and how others might play against you.

And, not knowing who is in the side bet to me is not preferable. Hell, half the point of side bets like that is to have the metagame going on.

If you are that concerned about someone like Andrew getting into a leverage situation, don't make side bets.

In any case, the "solutions" suggested all sound like waaaay over engineering to me. I personally would not want to be part of anonymous LMS bets. The whole reason I would want to make that bet would be to have fun with the LMS metagame while I played the tournament "main game."

Bob Loblaw said...

The most interesting thing to me about all this is that I don't know if, in Andy's position, I would have considered the extra bubble that was affecting Joe & Marshall's play. Did he notice?

I'm a pretty naïve player when it comes to external factors that could affect the hand I'm currently playing. Case in point: I'm smart at knowing when I'm on the bubble, and playing accordingly, but I'm not as smart at noticing when somebody is short-stacked. But now that we've had this conversation, I'll be sure to keep the additional bubble top-of-mind next time I'm NOT in the LMS and am in Andy's position.

Problem is, we all know that the chances of this type of situation happening again are very very low.

Sushi Cowboy said...

In my opinion, Andy was not altering his play based on the LMS bubble situation.

The current protocol is that I will inform all other LMS participants who the other participants are. I will not publicly announce who is in the LMS side bet. I guess it is strictly not a *secret* or anything but I don't see why anyone outside of the LMS side bet should get that information if they are not part of if. Regardless of whether they plan to use it for leverage or not, it really just is not any of their business.

Marshall said...

Ya I agree with Martin here. It's not that its anonymous, it's just the non participants don't get to be explicitly told who is in.

I mean sure, I could just not do the LMS bet, but I don't view that as a solution at all. I could just not play in the tourney and that would solve the problem too.

It might just be an inherent flaw to the LMS approach. In fact, it is. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't mitigate that at least a little.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I agree with Ryan too in that if you don't like the scenario of having an LMS weighing into your decisions then don't do it. I am all for not making a huge production out of keeping the participants a national secret but I also think that it makes no sense for me to go out of my way to announce the LMS players to the entire field.

There are options too. I didn't think of chopping the LMS at the time but that's plenty viable. Could also cut the LMS bet to something less than a full buy, maybe another $10 instead. But the intent of the LMS was to give relevant stakes to a wider range of players. Turns out the combination of the LMS amount, the final three players, the shorthanded nature of the LMS, all contributed to a perfect storm of circumstances that made it awkward this time.

Ryan said...

Let's say Marshall and I are the only two participants in a LMS side bet remaining, and say we're at two separate tables.

I want to be able to stand up after a hand, call out to Marshall and say, "You're going down, man! You have two, three hands left tops before you get felted! I can smell it in the air, baby!"

That's why you make side bets like that! I mean Marsh, when we were prop-betting about flop color, using it as a departure point for humor and smack talk was 99% of the reason for it.

Many celebs had LMS bets with each other at the main event this year. What did they do? They would come over and goad each other about it mid hand, and when one was finally eliminated, it was a heavier blow that they'd lost their LMS bet than it was to be eliminated from the main event.

And, naturally, they trash talked about it.

The "hide it from the other players" suggestion, IMHO, strips all the fun out of such a side bet because you aren't allowed to emotionally invest yourself in it for fear of betraying the identity of a fellow LMSer to those not betting on it.

I know it's not exactly the same thing because it's a skill prop bet vs. a luck prop bet, but would you agree to prop on the color of the flop if we weren't allowed to talk about it or mention it at all, and we just had to tally the total in our heads and settle up at the end of the session? No way.

Of course, you can set up a prop bet however you want, and Martin can administer it to whatever extent he is willing, but for me, this hidden crap would strangle a lot of the fun out of it for me.

Marshall said...

Ok I think we need to make a distinction between the two scenarios.

Scenario 1 is when Ryan and I or whomever get together for a Last Longer prop bet. This is between two people. Smack talking etc should be a big part of this.

Scenario 2 is when Martin is collecting an extra tourney buy-in as the Last Man Standing bet.

Big difference here. One is side action independent of the tourney, for even money most likely. And the other is part of your tourney buy-in and out of your hands once it's submitted.

I think one good solution would be to simply match the LMS money to the same scale as the normal payout. This way, sure you might get most of your money back or whatever if too few people play it, but at least there is no new bubbles. You might be on the hook for more money, but thats more of a question of personal preference than anything. And it doesn't give anyone an advantage because if you are on the bubble, so are they.

In our case at T&I's, there were only 3 participants and 4 payouts, so an adjustment would have to be made.

Ryan said...

Maybe not as big a difference as you are suggesting. If you had made a side bet with Joe only on who would last longer, what would have been different when it was down to three?

Marshall said...

The difference is that I would have had a sidebet with Martin then also,and I would have won that already as he was out. Each transaction would be treated differently and separately.

Ryan said...

But the whole point, I thought, was non-side bettors leveraging their position against side bettors. Andy is still sitting there with extra leverage against you and Joe. But if it feels safer to you as a heads-up side bets, stick to that, then. Take action individually against people.

All of these other suggestions still feel overthought and dumb to me, and if LMS follows the same payout structure as the tournament, then it is transparently just trying to increase the stakes of the tournament for some people but not others, which is also dumb. Just fucking decide on a buyin amount, and if that's not enough action, don't play in the tournament or flip coins for twenties on the side.

Or, like I said, whatever. Have the TD provide two envelopes for everyone and have them sign their secret ballots, seal them with special sealing wax, stuff them into double-blind mailboxes while the rest of the players have their backs turned, wait for the TD to sort out who is in and who is out, then wait around for the TD to hand out little pieces of paper to each participant that either contains the list of LMS players or is blank, and finally pink swear that you won't tell a soul who is on that list, except it doesn't matter because everyone in the room basically knows who the sharky degenerate gamblers are and can probably recite the list of who is in and who is out before the TD hands out the slips of paper.

If I'm in the tournament, it definitely won't matter, because I'll make the LMS bet, then reveal all the other LMS bettors to the room as soon as humanly possible, just to put you all on tilt before the cards are even in the air.

Ignoring the fact that the TD will be tainted no matter what. If he doesn't want to be in the side bet, he gets to see who all the LMS players are, and if it's a given that he will be in the bet, then he's at a disadvantage because everyone knows he is in it.

So, all in all, great plan. Well worth the trouble, I'm sure, just to get some small amount of protection against information leverage in a tournament where the fucking buyin didn't represent enough action to satisfy your need to gamble.

BTW, I'm just extremely bitter right now because I lost a crucial online Magic match due to horrible mana flood in the first game and screw in the second that will likely cost me first place in the league I'm in. Dilute the bile in my post by about 95% to get my real level of scorn on this issue. Fucking Magic. If you were like, "whoa, chill out Ryan!" go back and read that again with the understanding that I intentionally ranted at the first thing in front of me because of my anger over something completely unrelated yet equally trivial, and have a good laugh.