Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stakes and chips

Though the days have switched back and forth, Midweek Poker has been running strong for well over two years now. In the beginning we started at .20/.40 stakes so that a $40 buy in would get you two full racks of chips and we would play in the familiar psuedo 1/2 format. We next moved to .25/.50 stakes where it took a $50 buy in to get those same two racks. Then, in a blatantly transparent effort to deal with less change, the buy in was bumped to $60 so that everyone could just pay in $20s. And so it has been for quite a while.

I believe that the time may be right for another change.

Even on average single table attendance nights we routinely get all of the chips and many of the straps into play. Not that that's a problem because I like the deep stack play of the 1/2 "unit" format. I think that it plays better and that we get better poker out of it. The side effect is that we can end up mountains of chips in stacks by the end of the night. Fortresses, towers, or mounds of chips I think work fine...mountains I think are a little excessive. I think that part of the cause is the chip structure and the other part is that the stakes are not as relevant as they used to be. Whether it is inflation, different players, or just the fact that we are used to the stakes, I feel that the .25/.50 game as it is set up now is not right sized. I think changing the stakes and/or the structure would suit the game. Below are some ideas I've been mulling over. I think that one of the options or a combination of options would fit our game better than the current setup.

* Deeper maximum buy in
Changing the buy in from $20-$60 to $20-$100 would allow for deeper starting stacks. Everyone would still be allowed to buy in for the standard $60 still of course and the minimum of $20 would remain untouched so no one would be forced to buy in over their comfort level. We end up averaging around the same chip depth by the end of the night anyway so this change would primarily just be accelerating the process of getting everyone to deeper chip stacks. My impression from the mega-deep stack nights that we have played on the weekends is that deeper stacks promote better play since people have more potentially at stake. It would be a way to raise the stakes without really raising the stakes since blinds would remain .25/.50.

* Higher stakes
The next convenient step up the food chain would be .50/1. Many of us have played that on the weekend and with the frequency of straddles we are often essentially playing those stakes much of the time anyway. We do have the option of intermediate stakes due to the pseudo 1/2 format that we use. Just like we used to play .20/40 we can make the SB/BB any arbitrary amount and just convert at buy in and cash out. Though it would be unconventional we could bump to basically any stake amount between .25/.50 and .50/1.

* Blind chips
At Fixed Limit night we used the $1 chips at face value and introduced a .25 ante chip. Likewise we could give everyone a stack of quarter chips at the beginning of the night and use the Blues at face value. My prediction is that all betting post flop would be in even increments of $1 and that stacks of 60 chips (minus some for blinds) would end up in the middle pretty quickly. I've seen LV casinos switch from 200x$1 chips to 40x$5 chips. I've also seen Ryan's lunch game switch from .25 and $1 chips to just using .25 chips. In both cases I prefer the deeper stacks because I feel that better poker is played when people don't feel short stacked. Despite the fact that there may be an equivalent amount of money represented, fewer physical chips has a definite effect on the play at the table.

* Switching to .50/.50 blinds
In this scenario the chips would be worth .50 each and both SB and BB would be a single chip. The main effect would be cutting all stacks in half. Leaving the max buy at $60 and going to .50 units would provide for a starting stack of 120 chips which I think is pretty reasonable.

* Allowing/disallowing straddles
Regardless of the stakes or chip format, allowing or disallowing straddles will change the effective stakes of the game. Straddle policy in conjunction with other changes can provide a tweak to tune the play one way or another.

* New denomination
As much as I like how the 1/2 unit system works I do see room for another denomination to come into play. I would prefer to stay away from a $5 chip since I think that it would lead to the game being played in increments of 5 after the flop. I had previously floated the idea of a 20 unit plaque before we brought the straps into play. Though I'm lukewarm about the actual use of a plaque I think that a 20 unit marker could work. I was thinking along the lines of a small packet of bills folded in half. The working term I have been using for these is "sugar packet." The packs would easily exchange for a stack of chips which I think is the biggest Achilles heel of the current system. With bets so large happening so often moving bunches of full stacks across the table would be simplified by sugar packets but without diminishing the ability or likelihood of betting in fine increments like 9, 17 or 23.

So there ya go. Maybe others don't see a problem and if everyone wants to proceed with business as usual then that's fine by me. But trying to look at it from as unbiased a view as possible, I believe that there is room for improvement to make the game run smoother and be more enjoyable for everyone. Let's hear everyone's thoughts on the matter and we can figure out what the Midweek Poker is going to look like going forward. Thanks!

25 comments:

Ryan said...

I'm fine with increasing max buyins to $100.

I'm also OK with .5/1 as well, but we should find out if it's a deal breaker for any regulars.

As for denominational stuff, I have no strong opinion other than to say that what feels right to me depends on the number of players at the table.

If we're six-handed, making a barge out of $300 in blues is fun, but it is a bit impractical when I have to ship half of it to someone who got in with the worst of it and sucked out on me.

With a full table, I find anything more than 15-20 stacks to just be in the way.

What denominations and quantities we use is just a psychological factor. Yes, it can impact how the game plays because of that, but I'm willing to try any unit breakdown for an evening to see how it feels.

I do like betting in quarter-sized units, though. If we did quarters/dollars, we would go back to betting in cash amounts, yes? That might be hard to process at first. But, it ultimately wouldn't be a big deal.

We'll see what others say, but I don't think there would be any problem in experimenting with different chip structures...

Sushi Cowboy said...

To answer your question, yes, if we went with introducing Quarter chips just for blinds then I'm sure betting would turn into betting in dollar amounts. I also believe that it would be just human nature that the game would start basically turning into a 1/2 game thanks to the magic of abstraction of chips. I would bet that a pre-flop raise to three Blues playing as dollars would draw more action than the same raise as 12 Blues playing as quarters.

royalbacon said...

As a former regular who is planning on coming back to the game soon, I’m sad to say that .5/1 would probably keep me away more often than not. Sure, I could continue to buy in for only $60, but I don’t have any interest in feeling like I’m short stacked right out of the gate.

And unfortunately buying in for more than $120 (2x$60) on any given night would be foolish of me given my current baby-fied cash flow.

But I’m just one person, and I don’t expect you to keep the game the same as it was back in early ’08 just so I can show up on a weekly basis.

Other than that, I welcome the changes just to see how they affect the game. Martin, your $3 chip comparison (Three $1 chips versus twelve 25¢ chips) makes complete sense. I would certainly expect more callers on the three $1-chip bets.

Brant said...

I'm with Royal, I've been in since the start of 08 and have been suffering from an inability to keep my bankroll consistent. If you go to a .50/1 blind setup I'd be less inclined to play regularly and shorthanded play would simply be out of the question for me. My attendance does not have a significant impact on the game though, if you discount the +EV that anyone in the game can expect if I am in attendance, and I of course will attend under just about any format change when I can afford the stakes.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Switching to .50/1 was just one of many different options which were put out on the table.

I would be interested in hearing opinions about whether people felt the format should even be changed at all and if so what they thought about the various options.

After letting the topic percolate, the option that appeals the most to me would be running the game with .50 chips and having the blinds be .50/.50 with $20-$100 buy in and allowing straddles. I believe that scenario would address the chip inflation issue by cutting all betting amounts in half. Even if someone bought in for $100 that would be 200 chips, 40 less than the current default buy in quarter chips. It would also basically keep the stakes the same. It is rare that the SB opts to not complete their blind if there hasn't been a raise ahead of them and a straddle to two .50 chips would be the same dollar amount as a straddle to four quarters.

I've also seen the matching SB and BB format work in the lunch game. It is not my favorite and I would prefer to have the BB 2x the size of the SB but I think it is a fair trade off under the circumstances.

jason said...

Wow, so many options.

For me personally, I am in favor of anything to increase the stakes, but I am hesitant to make a strong case for it.

WNP is mainly a social event for me. Even if we double the stakes, it is still at a lower stake than I would prefer. But I do care and do want to win, regardless of the stakes.

The advantage of lower stakes is that players can opt to reraise with fun hands that typically have little showdown value. The Spainer hands, the Sola hands, the gillty hands, and the Marsh hands are going to be reraised with and shown down less as the stakes increase.

With the lower stakes, higher bankroll players can make more high variance plays, lower bankroll players can play more traditional poker. It is also easier, I think, to attract new players like Adam at the lower stakes.

Any thought given to either having both available .25/.50 and .50/$1 on any given night as we often have more than 12 players? Or having lower stakes nights the first couple weeks of the month and then higher stakes on other nights.

For the players that have expressed a desire to continue with the lower stakes, there would be games available each month but maybe not every week. But I don't believe we have a player that prefers lower stakes that is a regular showing up every week.

Kind of a rambly email, but one small vote for increasing the stakes.

Marshall said...

I think we should switch to .50-1 and go to the 1 dollar chips with smaller ones for blinds. 100.00 buy in max.

The truth is that we are playing for .25-.50. This is a really low stakes game, and to compensate, we straddle it up to 1.00 constantly.

Here is a typical result:

Scenario 1: Our current stakes. blinds preflop are:
.25+.50+1.00= 1.75

Someone wants to raise, so they make it 16 (which is pretty standard at our game). One guy and the BB want to see the flop with their hands, so they call

Pot is 12.75$

One guy bets the flop, lets say 8.00 or so. BB calls, other guy folds.

Pot is now 28.75.

Turn comes off and Guy wants to bet again, so he bets a reasonable 18.00. If he gets called, the pot now has 64.75.

Now in scenario 2 we try it with .50-1.00 and no straddle.

Same stuff. Normal raise is probably 3x, so 3.00 pre makes the pot 9.50.

Same action makes a bet of 6.00 from 2 guys on the flop, making the pot 21.50.

Same action on the turn makes a bet of 14.00, making the pot 49.50.

End result going to the river is the pot is 49.50 vs 64.75 for our current stakes.

This is obviously not exact, but the point is clear that if we up the stakes to something more reasonable and take out the straddles for the most part, the play should improve quite a bit.

If there is a straddle on, we are essentially playing .25, .50. 1.00. If that is the case, we only have 60 BB's to start, where if we change the stakes to .50-1.00, we would have 100 BB's for a full buy in or the same 60 BB's for the "old" buy in.

I think the stakes would be upped a bit overall, but the impact would not be very big. For those on a shorter roll, buying in for 60.00 should be just fine I would think.

As far as straddles go if we end up at .50-1, I would say we should either make them an occasional thing, or make it so the whole table agrees to a round or something if wanted. Straddling every hand at .50-1 would probably push it a bit too much for the short rolled guys I think.

Marshall said...

I don't like the idea of having multiple stakes available really.

I think we would just end up playing literally the same exact guys all the time, and part of the coolness of WNP is mixing up opponents and tables situations.

The fact is, people can still buy in for 60.00 if we up the stakes and have 60BB, which is not a short stack at all.

I mean the BB is a dollar for goodness sakes, we aren't talking about a lot of money either way. Even for people that have a limited budget the difference is minimal, and can be completely negated if you just continue to buy in for the 60.00.

This isn't a tournament, you aren't at any disadvantage buying in for 60BB vs 100BB's.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Would a .50/1 game really be enough of a stakes boost? That is actually less pre-flop than when there is a straddle on in the .25/.50 game. Would anyone rather play 1/2 instead of .50/1 for a stakes change?

I agree that .25/.50/1 is only 60 effective BBs which is part of the reason I don't care for the straddles. Bumping the max buy to $100 would address that issue without changing stakes.

I would like to look at other options before raising the blinds (or the BB at least). We have already heard from players who have said that they would not want to play at higher stakes. I recall floating the idea of changing format of the midweek game once a month but the response was not favorable.

I don't see a problem with running two games of different stakes. We are already playing the same people week after week already. If someone wanted to mix it up they could always play in the other game if they wanted to play with other people.

jason said...

Not a big fan of $1/$2 for the weekly game though I would love to see more $1/$2 on the weekends.

Reason: I think few of us have the bankroll to withstand the swings of a $1/$2 game on a weekly basis.

I know Ryan and Joe Sola have both sat out a few weeks because of bad runs at our standard game.

The beauty of our game is that no matter how bad a run people go on you can for the most part count on them to come back. The truly bad players don't come back at any stakes (Chuck R. Nick Morelli are a couple that come to mind). But I would hate to start losing regulars because their bankroll was dented.

Austin said...

I'm going to agree with Brant and Royal that raising the blinds is most likely a deal breaker for me. I'd be willing to try it, but I have a feeling that it won't change the game tremendously (in how people play their cards).

And no, the $100 stack doesn't mean that much more than the $60 stack, but if you lose half of your $60 stack, you now have 1/4th that of someone else as opposed to 1/3rd. It's not a huge change, but it's still quite a bit different and I would assume people to play slightly differently. Lose more than half and you are super short stacked comparatively. That's not really the case right now at least until the end of the night.

Marshall said...

I think the difference would be totally negligible. If you guys who are concerned about stacks actually looked at what you put in preflop at our game now, you would see that it's a marginal difference at best.

Also, this is a cash game, being short stacked is not a disadvantage.

Sushi Cowboy said...

OK, so here's another option to throw out on the table. Again, assuming we have enough players for each level, how about moving both up and down in stakes? Perhaps a .25/.25 $25 buy in game along with a .50/1 (or 1/1) $100 buy in game?

Would people who do not want to move up in stakes want to move down?

jason said...

I would move down in stakes if the lower level was the same or essentially the same as our current stakes. If the stakes were lower than current stakes, I would not be interested.

Marshall said...

Marty that is too big of an assumption to make that we have 2 tables worth for a whole night regularly.

What if we have 9 people? Then we go 1 table at bigger stakes and 1 at lower? That doesn't seem reasonable, as once one person busts from either table we would want to combine, which would be a nightmare as far as cashing out etc.

I think that the only reasonable options so far have been to:

A. Keep it the same

B. Up the stakes to.50-1 and make the *max* buy-in 100.

C. Up the max buy-in but keep the stakes the same.

I personally am in favor of upping the stakes to .50-1, as its still a very reasonable amount by any measure, people can still buy in for 60 and have a decent stack if the 100 is an issue, and it makes the chip situation much easier to handle as we make the chips at face value with a smaller denomination.

One thing that I have learned from the last few weeks in Martin's absence, was that using fewer chips is not that bad, and that transporting hundreds of chips across the table and and cashout is a bigger timesink that I had noticed.

Even for Martin's sake, at the end of night, he has to wait until all of us are cashed out before going home, and handling the sheer volume of chips simply takes a while. He has never complained about it, but cashing out was pretty straightforward over the last few weeks with all the different denominations I thought.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Marsh, I don't see just raising the stakes to .50/1 as a viable option. It might not make a difference to you but others have already chimed in that it is a deal breaker for them. I know that some people are looking to move up in stakes and I'm reviewing options for how we can make that happen without losing people. I have a potential line on some players from another group who might be interested in playing. If that pans out then floating two games at different stakes for the whole night would not be a problem.

Marshall said...

I don't see how it's not a viable option to simply up the stakes and buy in. If did that and cut the straddles we would have basically the same game we do now, but you would please the people that want to buy in for more.

I still really don't like splitting up the tables, I just see it as a potential nightmare. What if one table gets shorthanded? We can't just take one person over. What if some people show up then get to play for 1 hour before there aren't enough low limit guys? Seems like way too much trouble for not that much gain.

And my opinions expressed here are not from a "Well it doesn't affect me so lets just change it" perspective. Yes I am a degenerate and don't give a shit about the money, but I also just think that .50-1 is a real sweet spot. At any local casino the lowest possible stakes are 1-2, and you are buying in for 100-200 usually there. I understand that this is a bit too much for our game, as we want to be able to take in newer players who want to try to learn before playing at the bottom casino level. But at the same time, we have bankers, lawyers, business owners and IT guys playing for quarters at our game. Playing .50-1.00 is not exactly big stakes, and I am not saying that as a degenerate, I am saying that in general. Casinos won't even spread games that low. And the fact is, buying in for 60 at that game is not buying in short stacked, as 60 BB's is plenty of wiggle room for the people that don't want to put as much on the table at once.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I understand that there are people who wouldn't mind moving the stakes up. That is part of why I made the post.

Even though you and Jeh tend to straddle, not everyone does so the comparison of a .25/.50/1 game to a .50/1 does not wholly apply. I would agree that for those hands where a straddle is on that playing .50/1 would be similar but not every hand is .25/.50/1. And regardless of how .50/1 plays in comparison to .25/.50/1, Brant, Austin, and Royal have all stated that moving the stakes up to .50/1 would negatively affect their attendance so I'm looking for options.

I understand the concern about keeping two tables running and I can appreciate the intricacies of having two different stakes running. But *assuming* that we enough people to keep both tables running all night, I don't see why we wouldn't offer it in order to allow everyone to play at stake levels that they are comfortable at.

Marshall said...

Well my points about the two tables were that A) that is a huge and probably not realistic assumption.

and B) I don't like the idea of not getting to play with other people.

And my comparison between .25-.50 w/straddle and .50-1 without was not intended to "wholly apply". It was intended to show that the difference is not as simple as "double" and also that each player gets to decide their own level of risk. It's not like anyone has to buy in for more if they don't want to.

I of course wouldn't want anyone to leave based on the change, but I am not seeing how that would be a reasonable choice anyway. If it doesn't cost more why would you not come?

Also it should be noted that we might be missing out on other players that want to play but view .25-.50 as too small of stakes to be worth it, where one step from the casino bottom floor might be more "worth it"

I think we all know I will be there regardless, but I think the reactions to upping the stakes to .50-1 are probably not taking all the factors into consideration and just viewing it as a strict doubling of stakes, which it isn't.

I have heard rumblings from quite a few of the hardcore regulars wanting the stakes bumped up a bit, and that has to be considered as well. I think that .50-1 and 100 buy in is the best compromise, but I will accept whatever the group decides as a whole for sure.

royalbacon said...

I love what a heated discussion this generates.

I’m changing my stance. Ryan and Marsh have always been good debaters and I’ve always been quite impressionable.

I vote for upping the stakes to .50/1 for a month to try it out. See who continues to show up, see who decides to not play any more. If, after a month, the number of players has dropped off considerably, then go back to the old setup. If not, continue at the new setup.

If the # of people showing up continues to grow with a .50/1 breakdown, and 2 tables becomes consistent, then break down into two .50/1 tables. Or talk about having a .25/.50 table at that time (in the online forum we’re discussing now, since presumably the only-.25/.50 people will have dropped out of weekly play). But it sounds like 2-table nights are still inconsistent enough that it won’t matter.

And if I’m honest with myself, I won’t be able to show up more than once or twice a month no matter _what_ the stakes are. I have to admit that having $100 on the line right out of the gate kind of sickens me, only because I know where else that $100 can go (diapers, baby food, college fund). And enduring the “you play with HOW MUCH?!” conversation with the missus won’t be fun (see what $100 can buy in the previous sentence). But that’s not very different than the conversations we had _before_ Isaac was born.

Of course take everything I say with a grain of salt, because I haven’t been to a WNP game since March of 2008. I hope to come back sometime soon, and I look forward to the new people and the new stakes.

Brant said...

Do whatever you guys want to since I am on a limited bankroll (read: none) and I shouldn't have any impact on this decision.

I don't think the casino example is a good one since those of you with a lot of money could play higher stakes at said casino whenever you want to, even on Tuesdays...

I'll play when I feel I have the scratch for whatever buy-in there is, if everyone buys in for 100, then I will attend less often as it does make a difference to me that I would start with less chips than everyone else(this sentiment may not hold up by conventional cash game logic but in my head it makes a difference to begin behind)
Buying in short also basically tells those at the table with full buy-in power that I may not have more than one bullet and entice strong-arm stealing. In our game, stack sizes are very important and it is an arguably major disadvantage to buy in short, keep in mind who is writing this before you spine-punch me Marsh for making that statement.

All that being said, in the end, if a majority of the players want a higher stakes, then raise them. You will lose some players due to this decision, you may gain some as was posted earlier so the game itself probably won't suffer a numbers loss, there may be some former regulars who cannot continue.
I don't think a two table, split-stakes idea is practical since there will be no guarantee of consistency of numbers for each stake and there would be at least some players either not comfortable or bored with whatever stakes the single table ends up at.

p.s. I love you guys

jason said...

I do need to respectfully disagree with you Brant on the buying in short thing being a disadvantage.

There are many players, myself being one of them, that actually prefer being short.

When you are short stacked you are much more likely to be called down and much more likely to get action.

When I play my normal game PLO $2/$4, I buy in short for $240. That's the equivalent of buying in for $30 in our game as it is currently run.

Yet, I am tremendously successful. How do I do it? Hard to imagine but I basically nit up and play only about 35% of the hands I received including the free ones I get in unraised pots in the blinds.

You could do the same but it takes tremendous patience, which is easy when I have multiple tables running on line. Live it is much harder to do.

But I do hope we get a game that works for you too. The overall objective is to increase the enjoyment of the game and hopefully increase attendance as well. We will see where it goes.

jtrey333 said...

Ok, I wish this thread would have started while I was in Seattle, so I will have to chime in remotely from SF and add my two cents in with the relatively short amount of time I have to devote to anything other than work at the moment (read: 15 minutes). Wish I could make this more than just short and sweet.

1) My personal preference: higher stakes. I think everyone assumes this. However..

2) Even HIGHER personal preference: a game where everyone feels comfortable with whatever decision we come to.

While I personally think that being short stacked is not a disadvantage, I do see where Brant is coming from with having only one bullet. No matter whether we change the stakes or not, I think anyone having only one bullet will feel shortstacked... but its the *feeling* one has when shortstacked.

Some see it as an advantage, some do not. Jason of course feels better shortstacked but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't. In the end, it's a personal matter of how you feel shortstacked as on a logical basis, there's advantages/disadvantages to both that just evens out.

And so it comes down to just feelings. Some of us are locked into our feelings, while others were locked in and are now open to the idea. I'm definitely looking forward to further discussing so we can come to some kind of consensus where we ALL can feel comfortable with the stakes we're playing. That is truly what I want out of this, and no matter what my personal preference is, my REAL preference is that we have a game that everyone enjoys. I will be there no matter what we decide.

That being said, counting on two tables of anything seems unrealistic to me. I think deciding on one set of default stakes is the way to go. Sorry for the rambling and the non-proofreading but I promise to have more coherent thoughts when I return.

Marshall said...

Brant (spine punch coming here) you of all people should *want* to play short stacked like Jason does in his bigger online games where he is "tremendously successful".

Fact is, you simply adjust your play to it and it has some huge advantages.

1. Like Jase said, you get more action. If I have 100 bucks in front of me, and you have 25, I am simply way more likely to just pay you off when you hit and go all in than I am someone who has 100 in front of them.

2. You limit your risk. If something should go terribly wrong and you get one-outed, well you didn't lose as much.

3. You avoid tough decisions. If you have 100 in front of you, and the flop comes down 8s9sJh, and Marsh shoves all in on you and you have AA, well you (some might say) have a tough decision on your hands. If you had 25 to start the hand and already had put in 5 of it, well ship it in there, worst case is a small loss.

I guess my point is that I agree with Jeh that I want everyone to be happy, but also Fuck Brant's "feelings". And his spine too.



oh and i love you too B

Ryan said...

heh. I could have sworn I checked the "email follow-up comments" button, and thought that nobody else had chimed in, until I saw Martin's new post.

I have some reading to do...and I missed out on responding to 23 other replies!