Party Poker Monster Review
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2006-08-13, by TwoGunEven if you are just casually involved in the poker world, chances are you have heard of Party Poker's "Monster" promotion. Thanks to an intense marketing campaign, Party Poker has captured the attention of several million consumers. But what is the "Monster" promotion? What will it mean for the games at Party Poker? This Weekly Shuffle will analyze the Monster promotion to see if it's really worth all the fuss.
In a nutshell, the Party Poker Monster is a series of freerolls. Here is how the freerolls work:
Weekly $100k Freeroll: This will be held 32 times between now and next May. The top 2000 players from each of these freerolls advance to the Monthly $1 million freeroll.
Monthly $1 Million Freeroll: These will be held on the last Sunday of each month beginning September 24. The top nine players from each of these freerolls qualify for an offline event held three weeks after the freeroll. There will be eight of these $1 million freerolls.
Grand Online Final ($5 million prize pool or larger): This will be held May 26, 2007. To qualify, players need to be among the top 1000 in one of the monthly $1 million freerolls.
Grand Offline Final: The final six players from the Grand Online Final will compete in Rio de Janeiro for the large cash prizes.
So how does one dive into this whirlwind of huge freerolls? The ladder starts with the weekly $100,000 freerolls of which there are four ways to qualify. Most of the cash games on Party Poker are now "Monster Jackpot Tables". When someone hits the bad beat jackpot at one of these tables, everyone who was playing at a table of equivalent stakes and game-style will win two free entries to a weekly $100k freeroll (they can choose two $100k freerolls of their choice). Players may also win a seat to a weekly $100k freeroll through sit'n'go tournaments or scheduled tournaments. Lastly, players could net a free seat to a weekly $100k freeroll by earning a certain number of PartyPoints throughout the week.
In both the weekly $100k freerolls as well as the monthly $1M freerolls, the top 1,000 finishers will win cash prizes. The Grand Online Final started with a base prize pool of $5,000,000. However, a percentage of the prize pool from each tournament qualifier and the extra money from the Monster Jackpot tables will be added to the prize pool for the Grand Online Final. At the time of the writing of this article, the $5M prize pool had already ballooned to $7.1M with still a little more than nine months left for it to continue to grow. It should be noted that this $2.1M increase took just three weeks to progress! At this pace, the final prize pool will be well in excess of $30,000,000! ".
There will be, at most, 8,000 participants in the Grand Online Final. Let's keep it conservative and say that the final prize pool will be $25M. This gives each of the 8,000 participants an equity of $3,125!
Although mind-blowingly complicated, it is pretty clear that the Party Poker Monster promotion is drawing a lot of attention to the online site. In the coming months there will be enormous sums of money up for grabs for the tens-of-thousands of players at Party Poker. Sound too good to be true? In a way it is. These massive prize pools aren't being totally funded by Party Poker out of the goodness of their hearts. Party did seed the Grand Online final with $5 million, but most of the extra money for that online final is coming from the extra rake at the Monster Jackpot Tables. So essentially, the players are funding the prize pools for these massive freerolls.
The controversy surrounding the Monster primarily stems from the additional $.50 rake at the Monster Bad Beat Jackpot tables. Most games at Party Poker played at $2-$4 fixed-limit and higher or $1-$2 no-limit to $10-$20 no-limit are Monster tables. The extra $.50 rake at these tables primarily goes to fund the bad beat jackpot ($.35), with a portion also going to feed the Monster jackpot ($.15). Party Poker does not rake these jackpots, so all the money goes back to the players.
In essence, what Party Poker is doing with these jackpots is creating two lotteries. The bad beat jackpot is based entirely on luck (doesn't take skill to have your quads to lose to a straight flush). The Monster jackpot is the huge Monster Final Freeroll; tournaments of the size of the Monster Final tend to have a very strong luck element. Many players object to having a portion of their winnings used to fund these jackpots, since they'd rather not partake in these types of lotteries. They came to play poker after all, not to play a lottery.
More than anything, the added Monster Tables are really just forcing people to play bad beat jackpot tables, with a $.15 extra rake going to this complicated promotion. Who benefits from the freerolls takes a lot of analysis itself, but most of that extra rake is just going to a simple bad beat jackpot. Some people might not like playing for the bad beat jackpot because of the variance involved (rarely does one get a piece of the jackpot). The bad beat jackpot is nonetheless break-even EV for the player since Party Poker neither adds money to nor rakes the BBJ.
Before going into further analysis of how the Monster will affect the softness of Party Poker's games, a few assumptions need to be laid out.
1. Fish and casual players in general tend to stick to one poker room more so than sharks. Casual players have a limited amount of time to play poker, and they do not want to spend this time moving money from one site to another, downloading software, etc. In contrast, sharkier players already have accounts at most sites and are familiar with the vast number of online poker sites. Moving to a new poker room is not difficult for them.
2. Sharks care more about hourly rate than fish. This is because sharks play poker to make money, whereas fish play poker to have fun.
3. Fish enjoy freerolls and jackpots more than sharks. This is because sharks have less of an edge over them in these contests, and casual players tend to enjoy the ability to win a jackpot more than people that look at poker as a means for a steady side income.
At higher limits, the extra jackpot rake will not matter matter much. The extra $.50 rake at a $15-$30 game isn't suddenly going to make that game unbeatable for someone who excels at that limit. That person's hourly rate from just playing that game will decrease from the extra rake, but that person's total winnings should theoretically not be affected in the long run because of the chance to win money from the jackpots. It's likely that most players at this limit will not alter where they play poker because of the extra jackpot rake.
However, at lower limits, the extra rake has a more significant effect on the hourly rate. The proportion of the player's overall winnings at these limits will be greatly affected by the extra jackpot rake. An extra $.50 out of a $30 pot is much different than an extra $.50 out of a $140 pot. So a higher proportion of these players net winnings will be decided by the outcomes of the two jackpots. We can expect that the jackpot rate will significantly affect who plays in these games.
There isn't exactly a shortage of a $2-$4 limit or $1-$2 no-limit games online, so people who are angered by the jackpot can easily move to another site. It's likely that the people that multi-table significantly (3 or more tables) at these limits will find new sites to play at, since they are the types of players that don't like jackpots. These players probably used to play at Party Poker for a reason (softer games, easier to multi-table), so it's likely that these players will have a lower overall hourly rate at their new site than they used to have at Party Poker. In short, these are the people who lose out because of the promotion.
It's likely that there will be an exodus of decent middle-stakes players from Party Poker. Some that play $2-$4 might drop down to $1-$2, where there is no jackpot. This might mean the $1-$2 fixed-limit games might become a bit tougher. However, in general, it's likely that these players will just take their play to another site. Therefore, the games at these limits at Party Poker will probably become significantly easier.
This promotion is very good for players that play games like $2-$4 limit and $1-$2 no-limit that don't mind jackpots/freerolls. This is mainly because the Monster will drive out good players at that limit that don't want to play for the jackpots. It is also likely that Monster promotion will draw in more fish that see ads for the Monster on television and other mainstream media. So instead of competing against four-tabling semi-pros, people at lower-middle stakes games will see more "I saw an ad for Party Poker on television" players.
After all of this Monster analysis, some of you may be left with the burning question: Why did Party Poker do this promo in the first place? There are a couple of reasons. Much has to do with its ability to advertise in the United States. Most mainstream media outlets (such as ESPN) will not carry advertisements for real-money gambling websites. However, they will advertise for PartyPoker.net, which just has play money games. Since it is possible for people to qualify for the Monster freerolls through the play money website (Party Poker has bi-weekly multi-table tournaments for this), it is able to advertise this huge promotion in its largest market.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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