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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Stop this Madness! (parts one and two).
Topic: Poker

Stop this "Double-Chance" Madness.

The first double-chance tournament was the Pokermillion in November 2000 that John Duthie won. Roy Houghton had the idea that players who'd travelled from as far as Australia and America to the Isle of Man should have the option to protect themselves from being knocked out in the early stages of the only big buy-in tournament of the week. Thus he devised the format in which players are allocated only half their intial stack at the outset, with the option to take the second half at any point in the first three levels. Unfortunately festival organisers have adopted the idea without knowing the reasoning behind it.

In the last two 'double-chance' tournaments I've played, half the players at my table took their entire allocation before the first hand was dealt and half of the rest took theirs in the first twenty minutes, without having lost their whole starting stack. Is there really a demand for this format? The whole point of double-chance is to give some possible extra play for people who've travelled across many time-zones to play a big buy-in main event. It's completely pointless in mid-week £500 London-based freezeouts where all the players live within the M25.


Stop this Max Buy-in Madness.

Why do no-limit cash games in Britain all have maxinum buy-ins? I've asked this question to countless dealers and floor managers and can't get an intelligent response. The reason is that they are all copying what they consider to be normal practice, which in fact originated online. Few people seem to know the background. It's worth explaining.

The first online poker games were all limit-bet structured. Initially they were all hold'em. Later came seven-card stud. It was a long time before anyone offered 'big bet' poker (pot-limit or no-limit). By my recollection, the first site to do so was one that I'll hazard 90 per cent of you have never heard of. It was CCC poker (the online operation of the Concord Card Casino - an Austrian bricks and mortar poker business). The first big-bet game they offered was not hold'em. It was Pot-limit omaha. There was no maximum buy-in.

Because the skill differential between novices and experienced players is so big in PLO, the seasoned players all bought in for large stacks and proceeded to wipe out the beginners. I recall people in the Vic telling me of the thousands they'd made very quickly from people who thought that a queen high flush or a small full-houses was a big hand. Very soon there was no more game. The beginners had been wiped out. Therefore the next sites to offer 'big-bet' games decided they needed to blunt the good players' edge and figured that a maximum buy-in was the best way to do this. The practice was adopted by all others sites for no-limit and pot-limit games.

If you ever fancy driving yourself insane, ask the players at your table why the max buy-in exists (it never did when we played pot-limit). You won't believe the utterly bogus explanations you'll hear. As things stand, I see little good reason for max buy-ins in bricks and mortar poker clubs. I certainly don't understand the argument that it's to make the game less 'intimidating'! It's no-limit hold'em. It's meant to be intimidating.

And in any case, you can only lose what you sit down with!

Saturday, 13 September 2008 - 1:06 AM BST

Name: "Peter B"
Home Page:

The game, as several books have pointed out, is not No Limit Holdem. It's Stack-Limit hold'em. The relatively limited buy-in (100x big blind) also makes it a medium-stack game.  Because most players are now used to the strategy in medium-stack games, they prefer a game where, if they have worked their way from $100 to $300 in a $100 buy-in game, they are not threatened with "stack-hunters"  (players hunting the large stacks of weak players and only sitting down in those games).


If you eliminated maximum buy-ins in online games (and I'm fine with this being done for some games) you would make people considerably more likely to hit and run and would reduce the stability of (already rather fluxable) games.  Malmuth has said that the survival of "no limit" online has been solely because of the maximum buy-in. He may be exaggerating, but you can see his point. There's little reason for poker sites to make the games more skilful  (and deep stack is obviously more testing than medium stack). Therefore they keep the maximum buy-in. It may not be 'desirable' from the skilled player's point of view, but it definitely isn't 'madness' from the point of view of the poker site.

I'll admit that I like the max buy-in limit. I remember pot limit games when a not-too-rich youngster would hit a run of cards, and the MOGs would just call for more chips. The deeper pockets had a distinct edge. Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to get up and leave. I think that live stack-limit games in LV have survived well because of the max buy-in. However, I would add the caveat that this should be increased to the level of the smallest stack at the table. It's a farce when you have a 12-hours old game in the Flamingo where all the survivors have a grand or so in front of them, but you can still only sit down with the maximum of $200.

Saturday, 13 September 2008 - 5:55 PM BST

Name: "David Young"

Loose thoughts on this -

I am intrigued by the thought of there being MORE hit-and-run online if maximums were removed. Isn't the online hit and run pretty much de rigeur now?

We did not have maximums in live games here in Britain when the game was pot-limit. If the purpose of the max buy-in is to protect the long-term surivival of the game then that's news to the people who work in the casinos. Nobody has ever advanced that as the reason. My point was that the introduction of maximums happened because of CCC's experience with PLO games that had a rare mixture of novices and skilled opponents.

At a practical level, I don't see how you could vary the level of the max according to the smallest stack, as you suggest.

Also, keep in mind that people do play poker for fun (it's easy to forget this) and that for many people having big stacks at the table to shoot for is part of that fun. If they want to be protected from some feared advantage held by big stacks, they can always go back to limit poker!

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