Monday, 15 August 2016

Where is the "God" Pokerstars Promotion?

Its been over 8 months since my post about Negreanu responding to the VIP changes.

One of the biggest thing to take away from the podcast was that despite the bad, Negreanu had constantly repeating to us that good things were coming in the new year by some sort of promotion that would attract new recreationals to the site. The new promotions thought up for 2016 would help negate for the huge cutbacks to their VIP program, and soften the blow as it would bring in lots of new players into the pool.

It was clear that he knew what the promotion was, but wasn't allowed to say. Now its August, we've had some promotions but they've been so lacklustre in hype we have no idea if any of these were the promotions that Negreanu was talking about...

Pictures of palm trees! Get excited for a Holiday Spin and Go promotion! LOL Yawn

"New" Promotions So Far 

  1. Missions - These are promotions based on completing certain tasks for a freeroll ticket to an all in tournament where the winner gets around $50 usually. The "missions" are either cash or sngs, and are things like "Play 5 SNGs" or "Win a hand with JJ" to win your freeroll ticket for the day.
  2. Spin and Go -  It seems that Amaya really love this format, and have been putting it to further use by introducing $2.50 satellites to the Sunday Million, 50 cent win a supercar named Christiano Ronaldo Spin and Go (did anyone win this?), and now just introduced 50 cent win a holiday. All raked at 8%, but do they really make that much money from these stakes?
  3. KO MTT SNGs - I'm not really sure if this would count as a promotion, but they have pushed for more of this format where 50% of buy in is a bounty. Even a new tab has been introduced on the client, even though it doubles down in the SNG lobby. 
  4. BetStars & Spin and Bet - Not poker related, but adding in Sports betting to the client. I assume the idea is to get the betters in, and then they will play poker. Spin and Bet is their "very original" idea of offering a spin to get your odds on a certain bet.
If I had to choose one of the four, I would say that BetStars was what Negreanu might have referred to as the great promotion in 2016. It does seem quite an innovative idea, and in theory could bring in new customers, but its hard to say whether they would be interested in playing poker. The biggest downside to BetStars is you will get worse odds if you only get the 2x multiplier, and my friend who works at a bookmakers say that customers aren't a fan of knowing your odds when betting.

Was BetStars what DNegs was talking about?
I might have missed some, but so far 8 months into 2016 the promotions so far has been less then underwhelming. Every promotion so far has been Missions or Spin and Go related. I'm not sure if I have missed any out, let me know and I'll add it in!

That being said, we do expect Golden SNGs and Milestone hands to turn up at some point. But with 4 months left of the year, 2 promotions seem at pace with what they've done so far so it really looks like that is it. 

Did It Work?

The switching of direction from Amaya to try and get more recreationals into the player pool is a bold and risky one. There is no guarantee that recreationals will stick around, whilst they turn its back on the loyal regulars who gives them guaranteed profits each month.

It looks like they had dropped quite a few Pokerstars Pro's, and brought in what we would expect as expensive football stars, like Christiano Ronaldo, and Neymar. I expect these guys are to bring up the BetStars part of client, but did it work?

I can only find the traffic from the last 6 months, but it seems like it is a slow decline so far. Nothing special and nothing groundbreakingly exciting. We probably would have seen the same line if nothing had happened at all.

It would be nice to compare this to last year, as it might be normal that there is a slow decline in the summer time, as in theory we would expect players to spend more time outside then in the winter...

It has to be noted that 2016 has seen a lot of big sporting events that they could have taken advantage of, such as Euro 2016 and currently the Olympics in Rio. Its not like they had a quiet sporting year! I remember back in the day how fun it was to choose a flag for the winner of the World Cup. As simple as that was, it added a bit of value to the brand that little things like that could happen anytime back then!

What seems to be the biggest contradiction is the fact that Pokerstars is now on the stock market through Amaya. Quarterly results matter to their investors and short term gains are huge. Which is why their new ethos of bringing in new players (which is a long term plan) is not gaining money in the short term as they make it harder for regulars to keeping getting that guaranteed rake for them.

This cannot make the investors happy, and last November it wasn't a pretty sight after introducing the VIP changes...

The guy doing the newsletter to their investors must be doing an amazing job to reassure them that their investments are good!
The stocks has slowly risen a little bit, even after the whole debarkle of [now ex] CEO David Baazov's who insider trading scandal. It is now announced that he has resigned and that Rafi Ashkenazi will now take over. Will we see changes in direction for the future of Pokerstars?

This is Amaya's total stock graph... looks like my poker career winnings graph! ;)

What do you guys think? Has this "God" promotion happened already? Or maybe its yet to come? Or maybe a third option could be that it was cancelled? Who knows?

On a lighter note... no sorry not really lol. A guy on tiltbook announced that he has reached Supernova and his banner showed this...

Valid until Dec 31st is unusual because normally this says 31st Jan 2000-and-next-year. So is this a hint that Stars is planning to scrap Supernova as well in 2017?

Monday, 8 August 2016

Spin Numbers Revisited!

In this post a month ago, I looked at the numbers for my multipliers to compare how accurate they were to Pokerstars suggested percentages. These numbers were tracked by myself manually, noting down everytime I had a 10x + multiplier. This is quite easy, as they are pretty rare and therefore memorable.

However, upon some scouting around I managed to find this program which can look through your hand histories and tell you what multipliers you got. So this time, we can include all the multipliers that are below 10x!

Note that this doesn't really give out any substantially useful information, but it does give an idea of the kind of variance you could get multiplier-wise in a good sample...

What is kinda cool about this program is that it gives you a +/- of what is expected within the program itself... apart from the overall summary for some weird reason.

We can see here that in 5k gives in the $7 stakes, I had more 4x multipliers and less 2x ones. This might sound good but looking down I was due eight 10x's and two 25x's which is actually huge. We could theoretically say that we should be winning 1/3 of those so that could have been an extra (three 10x's and lets be generous and say one 25x) 55 buy ins of winnings missed out on!

The $15s stakes should in theory show a more balanced out spread of multipliers as there is 3 times the sample. 

Here we see that I'm very high on 4x's, but very low on 6x's. The 10x's and 25x's seem to be right on the dot, and I have 4 times the 120x and 240x then what is expected! Unfortunately I didn't take advantage of them winning only 1 of the 5 I've had. So 6th one should be a guarantee if its "no skill"? :D [If no skill then we should win 1/3 of the time)

Combining the overall numbers using my great paint skills it is quite interesting.

I seem to have a lot more 4x's then expected, but this is balanced out by the 6x's I'm not getting. The 10x's+ numbers are not huge, and I'm also running better then no skill in those games!

In Context...

One thing that must be realised is that these numbers in context is not a huge difference. Even 110 games out of the total 22,205 games is only 0.5%, so in the bigger picture the difference is not as big as it seems.

Upon looking at the numbers given, and my results this is what I have come up with.

The biggest difference here is a 0.2% blip. This means that from a 22k sample of hands, the numbers seem relatively accurate. I actually have been running good for my top 3 multipliers, getting way more then I should! But like London buses, wait for one and three come at once. All my top 3 multipliers has come in the last 4 months!

Comparing the numbers here and the ones above I also question this program's +/-'s. I have a suspicion that this program was developed before Pokerstars bumped down the odds from 300k to a million. If that's the case then almost all of the analysis I did above isn't valid at all! Trolled you! xD

In a few weeks the new Hearthstone expansion is coming out, I'm pretty excited about it. It will be an adventure expansion which means you play vs the computer where each boss is unique in a certain way. After defeating these bosses, you will unlock new cards that you can add into your deck and use them against other players in ranked play. New cards mean that the game stays fresh and interesting!

Hope y'all run good at the tables, til next time have a great week!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Welcome to Hearthstone! *Brag 12 Wins!*

The Basics of Hearthstone

A lot of Poker players including the great Negreanu has said that this is their favourite card game! It has some aspects of poker such as bluffing, playing into strength/weaknessness and future planning, as well as the board control aspect of chess.

The game is a free to play, but more cards can be bought through a micro-transaction structure. The cards are based on World of Warcraft which is another Blizzard game, but that isn't really relevant, it just adds that extra interest to those players that know the game.

Each player draws a card each turn, and effectively starts with 4 cards each.

This is the Hearthstone board;

  • Opponent's/Your Face - The objective of the game is to get your opponent's face life to zero. Once you do this they "die" and you win. Here you can see my opponent is on 26 HP and I am on 30 HP.
  • Minions - These are your "fighters" that you put down on the board. They can hit face, or trade with each other. Games will be primarily all about trading minions with each other for control of the board.
  • Mana - This is the cost of playing a card. The game allocates mana to the players each turn, starting at 1 and maxing out at 10.

Each card will always have these 3 numbers (apart from spells).

  • Mana Cost - This is how much it costs to play the card. If we are on turn 6 where we are allocated 6 mana to spend, we can play this card. However below this amount we cant afford to play it and would have to choose a cheaper card or pass.
  • Attack - This is how much damage a minion does to other minions or face.
  • Health - This is how much life each minion has, when this reaches zero the minion dies and is removed from the board.
  • Text - Most of the time, there will be some special attributes to a card. In this instance, this card has the "deathrattle" ability, which means that it does something once it dies. In this case, it will take a minion from your opponent's side of the board and make it your own.
In fighting for the board it is important to trade efficiently. Like in poker, we want max value for our cards. So on the board above we would prefer to trade our 1/2 into the 1/1 as it will kill the minion and remain alive. Trading our 1/1 into his 1/1 will make both minions die. Another option is to trade our 2/4 into his 1/1, but since we can trade the our 1/2 instead, this means we can hit face for 2 damage instead of 1, thus getting max value face damage.

These are the kind of things that we want to think about when playing Hearthstone. The variety of cards and abilities it has makes the game interesting in this way. There are also spells, which do not put a body on the board, but will do something such as pure damage, removal, or even healing.

Having cards like this means that boards where you are winning cannot just be blindly added to, as a card like this can efficiently remove everything and reset it. Even worse, it can swing round in your opponent's favour once clearing because you would have less cards in your hand then him and he could dominate the board in future turns and win.

There are only a maximum of 2 of the same cards available, so considerations would have to be given in what your opponent has, and possibly baiting out spells and removals like this to win the game. 

Decks are constructed on the basis of various tactics, and these can be quickly worked out by seeing what cards they play in the early game, and then adjusting. The variety of strategies that players use to win mean that there is usually quite a rock, paper, sissors circle that counter each other. But the fact that there isn't a one set way to win makes this game extra interesting.

The strategies are;
  • Control Decks - This strategy is to be more cost efficient in your trades then your opponent to dominate the board and then win in the late game with very strong expensive cards.
  • Tempo Decks - Tempo is used to describe a mana efficient, multiple minion playing style. You flood the board with smaller cost minions instead of one big one.
  • Aggro/Face Decks - These decks use the strategy of using a lot of smaller low cost minions to flood the board and instead of trading and fighting for it, hits face continuously and tries to kill you straight up before they run out of steam.
  • One Turn Kill Combos - Because of certain cards' abilities, it is possible to create huge burst damage. Some decks are based around surviving until the late game and then getting all the cards required to kill their opponents in one turn.
  • The Mill Deck - Basically non existent now, but this strategy was based on the whole idea of making your opponent run out of cards faster then you. When a player runs out of cards, they go into "fatigue" which will do n+1 damage each turn. 

Each player chooses 30 cards to make their deck, and then battle it out!

What is Arena?

Arena is a different game mode on Hearthstone where you draft 30 cards, and then battle it out with other drafters. You have 3 lives, and can only win a maximum of 12 games. However well you do, you will get prizes like more packs, dust (which is used to create cards you want), cards themselves, or gold (hearthstone currency).

Make your choice!
Yesterday I managed to get my first 12 win arena run. Getting 12 wins is very difficult and its a huge milestone for me. You need a good draft, to play well, and most importantly have a lot of luck! I managed to do it with this deck, which is quite good!

Interesting note that I didn't have any board clears really, but the 2 Bog Creepers and Krakens were huge picks which helped me finish off a lot of games. Pyroblast and Fireball gave me an added 16 damage off the bat, and there was some Dragon synergy with the Drake/Blackwing/Faerie Dragon cards. Taunt (a card ability which means that you are forced to trade with this minion before any other) really helps push for lethal (KO) in those end game situations where it can be risky to not trade and to go for face damage.

I had a 9-3 win/loss game a few weeks ago where I was up 9-0 and I decided to go for face when trading was the clear correct decision. It backfired as I was punished and I lost the run there after.

Arena is fun because everyone is in the same boat from the start. In ranked play it can be frustrating because those who have the amazing cards will destroy any new player just starting out who isn't willing to spend a lot of money.

Also, getting good at Arena means that you will get rewards and wont have to worry about earning gold. It costs 150 gold to play, but on average getting 7 wins is enough to get that money back in rewards.

I'd totally recommend Hearthstone of any poker player, its a very interesting game and Blizzard has done an amazing job copying the fundamentals from The Magic of Gathering card game, simplifying it, branding it and adding tons of cool things like the sound effects and card animations.

Some resources if your interested;

Blizzard Channel
No nonsense basic teachings series by Trump
Free to Play to Legend Rank (Grandmaster) by Trump
Mostly Arena Plays by Kripparian
Interesting "Experiments" by Disguised Toast
Pushing Limits and Mythbusters by Hysteria

I do think that its sad that the "video game" way direction of poker is basically gone. I think Full Tilt had some good potential of experimenting with this. I liked the Matrix games where the same players play each other on 4 tables, and a mini league would be made.

I wonder if an Arena style format could be made with poker? You pay to enter The Arena, play hyper heads up, 3 lives and your done, 12 wins max. Everyone who enters gets a variety of prizes depending on how well they do! Have a leaderboard for more prizes/bragging rights etc, what do you guys think? That would be fun...