2013 November Nine Odds

[SS] “Bovada has posted Final Table odds. Time to put your money where your mouth is!” Stan the Stat exclaimed. “As most of you know, according to the Independent Chip Model, a player’s odds of a winning a tournament are directly proportional to how many chips he has. So, I compared the Vegas odds1 for this year’s November Nine with their ICM chances of finishing in first (and every other place for completeness):

Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th Bovada
With Vig
J.C. Tran 19.9% 18.2% 16.3% 14.2% 11.9% 9.2% 6.2% 3.2% 0.9% 1.8/1 35.7% 27.9% 19.9% 8.0%
Amir Lehavot 15.6% 15.2% 14.7% 14.0% 13.0% 11.4% 8.9% 5.4% 1.9% 4.5/1 18.2% 14.2% 15.6% -1.4%
Marc-Etienne McLaughlin 13.9% 13.9% 13.8% 13.6% 13.2% 12.2% 10.2% 6.6% 2.6% 5/1 16.7% 13.0% 13.9% -0.9%
Jay Farber 13.6% 13.7% 13.7% 13.5% 13.2% 12.3% 10.4% 6.9% 2.7% 7.5/1 11.8% 9.2% 13.6% -4.4%
Ryan Riess 13.6% 13.6% 13.6% 13.5% 13.2% 12.4% 10.4% 6.9% 2.7% 6/1 14.3% 11.2% 13.6% -2.4%
Sylvain Loosli 10.3% 10.8% 11.3% 12.0% 12.7% 13.5% 13.4% 10.8% 5.4% 8/1 11.1% 8.7% 10.3% -1.6%
Michiel Brummelhuis 5.9% 6.4% 7.2% 8.2% 9.6% 11.8% 15.7% 18.9% 16.1% 12/1 7.7% 6.0% 5.9% 0.1%
Mark Newhouse 3.9% 4.3% 4.9% 5.8% 7.0% 9.1% 13.0% 21.2% 30.8% 15/1 6.3% 4.9% 3.9% 1.0%
David Benefield 3.3% 3.8% 4.3% 5.1% 6.3% 8.1% 11.9% 20.1% 37.0% 15/1 6.3% 4.9% 3.3% 1.5%
Totals 127.9% 100.0% 100.0%

Because of the high vig (almost 28%), only one player has better ICM odds to win than Vegas is laying, and not surprisingly it’s the only amateur of the nine, Jay Farber.”

“On the flip side, chip leader J.C. Tran has the worst odds relative to his stack. He’s the most experienced pro at the table, but is he really twice as likely to win as Lehavot and McLaughlin, who have about three-quarters of his chips? I’d take the second and third place players even-up against the first. It will only take one medium-sized pot for either of them to take over the chip lead.”

[RR] “Lehavot and McLaughlin have Tran on their left, which is bad for them. Position helps Farber, who has three of the four smallest stacks on his left. The odds don’t change anything for me, since it’s a sentimental pick anyway.”

[YY] “That’s just one piece of data though”, Yuri the Young Gun countered. “Riess currently probably has the worst position at the table, but if Newhouse, Brummelhuis, and Loosli either build their stacks or bust out, everything changes. I’d love to get Riess at his real odds. He definitely has a better than one in nine chance of winning.”

[LL] “Well, I wouldn’t place a Vegas bet at those odds, but I’d be happy to get the true odds on Tran and Lehavot”, Leroy the Lion confirmed.

[SS] “Well, we can have a pool and do exactly that. Back whichever player or players you want and put in the Bovada Percent4 in dollars as your bet.”

[RR] “Huh?”

[SS] “Tran would cost you $35.71, Lehavot $18.18, McLaughlin $16.67, Farber $11.76, and Riess $14.29.”

[LL] “But you and I both want Lehavot, so we should each put in $9.09, since we’d only win half the pot.”

[SS] “Right, you’d put in a total of $44.80 for your two players, I’d put in $25.76 for my two, Rod $11.76, and Yuri $14.29 for a total pot of $96.61. Winner take all except if Leroy and I split.”

[RR] “Void if another player wins, or do we give the prize to the highest finisher?”

[SS] “No bet. Nobody deserves to win then.”

[LL/RR/SS/YY] “Agreed!”


  1. The odds above are the opening lines. The most recent odds can be found between now and November 4, 2013 at Bovada. As of this post, the odds had already changed on Farber (down to 7/1) and Brummelhuis (up to 13/1).

    The number of chips each player started with were 38,000,000, 29,700,000, 26,525,000, 25,975,000, 25,875,000, 19,600,000, 11,275,000, 7,350,000, and 6,375,000 respectively.

  2. Bovada uses only whole numbers, but for ease of comparison, this column is normalized. Tran opened at 9/5, Lehavot 9/2, and Farber 15/2.
  3. The Percent With Vig is simply the denominator of the odds divided by the sum of the numerator and denominator. The True Percent normalizes this by dividing by the total of 127.92%.
  4. Using the True Percent would be qualitatively the same, as would multiplying each of the percentages by any other constant.

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2013 November Nine

[YY] “Have you guys been following the World Series of Poker Main Event?” Yuri the Young Gun polled the table.

[RR] “I usually wait to watch ESPN’s shows”, Roderick the Rock answered, “but I listen to a bunch of poker podcasts, so I already know who made the final table.”

[YY] “Looks a lot like last year’s group: mostly professional poker players, majority are American, and average age around 30.”

[SS] “Like every other November Nine”,1 Stan the Stat interjected. “I was looking over all the November Nines: one to five foreigners every year (4 this year), one to three amateurs (just Jay Farber this year), and one to three players over 35 (2 this year).”

[SS] “The chip leader going in has done no worse than third (amateur Darvin Moon in 2009 to nobody’s surprise), while the winner has started as low as seventh (Pius Heinz in 2011). Two oddities: the player who started second in chips has never won, and the player who started fourth in chips has done better (average finish 3.4) than those who started second (4.8) or third (3.8).”

[SS] “This is the first time that the November Nine chip leader already owned a bracelet (J.C. Tran has two among his table-high 40 previous cashes). Amir Lehavot in second also has a bracelet, also passing Greg Merson, who last year started the final table in third place, the highest previous spot for a bracelet owner.”

[SS] “One last factoid: unless Ryan Riess, who’s 23, wins this year, we’ll crown our oldest November Nine winner. All six previous champs have been between 21 and 24 years old!”

[LL] “After Dan Harrington made his second consecutive final table in 2004, he predicted that nobody over 40 would ever win the Main Event again.2 He was barely right as the next three champions were 39, 36, and 393 years old. But since then we’ve had the six young November Nine winners despite the rest that the long break gives and the shutdown of the major online poker sites in the U.S.”

[LL] “I’m rooting for the two old men at the table, Tran is 36 and Lehavot is 38. Who do you guys like?”

[YY] “Well, then I’ll pick the young guy, Riess.”

[RR] “I want the only amateur, Jay Farber, to win it all. He has plenty of chips in fourth right now, but you have to consider him a big underdog because of his lack of experience.”

[SS] “It’s hard to bet against the chip leader, but I’d also be happy if any of the other Americans won. If Farber is a big underdog, Mark Newhouse and David Benefield are play-in game winners. The lowest player to come back to win was Pius Heinz (seventh in 2011), but he had 40% of the chip leader’s stack. Newhouse and Benefield are both under 20%.”


  1. In 2012, the group was technically the October Nine, but it doesn’t seem to bother people too much that March Madness finishes in April every year.
  2. Harrington is quoted in Grantland’s “When We Held Kings” article: “‘No one over 40 is ever going to win this tournament again.’ It’s become an endurance contest”.
  3. The 2005 to 2007 winners were Joe Hachem, Jamie Gold, and Jerry Yang.

A Decade After Chris Moneymaker

[LL] “Who’s your favorite World Series of Poker Main Event champion?” Leroy the Lion inquired of Roderick the Rock.

[RR] “Chris Moneymaker. His win inspired me, like a lot of people, to play Texas Hold ‘Em”, Rod replied. “I didn’t know he had won right away, because I was watching the tournament1 on ESPN’s recorded broadcast, but I was rooting hard for him for the last few tables as if I could affect an event that was 2,400 miles away and had already happened.”

[LL] “Truth is stranger than fiction. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists had a field day when a charming but financially struggling Tennesseean with a wife and newborn daughter, got in through a satellite he didn’t want to be in to enter a second satellite he didn’t want to win to earn a buy-in into the Main Event he didn’t want to play. Moneymaker then sold off part of his action to a guy named Gamble, somehow got picked to win it all by a guy named Diamond, and then outlasted 838 opponents through five days of play to win the most coveted bracelet in the poker world.”

[RR] “And the unbelievable name! M-O-N-E-Y-M-A-K-E-R. Unreal. His German ancestors2 may have created silver and gold coins, but Chris popularized a new way of chasing the American dream.”

[LL] “Some people say that the boom was coming no matter what because of the enlightenment of hole cams, the proliferation of shows on TV, and the convenience of Internet poker. But there’s no way that Sammy Farha3, as charismatic as he is, would have had nearly as big an effect.”

[RR] “Yeah, he was already a professional poker player, so the big jump may have had to wait another year, when amateur Greg Raymer won the main event.”

[LL] “Wouldn’t have been the same. Fossilman4 was a *lawyer* ;-). Maybe Jamie Gold if he isn’t too smarmy for people.”

[RR] “But who knows what else would have changed if Moneymaker hadn’t won. Maybe Gold never gets involved in the TV show where he meets Johnny Chan, who then tutors him in Hold ‘Em, and doesn’t enter the 2006 tournament.”

[LL] “Hard to believe Moneymaker’s win was ten years ago. The size of the Main Event field peaked three years later, when Gold won his wheelbarrow of money, but has withstood the shutdown of the major online poker sites in the U.S.”

[RR] “This year there were 6,352 entrants, roughly what it’s been every year since 20075, and I expect it will stay around there until the U.S. government legalizes online gambling again.”

[LL] “States are starting to, so my fingers are crossed that it’ll be in the next few years.”


  1. The end of the tournament was broadcast on ESPN in prime time two weeks after it happened.
  2. The family’s last name was Nurmacher until they moved to England and translated it to Moneymaker.
  3. Sammy Farha finished in second place after a bathroom discussion failed to complete a deal to split the top two prizes. Moneymaker credits that discussion with giving him a big strategic edge as he figured Farha would want to keep pots smaller because of his perceived skill advantage.
  4. Greg Raymer is a fossil collector and uses one as a card protector.
  5. 6,352 is within a thousand of 2010’s 7,319, the highest total of the last seven events and only six below 2007’s 6,358, the previous low of that period.

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“Harrington on Hold ’em” Review, Part 4

[RR] “You were complaining”,1 Roderick the Rock challenged Iggy the Improver, “that Harrington buried too much useful information in his problems. What general principles did you glean from the exercises, especially from his third book?”

[II] “Tons of stuff. But off the top of my head in no particular order:

  • Pay attention to everything. If you don’t know how your opponents are playing, you can’t read their actions accurately. The same exact bet in the same exact circumstance can have different meanings from different players. Before you have any history to work from, it’s okay to stereotype people’s likely playing styles by their looks. Chat people up to gather information.
  • The most profitable moves are usually the ones that go against type, which means that you need to know how the table perceives you. If you’ve been very tight, you can pull of the big bluff. If you’ve been very loose, you don’t need to slowplay when you get dealt pocket Aces.
  • Make your bets bigger out of position than in position. You don’t want to play out of position if you can help it.
  • The one advantage that being out of position has is that you have first-in fold vig. If two players have similar hands, the aggressive side will usually win.
  • Always know the pot odds. Overly cautious weak players tend to fold too often when they correctly know that they’re behind. On the other side, properly sizing your bets means making them big enough that it’s an error for your opponent to call when they’re behind. Going even one step further, figure out whether a standard raise from your opponent will put you all-in (or close) and what pot odds you’d be getting on that call. Determining whether you want to be all-in at that point can help you change your bet to an all-in instead.
  • Vary your play. In the same exact circumstance, you want to mix up how much you bet and how often you call instead of betting. It’s a game of information, and you want to deny your opponents that knowledge. Unfortunately, this makes your opponents harder to read, but that’s a second-order problem that you’ll have to live with.
  • Keep track of your M and adjust your play accordingly. Also take into account your opponent’s M when analyzing his actions, except for weaker players whom you think don’t know to do that.
  • Avoid confrontations with the biggest stack at the table if possible when you have a healthy amount of chips. Once you get short-stacked, it doesn’t matter who doubles you up, but keep in mind the 10-to-1 Rule, which means that a big stack may be calling you with any two cards when they have a ten-to-one chip advantage.
  • On the bubble, take the prize structure into consideration. Percentagewise, busting on the bubble when only three places are paid will likely cost you much more than busting on the bubble of a larger tournament. In most situations, folding to a raise to move up is often the right play.”

[RR] “Harrington didn’t call it ICM, but he explained the formula for the Independent Chip Model, which lets you figure out how much of the prize pool each chip stack is worth. It’s very complicated once you get past three players, so fortunately, you can just point your web browser to the ICM Poker Calculator and painlessly calculate payouts for up to ten people and prizes.”

[II] “Cool, I have to admit that I pretty muched skipped that math section. Do people actually chop the prizes here?”

[RR] “Occasionally, though mostly it’s when it gets to heads up, and the math there is very simple. I’ve seen bigger splits, but I think they just kind of winged it, so you may be able to get a better deal without resorting to ICM. If you don’t like the offer though, it may help you out.”

[II] “I hope I make it that far tonight!”

[RR] “Good luck!”


  1. See the introduction in Part 1 from three weeks ago and the next two posts.