WPN to Jettison Double-or-Nothing Sit-and-Go’s

On Monday, Winning Poker Network (WPN) CEO Phil Payton announced on his broadcast that his online poker network will be eliminating Double-or-Nothing (DoN) Sit-and-Go tournaments.

Payton is a unique character in the industry in that he has fully embraced Twitch as a means to increase his and his network’s visibility, as well as communicate with his customers. One of the highlights (or lowlights) of his Twitch broadcasts was when Payton, obviously upset and exhausted, turned the camera on to let WPN players know what was happening when the network’s million dollar guaranteed tournament was cancelled because of DDoS attacks in December.

Payton regularly streams his poker sessions while at the same time fielding questions from customers and providing updates about the various goings-on at the Winning Poker Network. On Monday, he briefly addressed DoN’s, saying:

I’m sorry guys, but I just can’t deal with it anymore…for those of you who love Double-or-Nothing’s, I’m going to be getting rid of the Double-or-Nothings. They just bother me too much. They just bother me too much….

It’s entirely too hard to justify if somebody’s colluding, if they’re not colluding, it’s just bad for business. I may leave like 12-handed double or nothings, right, so that it’s two different tables and it would get the…odds of collusion down, but they’re going away.

For those who have never played Double-or-Nothing Sit-and-Go’s (that’s a lot of hyphens), and there are probably a lot of you since they have been gradually eliminated from poker rooms over the years, they are essentially what they sound like: Sit-and-Go tourneys in which the payouts are either double the buy-in or zero. The tournament ends when half of the players have been eliminated; the remaining players all win twice their buy-in. Those who were knocked out get nothing. Simple.

winning-poker-network-logoDoNs were initially attractive to tight players like yours truly, the kind of player who was pretty good at getting into the money of tournaments, but had trouble advancing much further. In a DoN, you don’t have to amass a large chip stack because you don’t have to win. You just need to beat half of the field. Once the bubble boy is eliminated, it makes no difference whether you have 90 percent of the chips in play or half a percent – you win the same amount of money either way. When they were first introduced, Double-or-Nothings were fairly easy to beat, as most casual players didn’t understand the proper strategy. In time, they became insane nit-fests, as everybody knew that all you had to do was hang-on rather than go for the gold.

The bigger problem with Double-or-Nothings, though, is something Payton mentioned: collusion. Because of the nature of these particular games, it is both extremely beneficial and fairly easily to collude when playing in them. This was best illustrated in 2010, when it was discovered that a ring of at least four dozen Chinese players had been colluding at high stakes Double-or-Nothing tables on PokerStars. Stars determined that the cheaters had pulled in a profit of about half a million dollars. The poker room eventually refunded cheated players $2.1 million, which was the sum total of the colluders’ winnings, the buy-ins and fees of all players, and an additional half million dollars thrown on top on PokerStars.

The way the large cheating ring worked was that four or five members of the group would play at the same ten-handed Double-or-Nothing table. During the game, they would manipulate the betting to make sure they all ended up making it to the money. A variety of methods were used, including chip dumping from big stacks to small stacks on the bubble, particularly as blinds escalated. Teammates would also soft play each other to help keep everyone in the game. For instance, if two cheaters were heads-up in a hand, the bigger stack might not actually dump chips outright, but rather just not take chips from the smaller stack when they both knew the bigger stack had the best hand. Another method of collusion used is squeezing, a way of forcing non-cheaters out of the hand by having multiple teammates bet aggressively into him.

All of these collusion methods are quite easy to do when half the table is in on the scam. They are also very effective because even just a few chips are extremely valuable in the end stages of a DoN. Back when the scandal was uncovered, poker player and blogger Dale “DALEROXXU” Philip illustrated just how much a tiny chip dump can swing the odds on the bubble.

In his example, Cheater1 in a $50 buy-in DoN had 5,400 chips and an ICM equity of $98.4649, while Cheater2 had just 1,047 chips and an ICM equity of $62.8020. Blinds were 150/300 with a 30 chip ante. Cheater1, the big stack, limped to his friend, who was in the big blind, and then folded to a bet on the flop. After the hand, Cheater1 had 5,070 chips (ICM equity $97.7338) and Cheater2 had 1,647 chips (ICM equity $77.1006).

As Philip explained:

The bigstack only takes a 73 cent drop in equity while the short stack gains $14.30 as a result of the action. Where did the extra money over the chipdumpers [sic] 73 cents come from? Well it’s stolen from the other players at the table, who weren’t even involved in the hand and who’s [sic] stack sizes are only minus the 30 chip ante. You can see the shortest stacks are hit the hardest. To put it into perspective, a +$14.30 gain in a $52 DoN is worth an extra 28% ROI, this in a game where the best players only beat the games for around 5% ROI. And all those other players not involved in the hand losing 6-10% worth of ROI as a result.

The Winning Poker Network will soon be launching Jackpot (also known as Lottery) Sit-and-Go’s, which have proven to be very popular on other sites and networks. Once those are up and running, Double-or-Nothing’s will be removed.


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