Online Home Game Advice - Suggestions to grow the game during COVID (and is PLO8 Tournament a Bad Idea?)

LotsOfChips

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(TL/DR - Cheap ass players don't want to risk any money, Cash game is dying, Tournaments are thriving, sharks are feasting, NLHE is popular, Mixed games have mixed enthusiasm. Do I reduce the cost, add more types of games, or stop worrying about trying to please everybody?)

Apologies in advance for a long post. I wanted to provide enough detail to elicit informed feedback.

Right now I am hosting online (Poker Mavens) a weekly NLHE .25/.25 Cash Game (Min $20 Max $50, Total Limit $100) on Fridays and a $20 NLHE Tournament (2 rebuy max) on Saturdays. I'm in a bit of a quandary as to how to grow the size of the games (especially the cash game), appeal to the majority of the members who are financially limited, and increase the competitive level of the play. Maybe these are incompatible goals.

The group is a mix of mostly middle of the road players (MOTR) borrowed from a long running live NLHE tournament group that can't play during COVID, and a couple of more advanced players that tend to dominate the cash game.

Most of the MOTR players are very concerned about losing too much money or playing too often, somewhat due to decreased earnings because of COVID, and somewhat because their comfort level is such that a couple of consecutive $50 losses would end up (and have ended up) with them walking away from playing in my group. The more advanced players are less concerned with financial implications and will buy in for the maximum possible, and will bet and raise aggressively. The results are somewhat predictable.

The cash game is dying, largely because the MOTR players are too skittish to want to put money at risk outside of the known fixed cost of a tournament, and a few have stopped playing after losing their entire buy in to more advanced players. It seems a challenge now to get 6 players, and a few of the remaining MOTR players will probably drop if they lose much more. I ran a Limit Mixed cash game (HE, Omaha, 7 Stud Hi/Lo, Omaha 5 Hi/Lo) one week, and several of the MOTR players played cash for the first time. I got some good feedback, but a few of the cash game regulars didn't play, because it wasn't NLHE.

The tournament is fairly healthy, with the first three STT full at 10, and the most recent a MTT at 15. I've tried a few minor variations, including a $30 Deep Stack Freeze-out, and a $40 Single Rebuy or Add-on included , but received complaints about the added cost. The add-on game was a bit of a disaster, because the software had to be configured such that both the rebuy and the add-on were optional, so several players chose not to do either, and then complained that it cost too much to add on and that the chip leader got the opportunity to "buy to add to his stack" while they couldn't afford to do so.

I recently sent out a request for feedback about the game, and for suggestions on how to improve the experience, and whether players would be willing to try other games such as Omaha. The main theme I received back was about affordability. Several players said they really enjoyed the Mixed Limit cash game, because it let them learn new games at limited financial risk. Most said that they only wanted to play tournaments. One player suggested PLO or PLO8 as a tournament (probably because he plays them on P*, and figures that he can clean up).

Right now I'm debating how to adjust things to better meet the needs of the players.

First thing I am considering is to either:
  • shit-can the cash game and run a variety of low cost ($10) tournaments on Fridays instead, or
  • reduce it to every second week, and on the alternate weeks run either:
    • a rotation of different Limit cash games every other week (Omaha, Omaha 8, Omaha 5 H/L, etc), etc., or
    • the above mentioned variety of low cost tournaments
Second thing I am considering is to reduce the cost of the Saturday NLHE tournament to $15, and limit it to a single optional rebuy.

This brings up a lot of questions, and some possible regrets.

Questions:
  • How the hell do you structure a PLO or PLO8 tournament to last 3 1/2 to 4 hours (assume 12-15 players, one rebuy allowed per player, probably 50% rebuy participation).
  • Given that a lot of the players aren't that familiar with PLO or PLO8, especially in a tourney format, is this just a recipe for disaster?
  • Am I likely to drive away the more experienced players by axing the cash game and catering to the MOTR crowd?
  • Is the rotating (not Mixed) Limit cash game concept likely to fail miserably at the cost of the currently active but threatened NLHE cash game?
Possible regrets:
  • I want to nurture and develop the cash game player pool for eventual live games. I am wondering if losing or reducing the cash game now will hurt that down the road.
  • I realize that I'll never be able to please everyone, but I still want to develop and grow this game (both tournaments and cash) and the player pool, again with the eye towards hosting live (post COVID). I am wondering what the best way to do is, or whether I should just do whatever the F___ I want and not worry about whether other players are on board.
So, over to you for comments...
 
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Dodger

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I won’t comment on game selection here, but my observations as a whole.

I think you made the right move in surveying your players. Whether we (as hosts) like it or not, a lot of folks are not in the same financial situation they were in just 2 short months ago. Some folks will play no matter what. Others may have to take a step back until things stabilize again. You got this feedback yourself when your players commented more on cost to play than actual game selection.

I think you can experiment all you want in this environment, but making it very clear to your players that you understand this is a unique time. Buy-ins may be low for a while to encourage more players to stick around.

Keep asking for feedback and trying the things you think will help your game grow. Just keep an eye on inadvertently pushing players out because of the cost to play.

Best of luck. I will continue to follow to see how things go for you and your game.
 

LotsOfChips

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I take umbrage on behalf of @Jeevansluck in your thinly-veiled reference to him as a MOTR player (though, let's face it, he probably is). :ROFL: :ROFLMAO:

(j/k any of you could probably kick my ass anytime in any cardgame; just being a goofball here)
Nope, not a reference to him. Sadly he won't play in my (or any) online games. :( There are, however, two other PCFers who play, both of whom are in the "more advanced" category.
 
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Jeevansluck

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I take umbrage on behalf of @Jeevansluck in your thinly-veiled reference to him as a MOTR player (though, let's face it, he probably is). :ROFL: :ROFLMAO:

(j/k any of you could probably kick my ass anytime in any cardgame; just being a goofball here)
I've cashed out at ALL the "live" cash games I have played at.

Just sayin..
 

shorticus

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Interesting situation. How about trying to host two games simultaneously. If you host a .25/.25 game with a min $20 Max $50, then you can also host a .05/.10 game with a min $10 max $20 buy in. This should effectively break down your groups and keep all players happy.

To me tourney sizes amounts arent relevant when you are at or below $25. Its just a matter of whether or not I feel like playing.

Hope this helps.
 

LotsOfChips

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Interesting situation. How about trying to host two games simultaneously. If you host a .25/.25 game with a min $20 Max $50, then you can also host a .05/.10 game with a min $10 max $20 buy in. This should effectively break down your groups and keep all players happy.
Unfortunately the player pool for cash games isn't large enough to support two different games simultaneously. It is currently a struggle to support one table. The more advanced players would probably play $1/$2, and the MOTR would probably prefer .05/.10. .25/.25 is a compromise to get enough players to make a table.
 

BGinGA

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Easiest way to maintain -- and protect -- your MOTR players is to boot the advanced sharks who are preying on them.
 

upNdown

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Easiest way to maintain -- and protect -- your MOTR players is to boot the advanced sharks who are preying on them.
On that note, if your biggest concern in switching to a tournament only format is losing the advanced sharks, then screw them - do it. Online cash games are not good for the MOTR player when there are sharks around. It;s so much faster, so there are a lot more hands played, so it's not a question of IF the weaker players get cleaned out, it's WHEN. As they've learned.
 

grantc54

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I would suggest figuring out who you want to cater to in the long run (who will be attending your live game post covid) and then tailoring the game just to them.

I have purposely kept my P* home game limited to league players plus one of their personal friends each and it has worked well. Another P* group I am in has let in friends of friends of friends and it is at risk of becoming too impersonal.

As one of the of the PCF members in your game (I am far from a shark, I would lean towards semi-poker literate action junkie rec) I think you need to consider sticking to your core group. They all seem to play a similar conservative style.

Also, consider adding Discord or some other audio/video conferencing to the mix. It will help keep up the social aspect that will lead to a good live game.

I will likely continue to play Fridays as long as the invites come regardless of the format of the game. It is nice having a Canadian dollar game with no transfer fees to play.
 

MrCatPants

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Similar situation - can share what I've done that's seemed to work

I open two cash tables, one smaller stakes and one/two bigger. No shame in playing the smaller table. Even the bigger table is half normal blinds (which I have chalked up to seeing twice as many hands, and my action players are fine with it.)

Tourneys I'm doing one a week - mixing in some new games like PLO8, but cutting the buy in amounts and allowing several rebuys - it seems to be working. Still do have some players who won't play anything but NLHE.

Also, second/third the discord recommendation. All my players who have gotten on voice are generally coming back for every game. Those who just try the online poker part are a mix on coming back for a second/third game.

I do have players whose income situation is not where it was. A few will occasionally come out for the smaller tourneys, but I see them less for sure.

My attendance overall is better than it's ever been with all this - been able to rope in some former players who moved away and such.
 

JMC9389

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Tournaments are fine as is.

I'd lower the stakes on the cash game to .10/.20 or .05/.10 and lower the buy ins. Even if the more advanced players play and splash around, losing $30 on three $10 buy ins is a lot more palatable for the middle of the road player than losing $50 and barely feeling like they got action on two $25 buy ins.

For the middle of the road players, playing against better players may not be a bad thing if they are losing money that is palatable to them. You will lose players if they feel like they are losing too much and aren't having fun with it.

Everyone is different, but I've been playing in the game that @Irish runs on Mavens, and a couple of live games before that since the beginning of the year. As a whole, that game has better players in it than my local crew does. Just in a handful of games, I already feel like a better player than I was at this time last year. I played cash for the first time since last year with my local crew and was ransacking the table until I lost it all on a betting error and getting coolered once.. That being said, I wouldn't have kept playing in @Irish 's game if I wasn't comfortable with the stakes and losing that money.

In short,, keep it fun and keep it social if that is the intent. The one reason I don't play in the PCF Mavens games is that I know that on the whole, the players are much better than I am, and for the most part play at stakes higher than my comfort level.
 

CraigT78

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The one reason I don't play in the PCF Mavens games is that I know that on the whole, the players are much better than I am,
Having played with a lot of the PCF'ers on my online game, I have determined that is a lie. :whistle: :whistling:
 

JMC9389

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Having played with a lot of the PCF'ers on my online game, I have determined that is a lie. :whistle: :whistling:
Sounds like something that someone that is after my money would say :p

I've considered checking out the microstakes cash games you've been running. Barely have time between work and playing and watching my little man for the moment, though!
 

CraigT78

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Sounds like something that someone that is after my money would say :p

I've considered checking out the microstakes cash games you've been running. Barely have time between work and playing and watching my little man for the moment, though!
We play nightly - grab an open seat on the table you want to play at, and they will typically fill up. Cash gets going around 7:30 - 8pm CST.
 

LotsOfChips

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Easiest way to maintain -- and protect -- your MOTR players is to boot the advanced sharks who are preying on them.
On that note, if your biggest concern in switching to a tournament only format is losing the advanced sharks, then screw them - do it. Online cash games are not good for the MOTR player when there are sharks around. It;s so much faster, so there are a lot more hands played, so it's not a question of IF the weaker players get cleaned out, it's WHEN. As they've learned.
Tournaments are fine as is. I'd lower the stakes on the cash game to .10/.20 or .05/.10 and lower the buy ins. Even if the more advanced players play and splash around, losing $30 on three $10 buy ins is a lot more palatable for the middle of the road player than losing $50 and barely feeling like they got action on two $25 buy ins. For the middle of the road players, playing against better players may not be a bad thing if they are losing money that is palatable to them. You will lose players if they feel like they are losing too much and aren't having fun with it.
I guess it's not so much about protecting the MOTR players or screwing the more advanced players, it is about maintaining the health of the pool as a whole, which will hopefully include a diverse range of playing abilities. Especially for the post-COVID period when it arrives, I want to be able to host live games that include a regular mix of good knowledgeable players as well as less experienced social/recreational types.

I've tried to avoid the use of the term Shark (except in the TL/DR reference) and call them more advanced, because as @grantc54 mentioned they are simply more astute and aware of good poker strategy than the MOTR players (as opposed to predatory). I want to retain these more advanced players for the longer term because they will hopefully raise the level of all players over time (as @upNdown mentions). Plus these are the players that I played with live pre-COVID, and they are friends, so keeping them in the poker family is preferred.

I get the point about playing more hands online as opposed to live, and most of the players are playing online on other sites as well because of the extra time they find themselves with, so in general people are playing (and risking) more than normal at a time when their finances are uncertain. I think the idea of lowering stakes for the cash games may have some merit, but a lot of the players who aren't currently playing in the cash game have said they aren't interested regardless of stakes, so I'm not sure that lower stakes would grow the game. And a couple of the MOTR cash game regulars have said that they were fine with the stakes as is.

Maybe running cash games biweekly (rather than weekly) at the original stakes is the way to go, although the table would probably only have around 5-6 players most evenings. Then on alternate weeks I can run some low stakes cash games (.10/.10 PLO or PLO8, .25/.50 Limit HE/Omaha/etc) that can expose the MOTR players to cash games in a non-threatening way. I can also throw in a few low price ($10) tournaments on the alternate weeks as well, hopefully a mix of NLHE and PLO/PLO8.

Which brings me back to one of my first questions - how do you structure a PLO8 tournament (starting stack, blind levels and times, etc). Any thoughts, or should I start a different thread for that topic?
 

JustinInMN

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This may be a simple solution, lower the range on the cash game.

IMO, 250BB is a very deep cash game, and I know a lot of PCFers like really deep games, and there is nothing wrong with that in many cases.

However. I think it could be a source of some of the money scared issues based on your feedback you've shared. Change the range to something like 5 to 30 on a .25-.25 game. (Also a good range for 0.10-0.20 too.) If you think $50 is what most players are willing to lose in a night, then at least they have to get stacked twice to hit the mark instead of once.
 

upNdown

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guess it's not so much about protecting the MOTR players or screwing the more advanced players, it is about maintaining the health of the pool as a whole, which will hopefully include a diverse range of playing abilities.
Is that realistic? I dunno - I don’t have enough hosting experience; I always found it difficult to maintain a 6-handed game.
PLO8 - love it, cash or tournament. My only experience with it in tournament format is on Pokerstars, and I’ve always just played the default blind schedules that our PCF TDs have gone with.
Doesn’t whatever site/app you’re using have preset formats?
 

LotsOfChips

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Doesn’t whatever site/app you’re using have preset formats?
Poker Mavens - does have default settings, but I found the default NLHE blinds, times and starting stacks to be completely wrong for a well run 3-4 hour tournament, so I assume the PLO8 settings (which are identical) would also be poor for that. I've been able to find a wealth of info on PCF about NLHE tournament structure, PLO8 tournaments not so much. I'm guessing that there would be some significant differences on when the tournament would end (20x BB = # of chips in play?), maybe not.
 

BGinGA

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Poker Mavens - does have default settings, but I found the default NLHE blinds, times and starting stacks to be completely wrong for a well run 3-4 hour tournament, so I assume the PLO8 settings (which are identical) would also be poor for that. I've been able to find a wealth of info on PCF about NLHE tournament structure, PLO8 tournaments not so much. I'm guessing that there would be some significant differences on when the tournament would end (20x BB = # of chips in play?), maybe not.
In general, Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments (especially PLO8) will run quicker than a NLHE event using the same parameters (starting stack size, blind level structure and times), and most live blind structures will run much quicker as online events.

One of the main differences between online play and live play is the number of hands played at each blind level. It's enough of a difference that the 20BB rule for tournament length is less accurate for online play than live tournaments, but the BB-to-stack ratio still plays a significant role in online play. Players also tend to play a bit more loosely in online play, which often increases the player elimination rate online.

For your online PLO8 event, I'd start with the default settings and increase the blind level times while also increasing the starting stack sizes. That should get you in the ballpark, and you can make minor adjustments from there. I would think that 30K stacks with re-buys and 10-minute levels should run around 3.5 to 4 hours for 12-15 players (depending on the blind structure).
 

T_Chan

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For a PLO8 tournament, use your best judgement then give it a try. If it runs long/short, then adjust for next time.
 
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