Bighusla Shows That Skill Beats Luck in PokerStars Spin & Gos

$11k in winnings over 5k tournaments in one month shows that a skilled player can beat lottery SNGs.

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Utterly undeterred by the widespread opinion that PokerStars Spin & Gos are more luck than skill, high stakes sit and go specialist “Bighusla” has just successfully completed a landmark poker challenge.
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Utterly undeterred by the widespread opinion that PokerStars Spin & Gos are more luck than skill, high stakes sit and go specialist “Bighusla” has just successfully completed a landmark poker challenge.

In January, he proposed playing 5,000+ $30 Spin & Gos within one month, while maintaining a chip expected value (cEV) of 8.5%. His challenge took the form of a prop bet where he took an unknown amount of action at odds of 3 to 1 against.

By the time he completed the wager, Bighusla had achieved a cEV of 8.8% over 5,054 tournaments and won a total of almost $11,000—excluding rakeback and winnings from the bet itself.

The achievement is notable not for his high volume of play, or his winnings, but because it provides a specific example of how so-called lottery SNGs remain real poker, where skill is the dominant factor not luck.

The Lottery SNG Has proved to be a Big Winner

Winamax was the first to formally introduce lottery SNGs in its Expresso games—although PokerStars claims that the essential ideas were developed for its Golden Sit & Go promotion. The games typically feature three players playing in a hyperturbo format for a winner takes all prize pool that is not known until after players have registered.

The prize pool is determined randomly, but conforms to a statistical distribution. Most games will be played for a prize pool of 2x the buy-in, but a percentage of the time, the pool is increased, up to a possible two or three thousand times the buy-in.

When they were first released regular players complained that the variance introduced by the randomized prize pool combined with the high level of rake—for Bighusla’s games 5%—meant that they were virtually unbeatable. In other words no matter how good a player was, they couldn’t beat the rake.

Advice on Strategy

On the way to his victory, not only has Bighusla disproved the doubters, he has also sent several pieces of good advice to Spin & Go players.

“The most important thing to remember when playing spins profitably is treat every game like there is a huge jackpot to win, winning the 2x multipliers are just important as winning the 6x multipliers longterm,” he advised.

He also found that game theory optimal play was not necessarily the best strategy when the other players were weak—he adapted to create an exploitative strategy which produced better results.

Bighusla’s graphs show that he didn’t perform too well when the big money prizes came up, but his performance on average was sufficient to make his profit.

The lottery SNG format has proven incredibly successful—the games are fast, and there is always a chance that a lucky prize pool will hit to provide a big payout. They are particularly well suited to playing on a smartphone or tablet.

Their popularity has attracted many recreational players away from the usual cash game tables, but even so, many regular payers will find it tough to equal Bighusla’s record.

He is usually to be found at the $100 to $300 hyperturbo sit and go tables—to which he has now returned. The skill required to beat those games is not easily learned, and he has even had a custom heads up display built to give himself every possible advantage.

Charity Wins Too

His winnings from this prop bet will be used wisely.

“I’m looking for some charity advice on what to do with some of the money that I win if I am able to win this challenge. I rather give directly to those in need rather then donating to charity organizations since I do not trust them.

Also I will like to donate particularly to children in need, I’m currently considering donating 20 new laptops to foster children back home in Brooklyn. Do you guys have any other suggestions on ways I could give back? I will be sure to film and upload everything when I do it.”

February 24, 2015
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