“75% of the time, a player will be competing with two other opponents for just double the prizepool.” French market leader Winamax debuted a unique new poker variant last month—a fast format SNG that is as much lottery as it is poker.
Here’s how it works: From the lobby, an interested player clicks the big “Expresso” button on the sidebar. A player then chooses a buyin level: €1, €2, €5 or €10. Once selected, a player is seated in a three-handed, winner-takes-all sit and go with a hyper-turbo structure. Games last a matter of minutes.
So far, nothing too exceptional, but here’s the twist: The tournament is randomly assigned one of nine different prize pools—from double the buy-in, up to 1000x the buyin. A player can buy in for €10, and find himself fighting for a €10,000 prize.
“The effective rake per hyper-turbo tournament is 7%.” Astute readers will know the idea of random prize pool multipliers has been seen once before: with PokerStars’ Golden SNGs, which ran for a week during their “Road to 100 billion” series of promotions. However, the important difference between these and Expresso is that, when PokerStars SNGs went “Golden”—for 2x, 4x or 10x the buyin—this was a promotional extra prize added to the prize pool.
Expresso is not a temporary prize giveaway—its a permanent, raked, tournament format. The cost of the extra prizes are accounted for in the payout structure and, just like in casino games like slots or video poker, Expresso payouts are very top heavy.
In fact, over 75% of the time, a player will be competing with two other opponents for just double the prizepool—a negative-value proposition for all players. Fifteen percent of the time the prizepool is 4x the buyin, and less than 1% of the time the prize pool gets 20x or higher. The “jackpot” of a 1000x tournament occurs just 5 times in 100,000 (see full payout schedule below).
The “rake” in the tournaments not set by the buyin (like “€1+0.10”) but rather by the payout structure: The average prize for a €1-buyin tournament is €2.79, given the pay table. The entry fees collected is €1.00 from 3 players, making the effective rake per tournament 21c, or 7%.
Seven percent for a hyper turbo may seem high, but in the high-tax regulated French environment this is typical. Winamax normally collects 10% rake for their SNGs, including turbos, though they do not spread standard hyper-turbos. PokerStars France charges 8.7% rake on a €10 6-max hyper SNG (the rake is, however, around 4% on its dot-com site).