I have always wanted to figure out how to quantify the luck component in tournaments. We all know that skill alone doesn't win tournaments. There is a significant amount of luck required for anyone to win. While I have never played tournaments regularly, I have railed my fair share over the years and nowadays I host a few each weekend on Poker Curious. After listening to a few hours of the WSOP main event final table coverage and winning a tournament I hosted today, it resurrected my earlier questions. Where to start.
1. The best player doesn't always win a tournament.
2. You can regularly put your chips in with an equity advantage, but that is all it is, an statistical advantage.
3. Winning more than your fair share of 'flips' is essential.
4. If you have a bigger stack you can fade more bad luck.
Looking at a few selected key hands from the WSOP Main Event final table, we see that the luck component can take many forms.
1. Akenhead's K-K loses to Schaffel's A-A.
2. Schaffel's A-A loses to Buchman's quad K's
3. Ivey's A-K loses to Moon's A-Q (I call this the LL2 hand - his bustout scenario deep in the Main Event)
4. Beglieter's Q-Q loses to Moon's A-Q with an ace on the river
5. Schulman's J-J loses to Cada's trip 3's
6. Buchman's A-Q loses to Saout's A-K
7 Saout's Q-Q loses to Cada's trip 2's
Luck can be a suckout, a setup, or just good timing. It would be impossible for anyone to say that luck didn't play a big part in Darvin Moon and Joe Cada reaching the final two. They often got their money in bad.
Using my own recent experience as an example, I played in a Poker Curious tournament Sunday that had 275 players. I never had a big stack until deep at the final table. I just kept hanging around average for most of the tournament. I am not a great player. I play solidly. I don't make too many moves or bluff, but I also don't make big mistakes. I know I'm not aggressive enough, and yet I won it. I obviously won some flips and had a few suckouts. I also took some beats. A few examples of hands that went my way at the final table.
1. I had A,K vs. A,10 that flopped a 10 and shoved, which I called and runner runnered a straight.
2. I had J's and got it all in against K's and hit my J.
3. I had A,10 against 8's all in and hit my 10.
All this is to say that without the breaks going your way in some form or another, you can't win a tournament. I didn't feel I was a better player than most of the others at the final table, but I was as deserving as anyone from my level of play. But is it possible to quantify my amount of luck?
I would like to hear if others have done this. I'm not a math specialist, but could you analyze the equities from the entire hand history record from a tournament, with all cards known, to calculate some combined statistic? Or could you isolate just the all in hands you play to calculate your collective equity or luck similar to the 'all in EV' graphs you see for cash games?
If you can analyze the equity and results of one hand, can you combine multiple hands for a collective luck quotient? For instance, if you know that you played 10 hands where you were flipping a low pair vs. two overs and 10 hands were you were a 60-40 dog and yet won 70% of those hands, could you come out with a combined mathematical equation that would relate your luck? Or are there just too many factors to consider to do that in a tournament? I'm just curious...