Rest assured that variance and the many WSOP luck factors are ever-present and completely impartial, affecting all players equally. Here’s The truth of brutal MTT variance with many examples of bad beats and suckouts in crucial late-phase tournament play

70%/30% Equity Split Preflop and on the Flop, 89%/11% Split on the Turn!

The eventual 10th-place finisher in 2011 (John Hewitt) was the huge favorite in this hand and should have knocked out the short-stacker Heinz, who—after getting ridiculously lucky here—ended up finishing day 8 in the “November Nine” and ultimately winning the tournament.

This is also a prime example of “dynamic change” when you take a big loss as the marked favorite during the middle and late phases of huge multi-table tournaments (MTTs):

  1. If Hewitt’s equity had held up and he had won this hand, he would have been the chip leader with only 11 players remaining!
  2. Due to this horrid bad beat, all of a sudden his stack was roughly the same as the stack of the guy he should have eliminated from the tournament!
  3. Additionally, he lost his momentum and potential control of the table and ability to accumulate even more chips due to the “fear equity” he would have as the chip leader vs. all of the remaining players … many of whom were certainly playing much tighter than usual in the hopes of making it to the final table.
  4. As the chip leader, Hewitt could have threatened anyone’s tournament life at any time if they chose to get involved in a pot against him, and he would be able to steal the blinds much more aggressively.
  5. With this loss, Hewitt was back in the middle of the pack and facing all of the disadvantages that a reduced stack brings.
  6. From Heinz’s perspective, inside of one lucky hand, he was completely back in the game with the wind at his back and a dangerous stack size he could use to put pressure on other players again.

Conclusion: Pius Heinz, the player who ended up winning the 2011 World Series of Poker, should not have even made the final table! Please note that I’m not knocking his play or his poker skills (he is undoubtedly very good), all I want to illustrate here is the truth of variance and WSOP luck factors: in order to win an MTT of this size, you have to get lucky much more than once (and sometimes even suck-out on your opponents when you’re a 95% underdog: e.g. when holding AKo vs. AA).

Do you still believe that poker is “only” or even “mainly” a game of skill or that the better player (almost) always wins? If my arguments here have not completely convinced you that poker and especially MTTs are a combination of skill and a lot of luck, then please see the video below. WARNING: this hand is sick … don’t watch it if you have a variance-averse stomach.

[This video has unfortunately been removed from YouTube since the publication of this post.]

The following is a breakdown of the respective chip counts and payout structure, which contains an analysis of the players’ respective big blinds and “M” (i.e., total number of orbits they could fold without going broke, if the blinds were to stay at the same level). Notice that the 10th place finisher, Hewitt — who had Heinz covered and dominated in the all-in hand above — isn’t even mentioned in the “November Nine” online profiles feature! This only goes to show how winning or losing any relatively large late-phase pot dynamically effects your monetary equity and ultimate tournament results.

There is exponentially more value in finishing 9th than there is in busting out in 10th for many reasons:


Current Place “November Nine” 2011
Chip Count Prize Big Blinds “M” “Effective M”
1st Martin Staszko 40,175,000 $8,711,956 66.96 25.51 22.96
2nd Eoghan O’Dea 33,925,000 $5,430,928 56.54 21.54 19.39
3rd Matt Giannetti 24,750,000 $4,019,635 41.25 15.71 14.14
4th Phil Collins 23,875,000 $3,011,661 39.79 15.16 13.64
5th Ben Lamb 20,875,000 $2,268,909 34.79 13.25 11.93
6th Badih Bounahra 19,700,000 $1,720,396 32.83 12.51 11.26
7th Pius Heinz 16,425,000 $1,313,851 27.38 10.43 9.39
8th Anton Makiievskyi 13,825,000 $1,009,910 23.04 8.78 7.90
9th Sam Holden 12,375,000 $782,115 20.63 7.86 7.07
10th (busted) John Hewitt 0 $607,882

Stay tuned for a comprehensive overview of the very heated debate on the so-called “table-talk” or “Jamie Gold Rule.” The blog thereafter will go into greater detail on the WSOP luck factor. Once you’ve seen exactly why “lady luck” has to be on your side in such huge multi-table tournaments (even when you have a huge edge over your competition), I’ll provide you with a comprehensive November-Nine deal analysis and then move on to the Nash push/fold/call equilibrium for the WSOP final table as well as their respective bubble factors and the various strategies that are at their disposal.

Till next time … all the best, and best of luck at the tables!

t (incl. bets) To Call HCall% of Pot
$13,575,000 $12,000,000 88.40%
X : 1 1.13 Pot with HCall
B.E. Equity (%) 46.92% $25,575,000
B.E. EQ w/B.F. 57.19% 0.75


To get exclusive access to all the advanced Texas Holdem strategies and tactics we provide completely FREE of charge, simply drop your name and e-mail in the form below.


Pro Poker Tracking and Equity Software for Texas Holdem and Omaha: Cash Games and Tournaments (MTTs & SnGs)

Holdem Manager 2: Pro Poker Tracking SoftwareHoldem Manager 2: Pro Poker Tracking Software

We recommend Holdem Manager’s best-value product HM2 Pro Combo for both Texas Holdem and Omaha. If you’re strictly an Omaha player, get the separate Omaha Manager program here (just click “OM2” in their top menu).

We use the Sit-and-Go Wizard (a must-have for all serious SnG players and very useful for MTT pros) that’s directly integrated into the Holdem Manager program. If you’re strictly a SnG or MTT player, you can also purchase it separately by clicking the banner below.


The SitNGo Wizard

Featured image attribution: By Photos by flipchip / [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons