In a previous article, I had written about how PokerStars had introduced a Spin & Go version that would give a $5,000 vacation package as the top prize. In that same article, I posited that PokerStars would be using this type of promotion for other big events like the Bahamas PCA (now also known as a PokerStars Festival). Today, PokerStars has announced that that is exactly what they are doing with the introduction of a $10 Spin & Go where the potential top prize is a $10,565 package for the Bahamas.
In this article, I revisit the approach to evaluating these tournaments and what this means for your probability in winning a package to the Bahamas.
PokerStars Spin & Go: The Prizes
For this particular promotion, PokerStars offers the following table with your frequency of playing for any given prize. I have added the probability values for each frequency so that we have decimal numbers to work with.
|$10,565 Bahamas Package||300 in 1,000,000||0.0003|
|$60||25,000 in 1,000,000||0.025|
|$40||186,825 in 1,000,000||0.1868|
|$20||787,875 in 1,000,000||0.7879|
As you can probably guess, and the table shows, you won’t be playing for the top prize very often at all. In fact, the probability is quite slim. Most of the time (about 79% of time, that is) your bankroll will be taking the worst of it while playing for a prize pool of exactly $20.
PokerStars Spin & Go: A Mythical Bankroll
Let’s assume that you want to take a modest bankroll of $1,000 and try to get yourself to the Bahamas. What would that look like for you in terms of your expected value and your chances of even playing for the top prize? Here’s some parameters that we can set out to explore this:
- We will keep spending our bankroll until we are down to less than the minimum buy-in for one PokerStars spin & go, or less than $10
- We assume that our win rate will be 33% since you should be able to hit that win rate out of random luck
- We realize that we can only calculate expected value, but real world results will have variance and things will rarely go as planned
I have developed a spread sheet that associates all of the potential payouts with
- Our odds of playing for that payout
- Our odds of actually winning that payout
We start with $1,000 and at $10 per tourney, that means that we can play 100 times during this initial round. Thus, we are left with an extended version of our first table and it now looks like the one shown here
|Top Prize||Frequency||Probability||Number of Games You'll Play||EV in Dollars|
|$10,565 Bahamas Package||300 in 1,000,000||0.0003||0.03||$104.59|
|$60||25,000 in 1,000,000||0.025||2.5||$49.50|
|$40||186,825 in 1,000,000||0.1868||18.68||$246.58|
|$20||787,875 in 1,000,000||0.7879||78.79||$520.01|
After our first round of 100 games we are left with a bankroll that is now almost 10% smaller (at $920.68) and have been very unlikely to play for the top prize. But, we’re still in the game and we can continue playing until our bankroll is down to nothing. So we repeat the same process that we did in this first round and keep going, with our bankroll getting progressively smaller after every round. So, to be clear, Round 2 would start with a bankroll of $920.68 and that gives us enough money for 920 games and repeat the process.
PokerStars Spin & Go: Total Tournaments Played
In fact, if we were to continue this process, we would have a total of 32 rounds. The last round would be very short though, since at that point our bankroll would be down to $18.41 and that would only buy us into one last game! If we total all of the games that we played in each of these rounds, we would have played a total of 1,048 PokerStars spin & go tournaments. Surely that should give us a chance at the top prize, right? Don’t start packing your sunscreen just yet . . .
A bankroll investment of $1,000 gives you about a 27% probability of playing for the Bahamas prize package. A smaller investment, drops this probability accordingly!
If we know the probability of something happening, like a 300-in-1,000,000 chance at a vacation, and we know how many opportunities we are going to have it – like the 1,048 games we can play – then we can calculate the probability of it actually happening. We can do this with something known as the Geometric Distribution and plugging in our numbers, which produces the following table for us.
|Number of Spin & Gos (x)||Probability|
|x < 1,048||0.2698|
|x = 1,048||0.0002|
|x > 1,048||0.7299|
In the X < 1,048 entry, you can see that you have about a 27% probability of playing a PokerStars spin & go that has the vacation package as the top prize. This presents better odds than what we found in the previous article; this proposition might be palatable to you depending on your willingness to invest your bankroll and your own skills at poker.
PokerStars Spin & Go: Not Quite Ready For The Bahamas
So what did we learn? You have to consider the following caveats when playing these tournaments that promise a lucrative top prize.
- This article assumes a modest bankroll investment that most PokerStars players may or may not have. A smaller bankroll will significantly change the probabilities presented in this article
- The 27% probability represents your chance at just playing for the top prize. You still have to win the tournament itself! Your two other opponents have something to say about that and if you lose in that tournament, you are unlikely to get another shot at it
- If you were to win the top prize, you would be highly likely to have invested your whole bankroll in the process. That means the $10,565 prize is now only worth about $9,565 you after you deduct your initial investment.
- Finally, there is still the matter of actually playing 1,048 tournaments. The average time for these tournaments has been cited in other sources as being 7 minutes long. So for 1,048 tournaments, that is almost 122 hours of poker! You’re going to need a vacation after that much poker . . .
There is little doubt that the PokerStars Spin & Go format is here to stay. But it pays for players to be well aware of what they are getting themselves into before they start dreaming of that lucrative top prize.
FULL DISCLOSURE: While I am a U.S. Citizen and primarily based in Las Vegas, I maintain a second home in Baja California, Mexico where my PokerStars account is based. I only play real-money PokerStars while in Mexico and never play while I am in the U.S.