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Chasing Dreams: Player Goals and Expectations at the World Series of Poker — Poll Results

This is a follow-up column with results of the poll questions that were posted at the Card Player website back in May.

Question 1: If you won a World Series of Poker satellite and collected $10,000 in cash, if given the opportunity — would you rather keep the cash (and not play) or take your chances in the championship event?

  • Keep the money — 64 percent
  • Play in the tournament — 36 percent


Comments: These percentages were to be expected. If given the opportunity, more poker players would prefer to keep $10,000 in winnings rather than “invest” the money in a major event. To a certain extent, I expect that these numbers break down according to the economic means of players who responded to the poll. Less affluent players were probably more inclined to want to keep the money, whereas players with larger bankrolls likely prefer to play in the big event.


Question 2: If you could determine the outcome in advance, would you be content with a respectable “in the money” finish in the WSOP main event — which pays $15,000 (netting a profit of $5,000)?


  • Yes — 74 percent


  • No — 26 percent


Comments: By nearly a 3-to-1 margin, most poker players would be satisfied with a modest profit — if given the chance. In e-mails I received on this question, some respondents mentioned that accepting an in-the-money finish meant being able to play several hours of tournament poker at the highest level. The experience gained would be invaluable. To net a profit of $5,000 and gain tournament experience was enough of an incentive to accept the option.


Question 3: All things being equal, which do you think is more difficult in a typical World Series event — making it “into the money” or “winning” a final table? (Note: Assume that 10 percent of the field is paid, and the final table consists of 10 players.)


  • Making it into the money is more difficult — 47 percent


  • Winning the final table is more difficult — 53 percent


Comments: The “average” poker player is not qualified to give a convincing answer to this question, since most players have not competed in enough events to make an informed decision based on firsthand knowledge and experience. However, the question was included in order to measure our perceptions of two different stages of tournaments. By a small margin, players believe that “winning” a tournament is more difficult than making it into the money.


Question 4: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “My odds of winning an event at the World Series of Poker are better than the average poker player’s chances.”


  • Agree — 67 percent


  • Disagree — 33 percent


Comments: No surprise here. Theoretically, the percentage of players who agree with this statement should be 50 percent (since that’s an average number). However, poker players are eternal optimists. It’s clear that most poker players have inflated opinions of their ability — and these percentages certainly prove it.


Question 5: On the very first hand of the WSOP championship event, you are dealt K-K. You make a standard preflop raise, and are shocked when an opponent announces, “All in.” The opponent is a well-respected top pro. What will you do?


  • Call — 70 percent


  • Fold — 30 percent


Comments: Respondents were not influenced by the prospect of facing an all-in raise by a top pro. However, it’s still interesting that nearly one-third of respondents said they would fold the pocket kings.


Question 6: On the very first hand of the WSOP championship event, you are dealt K-K. You make a standard preflop raise, and are shocked when an opponent announces, “All in.” The opponent is an unknown amateur. What will you do?


  • Call — 64 percent


  • Fold — 36 percent


Comments: These results appear to be inconsistent with the percentages from the previous question. When faced with the same decision — this time against an unknown amateur — more players would fold the pocket kings (36 percent versus 30 percent in the previous scenario). One might expect the pro’s raise to get more respect, but the drop-off by six percentage points shows that more tournament players fear “the unknown.” More about situs poker online


Question 7: On the very first hand of the WSOP championship event, you are dealt Q-Q. You make a standard preflop raise, and are shocked when an opponent announces, “All in.” The opponent is an unknown amateur. What will you do?


  • Call — 35 percent


  • Fold — 65 percent


Comments: By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, most respondents said they would not call an all-in raise with Q-Q. Pocket queens may be the third-best hand in hold’em, but there is a huge decline in confidence between K-K and Q-Q when it comes to calling a big raise.


Question 8: On the very first hand of the WSOP championship event, you are dealt A-A. Incredibly, before you act, Player No. 1 moves all in before the flop. Player No. 2 calls. Player No. 3 calls. Everyone else folds around to you. What will you do? (Note: You have no prior knowledge of your opponents.)


  • Call — 82 percent


  • Fold — 18 percent


Comments: This question was designed to measure the degree of desire to continue playing in a major tournament versus acquiring a big stack at the risk of being quickly eliminated. Although the mathematical percentages say “call” in this situation (and possibly quadruple up), there remains a sizable minority who would rather fold and survive longer in the tournament.


Question 9: You are lowest in chips in the tournament and five places from the money. At that point, would you be satisfied to finish “in the money,” which means getting your buy-in back, plus netting a small profit?


  • Yes — 71 percent


  • No — 29 percent


Comments: By a significant majority, poker players are willing to make a pragmatic decision when at a competitive disadvantage. When facing the prospect of elimination (and no prize money), most players are content with realizing a small win.


Question 10: If forced to choose, would you rather play heads up for a gold bracelet in a championship event against a poker superstar or an unknown player?


  • A poker superstar — 74 percent


  • An unknown player — 26 percent


Comments: It’s interesting, perhaps even surprising, that most players would prefer playing heads up in a championship event against “a star” than against an amateur. This says something about our celebrity-oriented culture, which prioritizes connections to the rich and famous. An unknown player would likely be an easier opponent to defeat, but “bragging rights” are certainly a consideration, as proven by these percentages. If we assume that the superstar is a tougher opponent than the amateur, it’s baffling to see nearly three out of four players preferring a match against the star player.


Question 11: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “If I get heads up at the final table and am even in chips with a top pro, I believe that I have just as good a chance to win as he does.”


  • Agree — 44 percent


  • Disagree — 56 percent


Comments: Here’s another apparent contradiction in the results. Players believe that the top pro has the advantage (in heads-up competition). Yet, the previous question shows that despite this, most players would prefer to play against a top pro.


Question 12: You are playing in a preliminary World Series event, and you are even in chips with just one opponent remaining. Forgetting the ethical ramifications for a moment, your opponent offers a deal in which you take first-place prize money of $150,000, versus $75,000 for second. In turn, he wins the gold bracelet. What would you do?


  • Accept the deal and take the money — 48 percent


  • Play for the gold bracelet — 52 percent


Comments: It appears that the breakdown of players who value winning (more) money versus the gold bracelet is close to an even split.


Question 13: Down to three players at the final table of the championship event, you are down about 2-1 in chips to both opponents. You are offered the deal of second-place prize money of $2 million, but you will not win the championship. The payouts are $3 million for first, $2 million for second, and $1 million for third place. Would you accept the guaranteed $2 million or play for the world championship instead?


  • Accept the deal and take the money — 68 percent


  • Play for the championship — 32 percent


Comments: As we can see from the breakdown of these percentages, if the prize money is much more significant ($1 million in this example compared to $75,000 in the previous question), more players are willing to abandon the prospect of winning a world championship in exchange for a greater share of the prize money. No surprise here.


Question 14: Given that you already have a seat in the WSOP $10,000 buy-in championship event, do you believe you have a chance to win it?


  • Yes — 64 percent


  • No — 36 percent