That’s where I started with online poker over a decade ago -- playing the play money games on PokerStars -- and these days that’s pretty much all the online poker I’m playing as I don’t live in Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware and I’m not currently interested in the giving up the time or money or accepting the inherent risk that’s involved with playing on any of the “rogue” sites.
I still very much like the PokerStars client, and I’m always glad when any of the innovations they introduce for real money players like new games or formats are trickled down to the play money side, too, just so I can try them out.
One new game just introduced on PokerStars is this “Spin & Go” variation on the traditional sit-n-go. You choose a buy-in and soon afterwards are sat down at a three-handed, winner-take-all, turbo-structured SNG. The prize, however, isn’t calculated by adding up the three players’ buy-ins.
No, instead before the game begins you watch numbers spin on a slot machine-like display that ultimately land on a number representing the payout. For example, in the 1,000 play-chip Spin & Go, prizes range from 2,000 (in fact less than the 3,000 the players have paid) all of the way up to 1,000,000.
I believe for all of the buy-ins the largest possible prize is 1,000 times the buy-in while the smallest is 2 times the buy-in. Of course, the likelihood of getting to play for 1,000 times the buy-in is quite small. Below is a chart reflecting the probabilities for a $1 Spin & Go tournament.
I did a little math to see how the distribution of prizes ensures PokerStars comes out ahead (natch) -- I think to the tune of about 8 cents for every dollar.
Playing a bunch of play money Spin & Gos I noticed right away how for most of them I’d only be playing for 2x my buy-in, as the probabilities would suggest should happen. I also noticed how there was something slightly addicting about registering for another one -- or several at once, as the client makes it easy to do -- and giving the sucker another spin in the hopes of getting lucky and hitting a bigger first prize (and then winning the thing).
(I know Full Tilt Poker has a similar offering -- the Jackpot Sit-n-Gos -- with different probabilities, but I haven’t logged on over there for a while.)
The format is kind of fun and does satisfy what for me has become the primary way I play on the site -- usually just jumping into quick heads-up matches or short-handed sit-n-gos, often of the turbo variety. It does introduce another layer of luck onto poker, and I’m sure there are reasons to point out why it’s not such a great format for players’ bankrolls (or for encouraging more serious, studied poker).
But it’s still fun taking it for a spin, even just for play.