Dara O’Kearney on Full Tilt’s innovative Flipout tournaments

Flipouts are one of the most innovative new formats in poker and if you know what you’re doing there’s money to be made – for now!

I’ve been playing full-time since 2008, having been taught the game by my brother in May 2007. The day after he taught me the basics, I luckboxed my way to a $171 score when I came second in a 10,000 runner freeroll. Using that, I started playing limit cash online. My brother figured I’d lose the money slower that way, but I won from the start, grinding up a five-figure roll. To this day I’ve never actually made a deposit online!

Over the next few months I supplemented my income making a few grand a month playing live three nights a week, and in February 2008 I won the first major tourney I entered, the European Deepstack. I then moved from online limit cash to tournaments. Early in my career, I learned that the softest money is to be found in new formats that attract recreational players, before everyone figures out how to play them.
Nevertheless, when I first heard about Full Tilt’s new tourney format, Flipouts, I was very dubious.[In a Flipout tournament all players are forced all-in the very first hand, and the tournament plays out as normal from there, usually with all players already in the money.]

I asked a friend who was weighing up whether to play them these questions:

  1. Would you pay to enter a winner-takes-all tournament where everyone is all-in first hand, with a reg fee and no added money?
  2. Would you pay to enter a tourney where the entire field is paid?

When my friend answered no to both, I said, ‘Don’t enter Flipouts because they combines these two horrible types of tournaments’.

Flipping it around

However, over the next few days, the conversation within the Firm (my name for my close knit group of poker friends) moved on, largely thanks to David Lappin. There’s a reason David is the main go-to guy for coaching the guys we stake. He’s very good at understanding the nuances of poker situations. He was much more positive on the format, offering the following advantages:

  1. One important nuance is that after the flip part, you basically have a well-disguised sit-and-go. When 243 players flip to 27, you have a 27 man sit-and-go. Most players won’t even realise this, and won’t play optimal sit-and-go strategy, even if they are capable of doing so.
  2. The other unusual thing is because you reach the money through an entirely random process you have a much weaker field, pound for pound, than is the norm in an MTT. When you look at the mass runner tourneys on ‘Stars or Full Tilt, you might have a ratio of close to 20% regs and 80% recreational players at the start. By bubble time, the chances are its closer to 50/50. By the final table, it may have flipped the other way (80% regs and 20% recs). Flipouts will preserve the reg-to-rec ratio at the start to the money. So if you are lucky enough to win your flip, you will find yourself playing much weaker opposition than in a normal MTT where the fish get whittled out.
  3. The unusual payout structure, while doing the better players no favours, will at least be adjusted to better by the stronger players. With ICM a factor right from the get go, sit-and-go grinders who understand ICM will profit long term, not just from the mistakes of recs but also regs who don’t properly adjust.

Nothing lasts forever

The format appeals to impatient recreational players who like to cut to the chase. But in the long term the penny may drop that it is basically a coinflip to get into a very unusual sit-and-go. New formats tend to attract recs who want to try something new, and be insanely profitable for those who can figure out to play them optimally. But the honeymoon never lasts.

I beat Double or Nothing sit-and-gos by 40% over a large sample size for a while. I beat heads-up hyper turbos by 30%. But long term, my edge in both shrivelled to ‘not really worth playing anymore unless I do 50,000 of them a year on a good rakeback deal’ level.

This happened for a number of reasons. First, more regs figured out how to play them (through training videos, strategy articles or through experience). Then the recs got better at them for similar reasons. And the fish either went broke, realised they weren’t as much fun as they first thought, or moved on to the next format. Luckily, Flipout tournaments aren’t at that point yet. Give them a try and I’ll go through some more strategy for them next month.

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