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How to Make a Profit Playing Spin & Gos: A Statistical Deep Dive

For years online poker sites have searched for a “New Big Thing” to get people hooked again after the poker boom began to wane.

Full Tilt developed Rush Poker. PokerStars debuted Zoom Poker.

They all went mobile and invented Multi-Entry Tournaments or Multi-Day Re-Entry Tournaments.

None have had an impact like Spin & Gos.

Spin & Gos went live on PokerStars just one year ago but their impact on the poker economy has been industry-changing.

Hundreds of thousands of players have tried them, multiple people have become millionaires thanks and an estimated 20% of PokerStars’ revenue comes from them.

PokerStars weren’t even the first to offer Spin & Gos. iPoker actually ran Jackpot Sit and Gos well before PokerStars did, but as has happened so often in the online poker business PokerStars stole the show and cemented its leading position with its version.

Yep, Spin & Gos in fact ARE New Big Thing. Let’s take a closer look.

How Do Spin & Gos Work?

Screen shot 2015 10 06 at 11.28.37 AM

In case you’re in the minority and have yet to try a Spin & Go out, here’s a quick rundown.

They’re are 3 players per tournament with a buy-in between $1 and $100. The structure is a hyper-turbo (on average 7 minutes per tourney) and the winner takes all.

The kicker: Before the actual tourney starts the prize pool is chosen randomly – it can be anywhere between double the buy-in and 3,600 times the buy-in.

For example: If you play a $15 Spin & Go you can “spin” a prize pool of up to $54,000.

Sweet, huh? One tiny problem though: it’s very unlikely to hit one of those insanely high multipliers.

The 3,600-multiplier will only hit with a probability of one in 100,000. Here’s a breakdown of all multipliers, prize pools and probabilities for the $15 Spin & Gos:

Multiplier

Prize Pool

Probability

3,600

$45,000 ($4,500 for 2nd/3rd)

0.001%

240

$3,000 ($300 for 2nd/3rd)

0.005%

120

$1,500 ($150 for 2nd/3rd)

0.010%

25

$375

0.100%

10

$150

0.500%

6

$90

7.500%

4

$60

21.366%

2

$30

70.518%

It’s easy to see that hitting any of the big multipliers (120x or more) is rather unlikely. On average you’ll hit one of them once every 6,250 tourneys.

Most of the time you’ll just play for twice the buy-in. Every now and then you’ll hit the 4x or 6x multipliers. But everything else is a long shot.

So are they even profitable? Is it worthwhile to play those tourneys or are they just a big lottery?

What’s the Rake?

Before looking at the profitability of Spin & Gos let’s look at the rake. Because ultimately the profitability of every multi-player game is tied to the amount the house keeps for itself – high rake, low profitability; low rake, (potentially) high profitability.

With the help of the payout and probability tables it’s easy to calculate how much money goes to PokerStars on average. Here’s the effective rake for all Spin & Go buy-ins:

Buy-In

Prize Pool Contribution

Rake

Percent

$1.00

$0.93

$0.07

7.53%

$3.00

$2.82

$0.18

6.38%

$7.00

$6.58

$0.42

6.38%

$15.00

$14.25

$0.75

5.26%

$30.00

$28.50

$1.50

5.26%

$60.00

$57.00

$3.00

5.26%

$100.00

$95.00

$5.00

5.26%

For the cheapest tourney PokerStars keeps on average 7.5%. It’s still 5.3% for the more expensive Spin & Gos.

Considering we’re talking about hyper-turbo tourneys that last on average seven minutes, those are some expensive rates!

A Valid Option to Make Money?

So far we have lottery-like prize pools and substantial rake – it doesn’t look like Spin & Gos can be profitable.

When these tourneys were introduced it was generally accepted that it’s virtually impossible to “beat” them long-term. They’re just for recreational players that want to hit jackpots.

In the beginning of this year a player called Bighusla stepped forward and offered a challenge: He proposed to play 5,000 $30 Spin & Gos while making a substantial profit.

He got plenty of takers because it was thought it couldn’t be done. He played 5,054 Spin & Gos, never hit any of the big multipliers, yet still managed to show a return on investment (ROI) of more than 8% per tourney.

That’s before any rakeback or cashback through the PokerStars VIP program. This is what his run looked like:

PTChartBigHusla

Other professional tourney players also tried their luck and many of them had moderate-to-substantial success over a large sample size.

By now Spin & Gos are considered a valid option to make money on PokerStars and a way to pass time while still playing with an edge.

Incredible Rec-to-Regular Ratio

Donkey hat
Here’s your competition.

Spin & Gos are incredibly fish friendly: they’re quick, they have lots of action, can easily be played mobile and they offer the possibility to score huge for a rather moderate buy-in.

Recreational players don’t care too much about rake and the lottery factor doesn’t repel them at all. As a matter of fact, the big flashy 3,600x multipliers are what gets them to play in the first place.

At every time of the day there are literally thousands of players online that single table a Spin & Go while having a break from work, riding on the train or while watching TV.

Currently Spin & Gos have an incredible rec-to-regular ratio. More often than not you’ll have two weak players at your table and that’s why the Spin & Gos are profitable.

As long as you’re not the fish, of course.

What Kind of ROI Can You Expect?

Since Spin & Gos are three-person tournaments, the average player will win 33.3% of the time. Obviously you’ll have to do better than that to beat the rake and make money.

But how much better?

For the $1 Spin & Gos, for example, you’ll have to win at least 35.9% of the time to break even in the long run. Those numbers can be calculated by using the payout and probability tables for the Spin & Gos and some math.

The following table shows the win-rate you’ll have to average to achieve a certain ROI:

ROI

$1

$3 and $7

$15 and more

-2%

35.1%

34.8%

34.4%

-1%

35.5%

35.1%

34.7%

0%

35.9%

35.5%

35.1%

1%

36.2%

35.8%

35.4%

2%

36.6%

36.2%

35.8%

3%

36.9%

36.5%

36.2%

4%

37.3%

36.9%

36.5%

5%

37.7%

37.3%

36.9%

6%

38.0%

37.6%

37.2%

7%

38.4%

38.0%

37.6%

8%

38.7%

38.3%

37.9%

So to achieve a 5% ROI when playing the $7 Spin & Gos you’ll have to win 37.3% of the time.

The differences seem surprisingly tiny. You win 35% of your tourneys? You’ll break even at best.

You win 38%? Congrats, you’re a world class Spin & Go player. But the difference between a 35% and a 38% player actually is huge. Since Spin & Gos are so extremely fast paced you only have very few opportunities to outplay your opponents.

There’s very little room for your opponents to make substantial mistakes. Thus you’ll have to work very hard to achieve a win-rate above 35%.

What About Variance?

Regular Sit & Gos have very low variance. Usually it’ll only take you a couple of hundred tourneys to know your win-rate and smooth out the variance. That isn’t the case with Spin & Gos. Not at all.

Let’s take 10 Spin & Go players who beat the $15 Spin & Gos with an ROI of 5%. Those are top-notch players. Now we simulate 10,000 tourneys and plot their cumulative winnings:

5PercentROI
Well, those are some wild graphs! All samples are above zero but the winnings are between $760 and $9,400.
Player H was in the red for well over 6,000 tourneys and at one point he was down more than $1,000.

Over 10,000 tourneys, variance is a dominating factor in Spin & Gos. And 10,000 tourneys is already a huge amount.

You’ll need to play 250 hours and you’ll need to 5-table as well to achieve that. Only the most dedicated players will manage to play that many tourneys in one month.

Now let’s look at a sample over 100,000 tourneys – an amount a professional Spin & Go player might amass over one or two years:

5Percent100k

Over 100,000 tourneys the samples look much smoother. The big jumps in samples A, C and G are where the simulated players hit and won the 3,600 multiplier.

Even without hitting the big multipliers all players show a profit of at least $40,000. But remember: We’re looking at 100,000 tourneys – or 2,500 hours five-tabling them.

That’s a year’s work at least.

Where Does the Variance Come From?

The reason for the comparatively high variance in Spin & Gos is the big multipliers. Take the $15 Spin & Gos for example.

The shades make the player
Only the very best top 6%

On average you’ll hit the 3,600x multiplier only once every 100,000 tourneys and will win only every third one. But statistically the highest multiplier is responsible for 18 cents of your total expectation.

If for some reason you’d always faint when hitting a 3,600x multiplier and never won one, but played completely normal otherwise, your ROI would drop by 1%.

That’s how much the highest multiplier influences the expectation and the variance.

What about the other big multipliers? The probability of hitting one of the big multipliers (120, 240 and 3,600) is tiny: 0.016% – once every 6,250 tourneys.

Let’s just pretend the three highest multipliers (120, 240 and 3,600) aren’t even in the game. In this case your total expectation would drop by 30 cents. Meaning: Your ROI would go down roughly 2%.

Yep, that’s right: Those multipliers that you hit once every couple thousand spins are responsible for 2% of your ROI. That’s a huge chunk of your (statistically expected) Spin & Go winnings.

While 2% ROI might not sound like a lot, it actually is. Most decent Spin & Go players don’t exceed 4-5% ROI and only the very best exceed 6%.

What Bankroll Do You Need?

Should you want play Spin & Gos professionally you want to reduce your risk of ruin as much as possible. Thus you’ll need to play with a rather big bankroll.

We calculated the bankroll requirements for $15 Spin & Gos and a risk of ruin of 5% depending on your win-rate:

Winrate

Buy-Ins

Bankroll

36.9% (5% ROI)

120

$1,800

36.5% (4% ROI)

150

$2,250

36.2% (3% ROI)

200

$3,000

35.8% (2% ROI)

300

$4,500

35.5% (1% ROI)

600

$9,000

Yes, those are some steep bankroll requirements. But if you’re just playing for fun you don’t have to follow them religiously.

How to Treat Spin & Gos?

So far we know Spin & Gos have a high rake, pay out like a lottery, their variance is through the roof, and yet they’re still beatable because so many fish play them.

spingo
Don’t count on big multipliers.

So, how should you approach them?

Simple: Don’t expect to hit any of the big multipliers. Ever. Basically, treat Spin & Gos like hyper-turbo tourneys with an incredibly high rake and with plenty of weak players.

You need to be able to beat the Spin & Gos without hitting the big multipliers. Otherwise the variance will eat you up eventually.

Meaning: You’ll need a win-rate of at least 37% (for the $1 Spin & Gos) or at least 36% (for the other ones). With those win-rates you’ll show a long-term profit even if you never hit one of the big multipliers.

Should you happen to hit one of the big multipliers, well that’s a nice bonus – but don’t rely on it.

Spin & Gos: The Big Rake(Back) Machine

One last aspect that is very relevant regarding Spin & Gos: They are a huge money maker for PokerStars due to the high rake.

But since they’re currently very beatable, they’re also a good way to generate frequent player points and many players make a living by just breaking even and collecting their cash-back rewards.

A Supernova player currently receives roughly 30% cashback on rake paid. That’s the lowest Supernova tier. Higher tiers receive considerably more.

If a player amasses 5,000 $15 Spin & Gos in one month he or she will have paid $3,750 in rake. Thirty per cent of that is already $1,100 – a steady stream before any winnings from the tourneys themselves.

The site spinlyzer.com tracks all Spin & Gos and lets you see how each player has performed over the last months. Those are the most successful in July 2015:

SpinlyzerData
The top 100 players (by number of games played) paid on average $21k rake, made an average profit of $10.6k and another $11.6k in rake back. That’s quite a lot of money.

So: How Good are Spin & Gos?

High rake, lottery-like variance and hyper-turbo structures. On the surface Spin & Gos certainly don’t sound too good for the dedicated poker player.

But currently they are. Because so many weak players flock to the Spin & Gos the fish-to-reg ratio is incredibly favorable. This might change when more regs frequent the Spin & Gos and recreational players lose interest, but currently neither seems to loom on the horizon.

All in all it turns out Spin & Gos are currently pretty good. That is unless you are the fish, of course. But that’s true for every form of poker.

Sb

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