The Muck: Is Missing a Single Hand in a Tournament a Big Deal?

Matt Savage

Matt Savage knows a thing or two about poker. The lauded tournament director has had a storied career in the poker industry and is one of ten nominees for this year’s Poker Hall of Fame. However, there’s one question he hasn’t figured out.

Savage took a break from his tournament director duties to fire the 2018 WSOP Main Event where he was a part of the largest single-day flight in series history. He was also freerolling in a way as the night before he took down Matt Stout’s Charity Series of Poker event at Planet Hollywood for a smooth $10,000, the amount it costs to buy into the WSOP Main Event.

If you’re a player you’ve no doubt been hesitant to leave the table. Maybe you’ve held it so long that when the break rolls around you’re the guy or gal making a mad dash for the restroom only to find a line already forming of those players who did skip a hand to duck out early.

A lot of players and industry veterans have come to appreciate taking a hand or two off if it means more comfort.

“I’ve long felt that most poker players undervalue intangible factors gained by leaving for the break 5 mins early,” BJ Nemeth offered. “No line for the bathrooms and a less-rushed dinner break.”

Keith Block, who came from New York to fire the Main Event, subscribed to that view.

“I hate waiting on bathrooms so badly that I find time even during the tournament, maybe when I’m two spots away from the blinds when I can skip out and take a break,” he told PokerNews. “In early position the range of hands I’ll be playing is small, a lower percentage, I’m going to be folding a lot of hands. Those are the spots that aren’t as profitable, they’re kind of neutral, so that’s a good time to take a quick break.”

Haxton: "One missed hand costs you something like 1% of a buy-in."

On the flip side, there are players like two-time MSPT champ Greg Himmelbrand, who hate missing a hand.

“I think I’ve missed a hand once in my life because I really had to go, I just ran and came back, but I try to stay as long as I can without missing a hand,” he told PokerNews on a break from the Main Event. “It’s not a luck thing, it’s just one hand could be a big hand. I think when I did go I left when I was UTG+1 so I was gone in my out-od-position hands.”

For most missing a hand is a matter of preference, but for a top pro like Ike Haxton it’s actually a mathematical calculation.

“One hand dealt to you in middle position might be worth something like 0.1bb in expectation. Day two, avg stack = 50bb = 5x starting, one missed hand costs you something like 1% of a buyin. $100 in a 10k. Can be much more later in tournament if you miss BB or BU. It matters.”

Eric Froehlich approached it in a similar manner:

George Danzer, the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year, was also in that boat: “Second last levele of day one at the Main Event – depending on stack sizes and players on your table you ae missing out on up to $50/hand as a decent player. Would you pay $100 to jump the piss line?”

Perhaps Brandon Shack-Harris put it best when he said: “I ascribe to the ‘Do what makes you happy’ movement.”

  • In latest @official_glp The Muck we ask, "Is missing a hand of tournament poker really a big deal?"

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Executive Editor U.S.

Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.

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