Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Poker's Barrier to Exit

I've been on a three-day free poker tour of sorts to welcome back a few old friends to the game. As long time readers have no-doubt deduced, I'm not a huge fan of free poker for anything but a social distraction. Free poker sucks as a learning tool and, by nature, sucks in terms of profit. The obvious benefit of free is the very low barrier of entry, but what of the barrier to exit?

On Saturday I drove an hour out of my way to revisit a free poker game that I frequented before I dived into the world of FullTilt. My last appearance was two years ago and the clientèle remained relatively unchanged, even though both the poker league and the hosting bar had changed hands. This particular league is laid back in its rules to allow patrons to choose their own seats. I sat with my wife and friend along side seven other players. We shuffled up and dealt.

Ten hands in, my buddy's poorly played pocket queens were busted and he hit the bar. A table consolidation later, my lady joined him. I was sitting there playing cards while the two people I wanted to spend time with were watching football. In this case, we were still waiting on the fourth member of our party so I rode out the storm. He eventually showed five table consolidations later to watch the end game. I won, since you asked, a fifteen dollar bar tab for first place...as I said before, sucks for profit.

I made the most it, but the following night I wasn't about to take the same "honor" of placing solo. We played elsewhere and my company busted out early again. I was chip leader and wanting to leave. Here is the barrier I spoke of, what is my exit strategy?

The tournament started with six tables and two hours in...there were six tables. I personally took out 4 players and witnessed a few others hit the road, but between alternates and massive chip ups for ordering food and drink, the game duration was approaching the infinite. What is the most polite way to leave a free poker game? I can think of three options:

  1. Go all-in blind every hand. This strategy could still take a while factoring in fold rates and my uncanny ability to be unfortunately lucky. Besides, this tactic hurts the illusion of real poker and can cause ill will towards me from whomever I suck out on.

  2. Take part in a high betting hand or two and fold just before the showdown. The problem here is that I'm unfairly helping certain players be contributing to a hand I have no desire to win. Not collusion, but still could be seen as foul play.

  3. Leave your chips on the table and walk out. This is the least often used method as I have observed. We seem to have a psychological block on giving away opportunity, even if that opportunity comes in the form of valueless chips. Depending on the league, the chips of a deserter will either be taken out of play or blinded out.

How to lose chips is a first world problem on planet poker, no doubt, but if you have ever frequented a bar poker league you have probably been faced with this situation. What option do you take?

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