Live Betting on the Poker Million

By Keith ‘The Camel’ Hawkins

The early signs weren’t hopeful. The printed media didn’t make much attempt to promote the Poker Million and therefore before the big event betting interest was light. Just over ten grand had been matched on Betfair prior to the big day. Those of us who thought the live final would be a huge betting money-spinner were in danger of getting egg on their collective faces.

This pessimism looked even better founded when the gamblers bible: The Racing Post barely mentioned the big event and only gave the sponsors (Ladbrokes) prices. They failed to mention Blue Square, William Hill, UK Betting and Stan James also were offering odds. Sporting Index had various spread markets on offer too.

For the record the best available odds with the fixed odds boys were:

Joe Beevers 3/1 Lads, Hills, UKB

Tony Bloom 3/1 Lads, UKB

Bruce Atkinson 9/2 BSq, UKB

Guy Bowles 5/1 Lads

Steve Davis 13/2 UKB

Jimmy White 10/1 BSq

Betfair, as usual, had better offers on most players. Joe and Tony were available at slightly worse odds 2.9/1 and 2.95/1 respectively, but the other four were much more attractively priced. Bruce 5.2/1, Guy 7/1, Steve 8.4/1 and Jimmy 11.5/1.

But, in the hours prior to Liam saying, "shuffle up and deal" betting interest exploded. Over 90 thousand pounds was matched on the day itself and the magical hundred grand mark was reached just a few minutes before play began.

But for serious gamblers, it was Betfair’s "in running" market which really held appeal. Would non poker players correctly assess how the odds fluctuate as the chips move around the table? Even more interesting how would the market react when a player was all in before the flop was dealt?

All was quickly revealed. The in running market was as fascinating as the tournament itself.

An early example was provided in a four-way pot. Bruce raised with KJ, was called by Tony with 77 and Jimmy with A8. Guy woke up in the BB with KK and repopped the pot. Jimmy called and the other two players passed. Betfairs market exploded into life. Jimmy was available at 20/1 before the flop was dealt whereas Guy shortened from 7/1 to 5/1. But when the flop came with an Ace, Jimmy contracted quickly to 8/1 and Guy drifted to nearly 12/1. Jimmy won the pot and the trend for fast moving action was set.

Tony set the pace in the early stages of the PM. Raising regularly and bullying his way through to the joint chip lead with Jimmy. His odds contracted in accordance with this move, he went from 3/1 to less than 2/1. Jimmy was also shortening as he won several pots (usually from behind!).

Bruce (as big as 6/1) and Joe (10/1+) were drifting in the market as they couldn’t win a pot, Guy who was severely short stacked for much of the first level after losing his big confrontation with Jimmy reached 25/1. Steve was marking time at around 8/1 and not really getting involved.

As the blinds rose, the chips started moving around faster and the betting became even more frenetic.

Some examples:

Bruce raises with A9, Tony reraises with KJ, Bruce passes. TB 2/1to 1.9/1 BA 5/1 to 6/1

Joe raises with KJ, Guy reraises with A6, Joe gives it a big think (as he is apt to do!) and passes GB 16/1 to 12/1 JB 6/1to 8/1

Tony raises with 88, Jimmy calls with 33. flop comes A45,Jimmy checks, Tony bets and Jimmy calls. With no help for either player on turn or river Tony wins a nice pot and his price contracts to 1.8/1.

But of course the real betting action occurred on the allin coups.Jimmy makes a raise with KT suited, Guy reraises with the boots all in. Jimmy calls. In the seconds before the flop was dealt Guys price collapsed. He was big odds on to double up and his price went from over 20/1 to 5/1 while Jimmy touched 14/1as he looked sure to lose a large portion of his chips. But the poker Gods were cruel to "the Calculator" the flop came with both a King and a ten and Guy was gone, with Jimmy being shortened dramatically to 4/1!

Tony at last was looking like a mortal when he called Steve’s all in raise with T8 while "the Nuggett" had KK. For once the odds stood up and Steve halved in price from 16/1 to 8/1 and Tony moved back out to 5/2.

But Steve’s renaissance was short lived. He called a small Tony raise with JT. He looked in pretty good shape as Tony held T9. Tony fired at the flop when it came T76 (top pair, gutshot draw) but Steve moved all in and had him outkicked, the pot odds made Tony’s call reluctant but inevitable. Yet again, the favourite was cut down as the turn filled Tony’s straight and immediately he was slashed to 6/4.

His short price didn’t last long as Joe started to get busy, making use of his tight image. He moved all in over the top of a Tony raise with 97 and shortened to 3/1 as he finally moved into a competitive chip position.

When the blinds moved up to 10 and 20 thousand the fluctuations became even more dramatic. Bruce who had been making steady chip progress moved in twice in a row and he shortened to 5/2 from 7/2.

Whenever a player won a pot he was adding 30% to his starting stack and therefore the odds moves were dramatic.

The big hands meant frenetic market moves.

Joe and Tony tangled twice in quick succession, and it was the end for the Lizard. Firstly Joe moved in with T3 and got called by Tony holding AJ. Tony was odds on to win the tournament for a few seconds. That was until the flop came with a ten and Joe doubled up. Then Joe raised with K9, Tony moved in with A8 and Joe was pretty much forced to call. Again, before the flop Tony’s price contracted but the flop (from 4/1 to 2/1) but when the flop saw KK, Tony was gone and Joe was about a 4/7 favourite three handed.

Then disaster struck for Betfair punters. The final had overrun by about two hours and Betfair didn’t delay scheduled maintenance until it had finished and we were left to watch the remarkable finish to the tournament without any further financial interest.

Except for this PR disaster the Poker Million was an unmitigated success on Betfair. Over £400,000 was matched and there were plenty of opportunities for us to get involved.

Rumour has it that the next series of the PM will feature all live heats as well as a live grand final. I for one can’t wait.