Though I’ve been a cash game player for the last decade and a half, Sit & Gos hold a very special place in my heart. My first two years in poker were at the single table SNGs. I learned the game there. I became a winning player there. I even met many of my closest poker friends, to this day, in the SNG community.
Sit & Gos were simple back then. 10 players bought in and the top 3 spots got paid. Looking back with hindsight, my winning strategy was to be a bad nit in the early levels and then play the late-game push-fold much better than my opponents. It worked well!
Eventually, I moved on from those 10 handed Single Table Tournaments to Cash Games, and SNGs moved on from them as well.
From multi-table SNGs to 6-handed turbos to heads up hypers, sites continued to turn those existing knobs – # of Players, Speed, Payout structure – to create new versions of the same game, until some very serious innovation occurred.
First created by Winamax, and popularized by PokerStars, the Lottery Sit & Go, which you may know by the name ‘Spin & Go’, (literally) changed the game.
Fast, exciting, huge prizes – it’s clear why players flocked to Spins.
Lottery Sit & Gos
Lottery SNGs do a lot of things well:
- They’re fast – which means a casual player can play a full game without much commitment.
- They add a large prize element to a format that otherwise wouldn’t have it – you can get 6-figure+ prize pools in MTTs but not in traditional SNGs.
- The added variance is good for players who are underdogs, which means it’s generally good for the poker ecosystem.
This last point is key – not just in SNGs, but for all of poker. The relationship between variance and win-rates or loss-rates is as important a topic as any other, in my opinion, when it comes to online poker’s future. Yes, I’m saying it’s as important as huge topics like botting and regulation!
If you haven’t heard yet, we give a lot of money away to our players!
Low variance games combined with high loss-rates leads to consistent losses, and that takes the fun out of poker for a number of recreational players who would have much better luck at the roulette table. The reason this is becoming more and more of an issue is that pros have increased their edges over recreational players in the past couple of decades and game quality on the whole has decreased over time.
Note how this is a self-perpetuating problem. Games get tougher, recreational players lose more consistently, have less fun, find other hobbies, and games get tougher again. This is why I believe that it’s such a critical issue for poker sites to address.
Lottery SNGs did a fantastic job in this area, which is a big part of why they’re so popular.
Problem solved, right?
In our view, not quite. Lottery SNGs addressed some very important issues, but they created a couple of smaller ones in the process.
One Man’s Variance 🙂 is Another Man’s Variance ☹️
Increased variance is great for the longevity of the game, generally speaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s all upside.
A huge appeal to lottery SNGs is the allure of massive top prizes. While sites are reasonable with the distribution of EV in their payout tables, the top prizes are pulling some amount of EV from the overwhelming majority of players, who will never see the top prize, and giving it all to a select few. While the site isn’t keeping this EV for themselves, it is still effectively increased rake for the majority of players, meaning that you need a higher pre-rake winrate to come out a winner in the long run.
So, effective win-rates are kind of reduced and, as mentioned, variance is increased.
I’ve been a pro poker player for my entire adult life. As much as I understand the necessity of variance in a poker ecosystem, when I hear “low win-rates and high variance,” I flash back to many of my extended downswings and the feelings I had during them.
It’s one thing to know it’s theoretically better for pros in the long run if variance is increased. It’s another to understand the emotional pain and stress that this variance can lead to, not to mention the potential for it to sometimes become too much for a winning professional to bear, either mentally or when it comes to making ends meet. (It’s not lost on me, by the way, that my poker career hasn’t been a typical one.)
As I write this, I remember how I felt writing my pre-launch posts in 2018 and 2019 – how excited I was to share our ideas with you all.
If you’re going to say that winning players can just deal with whatever format is thrown at them if it’s attracting losing players – you’re mostly right, and they have. Some players moved on from SNGs to play other games. Others got backed to deal with the increased variance.
Winning players will find a way to play in the games that are most popular, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about what they want. As a business, you’d prefer all of your customers to be happy!
And it’s not just pros who may prefer their SNGs the old fashioned way. Player preferences vary – we can all be attracted to the game for different reasons.
The interest in traditional SNGs is evidenced by the fact that they still exist, though traffic has undoubtedly taken a big hit. This brings us to our next problem.
Liquidity, Liquidity, Liquidity
Even long before launching Run It Once Poker, we knew that liquidity was going to be hugely important issue for us. Unlike an online casino, where a player can show up at any time and play a hand of blackjack, an online poker site requires players to make games available to other players. In this way, as a poker operator, the quality of your product isn’t just about how good your software and customer service is. Your product gets better and better as you add more players.
This is another self-perpetuating phenomenon, which is fast becoming the unintentional theme of this post! As more players join your games, it becomes easier and easier to get more players to join your games.
With this new offering, we welcome all of the Sit & Go players who have wanted to support us but haven’t had the option
Because of liquidity concerns, we had a lot of tough product decisions. In our cash games, for example, we knew we couldn’t launch with both traditional and fast-fold tables, so we had to pick one. For a number of reasons that I’ve detailed in previous posts, we went with traditional cash tables.
For Sit & Gos, this was a decision we agonized over.
We first discussed it back in 2016, when Lottery SNGs were relatively new, and a large portion of the community was complaining about them. (Sentiment has changed over the years as players have seen the benefits of a faster, higher variance game as it relates to traffic and the quality of those games.)
We knew we couldn’t split liquidity and offer both, but it felt like an impossible decision. As a “for players by players” poker site, we feared community backlash for launching with Lottery-only, but we also feared the idea of missing out on this extremely popular new gametype.
Fortunately, we came to a decision all those years ago that I think (hope!) is still the right choice given all we have learned since:
We decided to let the players select whichever version they want to play.
“Wait, Phil… didn’t you literally just say you couldn’t offer both?”
I said we couldn’t split liquidity and offer both.
Introducing Sit & Go Select
What if the players who loved the excitement of Lottery SNGs and players who just wanted standard, predictable SNG prizes could play together and each get what they wanted?
Well, we’re about to find out.
Head to the SNG Select lobby and choose the type of SNG you want to play. Whether you want the excitement and potential huge prizes of our CUB3D SNGs (more on those shortly), or the predictability of our Classic SNGs, you’ve got it, and most importantly, you’ll be playing in the same player pool.
Classic SNGs are pretty simple. You pick your stakes and start playing. Prizes are listed right there in the lobby, and on the table while you play!
If you’re interested in something a little more, well, interesting… try your luck at our new CUB3D SNGs.
Like all other Lottery SNGs, you’ll be playing for a random prize, with the potential for it to be a huge one.
Unlike others, you won’t be spinning a wheel at the start of the tournament. Instead, your randomized prize will be placed inside your cube and locked away. To unlock it, you’re going to have to beat your opponents!
Win your SNG, unlock your cube, and find out what you’ve won.
Sound fun? It is! I’ve played them. There is one catch I should warn you about, though…
Our cubes are fickle! They require a lot of power to absorb and contain your prize. We’ve done the absolute best we can, but sometimes the power they pull is a little bit too much for our system to handle.
We’ve noticed that on occasion, when a player loses their SNG, our system glitches and awards them a prize anyway. Annoying, right?
I apologize in advance for this happening to you.
Variance, Part 2
Getting back to serious conversation, I hope you’re as excited about SNG Select as I am!
Unilaterally increasing the variance for players who enjoy it, while not doing so for the players who don’t, is a concept that I believe has the potential to do a lot of good for online poker.
This concept doesn’t end with SNG Select, but this will be our first time utilizing it on our platform.
In addition to the typical Lottery SNG payout model, we’ve added another element of variability and excitement: The Glitch Prize
This is done by adding a small (100% un-raked) amount to the buy-in for our CUB3D SNGs. This EV is added to prizes for all positions, including when you win the SNG, but most noticeably when you lose it.
Beyond the fun of winning an unexpected prize, the improvement of an otherwise negative experience (busting out of a tournament), and the added layer of uniqueness for our offering compared to our competitors, we believe the Glitch Prize offers additional ecological benefits.
It adds (a small amount of) variance that is entirely unrelated to your results in the SNG. The variance of all other Lottery SNGs isn’t exactly tied to skill – there’s no skill involved in making the wheel land on a bigger prize – but it kind of is, in that you have to win at poker to get the prize.
By adding the Glitch Prize element to our SNGs, we’re actually reducing the loss-rate of losing players from an ROI perspective. The variance of Spins alone doesn’t achieve that.
We decided to launch with the Glitch Prize addition at around 10% of the buyin, mainly because we didn’t want to overshoot and scare some of you off, and due to the optics of our pay tables if we went bigger. By that I mean, the 1st place prizes look worse the more you add to buy-in… we can’t award 5x a $15 buy-in as often as we can a $10 buy-in when only $10 from your opponents’ buy-in is going into the main prize pool either way.
That said, I’m personally very curious about how a larger Glitch Prize would impact the quality of player experience as well as the quality of games in the long run. For that reason, we’re going to launch with a higher Glitch Prize at one stake and eagerly await your feedback!
SNG Select Launch
Due to aforementioned liquidity considerations, we’ll be launching with just one type of tournament structure: 3-handed hypers, similar to the structure you’d see in other Lottery SNGs.
That said, the SNG Select model can be applied to any type of tournament! We hope to add 6-handed Sit & Gos and some slower structures as soon as liquidity allows.
On a personal note, the launch of SNG Select is a nice reminder for me about what I love most about creating Run It Once Poker.
As a small site, many things are challenging. One of them is that we can’t offer all of the games we want, both due to the time it takes to develop them and the traffic required to sustain multiple offerings. As I think back to 2016, a time of unrestricted brainstorming, I remember how much I love to create with my team. And as I write this, I remember how I felt writing my pre-launch posts in 2018 and 2019 – how excited I was to share our ideas with you all.
With the exception of user-interface creation and evolution (which I also love) and a few smaller audibles we’ve called (Legends, Leaderboards, HeroIQ, among others), we’re still working tirelessly to bring all of our initial ideas to life, so it has been years since we’ve been able to work on brand new ones. I look forward to a day when we can deep dive on inventing completely new product additions in the way we did back then. With each major release, we’re getting a little bit closer! I’m thrilled that we’re about to launch another big piece of our vision.
Sit & Gos hold a very special place in my heart.
We’ve had several important software updates since our launch back in February of last year. Our team has added huge features and improved the user experience time and time again. Over the course of those updates, we have gone from a nice looking but modest platform to, in my honest personal opinion, the best looking and best feeling cash game platform in online poker.
But this next update is different.
With the launch of SNG Select, we’ll open Run It Once Poker up to a huge subset of players who haven’t yet played. With this new offering, we welcome all of the Sit & Go players who have wanted to support us but haven’t had the option to move their volume over to Run It Once Poker.
SNG players, welcome to RIO! Check out our Discord Server to catch up with me and other members of the Run It Once community. Take a look at our current Promotions and if you’re brand new, check out our Welcome Offer. If you haven’t heard yet, we give a lot of money away to our players! I look forward to chatting with some of you, and I can’t wait to get your feedback so that we can continue to improve our product.
Run It Once Poker was built for poker players, so a day that brings RIO to a new batch of players is a day to be celebrated, and that day is just around the corner. Cheers, everyone.