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Prop bets challenge the grind of online poker
You've read poker book after poker book. You've honed your game at the virtual tables and now find yourself earning a living playing online poker for hours at home.
But the grind has become, well, a grind.
It happens to the best of players, but instead of taking a break, some have found a way to spice up the game and, like true action junkies, have the potential to pick up even more money on the side.
So what's the cure? Prop bets or challenges.
Generally it's a scenario in which a player has to earn a certain amount of money playing a specific kind of game in an allotted time frame.
One example is Thomas "Boku87" Boekhoff's recent successful challenge. He proposed that he could turn $100 into a $10,000 bankroll in 15 days playing only low-limit sit-and-gos.
He started at $1.10 buy-in SNGs and could only move up as high as $16 SNGs as he progressed.
Boku87 was willing to bet up to $20,000 that he could do it, and was setting the odds at 3-1.
This wasn't Boekhoff's first challenge, but it was his first challenge with that much money involved.
"When I started playing poker, I claimed in November '06 I could make $25k [by] Christmas," Boekhoff's said. "I don't even remember what my bankroll was at that time, but I did not succeed as I only reached $13k or so, and the side action was only $100."
The money involved in his latest challenge was much more. Players interested in the action were in for $36,000.
"I thought playing micros would be fun, and I thought most people would underestimate my edge in these games and also underestimate the volume I can put in," Boekhoff said. "So I thought I might make some decent money through this prop bet."
Make money he did, as he accomplished the challenge on Day 14.
Grayson "spacegravy" Physioc wasn't quite as lucky with his most recent challenge, but it was his first prop bet to make $25,000 in one month playing $60 sit-and-gos that made him a well-known name in the online poker community.
"The first challenge, I was just sitting around with a couple other pro SNG players talking about how much it was possible to make at the $60s in a month. I told them that I [thought] I could make $25k pretty easily and they said I was crazy," Physioc said.
He posted the claim in the 2+2 poker forum and instantly got $25k in side bets against him.
"I won the $25k in just 21 days, and from there really enjoyed the incentive of having to really grind to make way more than I would have in a normal month," Physioc said.
His second challenge came about similarly. He got into an argument with a regular he plays with at the $225 level.
"He said it was ridiculous that I won the $25k prop bet so easily, and I told him I could do $40k now but would never get action on it," Physioc said. "He told me to post the bet on 2+2, and I would get action."
Physioc was nearly proven right, as only $5k in side bets were registered, but at the last minute an anonymous person transferred $30k and about 10 others sent $15k more.
He's probably wishing those last-minute bets hadn't come in, because Physioc ended up having to call this one a loss.
"The main reason why I quit the bet was because I thought my chances of winning were almost impossible after the first two weeks," he said.
"It was way more +EV for me to move back up in stakes to my normal games where my hourly rate is higher than continuing with a bet I thought was impossible to win."
Prop bet preparation
Not all the prop bets are necessarily achievable, so players generally aren't going to want to make a claim without some idea of how likely they are to make it.
Boku87 said that he looked up his ROI and profit for each level before undertaking his bet.
Spacegravy said he didn't do any calculations when he first made his claims for each of his prop bets.
"After I got the action, I ran a couple calculations to make sure it was possible," he said.
For the first prop bet, he was expecting his ROI to be around 8%, which would mean he'd be making around $4-$5 per table.
"I was planning to play about 30 tables an hour, so expected for my hourly rate to be around $130," Physioc said. "That would mean I have to play about 200 hours for the month, or 50 hours a week."
His plan was to play about 70 hours per week until he was ahead of pace.
"Similar calculations went into the second prop bet except I needed to win $40k this time," he said.
Players also sometimes take into consideration personal issues that could interfere with play when they set up the terms of their bets.
Boekhoff said he'd been asked about that before he started his challenge.
"I am a very optimistic person and assumed nothing would happen, so I made no extra rule for that case," Boekhoff said. "This was probably a one-time thing, so I was not too concerned about it."
Physioc chose to be prepared.
"In the terms of both prop bets, it was stated that if I became seriously ill during the challenge or a life-threatening situation happened to a family member, the bet would be called off and everyone would be returned their money," he said.
The appeal of the action
Prop bets are popular both among the players taking them on and among other online players who want to see how they play out.
Boekhoff pointed out that there's a certain fascination with seeing someone turn a relatively low amount of money into something big.
"$100 is something that basically anyone can deposit," he said of his own challenge. "I think seeing that it is possible to turn this rather small amount of money into $10k by just playing low limits in only two weeks amazes a lot of people because it appears as if everyone can do that."
Physioc also pointed out that poker players are very competitive, just as in any other sport. He said it's fun to see what people are capable of accomplishing.
It also doesn't hurt that there's a lot of money to be made on the side. Players aren't grinding just for the profits from the tables; there's the potential for lots of extra money from the side bets to make that grinding even more worthwhile.