Sulsky: Game Selection "Killing Online Poker's Appeal”

Ben Sulsky 3
Ben Sulsky wishes players would give more action at the high-stakes online.

Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky was the biggest winner in online poker in 2012 with almost $4 million in profit, but according to the 25-year-old high-stakes pro there's a big problem with players giving action in the big games.

Sulsky has a reputation for playing anyone at high stakes, but unfortunately for Sulsky few other pros have the same attitude.

“It's a big problem because there are two things happening right now,” Sulsky explained to after finishing fourth in the WSOP $10,000 Heads-Up Championship.

“Players are getting more and more specialized in what kind of games they play, and then no one will give any action in a game that's not excellent for them.

“That's really killing online poker's appeal for me as a professional,” he said.

The concept of “giving action to get action” refers to playing in games where you might actually be an underdog, in order to help create games and foster an environment where there's more action overall.

The idea being that the players to whom you're giving up an edge will eventually return the favor.

“I'm experienced in a lot of formats of No-Limit Hold'em and PLO and I would love to get games going and create an atmosphere where people are giving some gamble to get some back,” said Sulsky.

“So even though I still believe I'm competitive with these people in their specialties, it tilts me to give so much and get absolutely nothing back.

“To me it feels very much like an angle shoot. Some people will just say it's professionalization, but I look at it in a much more negative light.”

Rampant Game Selection a “Free Rider Problem” in Poker World

When looking at the way game selection is impacting the high-stakes online ecosystem, and his own bottom line, Sulsky looks to an analogy from economics.

“What we're really seeing in online poker is a free rider problem,” said Sulsky.

Ben Sulsky and Don Nguyen 2
Sulsky in the $10k Heads-Up Championship at the 2013 WSOP.

In economics a free rider is someone who benefits from goods or services without paying the cost of the benefit.

In Sulsky's analogy, good poker games represent the resource, and we're seeing more and more players reaping the benefits of those good games but doing nothing to create or sustain them.

“It's in everyone's best interest to get good games going and get people excited about playing poker online,” explained Sulsky.

“But it's in each individual's best interest to let other people do the work and then just poach the good games that other people are creating.

“There needs to be a balance but right now I think it's completely tilted towards the individual, and that's causing the pool to shrink really quickly.”

Limit Games Taking Over High-Stakes Scene

Sulsky has made the majority of his money playing big bet games like No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha but he told that most of the action at the really high-stakes these days is in Limit games like Omaha Eight or Better and 2-7 Triple Draw.

And even though Sulsky is far from an expert in these other variants, it's something he's picking up more and more.

“I'm tracking my results really carefully and when I start to show a positive winrate I'll consider making the jump,” he said.

“But right now I'm getting crushed. Frankly I'm pretty bad at these games. To be fair, I am getting crushed by some of the best players in the world and I'm running bad, but I'm just not on that level yet in those games.

“I'm pretty new to those games so I feel like it's a little premature to jump into the $2k/$4k games,” he said.

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john 2013-06-09 22:36:24

I agree players should try to start more games and to get people excited about playing poker online again but strict game selection between the regulars makes sense. Hold'em and PLO have become so advanced that edges between them are almost nonexistent. Why play a player you're 0.00BB/100 winrate against but then have to suffer the /-$1,000,000 due to variance? It doesn't make logical sense and to be a successful poker player you have to be logical and so not doing game selection is for the person who doesn't want to win. Ben thinks these guys who sit at $200/$400 and $100/$200 waiting for action have $1m rolls and that they're not taking shots enough but the truth is they're barely bankrolled for those games which is why they're very strict. Ben is among a very tight group of online players who have a big enough roll to sustain the variance in those games. I don't think Ben should complain that he's attained such a level of success; he's basically complaining that no one wants to give him money. If Ben is complaining he gets no action because he loves the game then he should move down to the regular $25/$50 games where the toughest players are and try to win there. Ben is just complaining it's not four years ago when the high stakes games were running regularly but all those players have gone broke; where does Ben think he's getting his money from? The high stakes NLH/PLO bubble has bursted, Ben destroyed it while he was in it, and now he needs to move on and get over it.


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