Mike “Timex” McDonald set the poker world buzzing with his brand new staking scheme BankOfTimex and we spoke to three successful poker pros to get to the bottom of it.
On June 8th, McDonald started a Twitter account to book action on any “horribly bad deals or soldout packages” being offered on the Two Plus Two forum Marketplace – the main forum where players go to sell action on poker tournaments.
McDonald said that he felt players were either “scamming” or “unknowingly offering bad investments” to friends and the community. He wanted to find a way to lower mark ups to make the poker economy more efficient while hopefully making some money as well.
Basically, if McDonald sees a package he deems to have too big a mark-up, he will put together a package to undercut that player's price and let you book the action with McDonald rather than directly with the player in question.
McDonald didn’t think his idea would have a big impact but in less than two days he’s picked up more than 1,300 followers and has expanded his operation to offer odds/prices on players who aren’t even selling packages themselves.
The idea sounded smart, if a little controversial, and PokerListings wanted to gauge the opinion of some active players in the industry.
During various tournament breaks, we asked Jesse Sylvia, Dominik Nitsche and Timothy Finne to express their thoughts on the “Bank of Timex” and the way players mark-up their action
PokerListings.com: Are poker players really marking themselves up too high?
Jesse Sylvia: Whenever you have any kind of market there's always going to be people or companies on both ends of the spectrum, undervaluing or overvaluing themselves.
"People don't really understand how to price themselves accurately."
I've definitely seen a lot of packages that I've passed on immediately and not because I didn't believe in the player, just because the price was ridiculous.
I honestly don't think very many people are trying to take advantage of other players by valuing themselves so highly. It's more of an ego thing.
People don't really understand how to price themselves accurately. Take someone who's marking themselves up 45 per cent, for example. They'll argue that it's fair because they've shown an ROI of 50 per cent over a bunch of tournaments.
But if someone has an ROI of 50 per cent, it doesn't mean you can profitably buy them at 45 per cent. You're essentially breaking even and dealing with a bunch of variance on the player's behalf.
At that point you might as well just take your money to the pit.
In general I feel like it's unfair to charge more than 20-25 per cent markup because people have to deal with so much variance, there has to be some margins.
PokerListings.com: Is the concept itself viable?
Jesse Sylvia: I'm not going to argue with Timex because he has a lot of experience staking and he's a very smart person.
He's essentially saying he's better at putting a value on players then everyone else, and I'm not going to argue with that.
But like I said before, in every market some things will be over or undervalued and that goes for the prices Timex will be putting on people too.
I'm excited because if there are good prices on a few people in particular, I'm definitely going to put some money on them.
PokerListings.com: Are those huge markups just a reflection of people's unrealistic expectations?
Jesse Sylvia: Yeah absolutely. The sample size is so small in events like this. Someone will make two final tables, think they're the best and then mark themselves up at absurd prices.
It's different online where people are crushing MTTs over a huge sample size. Those people can reasonably charge the maximum markup but anyone that's calculating their value on a small sample of live events, it's not something I'm interested in putting money into.
"Timex is trying to make money rather than prove a point to these players."
PokerListings.com: What do you think of the Bank of Timex?
Dominik Nitsche: I’m not really sure what I think about it. I’ve already asked Mike if I can invest in it because he’s a really smart guy and it’s a great idea.
It’s true that a lot of people charge too much mark-up and it’s absurd.
Timex was offering Scott Seiver and Phil Ivey, who are both amazing players who I have tons of respect for, at 1.65 to 1 in the $5k PLH and there’s no one who’s even close to being that good.
All the other players in that pot-limit tournament are really good so there’s no one who’s that big a favorite. Timex is taking money from a bunch of idiots these days and people are giving it to him, as they don’t know what’s going on.
I saw people actually take him up on that and Ivey was actually sitting next to me in the $1k and telling me that he was blinding out of the $5k. People bought him at 1.65 to 1 and he’s blinding out of the tournament!
They’re making some terrible buys and just throwing their money away.
People make terrible buys in the (Two Plus Two) Marketplace the whole time. Some people consider what McDonald is doing scummy as it kind of takes away the action that people would sell but it's a free market, right?
PokerListings.com: Timex argues that these players who sell action are taking the fish away from high-levels regs like himself. Thoughts?
Dominik Nitsche: I’ve thought about this for a long time and thought it might be bad if there were too many in there but I don’t mind too much if they’re good but not great players.
I still feel like I still have a big advantage against them. I can exploit them easily and so can a lot of other top players. Yes, I would like to play against fish but I also want bigger prize pools.
Timex is trying to make money rather than prove a point to these players and he thinks he has a big edge, although there is one case where it feels personal.
"I kind of felt that was out of line as it felt like a personal attack against the player."
There is one guy on Two Plus Two trying to sell for the Main Event at 1.3 and Timex offered 1.29 when he hadn’t sold anything.
I kind of felt that was out of line as it felt like a personal attack against the player. It’s like he was trying to steal his action, as the difference between 1.3 and 1.29 is negligible.
There was an example where someone was sold out already and he offered action at less mark-up and that seemed a lot more fair than trying to slightly undercut someone.
PokerListings.com: What do you think about this Bank of Timex thing?
Tim Finne: Timex thinks he’s going to make money but it’s not a sure thing.
He’s just selling at a slightly lower rate than these players and now these players are asking for a price as they want to book their own action with him at these World Series events where they think they have a huge edge.
Someone booked Ivey in the 5K PLO last night at 2.0 or something and he was mutli-tabling!
Timex was doing all this similar betting on the Sunday Million and all these idiots were just giving him money.
PokerListings.com: Is it right for McDonald to be doing this?
Tim Finne: I have no problem with him doing it. If people want to give you money, you’ll take it.
At 24 years old Mike McDonald has deep poker experience.
He was letting people bet on themselves to win the Sunday Million at 1,350/1 and there were 7,000 people in it!
I don’t care how good you are; if you’re “DocSands” or “Gboro” even, that’s a bad bet.
PokerListings.com: Is Timex risking too much on this?
Tim Finne: He’s protecting himself in the bigger events as he’s only allowing people to book up to a certain amount of action.
I think Timex is being pretty careful and not risking a major portion of his bankroll. He has a huge edge against these people; they’re just giving him money.
PokerListings.com: Are players overselling themselves too much and is it bad for the industry?
Tim Finne: It’s not as bad as it was a couple of years ago but I definitely think people who don’t justify it set too big of a mark-up too often.
Some are asking for 20-30% mark in these $1,500s and 1ks and it’s not about if you have a 20-30% edge, it’s that the variance is huge.
Some of these players aren’t even proven online winners, or at least, haven’t played tens of thousands of tournaments where they prove they are a 20-30 per cent proven winner. They might be a 5-10 per cent winner or even a losing player at lower stakes.
These tournaments are also a lot tougher than they were three, four or five years ago.