The Saver - The worst business decision in poker

While 95% of the poker population are already in Vegas I humbly made my way to a local poker festival in my home town of Sheffield. In all honesty it was a pretty poorly organised affair but a very nice bunch of people to play with. It also helped that I made it to the final 3 and we did an equal three way chop of the prize money. We then proceeded to play for the trophy and I went out the very next hand. I don’t normally do deals and always want to play for the win, but I was a significant short stack at the time and the deal worked out perfectly for me.

One deal which I wasn’t pleased about occurred a few hours before, when we were down to 11 players. With 10 places being paid and a number of very short stacks, everybody wanted to agree to a ‘saver’; a deal whereby the price of the original buy-in is taken from the top end of the prizepool and given back to whomever goes out on the ‘bubble’. I did not agree to this and it didn’t win me any friends.

“You obviously don’t make many finals” one guy told me

“You always do a deal” another one said.

“Is it fair that someone gets all this way and gets nothing?” was another comment.

I don’t actually have any objection to the £200 entry being taken from the prizepool, my objection was down to the fact that the bubble is one of the most significant and profitable part of any tournament. During this time I was raising every hand at my table and everyone was looking at me daggers:

“What are you doing?” they were asking “this is not the time to be bullying, we are nearly at the final” – I actually thought I was going to be chased out of the casino.

I had a healthy stack and the bubble was the time to turn it into a monster. Many players do not play optimally on the bubble when they know they can fold their way to the money and there is a hell of a lot of dead money to be picked up. The fact that everyone was objecting to my bullying and there not being a saver only spurred me on to do it more, because it was obvious I would get away with it.

I was in Ireland last month having a Guinness fuelled chat about this very situation with well known players Mick McCloskey and Matt Tyler, we all said the same thing, that the ‘saver’ is the worse business decision in poker. We all agreed that if you are the chip leader on the table during a bubble and a short stack goes all in on your big blind and you have aces, you should still fold. The reason being is the small amount of chips you get from shorty is nothing in comparison to the pot after pot you can take from the medium stacks at the table who are desperate to fold their way to the money.

The players were telling me that the saver speeds the game up towards the final table because the action is looser, which is true, but that is not what I wanted at all, I would have been happy for an hour long bubble because of the potential pots I could have scooped along the way.

Where I and the rest of the field differed was they were thinking only of the guaranteed return they were getting, whereas I was thinking about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize pool. I wasn’t interested in getting another £150 back on my buy-in I was looking ahead to figures with another zero on the end and wanted to build my stack to get to play for those prizes. In the end it was causing such a stir that I caved in and agreed to the saver, which in retrospect worked ok for me because it helped us make a deal which worked out in my favour later on.

It was actually a really nice little tournament and despite not making many friends on the bubble the final table couldn’t have been more fun. A really friendly bunch of people and maybe that was why they were so keen to introduce the saver. It’s a very close knit poker community in Sheffield and maybe I should pay heed to the way in which they were all looking out for each other rather than keeping all eyes on the big prize.

I’m still never agreeing to another saver again though.


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