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A Look At The Probability Of What Poker Pro Mark Newhouse Just Did At The WSOP

Odds Were About 1 In 5.3 Million, According To MIT Ph.D Student Will Ma


Even though he’s unfathomably disappointed, poker pro Mark Newhouse made poker history—and it’s because of the math.

Early this week, the 29-year-old finished ninth in the 2014 World Series of Poker main event just a year after finishing in the same spot at the 2013 November Nine final table. It was a feat that required incredible play, but what were the odds of back-to-back ninths?

If you assume everyone in the main event field is symmetric, then the odds are 1 divided by the field size in 2013 multiplied by 1 divided by the field size in 2014 (1/6352 * 1/6683).

According to that, you could expect to finish ninth in consecutive years once in about every 42.5 million times you decide to put up $10,000 to play the main event. That’s a lot of buy-ins.

However, the odds are clearly not that low considering Newhouse as a player, according to Will Ma, CardRunners Pro and Ph.D student in mathematics at MIT.

Here’s what Ma said:

If you assume Newhouse has a 200-percent ROI (return on investment) playing the WSOP main event, which is actually a reasonable ROI since the field is loaded with amateurs and Newhouse is a seasoned professional, the odds were about 1 in 3,100 to finish ninth once and around 1 in 9.6 million to come in ninth in back-to-back Novembers in Las Vegas.

Say you are Phil Ivey in the main event, and it’s not unreasonable to think you have an ROI as high as 400 percent. Ivey would have odds of roughly 1 in 1,550 to finish ninth once and odds of about 1 in 2.4 million to finish ninth in consecutive years.

It’s also worth considering the player’s approach to the final table. If you are playing fast and loose like Newhouse did, it’s more likely you would finish in ninth or first, rather than second or third. Ma’s “crude estimate” for Newhouse (someone with a 200-percent ROI) would be about 1 in 2,300 to finish ninth once and thus roughly 1 in 5.3 million to finish ninth back-to-back.

So, there you have it. Before the 2013 main event, Newhouse would finish in ninth that year and also in 2014 about every 5.3 million times he played the main event—assuming the event remained about the same in terms of field size and strength over all the eons! Let’s hope the main event can at least return to 2006’s level within the next million years.

“As you can see, boosting someone’s ROI increases their chances of getting ninth way more than just pegging them an ‘aggressive player at the final table,’” Ma remarked.

Newhouse obviously felt safe to Tweet the following back in July. He just got really, really unlucky (about as unlucky as one can get after winning more than $1.4 million).

Image via WSOP.

Tags: Mark Newhouse,   WSOP,   2014 WSOP