Full Tilt Poker, one of the few remaining sites permitting players from the USA, has held its “Iron Man“ Promotion for quite some time. If you earn N “Full Tilt Points” for Y consecutive days, you get to play in a freeroll. The greater your values of N and Y, the greater the prize pool of the freeroll you get to play. (There are four levels of freeroll.)
This year, they've introduced another option for Iron Man points. Instead of entering the freeroll each month, you can opt for an award of additional “Iron Man Medals”, which can then be cashed in for things at this Iron Man Store, which you have to look into to realize it's not the same as the standard Full Tilt Store.
You earn some medals, regardless, by a formula based on how many times you repeat this silly Iron Man status. This new decision just allows you to forgo freerolls to get some bonus medals. I'm likely to earn tons of medals the usual way this year because I'm planning to play almost exclusively online for most of the year, and Full Tilt is, of course, one of only three sites I can play on as a player living under the totalitarian regime of the USA.
The question that comes up is whether, at the end of the month, should I take my spot in the freerolls, or should I forgo the freerolls and cash them into medal points?
This is all somewhat of a pointless exercise, since the real EV is in the playing that earns the points, not the bonuses from the points, but being a poker player I can't help but calculate the EV of every decision that presents itself.
There are only three things of actual value in the Iron Man store: (a) extra 5,000 Full Tilt Points (more on why this has value below), (b) $535 tourney entry fees and (c) $216 tourney entry fees.
Let's take the last two first. Since (b) and (c) cost roughly 3,000 and 1,000 medals (respectively), and since you only get a spare 25-100 from forgoing the freerolls, it seems to me it's better to take the freerolls. The prize pools are between $10,000-$30,000, and the competition is probably softer than in the actual $216/$535 tourneys. I theorize this because the people who regularly buy into such middle-limit tourneys are much better tournament players than I, whereas any idiotic, cash-game donkey can get into the freeroll just by playing a lot. Therefore, I think the monthly freeroll is better EV than exchanging that entry for a tenth of $216 tourney entry ticket.
Now, what about (a), the 5,000 Full Tilt points? Well, the main Full Tilt store has a single item that I'd bother to buy with my points: A large screen Plasma TV. It costs 400,000 points. I recently calculated I'll probably reach that amount sometime early next year anyway via my usual Full Tilt Poker play. Therefore, it probably isn't worth it to waste the medal points to get me closer to that, because I'll probably get enough points for the TV eventually anyway, and I just had to buy a new CRT TV to replace a broken old one, so I am no hurry.
Thus, I can't see a reason that I'd want to stop playing the freerolls (in which I've yet to win a dime, of course). There is substantial EV in them; I'm a favorite against the field of random qualifying players, and the top prizes are usually in the thousands. Definitely worth the time to play them.
I know that at least one person who reads this journal (hello there, jellymillion :) has played enough in the past to earn these Iron Man thingies. Therefore, I ask, have I missed something? Is there some reason I should do it differently?
Finally, I have to say that these incentive and promotion programs are unnecessarily complicated. Like rebate forms, they are designed to make it difficult to figure out what they mean so that people are less likely to take advantage of them. I have a hard time believing the Iron Man thing actually draws more people to the site. Why not do away with the program entirely and give an across-the-board rake reduction to all players?