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“Don’t Go Nova or Supernova”

November 27, 2018

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Reliable poker players know how to manage their bankrolls, and they also know to play it cool at the tables. If you blow up, you could lose even a sizable hoard of chips. Alan25main shares a true story of a player he observed who “went supernova” within just a few weeks.

“Tycho Brahe observed what he believed was a “new-born” star. He called it a nova stella, literally, a new star in his classic Latin. In fact, the star wasn’t new at all, but had previously been too dim to see with the naked eye. Humans have literally been studying the stars almost as long as there have been humans. So, the name is new, though the concept was almost certainly known to the Babylonians and likely is much older than that. There are several varieties of novae (that’s the plural), but the only ones you’ll care about are the nova and the supernova.

The big difference between them is the intensity of their light and how long they remain visible. Supernovae are much brighter and generally – but, not always – last longer. A nova might be visible by telescope for weeks or months, whereas a supernova might be naked-eye visible for months to years. Sometimes, though, supernovae are so powerful they literally blow themselves apart into gases that disperse quickly (relatively speaking), like within weeks.

Every time a business hires a new person, the manager hopes he’s hired a nova that will light his work-world for a long time. Whenever new replacement troops are sent into battle as a unit, rather than as individual replacements to fill slots in some other unit, that new unit is regarded by the old ones as potential supermen. For both the boss and the commander, the new guys usually prove their humanity very quickly. Sometimes, that attitude of invincibility also applies to the new guy(s), too, and discovering their fallibility can be painful or disastrous.

Perhaps a month ago, I observed a new player in a Freeroll event. As I usually do on seeing a player I don’t recognize, I looked at the profile. My first surprise was that this player was ranked in the very low three-digits. My second surprise was that the player had a chip count of nearly 250 MILLION chips. My shock was complete when I saw the player had only been at Replay for about six weeks.

Call me a skeptic, but I doubt Doyle, or Slim, or even Johnny Moss could’ve run a basic 2500 chip start to almost 250,000,000 in less than two months. I won’t call it impossible, merely unlikely to the point where I would bet my life it didn’t happen without some intervention. So, I wanted to keep an eye on this player to see what progress, if any, was made.

In the meantime, I tried to reason how this player got that many chips. It seemed obvious that some of those chips must have been purchased. I speculated that, if they were on sale AND our player was able to spend serious money on a frivolity, 50,000,000 could be purchased for a modest four-digit price. With a little luck, a lot of courage, and no regard whatever for the cost to put it all on the line, it might have been doubled or tripled and then doubled, again to make that 250,000,000. [Full disclosure: about a year ago, I spent $2 buying 60,000 chips. I didn’t particularly need them, but I felt less guilty about having “free fun.”]

My attitude toward bought chips is that if I’m not good enough to keep them and make them grow, I didn’t deserve them.  Perhaps that sounds harsh and in-egalitarian. Poker is a game of equal opportunities, not a game of equal outcomes. If the game was arranged otherwise, it might be fun, but it wouldn’t be poker. Every one of us earns our chips every day, even if only by not losing too many of them.

In the normal course on of events, I completely forgot I wanted to watch Player X for about two weeks. I then ran across X’s name while looking for someone else. The first surprise was that Player X’s rank had gotten worse by more rank numbers than were previously had. The second was that X’s chip total was about 50,000,000 lower than it had been two weeks earlier. I made note of this and continued about what I’d been doing when I stumbled upon X.

I ran into X again today, in a Freeroll. Today, X’s rank is over 1,100,000. The chip count was about 700.  I can’t imagine how much effort it must’ve taken to lose 250M in one month. It would’ve taken me at least a few decades to lose that many chips. A “normal” bingo artist who had to reload three times daily, could still lose “only” about 300K chips per month, or 36 million chips yearly. So, our hypothetical bingo artist would’ve needed between 7 and 8 YEARS to lose that many chips. X managed it in one month. That’s what I’d call going supernova. Don’t do it.”