The expected value of playing The Deal at PokerStars

“The Deal” is a recently released promotion from PokerStars that allows you to gamble their rakeback currency, “StarsCoin”, for a crack at a progressive jackpot — a concept no different than traditional slot machines.

For the purposes of evaluating an exact EV, 1 StarsCoin (SC) is assumed to be equal to $0.01 (since in the VIP store you can redeem 1,000 StarsCoin for $10).  Also, it is assumed the jackpot wheel has equal probability of hitting any space, and thus you have a 1 out of 8 chance of winning the jackpot on any jackpot spin.

For a $25,000 jackpot, which the winning share takes $12,500, the expectation hovers around -34%:

Hands Probability 7 SC Paytable 7 SC EV 70 SC Paytable 70 SC EV
Royal flush 4 0.00000154 3,563* 0.00548625 3,563* 0.00548625
Straight flush 36 0.00001385 250 0.0034625 3,563 0.049340625
Four of a kind 624 0.0002401 30 0.007203 300 0.07203
Full house 3,744 0.00144058 5 0.0072029 75 0.1080435
Flush 5,108 0.0019654 1 0.0019654 25 0.049135
Straight 10,200 0.00392465 0.5 0.001962325 10 0.0392465
Three of a kind 54,912 0.02112845 0.25 0.005282113 3 0.06338535
Two pair 123,552 0.04753902 0.07 0.003327731 0.7 0.033277314
Pair 1,098,240 0.42256903 0.02 0.008451381 0.1 0.042256903
Ace High 502,860 0.19349 0.01 0.001934851 0 0
0.04627845   0.462201442
        66.11%   66.03%

For a $150,000 jackpot, which the winning share takes $75,000, the expectation hovers around -17%:

Hands Probability 7 SC Paytable 7 SC EV 70 SC Paytable 70 SC EV
Royal flush 4 0.00000154 11,375* 0.0175175 11,375* 0.0175175
Straight flush 36 0.00001385 250 0.0034625 11,375 0.15754375
Four of a kind 624 0.0002401 30 0.007203 300 0.07203
Full house 3,744 0.00144058 5 0.0072029 75 0.1080435
Flush 5,108 0.0019654 1 0.0019654 25 0.049135
Straight 10,200 0.00392465 0.5 0.001962325 10 0.0392465
Three of a kind 54,912 0.02112845 0.25 0.005282113 3 0.06338535
Two pair 123,552 0.04753902 0.07 0.003327731 0.7 0.033277314
Pair 1,098,240 0.42256903 0.02 0.008451381 0.1 0.042256903
Ace High 502,860 0.19349 0.01 0.001934851 0 0
0.0583097   0.582435817
        83.30%   83.21%

* based on 1/8 probability of hitting the jackpot, 1/4 of winning $500, 1/8 of winning $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000.

It is unlikely* for the jackpot to exceed $150,000, so under no realistic jackpot conditions is “The Deal” favorable to the player. In fact, the jackpot needs to grow over $272,000 for the EV to be positive(*Update: the jackpot as of 12:30 GMT Friday,  January 27 is now over $470,000. Given that there now have been roughly 21.8 million losing entries, if the odds of the hitting the jackpot are truly 1 in 5,197,920, meaning that the jackpot wheel is fair, neither predetermined or unevenly weighted, we should have expected the jackpot to be hit 4 times by now. I said it was “rare” for the jackpot to exceed the break-even point, but it is likely that my assumption of the probabilities of the jackpot wheel are incorrect, despite the wheel graphic showing a supposed one-eighth likelihood per section. See Does PokerStars manually control when the jackpot is won?)

If you play once exactly every 12 hours for the minimum, then you may end up with a better return only because you may get a share of 50% of the jackpot that is evenly divided among all non-winners of “The Deal” in the past 12 hours when a jackpot is won. Anecdotally, this amounts to about $1 every three days or so (thus, $1 every 42 StarsCoin, which puts the expectation now in favour of the player, at the expense of all other players that play more than 7 StarsCoin per 12 hours).

It is evident that this strategy heavily relies on fewer unique players putting in a lot of their StarsCoin into the progressive jackpot. If everyone were to follow this strategy of maximum 7 StarsCoin per 12 hours, “The Deal” is a huge losing proposition for all players, and a very well-obfuscated one that greatly increases PokerStars’ profit.

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You may like playing at GameSlush.com instead, where you can lose fake money to the house and not real money.

2 thoughts on “The expected value of playing The Deal at PokerStars

  1. Pingback: Does PokerStars manually control when the Big Deal jackpot is won? | ChrisLo.ca

  2. Pingback: Is PokerStars “The Deal” a zero-sum game? | ChrisLo.ca

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