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Home / Poker / Mystery bounty advice from EPT Prague’s envelope crusher Elias Gutierrez 

This article was originally published in December 2023

Mystery Bounty tournaments are now running on PokerStars and we’ve got one question for you:

How are you going to feel when you win the biggest bounty prize and deny all of your opponents a shot at it?

Moreover, how are you then going to resume playing the rest of the tournament when you’ve already won huge?

If there’s one player who can answer these questions today, it’s Elias Gutierrez, the man who demolished the €10,200 Mystery Bounty event at EPT Prague, winning €200,000 in bounties plus €38,150 in regular prizes.

For the record, Gutierrez finished third out of the 56-entry field (Oleg Vasylchenko was the champ). But Gutierrez – a SCOOP champion and high stakes reg who plays on PokerStars as “SinKarma” and streams on Twitch as “ZerosPoker” – pulled all of the biggest bounties, starting with one worth €50,000.

“After I won a bounty they told me it would be good if I opened it right away, for TV purposes,” Gutierrez tells us after a peaceful night’s sleep. “I did that with the first two.”

€50K > €100K > €50K

By the time Gutierrez had obliged the TV team’s request and returned to the action, he was €150,000 richer.

Elias Gutierrez

Gutierrez already felt like a winner

“I was not expecting it,” he says. “My first mystery bounty tournament — live or online — was in Cyprus and I made the final table with three bounties. All of them were min-bounties, so I didn’t get much.”

It was the complete opposite this time around. “I already felt like a winner even though I had to keep playing. But I still wanted to keep playing the best I could,” he says. “It felt very good!”

He then opened his other bounty ticket once he’d busted in third and picked up another €50,000.

Needless to say, Gutierrez can’t wait for the mystery bounty tournaments on PokerStars and shared some very useful advice for players new to these events. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Elias Gutierrez

Gutierrez banked a total of €238,150 for finishing third, while winner Vasylchenko earned €154,673

QUICK ON THE DRAW

The main difference between live mystery bounty tournaments and those coming to PokerStars online is that online, the mystery amount will be revealed as soon as the bounty is won. In live events, the value remains a mystery until players go up to the bounty box and pull random envelopes. They can do this whenever they choose, even during a hand if they’re not involved in the pot.

This begs the question: when’s the best time to go up and pull your prizes?

Back in 2022, when mystery bounty events burst onto the PokerStars live scene, we spoke to a handful of pros about the optimal time to pull those envelopes, including Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg.

Spraggy in action at EPT Prague 2023

“Listen, I don’t know what GTO dictates. I don’t know what’s the most +EV. But I do know that I’m like a kid in a sweet shop,” he told us. “So, when I get an envelope, I need to see what’s in it straight away. I’m leaving the table. If I’m in the big blind, I’m like: take my blinds. I’ve got to go. I’d queue up ASAP. I’d abandon the tournament, but that’s only because my energy is uncontrollable.”

A far more controlled Christoph Vogelsang felt differently. “It’s pure logic, right? If the worst prize gets pulled then your chances increase,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter when you go up. At no time is a single time [to go pull your bounty] better or worse. It’s always the same.”

Perhaps Spraggy has changed his mind now that he’s got a few mystery bounty events under his belt, but it’s not something that online players will have to worry about anyway. As soon as a player is eliminated, their mystery bounty prize is revealed and awarded to their executioner. 

GUTIERREZ’S MYSTERY BOUNTY TIPS

But unlike a live event – where there’s a big hoopla every time a player draws a large prize –  online players will have to monitor which bounty prizes are still available (which they can do in the tournament widget in the top right corner of the table). This adds an extra layer of strategy to the game.

“I have a few thoughts about this,” Gutierrez says. “I don’t consider myself to be an expert on mystery bounty tournaments, but here’s what I think.”

Gutierrez can’t wait to play mystery bounty events online on PokerStars

“It depends a lot on the structure of the mystery bounty tournament,” he says. “For example, in Cyprus, everyone could win bounties after Level 12. That meant it wasn’t just final table players who won bounties, everyone could, and that made the bounty structure much wider.”

In the Cyprus event, players received a 100,000 starting stack for their $10,000 buy-in. Half of that amount ($5,000) went to the mystery bounty prizes, and the other half went into the regular prize pool.

Here’s how Gutierrez works out whether it’s worth going for a mystery bounty, and how you can do it when you play online events.

MYSTERY BOUNTY MATHS

“I multiply $5,000 (half the tournament buy-in) by the number of players who entered the tournament, then divide it by the remaining players when the mystery bounty phase starts.”

In Cyprus, that was after Level 12. In online mystery bounty tournaments on PokerStars, that phase begins once the bubble has burst.

So, Gutierrez worked out that the average bounty in Cyprus was worth $11,500 – roughly the same as the buy-in. Prague’s event was a different story.

“The structure was different as there were fewer players, so the mystery bounty phase only began once we reached a final table of eight,” he says. “That meant the average prize of eliminating someone was much bigger — €35,000.”

There was $280,000 in the bounty prize pool split among the envelopes, so Gutierrez divided that amount by the eight final table players to get his average. 

“This is why at the beginning of the final table a player went all in for five big blinds and I called from the small blind with ten-deuce,” he explains. Gutierrez risked around a fifth of his stack but says it was worth the risk for the mystery bounty as on average it was worth more than the payjumps in the regular prize pool.

“If it wasn’t a mystery bounty, it would be crazy to call with ten-deuce — the worst play you could make, basically!” he says with a chuckle. “But when you take into consideration that the bounty was huge, it makes more sense.

“The point is that the structure matters as the average prize of eliminating someone changes based on that. Be mindful of the value of the bounty of each player!”

Find out when you can play mystery bounty events on PokerStars by heading to our New Year Series hub.

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