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Daniel - Poker Journal

Fast Structure Equals Less Fun for Me

05 Jan 2009


I grew up playing tournaments with fast structures. It was fun for me as a kid, just playing was enjoyable so I didn't mind playing in tournaments with 20 minute levels and huge jumps. I'm not a kid anymore, though, and I find fast paced structures to get boring very quickly. I simply don't enjoy the pre-flop aspects of the game nearly as much as the post flop part of the game, but the faster the structure, the less of an opportunity you have to really take advantage of the weaker players at the table. You are forced to take coin flips much faster than I'd like and it just isn't what I love about hold'em.

I went broke in level 6 today playing 400-800 with a 100 ante. Unlike other EPT's with 60 minute levels, the PCA (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) offered 75 minutes. That's a nice little boost for sure, but skipping a level early on kind of takes a bit away from that addition.

I'm a structure geek as most of you should know by now! I love tournaments and designing structures. I practically memorize structures from various locations to compare them and look for any flaws there might be.

Now the PCA has the difficult task of trying to accommodate 1400 odd people for their event. There are only two real ways to address this: lengthen the amount of time for the tournament, or cut out levels. I personally side with lengthening the tournament.

I've had this discussion with several people in regards to structuring tournaments. Years ago there was a system called "TEARS" which I was immediately opposed to and hated right from the get go. With TEARS the amount of actual play a tournament had was defined by the number of entrants. The more players who paid the entry fee, the more of a crap shoot they'd receive. For example, if 200 signed up the blinds might increase every 90 minutes, but if 400 signed up the blinds would go up every hour. So essentially, while the house percentage would be much higher for the bigger field in total, the tournament structure would essentially penalize the bigger field events with a more crap shooty structure.

At the WSOP, for example, there was discussion about speeding up the $1500 NL hold'em event since they'd expect a larger field. Once again, not what I would do at all. The fairest way to run a tournament is to first, make a fair structure based on the buy in amount, and then guesstimate how many days it will take based on expected participation. So for the $1500 no limit hold'em events, rather than speed up the structure, I say make them four day events to accommodate the larger field which will simply require more time to finish.

The WPT structures, aside from the fast paced final table offer an enormous amount of play on average. A typical WPT structure looks like this:

20,000 in starting chips and 90 minute levels
50-100
100-200
100-200 (25)
150-300 (25)
200-400 (50)
300-600 (75)
400-800 (100)

Some are a bit faster, some even slower. Typically Matt Savage run tournaments offer a 250-500 level as do many WSOP events. To accommodate for the large field the PCA went like this:

20,000 in starting chips with 75 minute levels
50-100
100-200
100-200 (25)
200-400 (50)
300-600 (75)
400-800 (100)

After six levels, essentially you've lost close to 3 hours of playing time which forces your hand very early on. The 400-800 level you face at level 6 is precisely double the size of a typical deep stacked tournament. That's a really big deal, especially if you've just been hovering around even for most of day one.
Say you are sitting on 15,000. At 400-800 that gives you a shoving stack with less than 20 big blinds. At 200-400 you still have plenty of room to see flops and be patient with close to 40 big blinds.
20 big blind poker and 40 big blind poker are two completely different things. Frankly, both are more like faster paced online tournaments, but 20 big blinds leaves you very limited. Skill becomes much less of a factor than does winning loads of races. That's not fun for me. Some guys like that, some love it! I'm just not one of those people.

The EPT's crown jewel, the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo does offer an excellent structure with 90 minute levels. The second best structure on the tour is, in fact, the PCA since it offers 75 minutes to the normal 60 minute levels. Considering the enormous field for the PCA every year, I believe they should make it a 7 day event rather than a 5 day event next year. Even with the current fast paced structure it's going to be a long haul for those that make it to the final table. Five very long days of play.

So now that I'm out I'll be focused on playing in the World Cup of Poker for Canada. It's a fun event and I usually enjoy team competitions. The structure for that one in unique and fun. It's fast paced obviously, but every member of the team contributes. They made a change to the point distribution that I think is a big improvement. During each heat, only the top six of nine players receive points. Those points get traded in for chips at the final table, with no country being eliminated during the qualifying round. Last year only four of the eight teams qualified for the final, and I'd like to see a hybrid of that with six of the top nine teams squaring off at the final table. That way the preliminary heats are a bit more meaningful. As it stands, you could be the last place team going into the final table but not be very bad off. The last place team will start with 25,000 in chips while the top team will have 50,000 to start. Also, being the tournament structure geek that I am :-) the antes being smaller than normal in some places annoys me! At 300-600 it's a 50 ante and then at 400-800 it's a 75 ante, for example. Normally you'd race for the green chips prior to the 400-800 level but they'll still have greens on the table for a 150 ante later at the 600-1200 level.

After this event, I'm sticking with my plan of not playing another tournament till the LAPC at the Commerce. Matt Savage has taken over as the tournament director there and I've always been a big fan of his structures. I'll be there for three events, the $10,000 HORSE, the $10,000 Heads Up event, and of course, the $10,000 WPT event.


I am considering making a quick trip to New York straight from the Bahamas. I have to do the voice over work for the APPT's second season and it's a bit easier for the crew if I fly there rather than have them all fly out to Vegas. I'm still working on the details for that, though, but if I go to New York it won't be to party- it will be to work...

OK, I'm off to find a juicy $0.01-$0.02 game on PokerStars...
Then the day after that I'll throw my dice at the $25,000 high roller event which is scheduled for two days and will have a fast structure as well. More starting chips with 50,000 at the 50-100 level, but 60 minute levels and skipped levels along the way will ensure that it gets done fast.




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