Sunday, June 07, 2015
Poker players inherently possess some common skillsets and qualities. Many of our shared traits like critical thinking and a natural questioning of authority can make us good brave poker players. That streak of independence combined with intelligence at times can produce a massive group who are all really good at doing one other thing besides poker and that's complaining and complaining and complaining some more. Since, we don't always agree it means any decision a floor makes will have at least one person foaming at the mouth. Makes running a tournament tough to do as literally every guy in the room thinks he's the smartest guy there and he can do it better.Yes admit it, we are all guilty of it but, that trait goes hand in hand with enjoying competitions of thought. That said, when we all agree that something is wrong or "off" it'd probably pay to listen.
The WSOP this year listened to the players, perhaps more than ever, and a new pay structure in the Main Event promised more payouts and a flatter return at the very top. Folks were happy. They also experimented with new formats like a $565 buy-in with four re-entries and people were happier. That detente seemed too good to be true. It was.
The Colossus began and when the payouts were announced twitter almost broke. The first payout line read less than One Million Dollars. The event with over 20,000 entrants offered a first place worth a little over $650k. In huge events people like to point out how much Harrahs rakes compares to the prize pool. Generally you can say oh it's like second or third place. This year it was almost a million more than first place. Gulp. Cue the torches. Course when you spread out prizes for 2000ish of ~22000 entries probably that's somewhat bound to happen.
Still, regarding the payout, some of what the players clamored for the Main Event was applied to the Colossus and many objected saying that was a bad idea. Why?
Probably because the Main Event is a 10k buy-in. Especially for folks who satellite in sometimes even min-cash is a decent amount of money. In real life it can get you a used car. A flat payout structure for big money is not a bad idea. Also, nine people all making a million dollars is a marketer's dream I'd think. Why pay 10 million to first when you can annouce nine millionaires. While you get a used car with a Main Event min cash in a $565 tournament a min cash might get you a quality flat screen TV. There's a big difference. Having to beat 22,000 or so players and only winning ~600k for first seems like a lot of work for not a giant payday.
(By the way, the WSOP has also been dealing with complaints about not letting players chop. If almost everybody wants to chop all that money, isn't a flatter structure a better alternative?)
Some of this is simply about perspective. Some pros view the Colossus as really a 2k tournament, having fired four bullets. For them having invested up to $2k and fighting 22,000 entrants they want a bigger upside. Predictably it's the pros and semipros who have been going nuts, while the casual players I've talked to are just as happy to cash, and chase a half million as a whole million. Unless, one of them wins it probably none of them will care if the first place doesn't make a million. Course, for future years a one million dollar first place makes a better sell. The WSOP says the Millionaire Maker is the spot for that. I say if you have 22,000 people in a $565 tournament you need to find room for another spot to give out a million dollars for a nominal buy-in.
Clearly at a minimum there needs to be a middle ground. The WSOP keeps citing a rule of thumb about first place being about 100x the buyin. They've even gone so far as calling it the golden ratio and pointing to the hotly debated 10 million Main Event first place prize last year as a maximum that met that rule. They say, if that $10 million was too much (and everybody agreed it was) why is this too little? Contrasting the Main Event and the Colossus is a bit like comparing Taxi-cabs to Porsches. Sure they are essentially the same thing but they are also as different as they are similar.One critical difference is the rebuy nature of the Colossus. Most casual players probably fired one or two bullets, but those with deeper pockets probably also went three or four deep if needed. Pros and semi-pros who didn't advance probably were closer to three or four. So clearly, using the 100x rule ignores the obvious fact, many players were in for more than just $565. So if you apply that rule it should be 100x a bigger amount.
Probably the WSOP has the average number of bullets a single player played. I'm speculating wildly here but let's say the average is just under two. Maybe there were enough rec players on one bullet in each of the flights to skew that average down, maybe not. Regardless, I suspect though it's closer to two then it is one.
In that case voila you have a happy median. If you apply the WSOP's "rule" to the rounded up 1k buy-in you end up with a million dollar first place prize. In that scenario the twitter meltdown probably doesn't happen because there are two commas on the first line of the payouts. Granted you can see the possible danger in basing the prize pool on multiple entries but I think in this case especially as it applies to first no harm no foul. The amateur plucking down one $565 bullet has a chance at a million dollars. The pro firing four gets the softest field ever and seven figures to go after.
The other big problems yesterday? The computers were down and nobody could get paid at one point and a ton of growing pains (some people playing three handed for multiple levels, the WSOP reporting has been criticized etc. etc). They'll get those right. Every new event especially one as massive as the Colossus needs time to get it right. That said, we do complain a lot, but when we are all complaining about the same thing, the WSOP probably got it wrong.