Monday, June 18, 2007

2007 WSOP, Day 18: Fast Final Tables

Rapid-Fire PokerHeard a curious observation from Jeremiah Smith, the lead tournament reporter for PokerWire, on Saturday’s episode of PokerWire Radio. Smith noted how quickly a lot of the final tables seemed to be going at this year’s WSOP when compared to those of previous years. He offered a couple of examples, adding how “It’s been a big point of discussion among . . . professional players . . . [how] this double-stack doesn’t mean anything, because once you get to the end of the game, it’s push or fold . . . . [Rather,] it’s much more like a WPT final table . . . [like] a turbo sit-n-go.”

By “double-stack” Smith is referring to how players this year are starting with double the buy-in amount in chips (e.g., one gets $3,000 worth of chips for an event with a $1,500 buy-in). When the announcement was made back in March that players would be given twice the starting chips, initial response was very favorable, as many thought this ensured “more play.” However, players soon learned that the blinds were going to be increased as well, a change which appeared as though it might negate much of the difference made by doubling the starting stacks.

I took a look at the structure for this year’s $1,500 No Limit Hold ’em event (Event No. 3) and compared it to that used for the same event last year (Event No. 2). Here’s what they look like side-by-side:

That “cost per round” number, by the way, is based on a nine-handed table. Also, there was a level 24 in 2006, but we never got that far in 2007.

Hard to tell at a glance whether or not the “speed” of the tournament could have been affected by the changed blind amounts. One thing is clear, though -- WSOP officials did not simply double the blinds throughout (as many have said).

So how do they compare, and is there any explanation to be found here for the relatively-rapid final tables we’ve been seeing?

Here’s another chart where I’ve taken that “cost per round” number and expressed it as a percentage of the original starting chip stack. I then compared each level, noting whether players are having to spend “more” or “less” (in relative terms) in order to play each round.

Notice how for most of the tournament -- really until the final table (which started at level 19 in 2006 and at level 20 in 2007) -- players are able to be a bit more patient since the cost per round is “less,” relatively speaking, when compared to 2006.

But look at those last couple of levels. A huge jump there. And compounding the increased speed of the tournament is the fact that we have shorter levels at the final table this year. In 2006, all levels were 60 minutes long until the final table, when the time per level was increased to 90 minutes. In 2007, there is no change at the final table -- all levels continue to last 60 minutes.

How long were the final tables for these two events? In 2006, the final table for this event lasted about 10.5 hours total -- about 9 hours if you discount the dinner break. In 2007, the final table for the same event lasted just 4.5 hours. And they never even made it to the dinner break!

So this year’s final table was over in half the time, and I think the blind structure and the shorter final table levels are two big reasons why.

I am going to assume that we would see something similar if we compared the structures of all of the other parallel tourneys from 2006 and 2007. (I should say that I’ve heard the Main Event structure does not necessarily follow the same pattern here, but I have yet to look into that.) I think Jeremiah Smith was right to say that what we are witnessing at this year’s WSOP final tables is indeed a lot more like WPT final tables than what we’ve traditionally seen at the WSOP. In fact, Smith might have made the same point in reference to the tournaments as a whole, not just the final tables. The whole structure, if you think about, is a lot like that used in most WPT events, with a slower pace for the early and middle sections of the tourney (allowing for more “play”), followed by a hyper-rapid finish.

Is the 2007 structure better or worse? My instinctive response would be to say it is worse, since the slower final table is part of what always distinguished the WSOP from other tournaments. What do you think?

Remember, you can follow all them final tables over at PokerNews' live reporting. Better hurry, though, ’cos they’re going fast.



Anonymous Richard said...

Just stopping by to say I'm enjoying your coverage of the WSOP. I had a problem with my browser and couldn't comment for a week or so. Just figured out what was wrong today.

Anyway, I agree that the new blind structure is worse. But the thing that irks me is that ESPN's coverage of the WSOP would be awful either way, especially for the smaller events when all the viewer sees are all-ins every hand anyway.

6/19/2007 1:46 AM  
Blogger Cell 1919 said...

Does the sheer number of internet players have a part to play?

I would say that there is a greater emphasis on turbo S&Gs on many sites as they respond to the ordinary players like me with a family to consider. More so than a year ago as the sites refine their games in proportion to the player demand.

Subconsciously has that led to more 'push/fold' scenarios?

I know that when I play 15 minute blind levels (once a week) it seems like an eternity, but this is nothing when compared to a proper live game.

Also the antes really kick in at level 15 on the new structure (1000 per player), making bold moves to steel that little more attractive earlier.

Just some random jottings, anyway.

6/19/2007 8:36 AM  
Blogger Gadzooks64 said...

Am I the only one that thinks it's wrong to set these tournaments up in such a way that the moment there's real money on the line (at the final table) coincides with the time when people are forced to take the most risks with hands?

I hate to see those WPT all-in-fest final tables. That's when the money in on the line and people are forced to push with crap hands.

Poker is gambling but I hate to see it degenerate to gamboling.

6/19/2007 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Spaceman said...

I'm there for every final table that's broadcast on The levels definitely move fast, but there's also still plenty of play. I'd say the majority of the tables I've watched have seen just as many moves made/bluffs caught/pots stolen as I've seen at longer final tables - all the things I associate with talking about how much play a structure gives those competing for the top prize. The good players are generally still winning bracelets (e.g. Phil Hellmuth, Allen Cunningham, Tom Schneider) or getting their shots at them (e.g. John Phan, Gavin Smith, Phil Ivey, Erik Cajelais, Jeff Lisandro, Humberto Brenes) and that's the way it was before. The donkeys are still winning their share, too, but that's the way it's been for several years now. Even with longer final table levels, the donkeys can always get lucky. That's just part of the game.

From my perch beside the final table, things pretty much look the same as ever. The one exception is that now people can have a nice meal and relax for the night (or just rest up for the next day's event) when they're done going for the bracelet. When you're in town for two months, planning to play all the time, the effect of extra R+R time after a final table can't be overstated.

6/20/2007 3:05 PM  

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