Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Scoring Dream Team Poker

Dream Team Poker jerseysLike you, I followed online some of that “Dream Team Poker” tournament that happened last weekend at Caesars Palace. Partly because of the novelty of the sucker, partly because I actually had a few friends playing in it. Found myself checking in here and there between the basketball games on Saturday and Sunday to see how it was playing out and who was surviving.

For those who aren’t aware, the tournament was run like a regular poker tournament, but all entrants were both playing for themselves and as part of three-player “teams.” The entry fee was $500+$50 per person (so $1,500+$150 per team). Sixty percent of the prize pool went to the top seven teams, while the other 40% was divided among the top 25 individual players. The team score was determined by taking the top two finishers’ placement in the tourney, turning that into a number (e.g., finishing 13th place = 13 pts.), and the team with the lowest score won.

The buzz surrounding the event was quite positive. Surprisingly so. There were a total of 444 players there (148 teams), with a lot of “name” pros, celebrities, and familiar faces among the field. And just about everyone seems to have loved it, at least as far the commentaries on forums, blogs, and the podcasts go.

F-Train was scratching his head earlier in the week trying to figure out why exactly the event was such a hit. It sounds like both from his post and the comments that the event’s organizers helped their cause a bit by inviting a number of folks (some pros, some media) to play, and perhaps even providing some exemptions, too. Which is fine, though one wonders how popular the event would have been otherwise.

While I suppose I’m mostly ambivalent about the concept of team poker (sure, why not?), I did have a few more concrete responses to the event.

The Dream Team Poker logoFor one, I enjoyed hearing the participants and others getting excited about the tournament. Sounded like a hell of a good time, for most of ’em, anyway. As a fan of poker, I liked hearing people expressing such enthusiasm about the game. Poker can be a lot of fun, and it seems like the Dream Team idea -- perhaps in the way it sort of combined regular tourney poker and the “home game” -- did well to remind everybody of that fact.

Secondly, I’ve also liked how the tournament has inspired all sorts of thoughtful reflections about poker and its significance. If you’ve been listening to the podcasts this week or reading a few of the players’ blogs, you’ve heard various opinions about how poker can be an isolated activity, and how the tournament’s team concept made things different for a weekend. There have been other, interesting points made that were inspired by Dream Team Poker, too.

Finally, I have to throw out a comment about the scoring used in the event. F-Train called it “gimmicky,” which it was. It was also completely absurd, if you think about it at all.

Throwing out the lowest finishing team member’s score seems kind of arbitrary, but that isn’t the biggest problem with the scoring. The way it was done, the player finishing first received one point, second place got two points, and so forth all of the way down. Such a system therefore dictates that the difference between finishing first and second is equivalent to the difference between finishing 23rd and 24th, or 187th and 188th, etc.

Ridiculous. Has there ever been a tournament whose payout schedule followed a similar format? No. Why? Because to do so would be silly. Most tournaments’ payouts are determined so as to emphasize the importance of going deep and winning, awarding most of the prize money to those lasting the longest.

A better point system would also follow such a model. I would suggest deciding on a number of points for the tournament -- say, in this case, with 444 players, something like 4,440 points -- then create a “payout” structure for points that resembled a cash payout structure, only in this case have everyone “cash” for at least a point. You could give those finishing in the bottom half (223rd through 444th) one point each, the next 25% two points each, and so on. Then at the top give the first place finisher 10% of the points, second place 5%, and so on so as to make it more meaningful to go deep.

However it’s done, you have to set it up so that the difference between finishing 89th and 90th is relatively meaningless, while the difference between finishing first or second is the most meaningful jump in the tournament. That way you don’t muck with how the tournament is normally played, especially since the majority of the prize money was reserved for the teams.

Certainly sounds like they’ll try something like this again, probably fairly soon. Hopefully they’ll fix that point system moving forward.

(EDIT [added 4/2/09]: Check out the comments for a couple of smart refutations of this here idea, including a report on other aspects of the event from WPT tourney reporter B.J. Nemeth.)

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Blogger ElSnarfoGrande said...


Here's the problem with the point system you just described, even if you kept the 3 person's points, it then becomes nearly impossible for any other team to win the title except for the winner. With a 5% difference in points from first to second, and any subsequent place getting less then 5% in theory, you can't make up the difference with 2 people, with 3 scores it becomes theoretically possible.

So the question now becomes how do you equally reward the winner btu still make the other places in the tournament relative to overall team score? I think the best idea may be a combination of both. Let's say 450 total players for argument, 450-400 get 1 point, 399-350 get 3, 349-300 get 5, ad nauseum increasing the as you go up but maybe increasing with each spot at the final table but not making such a large gap as there would be in pay scale.

Just some thoughts on a mind numbing Wednesday.


4/01/2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Yea, Snarf, good point... didn't have time to sort out what would be the best percentages to suggest, but yr right -- it wouldn't make sense to set it up so that only the team with the winner could win.

So yea, some balance would have to be reached there whereby the diff. between 1st and 2nd was greater than the diff. between 89th and 90th, etc., but not so great that it would create the problem you describe.

Good luck surviving yr Wednesday. Pull an April Fool's prank on someone -- that'll make it more interesting.

4/01/2009 10:21 AM  
Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

I disagree with your proposed point system for the same reason that Snarf did.

No, the points are not awarded the same as the payout structure of a traditional tournament, but that is by design. It requires a *different strategy* than a traditional tournament. Your desire to award more points to the higher finishers is just pushing it back toward being a traditional tournament -- what would be the point in that?

In Dream Team Poker's scoring system, only the top two scores are counted for each team, so the scores for those who finish in the bottom 2/3 of the field are effectively worth 0 points. The only relevance to those high scores (like a 200th- or 400th-place finish) is that the third player's score is used to break ties. The system worked out pretty well, and those bad scores/tiebreakers become relevant as teams jockey for position deep in the tournament.

That is, if two teams finish the tournament with 37 points (Let's say 35+2 and 24+13), whichever team had a higher finish by their third player would receive the higher place. This worked very well over the weekend, and gave a bit of significance to your third teammate's 300th-place finish. (A few tiebreakers were decided by >300th place finishes.)

With 444 players, the top seven teams cashed. I think the worst team score to cash was around 65, while the winning team ("Team Aced") had a score of 13 (9+4).

The team standings weren't clinched until they were down to 4 players. (Though Jamie Gold's "Team Aced" locked up the #1 spot with about 17 players left -- he and his girlfriend Ashley Nataupsky were both still alive.) The guy from Team "Claddagh" moved his team up a spot every time he outlasted a couple more people -- both he and his team ultimately finished second, and that player won the most combined money in the event. (Ashley finished 4th individually, combined with her victory in the team standings.)

If one teammate busts out early, your team still has a chance at the top prize. If two teammates bust out in the bottom 2/3 of the field, then it effectively becomes an individual tournament for the remaining player. However, his or her strategy will still change, because he or she will have to adapt to the changing strategies of opponents that are still in the running for the team prizepool. Even a loose-aggressive player like Jamie Gold really tightened up late to improve his team's chances at the top team prize.

Everyone I talked to over the weekend had a great time. Sure, many of them were overly euphoric from the cocktail party, the red carpet, the jerseys, the media coverage, and the fact that they got to play with Phil Hellmuth and Shannon Elizabeth for $550. But some of them seemed to get it on a different level, like Shaniac (see his blog). It was simply a fun tournament, even without those factors. The team concept itself was fun. And that was coming from players who didn't even make it deep enough to really see the hard-core team strategies kick in. (Everyone who made Day 2 seemed to really enjoy the differences compared to a regular tournament.)

Yes, Dream Team Poker invited and freerolled some of the media, just like every other new venture in the world. If there were problems with the event, or problems with the format, the media would be able to see it for themselves first hand. Nobody in the media was given any direction as to how to write about the event. (Exhibit A: hasn't mentioned it at all. WTF?) I spoke to Chops of Wicked Chops Poker, and he said it would be tough to write what he wanted to write without coming across as a total fan boy, because he had such a great time.

Giving a few prominent people/media outlets a freeroll was a no-brainer move, though at $550 each, most of those media people would have gladly refunded the money at the end of it if necessary.

DISCLAIMER: I was hired by Dream Team Poker as a freelance photographer for this event. Sure, a paying job is a paying job, but one of the reasons I immediately accepted was so I could see this high-buzz-factor event for myself first hand.

I came away extremely impressed, and we'll certainly be discussing it in more depth on tomorrow's episode of "The Poker Beat."

4/02/2009 1:05 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, B.J. -- terrific analysis & explanation! I didn't realize the third player's score was used as a tie-breaker (which seems like a good idea).

Actually, I can think of another reason not to go with my idea -- it makes the whole deal less simple for the players & others to follow. The fact that everyone could quickly calculate where things stood there as they worked their way to the finish probably helped make it all the more fun, I'd bet.

That said, I guess I remain a little uncomfortable with making it too wildly different from a traditional tournament, but we're probably just seeing another example of a conservative bias when it comes to tourneys from me here.

4/02/2009 7:46 AM  
Blogger Kevin Mathers said...

CardPlayer finally put out a video regarding the results of DTP at . One thing that confused me is why there wasn't more live updates from the event (No CardPlayer or PokerNews) while PokerPages and PokerListings did do some. This was a tournament where Twitter was a great tool to have people providing their own live updates (which seems like a great idea for a blog post).

4/03/2009 9:21 AM  

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