Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whatcha Gonna Do With All Them Chips? (On Changes to the Structures at the 2009 WSOP), continued

Whatcha Gonna Do With All Them Chips?A few weeks ago, I wrote a post referring to the new “triple stacks” that will be used for this summer’s World Series of Poker. If you haven’t heard, the WSOP has decided to give players more starting chips -- “deeper stacks,” as they say -- this time around, starting them three times the buy-in in chips. That means players entering a $1,500 buy-in event will start with 4,500 chips instead of 3,000 (as they did for the same buy-in events in 2007 and 2008) or 1,500 (as they did in 2006 and before).

When event organizers made the change to “double stacks” in 2007, it was initially lauded by some as inviting more “play” in the early levels, making it less necessary to gamble it up right away. However, once the tourneys began, it was discovered the increased starting stacks really didn’t help as much as some had thought they would.

What happened was that in preliminary events -- for example, the popular $1,500 no-limit hold’em events -- the first level (a 25/25 level) was eliminated, meaning players were essentially starting the tournament at the second level (25/50). (These are all 60-minute levels, by the way.) Also, several later levels were omitted as well. Check it out:

Those figures in red on the 2006 side represent omissions in 2007, and the green ones in ’07 represent additions/changes. You see how mostly levels were omitted, and in fact the only new one in 2007 (Level 11) replaced one that was taken out.

By removing that first level, one could argue the tournament was essentially starting with double blinds/antes, thus making the “double stacks” relatively less meaningful. The further removal of levels later on had an even greater effect on how the tournament was actually played. All in all, the “deeper stacks” didn’t really translate into more play. (Incidentally, in the 2007 Main Event the blinds/antes schedule was with a couple of exceptions doubled from beginning to end, making the change from 10,000 to 20,000 starting chips mostly meaningless.)

Moving from 2007 to 2008, some adjustments were made. Again, here’s how the structures for the $1,500 no-limit hold’em tournaments compared:

Easy to see how it was decided to put those later levels back in. There was some tweaking done for the 2008 Main Event schedule of blinds/antes as well, with some levels added in both at the beginning and later on. While there were still some complaints here and there, players seemed to come away largely satisfied with the changes. (I could be wrong, but that was my impression.)

In other words, unlike was most certainly the case in previous years, there didn’t seem to be a huge call at the end of 2008 for the WSOP to revise structures for the following year. Nonetheless, following the trend toward “deep-stacked” tournaments happening elsewhere on the strip -- and perhaps also a response of sorts to economic woes happening everywhere -- the WSOP decided to go with “triple stacks” this time around.

In that earlier post, I discussed the changes and suggested that they probably wouldn’t dramatically affect the way the tournaments go all that much other than to make it possible to be a little more patient in the early going. To complete our comparative journey, here’s how a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event in 2009 compares to last year:

As you can see, while the starting stacks will be different, the structure will be unchanged, save the addition of two extra levels -- one near the beginning of Day 1 (level 3), and the other midway through Day 2. So, as I was saying a few weeks ago, I do think there will be a chance for players to take their time a little more early on. (I haven’t really looked at the 2009 WSOP Main Event structure yet, so I can’t say anything about how the 30,000-chip stacks might affect things there.)

But will there be other consequences here? Andy Bloch raised a bit of a ruckus a few weeks back at the WPT Championship event at the Bellagio where it was decided to give everyone a whopping 100,000 chips -- 1,000 big blinds! -- to start. According to Bloch, the deeper stacks basically just translated into a wasted day of play, as it took considerably longer for the field to get trimmed down. Then, some crazy-big jumps in the blinds later on forced players to gamble more, causing even more ire.

While I’m not seeing in the WSOP events the inordinately big increases in later rounds as happened at the WPT last month, I do think the WSOP might run into a bit of trouble introducing these slower starts to the tournaments. As Bloch has observed, more players should be making it to the second days than was the case last year, which may well mean those Day Twos are going to be very long if they hope to play down to the Day Three final table. (Goes without saying that more players making the second day of events will also affect the turnout for events starting the next day, too.)

I’m remembering covering the WSOP last year for PokerNews and how everyone regarded Day Twos with trepidation. Unlike Day Ones, where there were a certain number of levels scheduled to be played (and one knew when one’s day was going to be done), we would begin Day Twos without knowing how long the shifts would be. I had some lucky draws in there, enjoying some relatively short Day Twos that ended around midnight or just after. But I had some insanely long ones, too, returning to my home-away-from-home well after the sun had risen, knowing I’d be back within a few hours to cover Day Three.

Hard to know for sure, but it’s looking like there might be quite a few long Day Twos this summer for players and reporters.

(To give credit where it is due, that photo above is from PokerNews’ coverage of the 2008 WSOP, and I'm pretty sure it is of Amnon Filippi’s stack -- he tended to create such eye-popping edifices whenever he built a stack, which was quite often.)

(EDIT [added 7:45 p.m.]: Still reading?!? Check out F-Train’s rejoinder to read further on the subject of these here triple stacks.)

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Blogger Kevin Mathers said...


The ME structure is exactly the same as last year's. The 50k HORSE is the same, except that level 1 from 2008 was removed.

5/12/2009 12:00 PM  
Blogger F-Train said...

I was going to leave a comment about this topic but it started to turn into something rather lengthy. Seemed to make more sense to post it on my site.

5/12/2009 8:12 PM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

My assignment at the 2007 WSOP was to cover Day 2s. Four weeks of Day 2s. I wanted to die.

5/12/2009 11:52 PM  

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