Thursday, December 15, 2011

Epic Returns

Seidel at EPL Season One, Tournament Series ThreeNo, that title isn’t referring to my having realized any sort of massive ROI. Rather the latest Epic Poker League series is underway, about three months after the last one concluded.

This is the third tourney series so far of the EPL’s first season. A fourth will happen late Jan.-early Feb. of next year, followed directly by the Season One Championship in which the top 27 money winners in the four “regular season” Main Events will play in a $1 million two-day freeroll.

The third EPL Main Event (which kicked off yesterday) adopts an unusual format that recalls a couple of those “mix-max” or “split format” events from the most recent World Series of Poker Europe in Cannes, France.

If you recall, the €3,200 no-limit hold’em shootout Event No. 4 at the WSOPE (won by Tristan Wade) had players playing eight- to ten-handed on the first day, three-handed on the second, then ten-handed for the final table. Then Event No. 5, a €10,400 buy-in event won by Michael Mizrachi, had them play a mix of multi-table tournament poker and heads-up. For that one, Days 1 and 2 were played as an MTT, nine-handed the first day then six-handed the next. Then from Day 3 onward the remaining 16 players played a heads-up tourney, although they carried forward the chips they’d won from the first two days, making for uneven starting stacks for the remaining matches.

The new EPL event kind of resembles that latter WSOPE event in that it begins as an MTT then becomes a heads-up tourney at the very end. Days 1 through 4 are played as a multi-table tournament, eight-handed on the first day, then seven-handed on Day 2, then six-handed on Day 3 (or on Day 2 if they get to 36 players), then four-handed on Day 4 when they will play down to five players.

Those last five will return on Day 5 and play down to two, then those two will play best two-out-of-three heads-up, starting out the first two matches with whatever stacks they had when the third-place player was knocked out. If those two make it to a third match, they’ll reset the stacks to even for the decider. (Make sense?)

Exactly 100 players came out for this third EPL $20,000 buy-in Main Event, up from the 97 who played the second Main Event (an eight-handed MTT, won by Mike McDonald) though less than the 137 who played the first (a six-handed MTT, won by David “Chino” Rheem). Erik Seidel -- surprise, surprise -- was the overnight leader among the 61 who survived to today’s Day 2. (See updates here.)

Not sure what the format will be for the fourth EPL Main Event. It had been originally planned as a “mix max” event (and #3 as a heads-up only event), but I imagine that’s being changed. Probably will end up a straightforward MTT, if I had to guess. (EDIT [added 6:45 p.m.]: Sounds like the fourth one will be a regular nine-handed MTT, but with a shot clock! Thanks, Kevmath, for pointing me to the info.)

Neither am I sure how exactly to interpret the turnout for this week’s Main Event. Or even the relationship between turnouts and the overall health and future of the Epic Poker League. If there had been a huge drop off from the second event, that certainly would’ve been meaningful. But holding steady is a less obvious indicator of where things stand, I think.

The partnering of Epic with USA Today and Big Lead Sports announced a couple of weeks ago -- a move that seems part of that general effort by the EPL to try to move poker more into the mainstream -- is also suggestive of future machinations, though again it’s hard to say what exactly it all signifies.

Meanwhile, the finale of this third EPL Main Event will once again necessarily involve several of poker’s biggest names. Kind of expect it won’t be long before the EPL makes the move others have made to offer live streaming coverage of its final tables, although I don’t believe there is any plan for such this time around. Perhaps for the big freeroll in February?

I know I’d be curious to see that. As I am about where the EPL might be headed, generally speaking.

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