Friday, June 26, 2015

On the “50/50”

Was looking this afternoon at the structure sheet for that new DraftKings-sponsored “50/50” event on the World Series of Poker schedule for tomorrow (Event No. 55).

You’ve no doubt been hearing about this one -- the first time, I believe, that the WSOP has featured a “sponsored” event like this, with the daily fantasy sports site having paid to have the tournament branded with its name in the event’s designation.

The structure sheet isn’t that interesting for the most part, given that it is identical to the other $1,500 NLHE events on the schedule. It’s the line about the payouts that is notable, reflecting that “50/50” idea also in the event’s name.

There’s a somewhat popular DFS format called “50/50” in which half the entrants make the money. The times I’ve tried it, it has always been a “double-or-nothing”-type payout with all of the cashers winning an equal amount. I put “double-or-nothing” in scare quotes because in truth winners don’t exactly double their buy-ins because of the juice taken.

For example, in a 10-player $50 buy-in “50/50” event on DraftKings, the top five players each win $90 and the bottom five win nothing. I’ve occasionally played these, which aren’t so bad for casual, novice-types like myself who isn’t really willing to put in the time required to try to build top-flight line-ups.

Speaking of, I was mentioning here many months ago how I had won a couple of freerolls on what was then a new DFS site called Fantasy Draft. Things never really seemed to get off the ground over there, and so I barely visit the site these days, but I did happen to play a small buy-in MLB contest with a guaranteed prize pool this week.

I hilariously picked a starting pitcher who gave up eight earned runs in less than three innings of work, sending me to the bottom of the leaderboard. I think I finished something like 34th out of 35. In fact I think I only beat a dude who forgot to fill in a line-up.

I still made a profit, though -- as did the non-line-up guy -- because so few players had entered and the top 50 were guaranteed to make the money. (Wished afterward that I had entered 10 line-ups.) It was way better than a “50/50” -- it was a “100/0”!

The WSOP’s version of a “50/50” event will similarly feature the top 50% of players making the cash, but that’s where the similarity ends. As the structure sheet spells out, after 10% of the buy-ins are taken out for entry fees (7%) and the tournament staff (3%), the remaining prize money ($1,350 per player) will be divided as follows: “Payout - 25th-50th percentile = $1000, 10th-25th percentile = $1500, Top 10% = Standard percentage payout with remaining prize pool funds.”

In other words, while 50% of entrants will technically “cash,” half of those players actually will be losing $350 while those making the next tier will earn just $150 for their efforts. Then the top 10% -- who would otherwise be dividing up all of the prize pool -- will be paid with what’s left. Depends on how many take part, but I’m guessing something like a third of the prize pool will be used to cover those extra payouts (going to the 10th-50th percentile finishers).

While I kind of like the idea of the sorta-but-not-quite-double-or-nothing “50/50” DFS games, this doesn’t really strike me as a very enticing payout structure for a poker tournament. Then again, I guess there was no way to mimic exactly the DFS model, as they couldn’t well have hundreds of players tying for first.

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