Friday, January 25, 2013

Correcting the Zoom

Noticed a little earlier today that PokerStars has responded to complaints regarding that Zoom Challenge event at the PCA. As some may have heard, an issue came up near the end of the event regarding the tourney’s fairness, and it appears Stars is now giving out a number of additional cash prizes in order to try to make things right.

Others have reported on the snafu at length, most inspired to do so following a thread having been started on 2+2 by a player who was unhappy with how the event played out.

To give a quick thumbnail... there was a $1,025 buy-in “Zoom Challenge” event among the 40 on the PCA schedule this year. Unlike a regular multi-table tourney, this one involved having players sit down with an iPad for 12 minutes and play a quick session of no-limit hold’em Zoom on Stars (for play money). The idea was to try to run up a starting stack of 20,000 as high as possible during the allotted time, and in the end those accumulating the biggest stacks divided the prize pool according to a traditional MTT payout schedule.

Players could take part over the course of five days, and near the end of the fifth day trouble arose when several wanted to play at once just before the event was to conclude. A couple of groups of players were subsequently allowed to play at the same time, and in fact there were instances of Challenge players occasionally being seated at the same tables and playing against one another.

Such wouldn’t necessarily have been as big of an issue if not for the fact that play money players on Stars generally play a tight game (you’d be surprised how protective they are of their play money chips), thus making it difficult for the Zoom Challenge players to run up their stacks. But with multiple Challenge players playing against one another, that ensured a better chance for them to find opponents (i.e., each other) willing to shove their stacks.

As it turned out, four of the players who played at the end under these favorable circumstances ended up cashing, although none managed to outchip David Williams (who had played earlier in the week) who ultimately won the event.

Anyhow, after hearing the complaints PokerStars is now awarding prizes to four players who just missed cashing, plus giving some more cabbage to three who did make the money. For a full rundown of what happened and these additional “goodwill payments” being doled out by PokerStars, see Lee Jones’ post in the 2+2 thread.

I followed the reports about the PCA Zoom Challenge with some interest. Back in November when I was in Macau, I had a chance to participate in a kind of trial run of the Zoom Challenge. They had a similar set up there with a “mobile lounge” situated near the tournament area where the Asia Championship of Poker events were playing out. Among the offerings was a version of the Zoom Challenge in which people could play for free with an iPod going to the player amassing the biggest stack, and I took a shot.

I wrote a post on the PokerStars blog about my Zoom Challenge attempt. (That’s a picture of me to the left playing, courtesy Kenneth Lim Photography.) I didn’t win, but did enjoy trying. If you read my post, you’ll see that when I played I busted one time but was allowed to “rebuy” (so to speak) and continue.

I had actually been under the impression that when it came time to run the actual Zoom Challenge at the PCA, there wouldn’t be any rebuying -- that is to say, if you lost your original stack of 20,000, you ended the tourney registering a score of zero. Thus when those complaints came up at the PCA, I was a little surprised to hear how players there were in fact able to continue even after busting their original stacks.

It sounds like from Lee Jones’s post that if they were to try another Zoom Challenge down the road, they’ll get rid of the unlimited rebuy option (or limit players to one rebuy). Seems like that would be a good idea to me.

There may have still been issues at the PCA with multiple players simultaneously participating in the Zoom Challenge even if no rebuys were allowed (e.g., collusion possibilities), and I think they’ll be working to keep that from happening going forward, too. I still think there’s probably something a little weird about having players play events for real money against random play money players on Stars. But I’m glad to see Stars trying to fix a past slip-up and getting things in place to try to avoid any similar mistakes in the future.

Speaking of playing for play money on PokerStars, the first two tournaments of Season 3 of Hard-Boiled Poker Home Games are happening this Sunday night. See the sidebar for more information on this week’s events and joining the league. Season 3 will run through the end of March, and once again I’ll be awarding prizes to the top three finishers in the season’s standings.

Good luck to all. And just so you know, no matter how much you complain, don’t expect any “goodwill payments” to those finishing outside the top three.

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