“I Don’t Get It”
“Good Lord! Look at all that money they’re betting”, exclaimed one of my coworkers. The WSOP Main event was on espn in the cafeteria at the plant that I work at. I had snuck out to catch some of the broadcast. On tv, the tournament pro was announcing a raise to 850,000 total.
“That’s not actual money that they are betting,” I explained.
“Yeah it is. This is that big money one. The World Series,” he insisted.
He obviously didn’t play poker. A few wild card games over a buddy’s house a long time ago. Or on his phone for play chips.
“But it’s a tournament. The chips that they are using don’t have any cash value. You can’t use them at the blackjack tables. How much money they win depends on what place they finish in.”
“You sure?” he said doubtfully.
“Oh yeah I play a lot of poker.” A whole lot of poker.
“Now the World Series is a big money tournament; First place pays like 8 million and 8th gets a million bucks!” I continued enthusiastically. “The final table gets the big money. But even 25th place might win 200 or 300 grand. But it depends on when they bust out.”
“Wow!” he said. He seemed impressed with my knowledge of the game. But still a little confused.
“Even at these stakes, 1 million in chips isn’t 1 million dollars in cash. They’re more like checkers. It’s just a way to keep score.”
“But it’s the World Series. Chris Moneymaker…”
It was then that I recognized that a lot of non-poker players don’t fully understand the concept of tournament chips and how they work. They understand a cash game. I buy in for 100 dollars. You buy in for 200 dollars. We play against each other for real money and the casino takes a rake. The chips in play are the same as the ones at the blackjack and craps tables.
But a tournament? A 175 buy-in gets them 20000 chips? What does that mean? certainly not twenty thousand dollars. What is a dealer add-on? 5000 more chips for 10 dollars? Tournaments leave the novice confused with their constantly rising blinds and antes and structures.
However NL cash games, while they seem easy to master, allow big mistakes that syphon cash too rapidly from inexperienced players, making some of them give the game of poker up altogether. Tournaments are the ideal for beginners anyway, because he’s interested in the chance at a big payday as well as giving him more bang for the buck.
So for the average beginner, small tournaments are too complicated and cash games are too tough for him to win. At either one, he doesn’t stand much of chance at all of a big payday in the thousands of dollars.
If I were to invent a new type of poker tournament I would make it easy to a beginner to understand, yet filled with opportunities for skilled players to employ tactics and strategies. Using elements of cash game play to create a tournament with lots of action and big prizes.
First of all, my tournament chips would have an actual cash value. White chips would be worth a buck, red chips five, green ones twenty-five, and black chips one hundred dollars. Just like in a cash game. So a $25 dollar bet would be five red or one green chip. Twenty five dollars that someone will cash in at the end of tournament. Each bet means real money.
I would allow players to choose their buy-in. Either one , two, or three hundred dollars plus the entry fee. The $200 and $300 dollar buy-ins would get a discount on the entry fee, with the max $300 getting the best deal. This would be one of several features built into the game which would help stimulate action building big prize pools.
I would permit late registration for the first two hours as well as unlimited rebuys. Add-ons would be allowed as well, at any time as long as a player didn’t exceed the the max $300 during the 1st hour and $500 in the 2nd hour.
Speaking of the blinds, they would start at 1/ 2 for the first level and rise to 2/ 5 for the second level. Just like in a cash game. And last a whole hour. Then continuing to rise of course. The blinds would rise rapidly enough to eliminate players in an orderly fashion, but not turn into an all-in shove fest.
Players would be allowed to “straddle”. The player would have to be “under the gun”, announce his intention to straddle, and post 2 big blinds before recieving his 2nd card. Strictly optional and not allowed from any other position. This would add another tactical element to each hand.
My tournament would play down to the final ten pecent of players. If for example there were 55 players in the tournament, the final six players would cash. These survivors would win what they have in front of them. There would be no further play and the tournament would be over.
This tournament would essentially play like a cash game where the stakes start out small, but keep getting bigger and bigger. Prizes would be much bigger than in your average small buy-in tournament. It’s simple math. If each player buys-in for an average of two hundred dollars, and ten percent of the field gets paid, prizes will average around two thousand dollars. But they could be much higher for a chip leader.
The casino or charity hosting the event would collect a lot more in fees than normal. The players would have the thrill of pots worth a thousand dollars or more of real money. And if they survive, they get to keep it!