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3 Things That Have Become Negatives for Poker: Tournament Structures

Throughout my life I have seen policies implemented, and projects undertaken that have the outward appearance and desire of enhancing some aspect of our life. Unfortunately, many of these things actually turn out to be hindrances and have a lasting negative impact. In this series I’ll take a look at three such examples from the poker world, detailing three things that seem to have the poker community’s best interest at heart, but for whatever reason they have failed in their execution.

Next up on the list is the current tournament structure being implemented at events around the globe.

Tournament Structures

With the amount of luck that is involved in any given hand, session, and most noticeably tournaments, poker players have forever sought ways to make the game more skillful to increase their edge. In recent years tournament directors and venues have accommodated this request by making the structures for tournaments slower and deeper.

Now, during the heyday of the poker boom this really wasn’t much of an issue, considering massive fields were turning out for virtually every tournament, including a sizable number of amateur players, but as poker’s popularity has waned in recent years and casual players have become the stuff of legend alongside the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti, this is turning into a serious issue for both players and the tournaments and venues.

What has happened is that the structures have become so slow (Allen Kessler approved!) that they discourage recreational players from attending, since a deep run in an event means having to take a week’s vacation. Furthermore, the general knowledge of the game has been disseminated for over a decade now, and even casual players understand the skill involved in order to be considered a proficient poker player, and how they are at a major disadvantage to professionals in these marathon tournaments.

Because of this, casual players no longer participate in WPT and other high-priced tournaments. Sure, the skill level of these events has increased with the slower structure, but the trade-off was one of ROI. Instead of having a 10% edge over a mixed field of amateurs and professionals ( a larger field at that), these slow-structured, pro-heavy, events offer a top professional only a miniscule edge over the field.

Final Thoughts

There is a reason 5-Card Stud is a “dead” game; the skill level is simply too high and there isn’t enough variance when a poor player sits down with a good player: As Amarillo Slim would say, “The sheep gets skinned instead of sheared.” The same issue seems to be creeping into the tournament world with these ultra-slow structures that see tournaments lasting seven, eight, sometimes 10 days; it’s simply not a proposition a casual player will take –I mean really, what casual player, working a 9-5 job is going to waste one of their week’s vacation to play in a major tournament where they are a huge underdog, when they can simply play a half-dozen local tournaments (against players of their skill level) in the same time period, and still take their wife out to eat and enjoy the shows?

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