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5 Thoughts to Make Tournaments Appeal to Casual Players

This column is a spin-off of sorts from Mike Sexton’s recent thoughts on tournament structures, as well as some of my earlier columns on the topic. In my opinion, tournament poker has become too skewed towards the professionals, with poker tours and venues basically allowing players to set the parameters of these events. Unfortunately, what is perhaps in the best interest of the pro player is not in the best interest of the casual player, which has actually proven to be detrimental to poker as a whole.

So, what appeared to be structural and format changes that would benefit a professional player have actually had unintentional consequences that have hurt the bottom line of pros. In this column I’ll outline five potential ways that poker tournaments can become more attractive and appealing to casual players.

End Late Registration… to a point

It’s time poker tournaments reverted back to a more sensible “Late Registration” period, where players who may be a little late (for whatever reason) can still enter a tournament in Level 1 or Level 2. In today’s poker world Late Registration has gotten to the point that players can simply buy into an event at the start of Day 2, and sometimes later! While I have no real issue with this, it should be pointed out that this type of strategic tardiness is not appealing to casual players in the least, in fact it probably makes them wonder why pros are doing this and what loophole they are exploiting.

It’s not so much that this is a bad policy, or gives an unfair advantage; the issue is the optics of late registration periods.

End the reentry format… with one exception

I’ve come to the conclusion that reentry events are helpful in boosting the prize-pool by allowing a player who busted on Day 1a to reenter on Day 1b, and it isn’t an egregious advantage, but this format can also be abused very easily by allowing unlimited reentries throughout a starting day (essentially a rebuy period) which puts casual players at a huge disadvantage to professionals with deep pockets.

Furthermore, casual players may actually take advantage of a reentry event that allows a single reentry for players eliminated on Day 1a, allowing them to play Day 1b. The reason is that there is a limit to the amount you can spend and it’s within reason for the average person.

Give them a little play early on, but phase out deep-stack play faster

Casual players aren’t interested in slowly building up their stacks, prepping for a deep run. What they want is to get their money’s worth by not busting out early on, as well as being able to “play for stacks” as soon as possible –which is there one weapon against pro players.

All tournaments should be finished within four days (which means eliminating multiple starting days) and in my opinion most should be over within three days. It’s hard for casual players to take a week off from work without even knowing if they made the money until day three or four of an event, not to mention the amount of money they have to shell-out for hotel and travelling costs. It’s time to start thinking about the secondary costs of playing a tournament and this starts with the length of time they take to complete.

It should also be pointed out that this benefits professionals as well. Pros will be able to play more events if tournaments implemented a faster structure.

Start all major tournaments on Fridays and Saturdays

This should be a no-brainer, and I can’t for the life of me understand why tournament officials can’t straighten this out. By starting on a weekend you eliminate the need for casual players to get time off. If tournaments start on a Friday and last four days a player would only need to take a Friday off, and perhaps a Monday (which would mean a final table and a big score). Saturday starts work out the same way. Basically instead of taking a week off a player would simply need to take a long weekend.

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