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Mike Sexton: The Structure Debate

Posted by Mike Sexton & filed under Mike Sexton.

Recently, there was some Twitter chatter regarding structures by some players thinking venues need to add levels or extend play an extra day. They (mistakenly) believe this will add a +EV for them.

Before Big Money

I played the tournament circuit for 15 years (before TV and the big prize money), have played at every WSOP since 1984, and have been with the WPT since it’s inception 11 years ago. I have such appreciation and respect for everyone, and I mean everyone, who plays the tournament circuit because I know how tough it is – the travel, the stress, the frustration, the ups & downs (mostly downs), etc.

Old School

I know I’m “old school” but when it comes to structures, I love what a wise man once told me: “Great players don’t bitch about structures, they adapt to them.”

As for wider structures and longer live events, I’m against them because I don’t think they’re good for the game (nor for the players who think they’re good for them). First of all, longer events make it less likely that businessmen (amateurs that add value) will play a tournament. Recreational players can’t take a week off their job or away from their families to play poker tournaments.

Second, if a recreational player wins a big-time event, it helps the growth of the game. (Remember Moneymaker? He was an accountant from TN who won a satellite and then won the main event of the WSOP. And don’t forget about the attitude that followed his win – “If he can do it, I can do it.” BOOM! Poker exploded.)

Fill In Any Name You Want

Does anyone think that a top pro – and fill in any name you want – winning a big-time tourney would benefit the game (meaning bring more players into poker) more than a newbie to poker who won a satellite to get in, or a prominent businessman or celebrity, or especially, an attractive young lady just getting started in poker? Longer structures could well prevent these kind of people from playing and would make it tougher for them to win. You should want them in and should be pulling for them to win if you don’t. It’s GOOD for poker when these people win.

Forest for the trees

Many players can’t see the forest for the trees. They think extra levels and longer tournaments give them a better chance to win. They don’t understand how shortening tournaments, which give amateurs a better chance to win, helps them. Here’s how. All longer tournaments do is eliminate recreational players from playing, make the field more ‘pro heavy’ and tougher to win, and obviously, they shorten the field and provide a smaller prize pool. Eliminating recreational players reduces value – plain and simple. I believe that larger fields with shorter structures is long-term beneficial to tournament pro’s.

Two Scenarios

For all you good players who like longer structures, let me give you two scenarios for a big buy-in tournament and you tell me where you think your best +EV is located. Tournament A – Levels are 90 minutes or 2 hours each with every conceivable level you’d like to put in (meaning the tourney would last at least 6-7 days). Let’s say there are 350 entrants in this tourney with 170 pro’s and the rest recreational players and satellite winners. Tournament B – Levels are one hour max and the event is only 4 days long. Let’s say this event would get 400 entrants but only 150 pro’s (as 20 may not play because they didn’t like the structure and more amateurs would play because it’s not as many days). If you played 20-25 events a year, do you think you’ll make more money playing in Tournament A or Tournament B?

Creates Value

The point is that shorter tournaments provide bigger (& easier) fields and more prize money. That creates value. I believe that ‘value’ is more beneficial to tournament pro’s than longer structures. Yes, faster tournaments do give the recreational player a better chance to win that particular tournament, but as I said earlier, that’s good for the game as it means more amateurs will play future events. Players should recognize that bigger fields with larger prize money will benefit them long term. And incidentally, having all those extra days off during the year allows tournament players more time to be with their families and/or play more poker and make more money.

Four Days Is All I Ask For

I’d like to see every WPT event (with the exception of the $25k buy-in WPT championship event) last four days. I would start the tournaments on Saturday to allow recreational players (those with a job) the opportunity to play and have the final table on Tuesday. Players who made the money could justify missing work on Monday and would gladly miss two days if they made the final table. With large fields, you might have to play 45 minute levels on Saturday and go to one hour levels on Sunday. (I prefer shortening levels rather than eliminating them.) Wouldn’t it be fun to see the firestorm this might create?

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments and follow us on Twitter for more poker greatness.