Should All Tournaments Be Deep-Stack Events?

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25 January 2008, Created By: Earl Burton
Should All Tournaments Be Deep-Stack Events?
For the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit schedule in Tunica, Miss., Tournament Director Jimmy Sommerfeld introduced a concept that seems to be growing in popularity in the tournament poker world: the deep stack.

To compete with the World Poker Tour events at the Gold Strike that ran nearly simultaneously with the WSOPC, Sommerfeld set the tournaments up to start players with 10,000 chips for every event, regardless of buy-in.

He also tinkered with the blind structure to try and make the tournaments more dependent on skill, and keep them from devolving into the all-in luckfest some tournaments become by the end.

The players responded to Sommerfeld's changes by coming to the WSOPC tournaments in droves. In comparison to other Circuit stops, the WSOPC Tunica had more players overall. And even though the Championship Event buy-in was increased to $7,500 over its normal $5,000, it drew in 180 players - the largest tournament yet in the current season other than December's stop in Atlantic City.

The field for the event also had almost 50 players more than the WSOPC stop in Tunica in August, when the buy-in was just $5,000.

Bart Tichelman
WSOPC Circuit Champ Bart Tichelman.

With this kind of increase in players, you might think the WSOPC would look at instituting Sommerfeld's rules for the rest of the Circuit schedule. But this doesn't look like it will happen; the general consensus from people in the industry is casinos like to have their own guidelines and the Sommerfeld changes were a one-and-done deal we won't see again.

My question would be why not institute the new structure into not just the WSOPC but all tournaments? Not only did the players in Tunica show they liked Sommerfeld's changes, it's been shown in other areas around the United States players clearly like deep-stack tournaments.

In 2007, The Venetian in Las Vegas held two different deep-stack events (including one during the schedule of the World Series) that routinely drew over 200 players for singular tournaments; the larger buy-in tournaments sometimes even cracked the 500-player mark.

This prompted the powers that be at the Venetian to schedule more deep-stack events for 2008, with the first one starting Feb. 4.

Even last year's World Series of Poker tinkered with the idea of expanding the starting stacks for players. Instead of matching the buy-in with starting stacks, players were given double that amount (those in a $2k event were given $4,000 chips, for example).

If players like the deep-stack concept - which they seem to - why wouldn't the casinos embrace it as well, with the draw of more players and thus more juice?

Deep-stack tournaments give great "bang for the buck" to tournament players who don't have the bankroll to enter a major $10k or more event where players do get the larger stacks. The deep-stack events mean skill is emphasized over luck; where a player who starts with 2,000 in chips might suffer a bad beat early in a normal event and not have an opportunity to rebuild, deep-stack events don't put a crippling blow on a player in the early going.

John Devia
Deep stacks = happy players?

Instead, they allow for skillful players to build back into battle shape with expanded stacks.

The only problems I see with casinos not taking up the idea are money and time. Casinos don't get anything from tournaments besides the juice and would rather have the players in the cash games, where rake is taken for each hand.

As for the time issue, most tournament schedules right now allow for just two days of play, and the expanded stacks could push some tournaments to the edge of that time frame (although this didn't seem to be a problem during the WSOPC Tunica).

The deep-stack concept is one that I would like to see more of in the tournament world. Because there isn't a set-in-stone command that requires casinos to have more similarities between their setups (something the World Poker Association would like to see changed), it's up to the player to determine what the best game is for their money.

If the casinos see that deep-stack events are profitable and successful, we should see more of them in future.

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