Yesterday marked the end of another monthly 888poker superstack tournament at the Mint casino in London. As I have said before, any readers looking for a £165 tournament in the UK should definitely check theses tournaments out. The tournaments switch location each month between Birmingham and London and offer a deep structure with a 30 minute clock meaning lots of play in the early stages but the tournament also doesn’t go on for too long. This means they do turn into a bit of a turbo at the end but I for one quite like a turbo tournament. Satellites are also available on 888 for those looking to get in cheap.
In March’s tournament a situation arose whereby a deal was offered on the exact bubble of the tournament to pay whoever was eliminated next. When the tournament director asked if anyone objected to this, I stuck my hand up and we continued hand-for-hand play. After the tournament I was made aware that this did not go down well a lot of the 888 community and so hopefully I can explain my reasoning in this blog and we can discuss the issue.
The first, and most important point, is that this is not a cruel, ruthless or selfish decision to deny someone £150. Doing a deal on the bubble affects both players remaining in the tournament, those eliminated (especially recently) and, in my opinion, affects the overall integrity of tournament which I shall attempt to explain below.
I think one thing almost every participant in the tournament had in common was that they enjoy poker. We play for the fun and competition of a game that offers a fantastic mental challenge. A game in which any player should never find a point where he/she stops learning, and therefore improving. I do realise that not everyone has a desire to make a living from the game, or even make money, but I would argue that everyone there wants to compete with the hopes of winning the tournament. The bubble in a tournament is a key part of the beautiful strategy of tournament poker, and should be celebrated and enjoyed by players competing. It offers another challenge that is part of the decision-making jigsaw of poker. Players should be thinking about how it changes how other people play their hands, as well as how they should change their own play to both counter the opponent’s play and ensure they do as well as they can in the tournament. It is the point in the tournament where your tournament life means the most and that good strategy is paramount for success. This does represent an edge for professional players like myself but no more than executing a good bluff, and I don’t think players would have a problem with me doing that. Doing a deal completely eliminates this interesting part of the tournament. Whilst of course, no one likes bubbling a tournament, doing a deal does not stop someone bubbling, it just changes where the bubble is. A player coming 16th when a deal is done to pay 15th, should feel exactly the same as a player coming 15th on the original bubble when no deal is done. Any change in feelings between the 2 positions is illogical. This is why I think the concept of dealing on the bubble is completely futile in terms of tournament structure.
I also think that dealing on the bubble is unfair on all of those eliminated in the tournament, with the biggest punishment taken by those most recently eliminated. As I said, these players then become the bubble-ees. When the tournament prize-pool is set the players have an understanding of the rules for the rest of the tournament and can then go-about targeting making the money and/or winning the tournament. If, after the majority of players are eliminated, these rules are then changed, I am sure it can feel very unnerving for the new player who did not know that this might happen. It can be seen as a bit shady with a lack of transparency and runs a high risk of discouraging new players from playing live poker. The player may have made a decision that caused him to come 16th when he/she thought there were 14 prizes, that he/she wouldn’t of done if there was 15 prizes. Of course, if this tournament was an invitational community event where all players had the same understanding then this wouldn’t be an issue. But these are open tournaments, which see a lot of brand new players to the live game due to their buy-in and satellite structure. This is why I think changing the rules in favour of the minority remaining in the tournament, verges on immoral and adds to the shady-stereotype of poker which most players want to continue to distance the game from. Just because this practise has been common in casinos for a while, does not make it ‘right’.
A further factor I considered, when making the decision to opt-against the bubble-deal, was in representing some players still remaining in the tournament. When first entering the live-poker world it is very difficult for players to opt-out of such a deal because you often have several other players attempting to persuade you which feels very pressurising and uncomfortable. Thus, most new players won’t want to put themselves in the awkward position. As an experienced player, I felt I should be the one to be confident enough to object, especially as it combined with my personal views on the subject.
The whole scenario here really concerns my own ambassador/player conflict. Most people would agree that if it was a random tournament and I was a random player, then it would be my right to opt-out of the deal. But as I have said this decision was made on far more than my own interests and as I have said my opinion is based upon standing up for the structure of the game, the players remaining in the game and players eliminated from the game. I had anticipated that this would be an awkward situation for me, should I make the bubble of a superstack, and had put a lot of thought into the scenario before I played my first one in August last year. Eventually, I reasoned that it would be most professional of me as an ambassador to do the difficult thing and object to the deal. I would say that I did think that there would be less of a backlash than I felt there was but I hope after reading this blog community members at least consider my points of view. I am very sorry if I caused annoyance/frustration/upset/bemusement and I do regret not explaining myself further at the time.
I am someone who prides themselves on being conscientious, and would value responses to this blog to begin a discussion. I hope this blog has shown that this really isn’t about denying someone money for my own personal gain and that the issue is really much bigger than this one tournament. I would say that instead of fearing the bubble in a tournament, players should celebrate this exciting time in the tournament and really think about the strategy of the occasion.
I look forward to you responses and good luck at the tables!
p.s. I do know that the title of this piece is a misquotation of Shakespeare in Macbeth. It just fits the article rather well ;-)