Tourney I Took Over a Small Poker League (1 Viewer)

Jimulacrum

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Hey all. I recently took over a small (25 players total, average 16-ish per tourney) poker league and want some feedback on what I've done with it so far.

What was handed to me was a bunch of folders full of semi-organized paperwork, and a group of players looking for a cheap way to pass a couple Sunday afternoons a month. What I've created is a much more portable and adaptable format:
  • This is my documentation for the 2022–2023 season, which is merely a codification of the pile of paperwork the original host gave me. It was already underway, so I'm not changing anything, just executing what's there.
  • This is my idea for 2023–2024, which changes a lot. I've drawn up a sheet that explains the changes so that players can read it and come to me with any thoughts on what I'm doing.
Main challenges with the current format are that it has too many complications, and maximum outlay ($65-ish in all) is too much for some of our older players and folks on fixed incomes. We've had a couple players quit over it already, and some who've stayed simply don't ever rebuy because they can't afford it, which I think is a bit unfair to them.

As it is now, it's $20 (current tourney) + $10 (final event pool) + $2 (current tourney bounties, randomly selected by neutral party) to enter. You can add a $1 spin as well, where you spin a wheel on an app and get that number of chips. The $1 spins are offered at each break, 1 per player per break. There's also a $20 rebuy (to current tourney) available before the first break, and a $10 half-stack add-on (to final event pool) at the first break. Previously it was a freezeout format, but the host tried out the rebuys and add-ons one season, and players voted to keep them the next—but with only like 54% of the vote. A lot of players really preferred the freezeout.

Obviously this is a lot of stuff to manage. Thankfully a few of the league members are helpful, and there's even a system for people to sign up to run each tourney, which earns them points toward the final—specifically 300 points (200 for late start). This includes me, for tournaments where I act as TD, which is only going to be 1 time this whole season unless someone cancels.

TD points don't count toward the leaderboard but do add to starting chip stack at the final. To put that in context, the way the points are calculated for the individual tournaments, I don't think it's even possible for 1st place to get 200 points (where 1 point = 100 chips). TD duty is worth a lot. Too much, IMO.

One other rule I found odd: starting stacks are 7,000, but anyone who shows up late (after 12:00 start) loses 2,000 chips off the top and isn't allowed to do the initial spin (worth 100–1,000 chips). The host implemented this severe penalty mostly due to one player who habitually shows up late, coffee in hand. She still shows up late a lot and just eats the penalty. I don't hate the idea of penalizing tardiness, but I prefer to instead do it by rewarding punctuality. My new rule set attempts to soften this penalty a bit and reframe it as a missed reward.

My 2023–2024 plan also seeks to fix the affordability problem, simplify the mess of transactions, and massage/balance some miscellaneous issues. There's a tab that explains the changes.

Thoughts? Criticisms?
 

upNdown

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I guess my question is that if you know you have some players on a fixed income who can't afford rebuys and addons, and you know only 54% of the field favors them, don't freezeouts seem obvious? If you were a casino then sure, profits matter. But you're not. So why do you even have these $5 spins? That's 25% of the buy-in - feels like an add-on to me.
I'd do straight up freezouts. If people really want spins - sure let them pay a buck to win a bb or 3. But unless I'm missing something, I can't see any reason to let a slim majority dictate the gambool.
 

Jimulacrum

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Oh, and of course, the thing that matters the most: this club uses Nexgen Las Vegas edge chips. Nothing too fancy, but considering that we're using hand-me-down Copags and poker tabletops rolled over banquet tables, it's a better set than you'd expect.

I wish we were using something that's more commercially available so I can get more chips, but the set is sufficient for the fields we get.


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Jimulacrum

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I guess my question is that if you know you have some players on a fixed income who can't afford rebuys and addons, and you know only 54% of the field favors them, don't freezeouts seem obvious? If you were a casino then sure, profits matter. But you're not. So why do you even have these $5 spins? That's 25% of the buy-in - feels like an add-on to me.
I'd do straight up freezouts. If people really want spins - sure let them pay a buck to win a bb or 3. But unless I'm missing something, I can't see any reason to let a slim majority dictate the gambool.
The reason the host started doing the extra stuff was to bring in more money to the final pool. He liked to throw a big thing at the end of the season, with food and special prizes for random stuff like winning with AA or KK or 27, and the players really enjoy it, but the funding was a little sparse from just the $10 entry fee.

What I'm proposing is a lot closer to a freezeout, with the opportunities for extra money a lot more limited, as a sort of middle ground between the people who prefer a freezeout and the people who want a little something more (who do represent a majority).
 

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Unless I’m reading this wrong, every event is the same format, correct?

Why not have different formats for different league games?

Example: I run a league that currently consists of 8 regular season games plus a championship game. We play 2 freezeouts, 2 rebuy events, 2 bounty events, 1 progressive bounty event, and 1 deepstack freezeout.

The championship game is a freezeout event.

We see different players excel in different formats. Through 6 games so far this season, we’ve had 26 different players play at least one game, and 18 of them have cashed in at least one.

Variety also keeps it interesting and keeps guys coming back.

Just a thought.
 

Jimulacrum

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Unless I’m reading this wrong, every event is the same format, correct?

Why not have different formats for different league games?

Example: I run a league that currently consists of 8 regular season games plus a championship game. We play 2 freezeouts, 2 rebuy events, 2 bounty events, 1 progressive bounty event, and 1 deepstack freezeout.

The championship game is a freezeout event.

We see different players excel in different formats. Through 6 games so far this season, we’ve had 26 different players play at least one game, and 18 of them have cashed in at least one.

Variety also keeps it interesting and keeps guys coming back.

Just a thought.
I like this idea a lot. My idea of an ideal tournament series is one that runs the gamut of games and formats.

I am not so sure my players would take to it, though. Lots of set-in-their-ways types of folks. I'm sure you know the type.

HOWEVER

The summer is a bit of a free-form mini-season where I can experiment, with a smaller field of generally more flexible players. Only 4 games and 1 final event. I've been thinking about using that opportunity to try something entirely new, and I will keep this in mind. A different event every tournament would keep things fresh and give us room to explore stuff that people might like if they give it a try.
 

Schmendr1ck

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As someone who has participated in (and helped run) a casual $20 NLH tourney league since 2009, I think your changes are by and large great for the game.

A few comments:
You win! Congratulations!
:ROFL: :ROFLMAO: :ROFL: :ROFLMAO: :ROFL: :ROFLMAO:

But seriously, I do like the flat payout structure. We do exactly the same thing (pay roughly 25% of the field). It keeps the better players from vacuuming up all the money, and gives the bad players a better chance to luck their way into a cash once in a while.

You can add a $1 spin as well, where you spin a wheel on an app and get that number of chips. The $1 spins are offered at each break, 1 per player per break.
Wow. My group would go absolutely ga-ga for this. I'm stealing it.

I don't hate the idea of penalizing tardiness, but I prefer to instead do it by rewarding punctuality. My new rule set attempts to soften this penalty a bit and reframe it as a missed reward.
We tried this several years ago, calling it an "on-time bonus." Players quickly figured out that it was a late penalty, and a few players were very upset and complained about it loudly and often. Surprisingly, one of the loudest voices against it was a player who was consistently on time and was unhappy about the game starting later and later each week (the reason we implemented the new rule).

After 2-3 weeks we killed it. Now we just start the game on time regardless of who is there, and everybody seems to be good with that.
 

Jimulacrum

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But seriously, I do like the flat payout structure. We do exactly the same thing (pay roughly 25% of the field). It keeps the better players from vacuuming up all the money, and gives the bad players a better chance to luck their way into a cash once in a while.
My new payout structure is very similar to the old one, but I believe the old one was made for when the total outlay was $30, hence minimum $30 payout for last.

Having a $30 minimum payout sucks when initial outlay is already $33 and typical outlay is more like $45. I never like it when people can win and still lose.

Wow. My group would go absolutely ga-ga for this. I'm stealing it.
The app is called Spin The Wheel App. You can make custom wheels, which of course is great for this usage.

The weakness in the current format is that top prize never exceeds 1,000 chips, which is silly when blinds are 1,000/2,000. A handful of players (including me) stop doing them entirely after the initial spin and first break. I think my proposal makes them a much better value. A few custom wheels and we're in business.

We tried this several years ago, calling it an "on-time bonus." Players quickly figured out that it was a late penalty, and a few players were very upset and complained about it loudly and often. Surprisingly, one of the loudest voices against it was a player who was consistently on time and was unhappy about the game starting later and later each week (the reason we implemented the new rule).

After 2-3 weeks we killed it. Now we just start the game on time regardless of who is there, and everybody seems to be good with that.
So you start the game on time, and if people are late they're just locked out? And before the current rule, you used to wait for people but penalize their stacks?

To be clear, we start the game on time at 12:00, regardless of anticipated late attendees. At that point, the TD makes sure all the funds are divided up, bounties are selected, etc. When someone shows up after 12:00, the game is underway and it's disruptive.

My only issue with the penalty is that "someone" is almost always the same older woman who takes her sweet time getting to the game. In fact, the penalty was implemented by the previous host primarily to punish her for being persistently late and flippant about it.
 

Schmendr1ck

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So you start the game on time, and if people are late they're just locked out? And before the current rule, you used to wait for people but penalize their stacks?
We start promptly, and anyone who arrives within the first hour can just buy a stack and take a (TD-assigned) seat. After that, no more buy-ins.

We used to cut off sign ups at tourney start. If you were late, we'd put out your stack and blind you off until you arrived. That was a huge hassle, so we tried the on time bonus instead, which flew like a lead balloon.

Finally, we said, "This is a $20 game. Let's just start on time, give a stack to whoever shows in the first hour, and not worry about it."

It works for us. YMMV.
 

Jimulacrum

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We start promptly, and anyone who arrives within the first hour can just buy a stack and take a (TD-assigned) seat. After that, no more buy-ins.

We used to cut off sign ups at tourney start. If you were late, we'd put out your stack and blind you off until you arrived. That was a huge hassle, so we tried the on time bonus instead, which flew like a lead balloon.

Finally, we said, "This is a $20 game. Let's just start on time, give a stack to whoever shows in the first hour, and not worry about it."

It works for us. YMMV.
I know it's just a $20 tournament, but at the same time, it just doesn't sit right with me that some players get to choose to show up late to an unmolested stack.

I get that it's a pain to blind off absentee stacks, which is why I think an on-time bonus is the way to go. Easy to manage, penalizes what you intend to penalize, and doesn't disrupt the game.

What were your players' objections to the on-time bonus? I have a hard time understanding why someone who isn't perennially late would take issue with it.
 

Mojo1312

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I haven't taken the time to explore in depth on how to improve your league. Addressing the issue of late arrivals, a 5% on time chip bonus worked wonders when I ran a two table league. Issue solved!

This may be controversial, what I did with late arrivals is deduct a SB and BB from their stack for each level that they missed, rather than blind them.
 

Marius L

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I know it's just a $20 tournament, but at the same time, it just doesn't sit right with me that some players get to choose to show up late to an unmolested stack.

I get that it's a pain to blind off absentee stacks, which is why I think an on-time bonus is the way to go. Easy to manage, penalizes what you intend to penalize, and doesn't disrupt the game.

What were your players' objections to the on-time bonus? I have a hard time understanding why someone who isn't perennially late would take issue with it.
Agree. I didn't understand the problem @Schmendr1ck. The on- time bonus is simply ~10% extra chips for the players who are there when the game starts. Whoever arrive in the late registration period will not get this. Say its a 10k stacks, everyone on time will start with 11k instead and the late arrival will only start with 10k.

I think your vocal player misunderstood the point if he did not like this rule, and preferred your current system. (Which gives no incentive to arrive at the start). Also don't see why the start time were being pushed back with the on-time bonus.

I do agree that having stacks sitting out early is very annoying, so I also prefer that late entrants just get a stack when they arrive.
 

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Reading this made my head hurt. Here's my take on these every time I show up to these tribal rules events:

-I am here to play poker, not fucking bingo. I don't want to "spin the wheel" or high card gets the bonus chip. I want it to be a tournament of poker.
-simple is best. Poker is awesome as is, no need for making it complicated.
-If I can't make it on time but I can still make it, I am ok with a small penalty. I am also ok with you putting my stack on the table and blinding me off. Pick one. If it's a rebuy tourney, there should be NO PENALTY for late arrivals....it's the same as a rebuy.
-I don't want any money taken out for whatever end of year event you have. I'm probably not coming to that event.

Good luck. Sounds like you have your work cut out.
 

grebe

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Say its a 10k stacks, everyone on time will start with 11k instead and the late arrival will only start with 10k.

I do agree that having stacks sitting out early is very annoying, so I also prefer that late entrants just get a stack when they arrive.

Only one of these should apply. If I am coming late but confirmed, I would insist on either getting the full 11K and getting blinded off until arrival, or give me my stack of 10K when I arrive.
 

Marius L

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Only one of these should apply. If I am coming late but confirmed, I would insist on either getting the full 11K and getting blinded off until arrival, or give me my stack of 10K when I arrive.
Absolutely. Maybe my post was unclear, but I strongly dislike having to blind players out. I much prefer people getting a stack on arrival (which has become common practice most places now to my knowledge). However I encourage giving the on time players a slight bonus for being on time, and thus making sure there will be enough players to play at all.
 

Jimulacrum

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-I am here to play poker, not fucking bingo. I don't want to "spin the wheel" or high card gets the bonus chip. I want it to be a tournament of poker.
-simple is best. Poker is awesome as is, no need for making it complicated.
I understand this perspective. I used to feel this way.

I wanted my cash games deep-stacked, my tournaments freezeouts, and no side bets or straddles or other nonsense.

But over the years, I realized there has to be a give and take. Not everyone who plays poker is a purist or a serious student of the game.

Some people know they're net losers at poker and just want to gamble, and we should generally accommodate those players with some amount of even-money pure gambling, fair side bets, and randomizing factors (like the spins accomplish in their own way). It gives them a snowball's chance in hell of winning something once in a while, and often that's all they need to stay interested, just like any gambling. And it doesn't cost you anything EV-wise.

Skilled players should want this even if it means less straightforward profitability in the moment. There are only so many fish out there with only so much willingness to lose money at poker. We should make them want to keep coming back, not flee from an unforgiving skill contest with zero whimsy that leaves them busto and feeling outmatched all the time.

-If I can't make it on time but I can still make it, I am ok with a small penalty. I am also ok with you putting my stack on the table and blinding me off. Pick one. If it's a rebuy tourney, there should be NO PENALTY for late arrivals....it's the same as a rebuy.
I don't think it's the same as a rebuy, but TBH I don't feel like expending energy on such a fluid point. So sure, let's say it's the same as a rebuy.

I'm planning to eliminate rebuys next season, so won't be an issue.

-I don't want any money taken out for whatever end of year event you have. I'm probably not coming to that event.
I used to feel the same way, but after doing the summer league, I changed my tune. The final event is a big "freeroll" (obviously you've paid for it, but no entry fee) with prizes for all kinds of random shit—high hand award, win with 27o, win with AA, and whatever else we feel like throwing together with the budget. It pays the field pretty deep (usually at least half), and the prize pool is several times the pool of any of the regular tourneys. It's like a big season-end party with food and drinks and whatnot.

More than that, the point system and final event encourage participation. People feel invested in the league once they've played a couple times. They see their name on the leaderboard and want to move up so they can start the big final event with more chips. They want to make as many tournaments as possible, and they want to sign up for TD duty each week for the same reason, and that alone makes the whole thing a lot easier to manage.

You may not care about any of these things, my dear grinder of the pure poker, but I assure you that they are important at keeping recreational players interested, and that not only keeps the game we love healthy but keeps it flush with cash for us to win.

Good luck. Sounds like you have your work cut out.
It's actually a pleasure to run. It's a fun little project.
 

grebe

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I understand this perspective. I used to feel this way.

I wanted my cash games deep-stacked, my tournaments freezeouts, and no side bets or straddles or other nonsense.

You may not care about any of these things, my dear grinder of the pure poker, but I assure you that they are important at keeping recreational players interested, and that not only keeps the game we love healthy but keeps it flush with cash for us to win.

Fair enough. I was giving my perspective as a card player.

TBH, I doubt I would get very excited about playing in a game like this, and it's not directed at me anyways. I guess you have to cater to your audience.
 

Schmendr1ck

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I know it's just a $20 tournament, but at the same time, it just doesn't sit right with me that some players get to choose to show up late to an unmolested stack.

I get that it's a pain to blind off absentee stacks, which is why I think an on-time bonus is the way to go. Easy to manage, penalizes what you intend to penalize, and doesn't disrupt the game.
Yes, I used to feel that way too, and I was one of the big advocates for the late penalty/on-time bonus.

I would still probably object if this were a more consequential league. But it's a super casual group, and the league winner each December just gets a free entry into our $50 "Main Event" and bragging rights through the next year.

Also, the problem with late arrivals largely solved itself years ago. Players are rarely late, and when they are it's usually no more than 10-15 minutes.

At some point, we just decided that the extra work of tracking committed players, putting out dead stacks, and blinding them off just wasn't worth the hassle. Players were almost never significantly late, and when they were, there is already had a built-in hit of starting the game with fewer big blinds.

Again, YMMV but this is what works for us.

What were your players' objections to the on-time bonus? I have a hard time understanding why someone who isn't perennially late would take issue with it.
It boiled down to "It is unfair for anyone to pay the same amount of money and get fewer chips."

And the never-late player I mentioned, who is normally a pretty laid-back guy, got heated over it a couple times. I suspect it was a matter of principle for him - he saw the policy as inherently unfair in spite of the motivation behind it.
 

Schmendr1ck

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At some point, we just decided that the extra work of tracking committed players, putting out dead stacks, and blinding them off just wasn't worth the hassle. Players were almost never significantly late, and when they were, there is already had a built-in hit of starting the game with fewer big blinds.
Also, I should mention that the group moved to a private Mavens site when the pandemic hit, and we're now in a hybrid mode where we have some live games and some online games.

The Mavens software allows late registration of up to one hour, and a player who comes in late gets a full starting stack. I could be wrong, but I believe this is pretty standard for live casino tourneys that allow late reg.
 

Schmendr1ck

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I think your vocal player misunderstood the point if he did not like this rule, and preferred your current system. (Which gives no incentive to arrive at the start). Also don't see why the start time were being pushed back with the on-time bonus.
No, he understood the change and why it had been made - he just (loudly) objected to it.

The start time was being pushed back prior to implementing the on-time bonus, mainly because many regular players were arriving up to 30 minutes after the scheduled start of the tourney. The regular host didn't want to start the tourney with so many empty seats, so would often simply wait until most players were there.

After killing the on-time bonus, he began consistently starting the tourney on time regardless of how many players were there. Between consistent on-time starts, the drama over the on-time bonus, and a couple of the worst late arrivers leaving the group, we got to a place where it stopped being a problem.
 

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I run a 2 table tournament league that plays monthly. I implemented a 5% early bonus for anyone who bought in 10 minutes before the tournament start and it worked wonders. Previous to that, a large number of players would arrive between 7:28 and 7:35 for a 7:30 tournament, and those who did arrive were so busy socializing/getting a drink/etc that that would often not bother buying in until we were about to start, and I would often have to go find missing buy-ins. After the rule change they came looking for me instead, and we're down to at most 1 or 2 players not buying in early, which gives me time to handle the buy-in process without the tournament start getting pushed back. Late arrivals get a full stack and a new seat, and can buy in late up to the end of rebuys at our first break of the night.

Of course, YMMV, but for my group and our particular issues the early bonus worked great and no one objected.
 

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Also, I should mention that the group moved to a private Mavens site when the pandemic hit, and we're now in a hybrid mode where we have some live games and some online games.

The Mavens software allows late registration of up to one hour, and a player who comes in late gets a full starting stack. I could be wrong, but I believe this is pretty standard for live casino tourneys that allow late reg.

I see we aren't the only ones that found Mavens! We went to the Mavens almost full time for 2 years, and still use it for casual play on the side. And to your point of late reg on Mavens, that's highly customizable well beyond an hour if you want it. Unlimited in fact, I believe.

I have been running a monthly league, where you accumulate points that results in a December "freeroll" (you have to pay an additional 15 bucks per tourney to be eligible for points, minimum 3 tournies played to be eligible for EOY) where we play a deepstack freezeout. I add a few side games to the December to add some money to the pot and have some fun, also.

So interesting to read all of this.. I'm always tinkering, both to try to find the 'perfect' system (which doesn't exist) and to keep things fresh. Some things I noted while reading everything..

1) I've always done an on time bonus, and used to blind off late stacks. I figured out that was overly punitive to late folks (not to mention a huge pain to shuffle/deal and maintain blinds for the late person), so now you get a fresh un-blinded stack within 90 minutes of start time, and we've kept the on time bonus. I feel that bonus does wonders to get people there on time. And once I got rid of blinding off late stacks, no one complains anymore about it.

2) We've always done an optional 10 dollar standard bounty, but I love the idea of having multiple formats throughout the year and plan to try the progressive knockout tournament style right away in January. As always I'll have a few that hate it, a few that love it, and plenty of indifference in between. PKO format sounds like more work for me on tournament day, but I think worth it to try.

One other fun format that's been wildly popular when we've tried it (just as a side event, not a league event) is doubles. Doubles poker is tons of fun if you haven't tried it and have enough players.
 

upNdown

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It boiled down to "It is unfair for anyone to pay the same amount of money and get fewer chips."

And the never-late player I mentioned, who is normally a pretty laid-back guy, got heated over it a couple times. I suspect it was a matter of principle for him - he saw the policy as inherently unfair in spite of the motivation behind it.
My man!
Love this guy!!
 

Dodger

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After the rule change they came looking for me instead, and we're down to at most 1 or 2 players not buying in early
We just implemented an on-time bonus this season for our league, and my experience is almost identical. Guys are excited to show up, buy-in, and get a few extra chips.

Guys who are late understand the rule and I haven’t heard a single complaint from anyone regarding the bonus.
 

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