Tourney Tournament structure junkies

Luk_nuts

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Are there any tournament structure junkies around here that have put in some thought into realizing why some structures are better than the others?
How the proportion of startingstack to levels to length of levels can change a structure completely?

BTW: I am talking about big tournaments (say 50+ players)


Curious about this :)
 

Bloody Marvelous

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Here's what I've found:
  1. The longer the blind levels the better. This will allow players to not be rushed into pushing with mediocre hands and allows for more time to contemplate whether calling a raise is a good idea.
  2. Gradually increasing blinds is much better than doubling the blinds. Players will be slowly forced to play hands. If blinds double, your chip stack effectively is cut in half. You may have had a reasonable amount of chips before the new level, but are now severely short stacked. Doubling the blinds every 2 or 3 levels is the optimal structure. If you need to compromise for time considerations, shortening the levels is the preferred way to do it.
  3. Bigger starting stacks allows for more room to maneuver in the early levels. A mistake doesn't automatically mean you're hanging on for dear life.
  4. Rebuys (or multi-chance tournaments) allow players to have their monsters run into other monsters without eliminating them early on. Especially when you've got a bunch of loose players or novices this will ensure that players get the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
  5. Add-ons allow players to replenish their stack at the end of the rebuy period (since blinds will be going up as well), and have a workable stack to start the freeze-out portion of the tournament.
  6. Antes force more money into the pot, which will encourage players to play more hands and eliminate players sooner. They will force a bigger average chip stack throughout the tournament. Antes are especially useful if you've got a group of nits. They are a pain in the ass to work with though, since all players must post their antes every hand. This will likely require regular reminders to the players. Antes should ideally equal 1/6th to 1/10th of the big blind.
That said, structures are the result of the number of players, and the time available. If you're running tournaments that need to be over in a few hours you should shy away from large starting stacks or rebuys, else you'll have to sacrifice your blind duration or structure to make sure the tournament ends when you want it to.

Here's a few general truths:
  • Tournaments very rarely last past the level where the big blind equal 5% of the total number of chips in play. If you're running a tournament with 10 players and 10,000 chip starting stacks, the tournament will end at or before the big blind reaches 5% x 10 x 10,000 = 5,000. You should design your structure in such a way that you'll reach this level by the time you want your tournament to end.
  • If your blinds double every two levels (which is pretty standard), twice the amount of chips in the starting stacks means the tournament will run an additional 2 levels. If your levels are 30 minutes, doubling the stacks from 10,000 to 20,000 means the tournament will last an hour longer.
  • If your blinds double every two levels, twice the amount of players means the tournament will run an additional 2 levels as well. If you're normally hosting for 10 players, and are now hosting for 20, and your blind levels are 30 minutes, the tournament will last an hour longer.
  • Antes will cause players to be eliminated earlier, but won't shorten the tournament.
And some additional tips:
  • Have the rules available to the players and dealers.
  • Have regularly scheduled breaks for the players to use the restroom or smoke.
  • Make sure the breaks are long enough so that all players who want to use the restroom will get that opportunity.
  • Use a reasonably proficient dedicated dealer. This will make the game run more smoothly.
  • Consolidate tables as soon as possible. This will open up tables for cash/side games.
Ultimately, use a structure that works for your specific situation, and your specific group of players. Some players like rebuy tournaments, some don't. Some like long tournaments, others prefer short ones (perhaps with the option to have more than one tournament).
 

Luk_nuts

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It's all luck.
Its not :)

@Bloody Marvelous:
I agree on everything you put there, thank you for that.

My thoughts go a little deeper though. I have played tournaments with 50k starting stacks, 45min on day 1, 60min from thereafter (very good levels too). And still late on day 2 (after the bubble burst) or on day 3, the game has became kinda a crap shoot with 22bb avg - 25bb max. And I have read somewhere that shortening the starting stacks to lets say 20-25k gives the players less play in the beginning and they also bust out earlier, but it gives the players that happen to go deeper, more play late in the tournament.
IMO the structure should be the best when it matters the most.
In the tournament I mentionned above you cant really argue with the level times, since the EPT High-Rollers run with 60min levels and they always have 50bb+ avg stacks throughout the tournament.
I also think that the incapability of players at lower buy-in tourneys hurts the structure in a way that when AK vs JJ is dealt at a table with 30bb avg, they are supposed to go broke in that spot. Although some players just always seem to find a way to fold their strong but not ultra strong hands. The consequence is that both players stay alive and the average stack doesnt increase because of the lack of bustouts...

Maybe there are even other reasons that I havent thought about.
 

grandgnu

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Rebuys (or multi-chance tournaments) allow players to have their monsters run into other monsters without eliminating them early on. Especially when you've got a bunch of loose players or novices this will ensure that players get the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Your post was fantastic, but I would say on the above:

Rebuys allow deeper-pocketed players to take more risks and play more aggressively early to chip up, at the expense of the players who can't afford to fire five+ bullets. It gives an even bigger edge, imho, to the professional players over the recreational. In addition, it serves as a way for poker rooms to rake the event over and over again. I am not a fan, but this seems to have become the norm unfortunately.
 

Bloody Marvelous

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And I have read somewhere that shortening the starting stacks to lets say 20-25k gives the players less play in the beginning and they also bust out earlier, but it gives the players that happen to go deeper, more play late in the tournament.
IMO the structure should be the best when it matters the most.

I don't think this is true. If you shorten the stacks the bubble will simply happen sooner (not much, just 2-3 levels earlier). Tournaments become a crap shoot after pivotal points, like making the money. Play becomes more nitty as players are trying to outlast the short stacks and make a profit. As soon as the pivotal point has passed the short stacks will start falling like flies and the average stack sizes balance out again.

If you're looking for bigger average stacks, you should use antes.

In the tournament I mentionned above you cant really argue with the level times, since the EPT High-Rollers run with 60min levels and they always have 50bb+ avg stacks throughout the tournament.
I also think that the incapability of players at lower buy-in tourneys hurts the structure in a way that when AK vs JJ is dealt at a table with 30bb avg, they are supposed to go broke in that spot. Although some players just always seem to find a way to fold their strong but not ultra strong hands. The consequence is that both players stay alive and the average stack doesnt increase because of the lack of bustouts...

Maybe there are even other reasons that I havent thought about.

As you progress to later in a big buy-in tournament, the percentage of professional players vs amateurs will increase. This will also account for the lack of bust-outs on mediocre hands.
 

Bloody Marvelous

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Your post was fantastic, but I would say on the above:

Rebuys allow deeper-pocketed players to take more risks and play more aggressively early to chip up, at the expense of the players who can't afford to fire five+ bullets. It gives an even bigger edge, imho, to the professional players over the recreational. In addition, it serves as a way for poker rooms to rake the event over and over again. I am not a fan, but this seems to have become the norm unfortunately.

On bigger buy-in tournaments this is definitely true, but most home games are played for a substantially low buy-in that most players will be able to afford rebuys. Even in big buy-in tournaments the buy-ins are set suitably low to accommodate players to put up the rebuys.

I must admit never having played a rebuy tournament in a casino, but all of the rebuy tournaments I've attended in home games, and online, don't charge a fee on the rebuy, only on the initial buy-in. On re-entry tournaments I know they charge a fee on every entry (like the WSOP Colossus).
 

grandgnu

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My experience with live casinos is that they've all moved to this re-entry for the first 6-8 levels (usually first 2-4 hours). And those entries are unlimited during that period and the casino takes a fee from each re-entry as well.

The highest priced tourney I've ever played is a $600 buyin, and that's small in the grand scheme of tourney buy-ins. But I wouldn't even bother now that it'll be a re-entry, cause I don't have $1,800-$2,400 to throw at it like some of the other entrants.

Likewise, the WPT had a $3,500 main event in Florida at the Hollywood Hard Rock and it was a re-entry event as well. The Tampa Hard Rock was "giving" away seats to this event (2-3 hours away) by taking jackpot money raked from cash game players in Tampa, to fund seats and meet their guarantee over in Hollywood. I know an elderly lady from my Omaha hi/lo cash games who won a random seat giveaway, but had no use for it because she's an old lady who plays Omaha hi/lo, and doesn't care about NL tourneys.
 

TexRex

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Luk Nuts, I'm not really sure why you are asking, but others have provided good answers. Arnold Snyder wrote a book on tournaments, and it included a spreadsheet for how to evaluate tournaments and can be used to create tournaments. While I've not read the book, I think his theory is very good. He basically broke tournaments down to 6 skill levels and a patience factor (PF). PF is based on how long it would take a player who never plays a hand to bust out. As a general rule, I think those are excellent ways to determine how one tournament compares to the other. The weakness I see in his formula is that once a player has busted out, you can put anything in -- blinds tripling every hand for example, and it doesn't change his evaluation. In other words, he evaluates only to that point in his formula.

His formula is great for helping you identify a tournament that is a luck fest from one that will require a fair amount of skill to win.

While there is an option for a re-buy in his formula, it assumes only one re-buy. I think his formula works better on a freeze out tournament evaluation, but I think re-buy tournaments can be very hard to evaluate since if the re-buys are unlimited, you have no real idea of how many there will be, though you might be able to make intelligent guesses.

I used to play in a game that allowed one re-buy or add-on, but if you added on, it was at a specific point in the game. To evaluate that game, I'd see how many BB were added if you didn't bust out sooner, and add that to the starting number. It's not perfect, but it seemed to be workable.

Someone on another site posted his spreadsheet. I've added some of BG's stuff to it and some of my own to it. I use it to decide whether I will even play in a tournament someone else is running. I use it to help structure a tournament I'm going to run.

Most of the tournaments I run are designed for 4 hours and 30 people (3 tables) or less. I usually use 20 min blinds (which is fast in my opinion). I like deep stacks (min of 150 BB to start, but prefer 200 or more). I don't like doubling blinds except the first one since we start at 25/50 and got to 50/100. Some don't like that, but for a home tournament, what I like about it is it rewards those who start on time. If you show up after the first round, your stack is effectively cut in half. We usually start with 400-500 BB, so it's still deep stacked.

There are a lot of ways to design a tournament that emphasizes skill. At some point, every tournament becomes a luck fest because the blinds do keep going up. The key is to determine how much skill is required to that point.

Our own group likes deep stack tournaments and 4 hours. They prefer to see the blinds double sometimes rather than cut back on the starting stacks. Since I know players have other options, I've accommodated that, even though if there were no other games around, I would do things a little different.

Anyone who would like a copy of what I did can PM me and provide your email address and I'll send it. Give me a few days as I'm on vacation and might not be able to send it immediately. It will include structures of several games I've either played in, considered playing in, or designed for specific situations. You can experiment with various structures to see how it affects everything I could think of to measure.
 

Luk_nuts

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At some point, every tournament becomes a luck fest because the blinds do keep going up. The key is to determine how much skill is required to that point.
I wouldnt sign that statement :)
Good structured tournaments have a sizeable average throughout the whole tournament from start to finish.

I am not looking for a structure for my home tournaments. I am looking to help the casinos improving their structures, thats my goal.

Personally, I am not looking for a lot of play in the beginning with 300bb's + I wouldnt have a problem starting with only 150bb, but have an average of at least 40bb for the whole duration of the tournament. Thats the ideal IMO.
What I dont want is being at the bubble with an average of 10-15bb and just have to push or fold when the time has come where the money gets distributed.
 

grandgnu

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Do you have some "in" with casinos that they'll listen to you? Because in my experience their goal is to get the tournament finished up so you get your butts back in cash games where they make more money/hr off players
 

Luk_nuts

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If the casino was looking for a fast end of the tournament, they would certainly not give 40k+ chips to the players :)
 

grandgnu

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If the casino was looking for a fast end of the tournament, they would certainly not give 40k+ chips to the players :)

Maybe I'm playing in the wrong places, but 40K starting stacks are pretty much non-existent in the casinos I've played in. maybe for a major tournament that is televised and has big name pro's showing up. But the daily events and tourney series generally don't have that type of starting stack.
 

TexRex

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Luk, what I mean is that if a tournament goes long enough, it becomes a luck fest because the average in play is 30 BB or less, even when 2 players are left. It may take a long time for that to happen, but if players survive, it will happen. I do think you can have a reasonable structure though that allows skill to determine the outcome until very deep in the tournament.
 

atomiktoaster

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If the casino was looking for a fast end of the tournament, they would certainly not give 40k+ chips to the players :)

All the casino is looking for is maximum rake from the players. Luck/skill breakdown, starting stack familiarity, smooth progression etc. are all means to that end.
 

pltrgyst

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Good structured tournaments have a sizeable average throughout the whole tournament from start to finish....

That is a nonsensical statement.

You do realize that the average stack size late in a tournament is not controlled solely by the structure, don't you? Player style and aggression are also determinants.

As an extreme example, regardless of the structure, two passive players heads-up can play indefinitely until the blinds force one or both all-in.
 

Luk_nuts

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You do realize that the average stack size late in a tournament is not controlled solely by the structure, don't you? Player style and aggression are also determinants.

I do, if you read my 2nd post you would know :)
I mention there that it also might be a factor how tight/aggressive everybody is playing.

So I realize now that bigger Antes is one of the possibilities to force more aggressive play or at least more active play since every hand you lose more of your stack untill you are forced to make something happen.
Another way would be to play only 8 handed for example. The less people at the table are, the faster the blinds will come around and that should force the action too.
 

Bloody Marvelous

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I suggest having a look at the WSOP structures.

The $1,500 buy-in tournaments start off with 150 BBs, have 60 min levels, double the blinds every 3 levels, and introduce 1/6th to 1/8th antes by level 5. They're very well structured except for the doubling blinds from level 1 to 2.

You could add a -/50/75 (or -/25/75) level or tweak it a bit so the players start off with 15,000 chips, and the first 6 levels are as following:
  1. -/50/100
  2. -/75/150
  3. -/100/200
  4. -/125/250
  5. -/150/300
  6. 50/150/300
and follow the WSOP structure from there on.

Playing shorthanded doesn't only mean the blinds come around faster. With fewer players the hand range opens up as well because there it's less likely that there is a player with a big starting hand. Playing shorthanded also means the cost per player for the casino goes up. You'll need more tables, more space, and more dealers. That may not be what the casino is looking for. The casino will need to either increase the tournament fee, or make less money. Increasing the tournament fee might put players off.

If the casino is currently employing a 40,000 chip starting stack with a 200BB starting level, you may want to stick with that structure and work from there. Patrons of the casino may not appreciate the lower starting stacks if they're used to starting with 40,000 chips, even if the structure has improved.

A possible suggestion for 40,000 starting stacks would be:
  1. -/100/200
  2. -/125/250
  3. -/150/300
  4. -/200/400
  5. 50/200/400
 

bivey

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Maybe I'm playing in the wrong places, but 40K starting stacks are pretty much non-existent in the casinos I've played in. maybe for a major tournament that is televised and has big name pro's showing up. But the daily events and tourney series generally don't have that type of starting stack.

I think it goes without saying that starting stack is irrelevant. It's starting stack in relation to blinds that matter. Dan Harrington's M factor or number of BB blinds. I start my home game tourneys with 10-50k in chips, but the blinds make sure we all go home at a reasonable hour.
 

grandgnu

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I think it goes without saying that starting stack is irrelevant. It's starting stack in relation to blinds that matter. Dan Harrington's M factor or number of BB blinds. I start my home game tourneys with 10-50k in chips, but the blinds make sure we all go home at a reasonable hour.

I don't disagree with this, just that most of the casino tourneys I've seen have starting stacks between 5-25K. I only see 30-40K stacks in the main events. YMMV
 

Luk_nuts

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@Bloody Marvelous
The smaller WSOP tournaments are pretty much the best example for tournaments that start with a low amount of chips, but have a great and very playable structure later on.
 

Bloody Marvelous

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@Bloody Marvelous
The smaller WSOP tournaments are pretty much the best example for tournaments that start with a low amount of chips, but have a great and very playable structure later on.

I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say... Are you saying that you don't know why that is or how they do that? Or that you want something like that? Or that this answered your question?
 

Luk_nuts

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You have been suggesting to put in more levels in the early game and higher starting stacks.
All the tournament structures that follow that idea end in a horrible crap shoot. (unless the length of levels is like 60min or longer)
Like I said, these $565-$1500 WSOP tourneys start with a low amount of chips and they end with deeper play. Also in the beginning, the blinds double once so the players are really forced to put their chips in the middle if they dont want to get blinded out in the first couple of levels. The players who do make it through the day for example, get rewarded by long 60min levels and all the steps in the blind structure. So the "shorter" starting stacks dont matter anymore at that point.

So what I am saying is that they do something right. I am also saying that I would love to have such structures (or similar to that) in all the tournaments I play.
But it hasnt answered my question entirely. Though I start to understand the reasons why some things make more sense than others.
 

BGinGA

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You have been suggesting to put in more levels in the early game and higher starting stacks.
All the tournament structures that follow that idea end in a horrible crap shoot.

Sorry, but ^this^ statement is simply not true. How tournaments end really has nothing to do with how they start.

And in essence, as already stated elsewhere in this thread, ALL tournament structures will eventually end in a crap shoot unless players engage in optimum play strategy. It is inevitable.
 

Luk_nuts

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Sorry, but ^this^ statement is simply not true. How tournaments end really has nothing to do with how they start.

And in essence, as already stated elsewhere in this thread, ALL tournament structures will eventually end in a crap shoot unless players engage in optimum play strategy. It is inevitable.
All tournaments that I have followed or played I should have said.

So what you are saying is that tournaments that do not end in a crap shoot contain only players that play an optimum way?
 

Bloody Marvelous

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All tournaments that I have followed or played I should have said.

So what you are saying is that tournaments that do not end in a crap shoot contain only players that play an optimum way?

I'll refer you back to my earlier post (if you ask questions you should really read the answers though).

... If you shorten the stacks the bubble will simply happen sooner (not much, just 2-3 levels earlier). Tournaments become a crap shoot after pivotal points, like making the money. Play becomes more nitty as players are trying to outlast the short stacks and make a profit. As soon as the pivotal point has passed the short stacks will start falling like flies and the average stack sizes balance out again.

If you're looking for bigger average stacks, you should use antes. ...
 

Luk_nuts

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I must have read that earlier post over :)
That last question was for @BGinGA

The average does go down pre bubble, but since the next payjump is just around the corner after it busts, there is another reason for a lot of players to play more nitty.

In your opinion @Bloody Marvelous, the only way to have bigger average stacks is by using antes? (Most tournaments use that already)
 

Bloody Marvelous

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In your opinion @Bloody Marvelous, the only way to have bigger average stacks is by using antes? (Most tournaments use that already)

Correct. The reasoning behind it is simple. You're putting more money into the pot every orbit because of the antes, which means that shortstacks bust out sooner. That raises the average chipstack in BBs.

The amount of chips in the startingstack only determines how much play the players get early on. Once players are eliminated the average chipstack will be the same, regardless of how many chips players started with.

Additional intermediate blind levels have (about) the same effect as making the blind levels longer. So doubling the blinds every 3 levels i.s.o. every two levels has (pretty much) the same effect as having 90 minute blind levels i.s.o. 60 minute blind levels. (Not exactly the same of course since the blinds are going up).
 
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