I want to talk a little about deals in tournaments. Recently, the WPT event in Fallsview ended in a bit of controversy. When play got heads up, one player (Ryan) had 70% of the chips and the other (Mike) had 30%. Ryan clearly dumped all of his chips to Mike and the Mike won the title. Twitter exploded. How can you buy a title? Are they cheating in the player of the year standings? All kinds of things were said. In reality, they had made a deal. Ryan had wanted to lock up the theoretical equity he had earned. Mike really wanted to win a WPT. By all accounts, Ryan offered to chop all the monetary prizes according to their chips and to give Mike the title. Mike said yes.
Before I tell you my thoughts, I want to tell you one more story.
I was at the commerce this month and played a bunch of the preliminary LAPC events. One of those events was a Million Dollar guarantee NL tourney with 4 starting flights. This tournament reached it conclusion with 3 players chopping the remaining prize pool. The chip counts were roughly even, 16 mil, 15 mil and 14 mil. They split the money evenly and the player with 16 mil got the title. No one said a word.
For the average player at home, the tournaments they play in mostly end in deals. Tournaments get down to the last 3 or 4 or 5 players and the money gets chopped up and everyone goes home. Even at the mid-stakes, this is still common. However, the two biggest series, the WSOP and the WPT, have policies against it. The WSOP flat out says no deals. The WPT says they will not facilitate deals. They don’t tell the players they can’t make a deal, but they won’t stop the clock for discussions and they won’t change the actual payouts to reflect a deal that was agreed to.
So back to these two deals that were made and my opinions. There are really 3 things that come into play in these situations, the prizepool, the title, and the player of the year points.
First, the prize pools in these tournaments are fully funded by the players entry fees. Once a tournament gets started, only the people in the event should have any say in a change to the pay outs. They are the only people who are capable of winning any of the money. As the event progresses, the number of people with a claim to that remaining prizepool shrinks. When there are only two people left, they should be able to split the money in any way they feel is reasonable. As far as the money part goes, no one can really argue that the last two guys splitting it however they want is unreasonable.
Second, the title. This is a little trickier. The major tournament series desire to create marketable champions. The WSOP would love to have marquee players, people with 5 bracelets, or 3 bracelets. They want those things to matter. The WPT has its Club of Champions. Past champions are invited to play in a tour championship each year. They are often invited to dinners and other hosted events. So people view these titles with a little extra reverence. These things make people care a lot about who wins events.
In the WPT event, the prize pool was roughly 2.35M CAD or $1.8M. At the commerce, the prizepool was $1.55M. These were roughly equivalent tournament in prizepools. In Fallsview, the player with 30% of the chips was declared the champion when the deal was made. In LA, the player with 35% of the chips was declared the champion. In one case, everyone said this isn’t right. In the other, no one cared. They aren’t very different. Yes, one guy had the chiplead. But did he earn the title? Should he feel bad about being declared the winner with only a 35% chance to actually win when it was played out? (that is assuming all players are equals.) In my career, I have won many poker tournaments. Some have had deals. Some have not. I have split some of the prizes and played for the balance. I have received more money and come in second. If I won with a deal or without, and someone asks me how I did, I just say I won. I don’t feel compelled to add “and we actually played it out” or “we chopped it 5 ways, but I got the most money so they made me the champ”. I am on the list with a place and that is what I got. Only the players remaining had the right to compete for those spots and if they decided that this is the order, then this is the order.
The last point is more complicated. The player of the year points actually affects people outside of the event. There are prizes to be won. While I understand that people are concerned with how the POY points were distributed in Fallsview, I also know that this is really common. This is the cardplayer report on the LAPC event at the Commerce.
Keith had a 35% chance for first and still received 1st place POY points. Again, no one has said a word about this, but the WPT event is still talked about. How is this reasonable? Either the whole system needs an overhaul or none of it does. It is unreasonable to attack one guy and not the others.
Personally, I think that if a deal is made that ends a poker tournament, the players should all be awarded the minimum POY points possible. Meaning in the WPT event, they both get 2nd place POY points. In the LAPC event, all three players would earn 3rd place POY points. If a deal is made and money and the trophy are played for, then the POY points would have the normal payouts. I think this would allow the players to divvy up the prizes that only they have a claim to however they want without affecting the outside players in the POY races.