Home > Blog Post > Full Tilt Poker’s Multi-Entry events definitely need a fix.

Full Tilt Poker’s Multi-Entry events definitely need a fix.

Mike Sowers

Mike Sowers won over a half million dollars last night, but the "Merged Stacks" may have actually cost him money.

Am I the only tournament poker player that doesn’t seem to think that Multi-Entry tournaments are a good thing?  I’ve played in a bunch of them before, and I’ve had a bunch of cashes in them.  But as we’re now in the midst of the Full Tilt Poker Double Guarantee’s week, where every tournament on FTP that has a guarantee is now a Multi-Entry event, I am left wondering if this is ultimately a “good thing” for the game of poker.  Yes, the Multi Entry events result in gigantic prize pools because of humongous field sizes where players are entering into the same tournament multiple times.  They’re basically like generating a prize pool kind of like a rebuy tournament does, except that the additional chips that you’re purchasing are being divided onto other tables as separate stacks and entries into the tournament over multiple tables.

I don’t have a problem with the multi-tabling aspect like so many other players do.  I’m very much accustomed to playing multiple tables, and have done as many as 28 in a single session.  It’s a lot to manage, and I do time-out from time to time. But for the most part, I can usually keep up the volume fairly well.  For me, managing the additional tables in a single Multi-Entry event is the easy part, but there is a big reason that they have never really set all that well with me.  The main reason is the way that the “Merged Stacks” take place at the end of the tournament, and the giant disparity it creates in your capacity for earning in a single tournament.

I’m with Full Tilt on the argument that you can’t PLAY two stacks on the same table.   Seeing two sets of hole cards would give a huge advantage to that player that just isn’t fair to anyone else in the tournament.  In fact, that’s just cheating…and flat out wrong.  However, you should be able to lock a stack into place and have it be blinded down, as opposed to being immediately eliminated.  Stay with me here as I’ll get back to this idea at the end of this article.

Last night, Mike Sowers won the Full Tilt Poker $1k Monday, which as a result of having multiple entries, drew a field of 2,404 players, and exceeded the $2 million guarantee (the final tally was a prize pool of $2,404,000).  Sowers (who plays on Full Tilt as “SowersUNCC”) also had another entry that made the final table, and when that happened, it was eliminated in 9th place, with those chips being merged into 1 stack.  That’s just how it works.  Full Tilt explains this in their question and answer section on Multi-Entry events where they say:

Say you have two entries remaining on two tables in a nine-handed tournament that pays the top 18 finishers.  The final table is reached and your two entries are merged.  The merged entry will be considered to have finished in ninth place for that tournament and receive the payout amount for that position.”

Sowers used the bonus chips from his merged stack to go onto to win the top prize of $490,295.80 in addition to the $28,848 for finishing in 9th place.  So Sowers won a total of $519,143.80 off of the 6 entries that he purchased of $1,000+60 each, a combined profit of $512,783.80 for the day….not so bad for a day’s work.

However, I can’t help but imagine what would have been had Sowers not had his other final table finish automatically eliminated in 9th place without playing a hand at the final table, and instead had his shorter stack locked.  In this scenario, I envision something happens where he couldn’t view the hole cards of the “Locked Stack”, and then the locked stack began to be blinded down, forcing a fold at every hand until it was eliminated from the tournament.  This could have resulted in several other players being eliminated prior to the locked stack going out, and subsequently increasing his prize money as a result.

The truth is there is a HUGE disparity in the payout structures between a 9th place finish and a top 3 finish.  Consider the payouts of the final 9 in last night’s $1k Monday on Full Tilt Poker:

1. Mike “SowersUNCC” Sowers ($490,296)
2. KagM7F7 ($317,328)
3. Chris “MoormanI” Moorman ($235,592)
4. Alex “Kadabra” Keating ($177,896)
5. Mike “YrrsiN” Huber ($125,008)
6. Benjamin “Bttech86” Tollerene ($81,736)
7. Chris “Big Huni” Hunichen ($55,292)
8. Mickey “Mement_mori” Petersen ($38,464)
9. Mike “SowersUNCC” Sowers ($28,848)

The 28 buyins for finishing in 9th is nice, but $28k isn’t exactly life changing money like $177k or $490k is.  What this means is that it’s actually everyone else in the tournament that benefits financially from the merged stacks.  Yes Sowers was able to get a boost at the final table that will likely take him to a deeper finish in the tournament, but the news of the Sowers elimination in 9th was best probably best received by Mickey Petersen, who got an additional $10k in prize money by simply making the final table when there was a elimination without a hand being played!

I wonder if Full Tilt would ever consider making one of the stacks a “dead stack” or a “locked stack” instead of eliminating it from the tournament.  I’ve been at PLENTY of final tables where the average stack size was just 20 big blinds, and when you’re that short, eliminations happen quickly.  Let’s say for a moment that Sowers had this situation last night with just 10 players left, and with the average stack at 20 BB’s, and he controlled the top 2 stacks in the tournament.  Sowers should have the OPTION of either 1) Merging the stacks and eliminating one stack immediately and accepting 9th place money for that elimination, or 2) Having 1 stack be a dead stack for the remainder of the final table until it’s blinded out.

This way, he wouldn’t have to settle for 9th place money by force unless he elected to do so, and honestly, I don’t see why he would either.  It would make complete sense to have the “blind out” take place as opposed to have the bonus chips in one stack caused by merging stacks.  But if he had two short stacks, the double up bonus would likely be the optimal move.  Either way, players should have the choice, and not be forced to settle for less money considering the way that they played in order to get to the final table.

The key is, you miss out on such a huge chance to have a big, life changing score when one of your stacks is eliminated automatically.  For anyone who has ever made it to a final table, and then been bad beat out of a chance at a huge score, you’ll feel my pain here.  I’ve finished in 7th and 8th place in recent MTT’s, and they suck.  To get so close to that giant score and then lose a 75/25 and a 70/30 spot for what would be bankroll changing figures is just absurd.  But to be drawing dead going into the final table without getting a chance to play a hand is beyond explanation.   This situation is only compounded the further away from the final table that you get as the money gets less and less the further away from 1st place you get.  Consider if Sowers had found a way to get all 6 of his entries down to 45 players remaining.  He’d be settling for 45th place money (typically only 4-5 buy ins as a prize), then 36th place money (typically 5-6 buy ins) and on and on.  It’s a HUGE difference in payouts.

I think that Full Tilt Poker should have flatter payout structures on their tournaments anyway, but even MORE so in Multi-Entry Events.  What do you think about merged stacks and Multi Entry events?  I didn’t even hit on how I think that they dry up all the dead money quicker…which I’ll tackle in another post.  But do you think that the Multi-Entry’s are ultimately good or bad for the game of poker?

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  1. Kyle
    March 29th, 2011 at 23:37 | #1

    Although I do like the idea of having a choice on whether to merge or make it a dead stack, sb/bb on either side of dead stack would be at a disadvantage each orbit because they would be under constant attack. Did Sowers have any thoughts on whether the “extra” merged chips helped propel him to the win? What if w/out the merger he finishes 4th and 7th and makes 230k total?

  2. Aaron Bartley
    March 29th, 2011 at 23:51 | #2

    I think I disagree with just about every point you make.
    First off, you’re crying over the “lost equity” from a guy who just made 500k. That seems kind of silly.
    Secondly, it isn’t lost equity since if this WASN’T a ME tournament, he would have had 1 entry instead of 6, and the prize pool would be about 15% as big.
    Third, the rules of ME tournaments are known far in advance. Merged stacks are necessary to prevent obvious collusion (or whatever you call cheating with yourself). Getting mad at merging stacks in a ME tournament would be like getting mad at a cashout tournament because people are taking chips off of the table, or getting mad at a rush tournament because you keep switching tables.
    You understand before you register (however many times you choose to do so) that you are entering one single tournament multiple times, and that logically you can’t final table (or be at the same table as yourself earlier then that) with yourself. You are making a trade off by registering multiple entries at the same time. You are willing to give up a very small amount of equity if you happen to beat the odds and final table with multiple entries, in exchange for massively increasing your equity by being able to register multiple times, and now having 4 (or 6) chances at that deep run, or at that final table, instead of 1 (also the prize pool is at least twice as big).
    It’s unfair to point to the ONE TIME in hundreds if not thousands of tournaments that the “losing equity” happened, and not look at the hundreds of times that people gained equity by making the FT with entry #3, or increasing their equity by being willing to take a coinflip in the middle stages because they still had 3 entries working, or by having one of their entries being put at a really soft table, or just by making a final table and having the payout be twice as large as it usually is.
    Also, I’m a failed math major, but I’m almost positive that the freezing stacks idea would lose a ton more equity then merging stacks. You’re locked into one of the bottom payouts (and the difference between 9th and 8th or 7th is pretty small) and you don’t get the added bonus of getting the chips added to your stack.

  3. Paul Ellis
    March 30th, 2011 at 00:16 | #3

    @Aaron Bartley
    LOVE your point #2 comment. And I agree with you there 100%. I don’t know if anyone did the actual math, but obviously the prize pool would be CONSIDERABLY lessened without the Multiple Entry’s. 15% seems fair. This pokes a good sized hole in the remainder of this, but I think it’s still an area that Tilt can look upon for improvement.

    And it’s true that the multiple entry’s give a significant advantage to the best players. Having that additional bullet to fire when you have a bad beat take out your stack or go stone-cold-card-dead at the other tables benefits the players that know how to take these deep. I think that you’re going to see a lot more tournaments where we recognize the names of people at the final tables of these events, because you have to be be really good to get there now.

    The structures for the higher buy in tournaments lend to this being a non-issue for the most part (at least from what I’ve seen) however, as many of the tournament get to the final table with the average stack still deep (30-50 bb’s avg. is not uncommon). So you’re better off just taking the merge than being blinded down. It would change the whole dynamic of the table as well to have a blinded dead-stack, as you’re now getting into a whole different stealing dynamic.

    I’m not a huge fan of the cashouts though…RUSH tournaments are cool…just the same as the ring games. But I think that this is a wrinkle that REALLY needs to be looked at. Even if its to simply flatten the payout structures on ME tourneys to compensate for it. I mean….how often does it happen that you run so good that you final table an event TWICE? That should be rewarded financially.

    The increase in chips is huge…I’ll grant you that, but it would be nearly impossible to calculate the value of the added chips versus the value of surviving 2, 3, 4 or more spots by not having your stack automatically eliminated. And lets face it, the money given away at the bottom 3 spots of a final table pales in comparison to the money at the top 3. I think if it were possible to have the option of the blind out or the merge would be a tremendous asset…but yes..the Self Collusion thing would have to be addressed.

  4. Paul Ellis
    March 30th, 2011 at 00:23 | #4

    @Kyle
    Also a great point. If you run the scenario 10 times, you’ll like get several different results. Especially with the caliber of players that were at that table. It’s so hard to judge the value of the added chips versus the bonus of assured prize money. It makes the dynamic of the tournament completely unique. But giving the player the option seems to be better than forcing the merge. There are several spots where it just wouldn’t be financially advantageous to merge.

  5. Aaron Bartley
    March 30th, 2011 at 00:47 | #5

    Couple of things:

    “I mean….how often does it happen that you run so good that you final table an event TWICE? That should be rewarded financially.”

    You are rewarded financially. By getting 9th place money, moving up at least one payout spot, and having additional chips in your stack, giving you a higher % of the total chips in play, increasing your equity.

    Also, I don’t know you personally, but I have to assume that you are good at poker (at the very least in the beating-the-games-you-choose-to-play sense), just based on the time you’re willing to put into thinking about the game. The positions you seem to be taking, espeically re: flat payouts, are bad-player positions. They hurt good players.

  6. Paul Ellis
    March 30th, 2011 at 01:58 | #6

    @Aaron Bartley
    I guess the situation is only overly bothersome if I’m taking the top 2, or 2 of the top 3 stacks to the final table. That’s a pretty unlikely scenario..but certainly possible.

    It’s more of a mindset thing for me. Very psychological. I have this feeling that if I don’t win an event, I lose. I’ve been at plenty of final tables where I finish in a spot other than 1st, and walk away totally dejected. It has less to do with the money I received, and more to do with the fact that I didn’t win it.

    That’s where ME tourneys really mess with me. I get X number of entries, and I don’t get to win each time. I always feel like you’re going to have a tough time eliminating me, and I hate the fact that the structure eliminates my stack. But I guess that I sort of stack myself with merge…so i guess that would ease the pain somewhat.

    Its also a great point that once you get stacked/merged, that you move up a pay rung…but that gives you the same upgrade that all of your opponents get. It’s not really a benefit in situations where you should be able to outplay your opponents. The only real benefit is the addition of the chips…which I am grossly underestimating the value of I suppose.

    Maybe I’ll just have to ship a few ME MTT’s and change my tune! lol

  7. Wynona Meja
    November 24th, 2011 at 22:38 | #7

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