A Question of Structural Integrity
The present "super turbo" structures we have become accustomed to has started to become a bane to the poker players who, after learning the deeper aspects of the game, realize that NLHE isnt about going all-in pre-flop or jamming the pot with overbets. Pot odds, outs, post-flop play, and many other things tend to be thrown out the window because of the need to end a tournament faster along with other factors too. When you play a solid game and take small pots here and there, but suddenly find yourself with less than 10xBB after a certain level because of the abrupt jump in the blinds structure, you suddenly have to shift to the dreaded all-in-or-fold mentality, and put your hard earned buy-in and tournament life on the line on a coin toss.
Ok, one of the points to consider is time. We normally have 20 minute levels on the average, which will resctrict the average 3-4 table MTT to at most 4-5 hours. This is fine, since we are almost always under time constraints as most of us dont have all day to play poker and want to do it recreationally. So, 20 minute blind levels are fine, and wont be a factor to consider in finding the right mix for the perfect turbo structure.
The biggest factor to consider i believe is the blinds structure itself. Normally, we start with a 50xBB stack (Level 1- 10-20, starting stack is 1000) which is fairly normal. The inherent flaw in the structures is that the blind increase almost exponentially, sometimes almost doubling every level, or even skipping a level. Tournament organizers dont realize that every level counts, and if you take out one level, it completely disrupts the rhythm of the game. I believe another big factor to consider is how our chips are denominated. The smallest chip value is usually 10, so blinds cannot increase in increments of 5 in the early levels ( eg. 15-30 levels). So we find ourselves going from 10-20 to 20-40 to 40-80 in just one hour, then after we break the 50-100 levels, there is usually no room to add another level but go straight to 100-200. This is what forces us to go in an "all-in or fold" mode late in a tournament. Frankly, if you dont get ridiculuosly lucky in the early goings of a game, your chances of making a comeback is practically zilch.
Another important factor is the psychological aspect of the denominations itself. Say you get pocket queens in late position during the first level of a tourney (usually 10-20). You make it 5xBB or even 6xBB to go after it there was no raise to you. This is a very good raise, but since it is "ONLY" 100 or 120 in chips, it looks cheap to call with Ace-rag or even FACE-rag or any suited gappers or connectors. Let's say you get A-10 on the BB and decide not to raise, but hit your 10 on the flop for top pair, with a draw on the board. You now bet the size of the pot, or a little over the size of the pot to chase away any drawing hand (at the early stages, it is usually 100+ if there were about 5 limpers into the pot.) Youll find that anyone with even just a gutshot draw WILL chase, because 100+ is simply "small" and easy to call. This is where the phenomenon of the "massive overbet" was born, due to the fact that the only wasy to make someone fold is if you scare them away with the sheer value of you bet (500, 1000, etc.) No one will back down if you bet 120, even if it means that youre betting 6xBB already. You'll have to bet on the "value" of the hand (aces and Kings-500, queens-300, etc.) no matter what level you are in to get your fold equity.
To remedy this problem, i believe that we should make our denominations in the hundreds, with 50 being the smallest chip value. If we do this, the whole feel of the game changes. Raising to 1,200 with Q-Q on the first level of100-200 now has a bigger psychological impact to someone holding a rag hand than raising to 120 on a 10-20 level. Betting a pot sized bet of 1,800 on the flop with top pair will more likely make a drawing hand fold than betting 180, even though the dynamics are absolutely the same.
Lastly, there should be a point where the blinds are capped. If the Big Blind (or maybe even the small blind) is about the same as the starting stack, then it would be a good indication that the game should be ending soon.
So taking these things into consideration, here is the formula that i think will greatly improve our tournament structures and make the games more interesting and balance the luck-to-skill ratio.
- 20 minute blinds
- 50 bb starting stack, or 5,000 chips
- 50-100 first level
- increments of 100 increase in the BB in the first 5 or 6 levels
- a little faster (200 increase) in the middle stages to eliminate super tight small stacks
- Continuing the trend to the late stages, but the increases will be in 500's and 1000's (1500-3000, 2000-4000, etc), and stopping the increases when the BB is about the size of the starting stack, or one level higher.
- The worst tournament structures are the ones that start slow then end fast. Taking this into consideration, always be aware of the Blinds in relation to the average stack, and make sure that the ratio of the increase is the same as the early levels.
These are just suggestions, and they are loosely based on the friday game i played in last week. The game ended i think in just under 4 hours, and there was a lot of good poker going on too. When you raise and re-raise and still not feel pot commited to go all-in, you know the structure is right.
If you have suggestions and inputs, feel free to make them known.
till next time!