WPT Blind Structure Changes In Store?

by , May 20, 2007 | 4:18 am

You’ve heard my thoughts before here and on Beyond the Table about the problems with the blind structure and payouts at WPT final tables.

The World Poker Tour head honcho sent an email to the players about this matter just a few days ago:

Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 18:42:00 -0700
From: “Steve Lipscomb”
To: Tom Schneider
Subject: An Open Letter regarding Final Table Structure from WPT Founder Steven Lipscomb

An Open Letter regarding Final Table Structure from WPT Founder Steven Lipscomb:

Dear WPT family:

As we begin our historic Season VI of the World Poker Tour, we continue to strive to make World Poker Tour events the best possible experience for players, casinos and television audiences alike. To that end we are opening a forum today on our website (WorldPokerTour.com) to discuss the optimum final table structure for WPT events.

The structure we currently use at the final table was designed for us by players (Howard Lederer — in consultation with Jack McClelland, Chris Ferguson and others). I have included a copy of that structure on the forum. There are a number of factors that need to be considered as people try to help us identify any improvements:

1) Six Players: The final table structure is applied to the final six players only (the TV final table). If you measured the time it takes to get from 9 or 10 players to a winner, the current structure normally produces 9 to 18 hours of play at each final table — depending on factors we all know well (stack size, player aggression, etc.). This should be taken into account as we examine potential improvements.

2) Watchable Television: For the benefit of everyone who plays in WPT events, the television needs to work. If the final table structure makes bad TV and people stop watching, we all lose.

a) WPT shows are two hours long. That translates into roughly 65 to 70 minutes of poker on air (out of 88 minutes of programming time).

b) WPT shows play as “live fiction” — one of the essential innovations that drives the WPT format that created renewed interest in televised poker in 2003. This is very difficult to do when too much time passes between television hands (because chip stacks swing wildly, levels jump randomly and strategy becomes incoherent). One of the things we pride ourselves on is telling the story that actually happened at the table — for the benefit of the players skilled enough to make it to a WPT final table and the audience that wants to watch and learn more about the game from the best in the game.

c) The current structure was designed to give roughly 5 to 8 (and at the outside 10) hours of play to the final six players in each tournament. And, to the credit of the architects, it has done that. Already under the current structure, our producers must make a show with an 8:1 to 5:1 play to in-show ratio. [Note that the game clock stops for all breaks at WPT final tables (including television breaks)].

3) Important Design Goals of Current Structure: I think anyone who takes a crack at helping us in this process should look hard at the current structure:

a) Designed to give every player a shot at the final table: Based on a formula that takes into account the number of chips in play and the average chip stack prior to beginning the TV final table with six players, the current structure moves the blinds and antes back in nearly every tournament we film. The concept was to insure that all players (big and short stacks) had a couple of hours without much pressure on their stacks — giving them a chance to maneuver and use their skill.

b) No doubling of the blinds: Another characteristic of the current structure is that it never doubles the blinds, but rather, gradually moves up each level. This is made possible because the structure is based on hour levels (with half hour levels heads up after the 3rd level). Longer levels would require bigger jumps in blinds to have the same result. It was our understanding that the slower blind progression would be preferred by players.

4) Costs: As a public company, our revenues and costs are transparent.

a) Today: Under the current structure, it costs the WPT roughly $300,000 to make each WPT episode. That number does not include any costs (corporate, marketing, overhead or otherwise) that are not directly attributed to making the shows. The GSN deal that we just signed for Season VI pays us a license fee of $300,000 per episode.

b) Cost per hour at the final table: Every hour beyond 6 hours of play at the TV final table costs the WPT roughly an extra $5,000. At the 8th hour of play, that number escalates to $11,000 per hour. So, if all twenty-three WPT final tables lasted 12 hours instead of our current 6 hour average the additional cost to WPT would be roughly $1,242,000 per season.

c) WPT does not take any percentage out of the prize pool or participate in any “juice” paid by players to enter WPT tournaments.

d) Total Financial Picture for WPT Enterprises: The Company is currently losing money as it invests in the businesses that it hopes will generate profits for shareholders in the future — specifically, international online gaming and online non-gaming in the domestic market.

Costs are not the only consideration, but suggestions cannot be made in a vacuum. We would like to ask that anyone making a suggestion imagine themselves in my seat, running a business that wants to create the best possible experience for players and spectators within a business model that continues to allow it to make television that benefits everyone in the poker community.

I am sure that people who know much more than I do will have creative suggestions to help us examine what we are currently doing and attempt to make it better. We encourage you to join in the dialogue in the forum section of WorldPokerTour.com. We will monitor, and where appropriate, add to the discussion.

We thank you in advance for helping us try to improve the WPT experience.



7 Comments to “WPT Blind Structure Changes In Store?”

  1. Ed

    hey tom, what do you think of the new rules put in place? was reading the PDF they have linked on the WSOP site and some of them sound interesting. the good additions are the ones trying to cut down on the asshat sore losers who get busted with junk hands. (i.e. Hellmuth)

    now i would like to see them actually do something to Hellmuth if he does berate someone after a bad hand.


  2. DanM

    Ed, this post is about the WPT, not WSOP. But you are right, we shoulda been talking about the WSOP rule changes long ago.

  3. VBDave

    I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see it yet, but Matt Matros has a trememdous reply to this. I think so anyway.


  4. Donkey Bomber

    Thanks VB. I just read it and he responded very well to each question. The only problem is that there were a few questions that weren’t asked. He missed the payout structure and the ability of final table players to pick up extra money by wearing logos that weren’t approved prior to the start of the tournament.

  5. Ed

    my bad. i saw the W…and assumed it had the SOP after it.

    Still curious about what Tom thinks of the law this year.


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    […] were three items that weren’t covered in Steve’s letter that are very important to me and some of my professional poker friends. Resolving these issues […]

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