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PokerNews Op-Ed: Allen Kessler Offers Mystery Bounty Poker Satellite System

Allen Kesler

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of PokerNews or its members.

Mega satellites were invented years ago by the Poker Hall of Famer Eric Drache at Binion’s Horseshoe as a way for players to earn a place in a larger event at a lower cost.

This format has taken off and has been the standard for years. The typical satellite offers a player the chance to win a seat at a bigger event for just 5-10% of the buy-in. However, for years there have been problems with these satellites.

Players often aim to reach a certain number of chips and then avoid confrontation because they “have enough to get a seat”. The game slows down if there are multiple players at a given table who are happy with their stacks.

Typically, some players accumulate huge stacks and are guaranteed a seat. These players have full control of the satellite. They can re-raise or call an all-in against short-stacked players they “don’t like” or don’t know, and play smooth or throw chips to those who are friends and need them. help to get out.

I’ve also personally seen entire tables agree to “fold the blinds” towards the end of a satty. Basically, if every player at a given table agrees to fold all hands and wait for a few to be eliminated at other tables, then the entire table with that deal in place will win a seat. This creates a situation for ground personnel, and I’ve seen entire mega satellites having to redesign seats to combat this.

So what can be done?

My problem with a total redraw

Matt Savage promoted a “solution” to the standard mega satellite problems where at various points in the event the high stack automatically gets a seat. At the end, when the number of remaining tables is divisible by the number of seats, there is a total refresh. At this point, each new table plays a shootout to lose a player, and all remaining players at each table win a seat.

Example: There are 72 places to be allocated. When the event reaches 81 players, a new total draw is made. Players take their places at nine new tables, and each table plays a shootout style until one player is eliminated. The remaining eight players all get a seat.

While this seems like a random way to close out the satellite, it essentially turns the event into a glorified lottery and induces dropping out.

Matt Savage
Famous tournament director Matt Savage, with whom Kessler often feuds.

Let’s say you’re the shortest stack at your current table, but there are a few stacks in the room even smaller than you, and you’re close to full redraw. You are still about 10 seats away from the money, but only one or two seats away from the new draw.

There is a huge advantage for you to block heavily at this point in hopes of getting one or two of these smaller players at your new table. Now you would be a mathematical favorite to win a seat, or else you would be a prohibitive underdog.

As an extreme example, there are three players with a big blind each and still 10 away from winning the seat. All three will probably never win a seat, but if they are removed to the same table in the total re-draw, two are effectively guaranteed a seat.

The total reshuffle in this case awards two seats to players who have not “earned” them and takes those seats from the most deserving players.

Additionally, a middle stack that is almost guaranteed to have a seat can be redrawn to a new table with all middle and upper stacks alike, and now risk losing a seat it was favored for.

The blinds are very high at the end of the mega satellites, and just being drawn into the big blind at your new, redesigned table can determine whether or not you win a $10,000 seat.

A satellite mega format shouldn’t become a “redesign lottery” and reward dropping out, or create scenarios where micro-stacks are assured seats. Although the system promoted by Savage has advantages over the standard mega satellite, it still has obvious flaws.

So what is the solution ?

Allen Kesler
Allen Kessler with his free soda from Roma Deli.

After careful consideration of how to solve this problem, I found a convenient format. Mystery Bounty tournaments have become very popular over the past year, and I would like to offer Mystery Bounty mega satellites.

A re-draw of the entire event is not necessary as players would never be satisfied with their stacks and would be incentivized to go after players with shorter stacks. The event would never end with players posting the blinds, as the next player you eliminate could potentially earn you an extra seat or cash.

“Mystery Bounty tournaments have become very popular over the last year or so, and I would like to offer Mystery Bounty mega satellites.”

Here’s how it would work.

Let’s use the next Wynn World Poker Tour (WPT) $10,000 buy-in, $15 million GTD Main Event for example. Let’s assume the buy-in is exactly $10,000 for the purposes of this scenario.

The buy-in for the satellite is $1,500 plus fees normally charged ($1,000 goes to the mega satty pool and $500 to the mystery bounty pool). One in 10 wins a seat. For this example, assume that 200 players are registered and there are 20 places to be won.

The event runs as normal until registration closes. At this point, there is a natural pause. During the break, the staff determines the exact bounty pool and its distribution. After the break, the bounty format begins.

Some may ask, how can they stuff and prepare envelopes in a 15 minute break? In fact, it’s quite easy. Prior to the start of the event, envelopes are pre-filled with individual amounts of $10,000, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500, and $100. There is a locker for each envelope amount, but the actual envelopes are not marked in any way. The staff simply pulls the envelopes from the corresponding bins and distributes them randomly in a spinning wheel typically used in bounty events.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that there are 81 primes and 20 actual seats left. The bounty pool would be $100,000 and could be split as follows as an example, but each individual site could determine the split they want:

  • Three seats at $10,000
  • Six cash of $5,000
  • Four $2,500 cash
  • 16 x $1,000 cash
  • 22x $500 cash
  • 30 x $100 cash

There would be a huge incentive to play hard against all the other players. Any knockout could earn a player a $10,000 seat or a bonus of up to $5,000. Players winning multiple seats would be required to play all event seats won until bagged. If they carried bags and had extra seats left, they would receive tournament lammers or money for the remaining seats. Exceptions could be made if a player wins multiple seats for the final flight of an event.

There’s no glorified lottery redesign like in the system promoted by Matt Savage, and the soft play/sitting on stacks element of the original satty system is all but eliminated.

I would personally go to any venue willing to try this satellite format to help with logistics. I truly believe that once this concept has been implemented in a few venues, it will become the norm for mega satellite gaming. I have already spoken to Tana Karn to RunGood Poker Series (RGPS) and a few tournament directors on this format. All seemed excited to try it out, so you might see that play out in the near future.

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Allen Kesler