Friday, April 30, 2010

Odd tournament payout schedule

Just one more note about last night's tourney on Doyle's Room. I noticed that the payout structure was a lot more graduated than I would usually expect. As you can see from the tournament lobby below, we had 105 players and 20 would get paid. That's 19%--way more than the standard 9-10%.

I thought maybe this was an error, so I clicked on the "tournament information" button, and confirmed what the lobby was saying:

I found the site's general MTT payout schedule here, and have reproduced it below:

The table is labeled very strangely, making it hard to understand. I don't get what they mean by "Position 0" at the top of the left-hand columns. I think that this is just a weird error, and they intended to label the positions starting with 1 instead of 0. My suspicion on this point is, I think, bolstered by noticing that they skip 10 when the numbers get into the teens. That's the assumption I'm working with herein.

I threw the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the percentage of players being paid for each number of possible entrants, from the minimum of 3 up through 120. (I don't know why they list a payout schedule for numbers of players fewer than ten; as I recently discovered, with fewer than ten, they just cancel the event. But I'm ignoring that for the rest of this post.) Click on the image below to see the thing at full size.

The first oddity is at the beginning. It says that if there are three players, all three will get paid. Why in the world would you do that? It makes no sense. Suppose the buy-in is $10 + $1. This schedule says that the person who is eliminated first will get 20% of the prize pool, or $6. The player eliminated next will get 30%, or $9. Neither of them even gets his entry fee back. The winner gets 50% of the prize pool, or $15, just barely more than what he paid to play. This is utterly insane. Nobody would play a tournament with that kind of payout schedule. I assume, without looking, that the site offers heads-up matches. If so, I further assume that they are winner-takes-all, as they should be. Why would you pay one out of two, but three out of three? Completely idiotic.

Moving down the list (i.e., adding more players to the pool), you have to get to six entrants before fewer than half are being paid. More stupidity.

But even when we get into more realistic numbers for multi-table tournaments--say, above 20--the payout schedule is unusually flat, as such things go. It remains between 14% and 21% of the field all the way through 120 players, except for a tiny dip down to 13% of the field for exactly 38 and 39 players.

I had thought that maybe the 19% paid that I saw last night was an anomaly, an artifact of getting caught right between two brackets. But it's really not; it's right in line with all of the payouts. Even when they get up to 520 players, they're paying 17% of the field. At the very top of the chart (or bottom, in this case), at 1650 players, they're paying 15%.

The twin results, of course, are that (1) those at the bottom of the payout scale are barely getting anything at all, and (2) those that make it to the bitter end have lost a lot of value, doled out in tiny, nearly worthless pieces to a lot of players. I don't understand why they choose to do this, rather than continue with a steeper, more standard payout of 10% or so of the field.

For comparison, I opened a few generic tournament lobbies at Full Tilt Poker (not knockout events). Their minimum number of players is 9, and 3 of those would get paid. One with 72 players is paying 8, or 11%. One with 123 players is paying 15 spots, or 12%. One with 266 players is paying 27, or 10%. One with 1538 paid 162, or 11%. These are much closer to what I would expect.

I'm going to write to Doyle's Room customer service and ask them about all of these oddities. They may wash their hands of it and say that it's the network (Cake) that makes these determinations, they are just a skin and can't do anything about it. If so, I hope they'll tell me who at Cake to ask about it. It all seems very strange to me.

Addendum, April 30, 2010

Not too surprisingly, my first crack at getting an answer from Doyle's Room did not get taken too seriously. I got what basically amounts to a bedbug letter:


The payout schedule is designed by our software provider and is posted in
advance prior to the tournament start. The minimum amount of players for this
particular tournament to take place was 10, therefore no chance for 3 players to
get the prize pool split between them.

All players must look into the tournament information before playing so
that they decide if they wish to participate or not.

Feel free to contact us again if you have any questions or concerns, enjoy
your day!


Joe Wilson
Client Support
The Doyle Brunson Poker Network

So I wrote back:

Specific questions:

If the minimum number of players is 10,
why does your web site’s payout schedule for multitable tournaments (
show payouts for as few as three players?

In your web site’s payout schedule for MTTs, what is meant by finishing in
“position 0”?

In your web site’s payout schedule for MTTs, why is there nobody finishing
in 10th place? (It skips from 9 to 11.)

We'll see if anybody bothers actually looking into the situation before responding this time, as it seems pretty clear that they didn't on the first try.

Addendum, April 30, 2010

I guess somebody finally did look at the payout table I pointed them to. Latest communication:

Thank you for contacting us

Please be aware that the way that our software providers decided to make
our payout structure, is in a more generous way, in which more than the 10% of
the players registered (Usually that is what is paid at all poker sites) will
receive a prize, whcih means that by you playing with us, there are more chances
of getting paid.

Regardind the position 0(zero) issue, I have reported this to the proper
department and they said they apologize for the mistake and they are working on
it. In order for you to get the correct payout structure, all you need to do is
instead of position zero, make it position 1, instead of position 1 make it
position 2 and so on.

We apologize for the inconveniences this may cause. Your patience and
understanding are highly appreciated.

Luis M.
Client Support Supervisor
The Doyle Brunson Poker Network
Customer service phone # 1-888-762-4192

Addendum, May 15, 2010

I checked today, and the payout schedule on their web site is unchanged. You can gauge for yourself how deeply this site cares about fixing errors when they are pointed out.


There are some who call me... Tim said...

Those sites must be marketing to players like me. Some of us get that rush when we end up in the money. Sure, we like to win, but getting some return for our money and time is good enough (assuming the payout is at least more than paid in). Granted - winning is a whole lot better, both financially and egotistically...

I can see why the more skilled and serious players would scoff at those payouts. If I had the skills to regularly finish like you, I'd follow the money, not the marketing.

FYI - that last ratio, where 162 are paid out of 1538, is 10.5%, not 9.

Rakewell said...

Thanks. Fixed.

Mark T said...

I'm guilty of liking the larger payout spreads as well, for probably the same reasons as Tim.

Basically, I think it reduces variance in tournaments, which are fairly high-variance outings no matter how well you play. I'll take less in my occasional win if it means I double my money more often. It makes my historical tracking database show more (admittedly arbitrary) profitable months, which makes me happier.