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Commentary: Party Poker Steps

, 2005-01-19, by TwoGun

Party Poker hosts a type of tournament known as a Step tournament. The buyins for these tournaments are $11+$1, $50+$5, $200+$15, $500+$35, and $1000+$65. Only the final tournament, the $1000+$65 pays out. If a user places well at a lower buyin, the player gets a non-refundable buyin to the next step. For example, at the $50+$5 step, the top two finishers (in the single-table step tournaments) get entries into the $200 step and third place gets an entry into another $50 step.

Many lower-stakes users like these tournaments because it allows them to parlay a $12 entry into an entry into a $1000 tournament. However, it seems that these tournaments benefit the higher-stakes sharks much more so than lower stakes players. First, people are allowed to buy in at any step. Thus, a player can buy in at the $1000+$65 tournament if that person desired. So the final tables often end up being a lot of regular, high-stakes players against a couple of people who bought in for $11 or $55.

Second, the strategy differs greatly between the initial steps and the later steps. At the lower steps, only the top two advance, so people tend to play fairly aggressive. However, the strategy at the 4th step (the $500 buyin) is tricky. The top 4 get an entry into the $1000 step, #5 gets a buyin to the fourth step again, and 6-8 get a buyin into the second step (note: for the 20-people step tournaments, the places paid out is doubled). This does not mean that people should play overly cautiously though. In these tournaments, it is probably best to consistently win a few small pots, so your stack does not decrease too much. You want to avoid as many large confrontations as possible, and sometimes the best way to avoid large confrontations is having smaller confrontations and keeping a decent stack size. Towards the end of the the $500 buyin, people really attack the smaller stacks, so it is better to have a decent sized stack so you can cruise into the final round.

Finally, the rake is brutal for people who buy in at the lower steps. The prize pool at the lower steps takes into account the fee for the higher steps. So, when a person enters a $11+$1 single-table tourney, the prize pool is $110. However, only two people advance and the rest of the people get nothing. This is because the second step has a buyin of $50+$5. Party Poker makes people pay the fee for advancing steps; they just take it out of the prize pool. Thus, if someone advanced straight from the first step all the way up to the final step, that person would pay $121 in entry fees. People who bought directly into the last step would only pay $65 in entry fees.

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