Ideas for Resurrecting Single-Table Tournaments
Single table online poker sit-'n'-go tournaments (STTs) have all but dried up. The tournaments, which were once an extremely popular aspect of online poker, have fallen victim to grinders who had too easy of a time learning to play optimally amidst the game's limited variables. By making use of independent chip model (ICM) calculators and other helpful online poker software programs, STT grinders transformed the games into something nearly impossible to beat. A typical STT today might consist of seven or eight grinders playing near optimally against one or two people with a bit less of a clue. There are steps online poker rooms can take to help restore the popularity of these games.
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Charge Less Vig
People won't play STTs unless they can reasonably lead themselves to believe they might have an edge. At the very least, they need to be unaware of the fact that they don't. That has become a hard conclusion for anyone, grinders included, to reach. A major reason for this is that the vig is simply unbeatable.
Most online STTs still charge the same amount of vig as a multi-table tournament (MTT) of equivalent buy-in. At 888 Poker, a $20 STT charges an additional $2 in vig, same as an MTT. It seems absurd to charge the same amount of vig for a 45 minute STT as a 6 hour MTT. The strong competition in STTs has rendered the vig nearly unbeatable, even at fairly low stakes. This represents a major transformation from the days when players like ZeeJustin could beat the $200+$15 STTs at Party Poker for an ROI of 20% or higher.
It was inevitable that smart poker players would eventually "solve" STTs. But with that day having long ago arrived, online poker rooms should do what they can to give players incentive to keep playing them. A STT with a buy-in of $20+$0.50 makes much more sense. One poker room that has taken a step towards reduced STT rake is PokerStars. Their $15 STTs are structured as a $13.70+$1.30 buy-in. That's a rake of 8.7% which is a little better than the standard charge of 9.1%, but not by much. Poker rooms need to consider raking much lower, like 2-3%, on STTs to trigger rejuvenated interest in the games.
A problem with just lowering vig is that it mainly appeals to grinders. Another method is to use the extra vigorish (like $1.50 of the $2 in a $20 buy-in) as some sort of jackpot promotion. For example, SNG players could be entered into a weekly drawing with a huge jackpot (all those $1.50's add up) with the number of entries equivalent to their buy-ins. Another way is that players could simply earn bonus money every time they enter (or once they enter a sufficient number of them). Lots of clever promotions could be done to entice interest using the administrative fees as a method to pay for the promo.
Create Gimmicky Buy-in Dynamic
Our philosophy is that in online poker, gimmicks are good. People like gimmicks. They shake up the status quo and keep things fresh and fun. What about STTs with buy-in "windows" where players can elect to buy-in an amount of their choice, within a certain parameter. For example, a standard 10-player STT could have a buy-in of $10-$20 where you get 10 chips for every penny you buy-in. Buy-in for $10 and you get 1,000 chips. $14.70 gets you 1,470 starting chips, and so forth. This would create interesting strategy adjustments for grinders to adapt to and allow recreational players to take a stab at a larger prize pool for a smaller investment. Any online poker software worth it's salt should be able to compute the standard 50%-30%-20% STT payouts on the fly by tabulating the final prize pool.
Dealer's Choice Tournaments
It's a little mind-blowing that in 2012 there is not one single dealer's choice game available in online poker. How about STTs where the player with the dealer button gets to select the game variant for that hand? Suddenly, auto-piloting grinders would no longer have an automatic edge. Maybe 'billm1963' on the button feels like playing Stud this hand. Good luck, 'icallurshove91'!
Limit Monthly STT Entries
If an online poker room wanted to resort to some extreme measures to revive their STT games, they have options available to them. How about limiting players to a certain number of STT entries per month based on their win-rate? For example, if your lifetime ROI in STTs is 10% or higher (provided some reasonable minimum sample has been played), you can only register for 50 such tournaments per month. Why shouldn't online poker rooms give the finger to the grinders drying out their games? Those players aren't really worth that much to them anyway. Poker rooms seem to be slowly realizing this as evidenced by the recent movement of switching to "contributed" rake models for rewards programs.
It might seem a little bureaucratic for an online poker room to limit how much a winning player can participate, but why not go for it? What do they have to lose? The grinders will whine, but who cares? Let them. It's not like they can organize a mass boycott of any poker room who implemented such a measure since inevitably the games would get too juicy to resist if all regulars stopped playing them.