Though the days have switched back and forth, Midweek Poker has been running strong for well over two years now. In the beginning we started at .20/.40 stakes so that a $40 buy in would get you two full racks of chips and we would play in the familiar psuedo 1/2 format. We next moved to .25/.50 stakes where it took a $50 buy in to get those same two racks. Then, in a blatantly transparent effort to deal with less change, the buy in was bumped to $60 so that everyone could just pay in $20s. And so it has been for quite a while.
I believe that the time may be right for another change.
Even on average single table attendance nights we routinely get all of the chips and many of the straps into play. Not that that's a problem because I like the deep stack play of the 1/2 "unit" format. I think that it plays better and that we get better poker out of it. The side effect is that we can end up mountains of chips in stacks by the end of the night. Fortresses, towers, or mounds of chips I think work fine...mountains I think are a little excessive. I think that part of the cause is the chip structure and the other part is that the stakes are not as relevant as they used to be. Whether it is inflation, different players, or just the fact that we are used to the stakes, I feel that the .25/.50 game as it is set up now is not right sized. I think changing the stakes and/or the structure would suit the game. Below are some ideas I've been mulling over. I think that one of the options or a combination of options would fit our game better than the current setup.
* Deeper maximum buy in
Changing the buy in from $20-$60 to $20-$100 would allow for deeper starting stacks. Everyone would still be allowed to buy in for the standard $60 still of course and the minimum of $20 would remain untouched so no one would be forced to buy in over their comfort level. We end up averaging around the same chip depth by the end of the night anyway so this change would primarily just be accelerating the process of getting everyone to deeper chip stacks. My impression from the mega-deep stack nights that we have played on the weekends is that deeper stacks promote better play since people have more potentially at stake. It would be a way to raise the stakes without really raising the stakes since blinds would remain .25/.50.
* Higher stakes
The next convenient step up the food chain would be .50/1. Many of us have played that on the weekend and with the frequency of straddles we are often essentially playing those stakes much of the time anyway. We do have the option of intermediate stakes due to the pseudo 1/2 format that we use. Just like we used to play .20/40 we can make the SB/BB any arbitrary amount and just convert at buy in and cash out. Though it would be unconventional we could bump to basically any stake amount between .25/.50 and .50/1.
* Blind chips
At Fixed Limit night we used the $1 chips at face value and introduced a .25 ante chip. Likewise we could give everyone a stack of quarter chips at the beginning of the night and use the Blues at face value. My prediction is that all betting post flop would be in even increments of $1 and that stacks of 60 chips (minus some for blinds) would end up in the middle pretty quickly. I've seen LV casinos switch from 200x$1 chips to 40x$5 chips. I've also seen Ryan's lunch game switch from .25 and $1 chips to just using .25 chips. In both cases I prefer the deeper stacks because I feel that better poker is played when people don't feel short stacked. Despite the fact that there may be an equivalent amount of money represented, fewer physical chips has a definite effect on the play at the table.
* Switching to .50/.50 blinds
In this scenario the chips would be worth .50 each and both SB and BB would be a single chip. The main effect would be cutting all stacks in half. Leaving the max buy at $60 and going to .50 units would provide for a starting stack of 120 chips which I think is pretty reasonable.
* Allowing/disallowing straddles
Regardless of the stakes or chip format, allowing or disallowing straddles will change the effective stakes of the game. Straddle policy in conjunction with other changes can provide a tweak to tune the play one way or another.
* New denomination
As much as I like how the 1/2 unit system works I do see room for another denomination to come into play. I would prefer to stay away from a $5 chip since I think that it would lead to the game being played in increments of 5 after the flop. I had previously floated the idea of a 20 unit plaque before we brought the straps into play. Though I'm lukewarm about the actual use of a plaque I think that a 20 unit marker could work. I was thinking along the lines of a small packet of bills folded in half. The working term I have been using for these is "sugar packet." The packs would easily exchange for a stack of chips which I think is the biggest Achilles heel of the current system. With bets so large happening so often moving bunches of full stacks across the table would be simplified by sugar packets but without diminishing the ability or likelihood of betting in fine increments like 9, 17 or 23.
So there ya go. Maybe others don't see a problem and if everyone wants to proceed with business as usual then that's fine by me. But trying to look at it from as unbiased a view as possible, I believe that there is room for improvement to make the game run smoother and be more enjoyable for everyone. Let's hear everyone's thoughts on the matter and we can figure out what the Midweek Poker is going to look like going forward. Thanks!