Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009 HU tourney wrap up

Well, that's another heads up tourney in the books. Wanted to get feedback on the format.

Short story is that there was no "game money" this year, blind caps changed, payouts moved from 50/25/12.5/12.5 to 40/30/15/15, and the tie breaker system is new. Also wanted to ask about the duration since the first portion went from 7:30 to 10:30 and brackets finished about 1:50 versus a projected 1:00 finish. For more details see long story below (yeah I know it is squarely in TLDR territory, if you want to just jot your thoughts without reading below I don't blame you).

* No "game money" this year. Last year, every win in the first stage of the tourney would be worth a couple bucks. That ended up depleting the payouts for the top finishers and didn't add up to a substantial amount of money even if you won a lot of games. Based on feedback from last year it was dropped this time around. Turns out that it took a long while for someone to be so far behind that they couldn't qualify even if they won out.

* Changed blind caps for the bracket rounds. It was unfortunate that Marsh didn't make a run into the brackets because he was the one who felt that the blinds got too oppressive at the end of last year's tourney and once the blinds capped you really just couldn't fold. It would have been nice to get his perspective of the changes. The difference was this year, even with the BB at 20% of the average chip stack I did feel that one could fold when the blinds capped as I saw happen on multiple occasions.

=== Disclaimer === serious tournament math geek discussion below ===
* Different preliminary matchups. Last year we had fewer people and just did a true round robin. Since that would have been too many games for this year the tourney used pools of players instead. In a true round robin the player records are about as fair as you can get it. Ties were broken by head to head matchups. This year since not everyone played everyone else I went with the ranking system described below.
- Win/loss percentage
- Strength of schedule (a win over a player who ended up 6-2 counts marginally more than a win over a player who ended up 4-4)
- Secondary strength of schedule (a win over a player who ended up 6-2 with tougher opponents weighs in more than a win over a 6-2 player with victories over weaker opponents)
- Record within your pool
- Strength of your pool (if players are tied after all above tie breakers then a player who had to play two players from a stronger pool would be seeded higher than one from a weaker pool)

A couple of things came up while working on the format. At first I had it set up where everyone played all nine players from outside of their pool but changed that to help prevent tie deadlocks since two players could happen to beat the same players since each pool member played the exact same players as everyone else in the pool. The tie breaker system also ignored head to head records which would have changed things. Jeh, Drew, and Joe all had the same record and Drew beat both Joe and Jeh and was seeded highest of the three. But Joe was seeded below Jeh despite defeating him. I did consider using head to head record but didn't for two reasons 1) in simulations it was too easy for a three way circular tie to happen where A beat B beat C beat A and head to head wouldn't help and 2) I could tell it was going to be a total pain to write a formula for the spreadsheet that did that. As it turns out the difference was only in seeding and did not affect someone being bubbled out because of the ranking.

* The tourney ran late. We actually started pretty darn close to schedule which was great. We had a situation where one player was playing longer matches on average than other players. Not saying that's bad or anything. Just pointing out that despite the flexibility afforded by the format for the prelims we still were gated by one player before starting the bracket round. I was tinkering around with a format like ELO chess rankings which would allow any player to play any amount of games against any other player but it would have to provide incentive for players who went 4-0 to continue to play games at risk of breaking their win percentage yet guard against players having nothing to lose and playing recklessly. In the end I couldn't get a system figured out in time but I think that system has potential since it would let us just set a time limit for the first stage and we would be able to stay closer to schedule.

That's it for the wrap. Let me know if you have any comments on any part of the tourney.


Anonymous said...


Sushi Cowboy said...

The top eight players were seeded as follows based on the pseudo round robin play:

Seed Name Record Power_Rating
#1 Jason 7-1 91.762
#2 Dave 6-2 78.123
#3 Martin 5-3 65.303
#4 Chuck 5-3 65.121
#5 Royal 5-3 64.957
#6 Drew 4-4 52.791
#7 Jeh 4-4 52.297
#8 Joe 4-4 52.126

Round of 8 (quarter-finals)
Jason defeated Joe
Jeh upset Dave
Martin defeated Drew
Royal beat Chuck

Round of 4 (semi-finals)
Martin defeats Jeh
Royal upsets Jason

Martin over Royal

jsola said...

I was just happy to get to play poker again after such a long sabbatical, so I definitely enjoyed myself and liked having so much guaranteed playtime in a tournament.

The structure felt much faster than last time, even though I'm pretty sure the blinds were the same. I felt like I was pushing my whole stack in by the time it got to 200/400, and 400/800 was just a flip-fest. I'm not sure why I feel like this is any different from the last tourney, it could just be because of adjustments in my heads-up playstyle. Maybe the matches felt shorter because we have, on a whole, become much more adept at short stack play and know that going all-in with ATC is usually the right play when it's that deep. There were definitely a few opponents who played a tighter game, and those matches tended to drag on a bit.

I thought the length of the tournament was fine, I don't think there's anything you can really do about some players finishing later than others, that's just the nature of the beast. If you ever do these regularly, you should probably adjust the tournament time estimates based on the lower bound of experience of the players in it. If there are players who do not regularly play heads up, or don't play poker at all, then those matches are just going to take longer. Between shuffling, stacking and counting chips, dealing, and thinking about your play, there's an awful lot going on at one time.

As far as the feel of the matches themselves, I will use an analogy...

Heads-up tourney : Full ring tourney :: Crack cocaine : Marshmallow fluff

It was fast, crazy, lots of big shoves and lots of light calldowns. I only pulled off a couple multi-street bluffs as I just didn't believe anyone could fold. So I felt like the play wasn't as interesting or deep as in a big tourney structure. But, again, it's the nature of the thing and there's no way you can have a deep structure when you need to play 8 matches in a row.

Thanks again for putting it all together, btw! It seems like such a logistical nightmare, but you pulled it off very well.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Blinds were identical for last time for all T4000 rounds. There were adjustments for T8000 and T16,000 rounds and those were adjusted to give more play. Some of the matches were in fact much quicker since some games were over within the 25/50 or 50/100 blind levels.

Still, I would agree with you that at times it did seem faster this time around and that very well may be due to all of us having more experience as you suggest. What do you think would be the most effective way to compensate? Deeper stacks, slower blinds levels, or both? I am hesitant to try doing anything more than one orbit per blind level because then it would get really hard to keep track of which level we were at.

You're right, there is heck of a lot of stuff going on especially since most of us play heads up so rarely. I didn't think of it at the time but the slowest games could have been expedited by a third party doing shuffling/dealing since people were sitting dormant waiting anyway.

Thanks for the feedback Joe. I am kicking around alternative formats for next time so your input is very helpful. If anyone else has any comments or suggestions just let me know. Thanks!

Ulfendar said...

This was the most fun I've had at a tourney. I have to agree that when the blinds reached the cap it basically came down to coin flipping. It was just a question of putting your stack in the best situation you could by the time you got to that point (and knowing not to flip with every single hand from the small blind at that point).