It’s time to serve up a poker piece that doesn’t center on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic currently causing global issues. Though this feature focuses on this summer’s World Series of Poker, it’s not a story about whether or not the 2020 WSOP will run as scheduled. Rather, it’s about what I believe to be a hidden problem within one of the new events on the 2020 WSOP slate, the “Mystery Bounty” event currently scheduled to begin on June 28, 2020.

Though the detailed structure sheet for this event — or for any of this summer’s events, actually — has yet to be released, there’s an equity issue regarding the distribution of the special mystery bounties that has yet to be explained. And it says here that unless this two-day event, scheduled for an 11:00 a.m. start, offers no late registration whatsoever, then the special mystery bounties cannot be distributed equitably.

That might be a rules problem of the type the Nevada Gaming Commission likes to take a look into, not that I think the problem was intentionally created by WSOP execs. Rather, I think it’s a case of a neat gimmick that wasn’t quite thought all the way through. Curious as to what the problem might be? I thought so.

First, let’s just drop in the meat of the WSOP’s recent presser describing this event:

The 2020 World Series of Poker will offer a new event, the $1,500 Mystery Bounty No-Limit Hold’em Tournament. This event is similar to a typical bounty tournament – every player will be a bounty – but the major difference is not all bounties will have the same value.

There will be 100 “Mystery” bounties. Each one will be worth at least $2,500 and could be worth as much as $250,000. The total value of the “mystery” bounties will be $1,000,000. All other bounties, the “standard” bounties, will be worth $100.

Remaining funds go to the regular prize pool paid out based on finish and pay out the standard 15% of the field size.

Here is the breakdown of available “Mystery” bounties:

Bounty Amount # of Prizes

$250,000 1

$100,000 3

$25,000 6

$10,000 10

$2,500 80

Totals: $1,000,000 100

The event will utilize the freezeout format.

The structure sheet and additional details about this event will be available prior to the event’s start.

The problem has nothing to do with possible issues related to the coronavirus impact, which might force the WSOP to lower the cumulative and/or individual “mystery bounty” amounts to be awarded, or the total number of mystery bounties handed out.

Instead, the issue has to do with the total number of entrants in the event. Unless the event offers no late registration, or unless the WSOP could somehow predict the exact number of entrants in advance, then the distribution of the 100 mystery bounties introduces a value inequity.

It doesn’t matter what system the WSOP chooses to award the bounties. Perhaps each entrant gets a bounty chip with a code on it, and when the bounty collector is himself eliminated, all his bounty codes are checked to see if any match up to pre-selected codes for any of the 100 mystery bounties. (Note that this is just one of several ways the bounties could be distributed.)

Yet the issue isn’t what is being distributed, but when. The only way that the WSOP can guarantee that all of the promised “mystery” bounties are actually awarded is if they’re all in play from the onset of the event. While the WSOP can fudge it a little bit and project a minimum number of late entrants, the WSOP cannot over-project that number. And that in turn would mean that once that underestimated entry cap is reached, all of the later entrants have to be put in with a bounty value that’s the minimum amount, not one of the special “mystery” amounts.

It really doesn’t matter what distribution method the WSOP uses for the mystery bounties; the same inequity always arises, either early or late. One side or either gets cheated out of some expected value (EV) unless the WSOP could magically project the final number of entrants, assuming multiple levels of late registration are available.

It’ll be interesting to see how this value conundrum is addressed, when or if detailed structure sheets for the event are released. Right now, it’s an issue that needs fixing.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *