In the early 70’s, when WSOP started, it was a tournament for a small group of the best poker players in the world, all of them hardcore gamblers. They were not interested in any consolation prizes, they wanted the payout structure to be as steep as possible. Until 1978, it was actually a winner takes it all structure, and when they increased the number of payouts, the winner still got at least 50% of the prize pool for a number of years. Over the years, as the hardcore gamblers became a smaller and smaller percentage of the WSOP field, the payout structure has become more and more flat.
The online poker history is much shorter but shows a similar pattern. In the early days of online poker, the norm was that 10% of the players in MTT’s would get paid, with the winner getting at least 30% of the prize pool. Online poker rooms have since then gradually flattened the payout structures, and now you can see MTT’s that pay 15% of the field and the winner is getting only 15% of the prize pool. There is one main reason for doing this, and it is perfectly in line with Bodog’s Recreational Poker Model: A higher percentage of the prize pool will be awarded to net depositing players. The reason for this is that net depositing players are rarely competing for the top prizes in MTT’s but they will occasionally make it into the money. Making the net depositing players happy is key for success for every poker room—it is their deposits that generate revenue for the poker room.
The other side of the same coin is that less money will be awarded to withdrawing players, which means that more money will stay in the poker ecosystem instead of being withdrawn
Pokerstars recently launched time based tournaments. These will result in a flatter payout structure than we have ever seen in MTT’s before. Their shortest time based tournaments (15 minutes) will pay around half the field, and even though their longest (180 minutes) will pay about the same percentage of players as a standard MTT, it will be much flatter. The question is if Pokerstars is taking it too far here. There is a limit for how far you can go before it is not poker anymore. There has to be a gambling element, and as Doyle Brunson said when Patrik Antonius asked how Doyle could (correctly) call his all-in raise with pocket threes at a WPT final table: “We’re playing poker, not solitaire.”
Vice President, Bodog Network