OFC Tournaments Reviewed – Part I (Overview, Golden Nugget Review)

We now have had 4 Live OFC Tournaments completed in Vegas, so I feel comfortable writing a review of all of the tournaments and commenting on what worked and what did not. (Note: I actually believe it has been 5, but I don’t know anyone who played in Binion’s OFC Tournament so I don’t have any information on it).

First, a quick review of each tournament:

Golden Nugget – 6/29 – Entrants: 100 – Here were the Tournament’s Rules:

The first thing to say about this tournament is that they made some questionable changes to the scoring system that would be used, ostensibly to “speed up the tournament”, but neither of them had much of an impact except to cause confusion amongst players not used to them. First, they used the “Royalties Trumping” rule, which meant that if I had a flush in the back, and my opponent had a higher flush in the back, I paid him a 4-pt royalty (they did not cancel). If I had a Flush and he had a Full House, I paid him the full 6pts, I got nothing (although I would still get paid for my flush from other players). The royalties only trumped each other for that sub-hand; if I had Sixes up top and he had a Straight in the back, he got a net of 1pt; 2 for his straight, -1 for my 6s.

In theory this was supposed to speed up the eliminations, but in actuality, first it slowed down the payouts because players often had to double or triple check the payouts to make sure it was correct (the dealers were not particularly helpful in this regard), second, the increasing chips-per-point levels were far more of a factor than any royalty-trumping rule in speeding up the eliminations – the chip leader fouled three straight hands when the levels went to 3,000/pt, and essentially lost all his chips and was out the door 2 hands later – royalties didn’t play any part in that.

Now, a friend of mine who plays higher stakes OFC games actually believes that Royalties Trumping is a better rule for the game overall. That is certainly an arguable point. My wife believes the exact opposite, arguing that it limits your ability to mitigate the damage from an opponent’s monster. That is certainly an interesting question. But GN did not introduce this rule because they felt it was better for the game overall. They introduced it to “speed up eliminations”, and in that regard, the rule did not accomplish the goal. The confusion and errors caused by introducing such a rule far outweighed the negligible advantage of “speeding up eliminations”.

The second rule change they made was even more ridiculous, because there was seemingly no reason at all for the change. They changed the top hand royalties to 66-TT: 1pt, JJ-AA: 5pts, Trips: 20 pts. I have no idea why they did this. It made Jacks a HUGE hand to shoot for – it’s the easiest 5pt hand to cover in terms of having a bigger pair in the middle and then two pair, trips or a royalty in the back, and my two biggest payouts came when I had Jacks up top. I don’t know why they adopted that rule, no one thought it made sense, it added more confusion, and dramatically limited the power of the top hand – pairs like 8s/9s/Ts only got 1pt so there was not a lot of value in going for them, similarly, QQ/KK/AA also did not payout appropriately. Royalties trumping at least could be defended as either improving the game or as an attempt to speed up eliminations – changing the top hand royalties to 1pt for 6s-Ts, 5pts for JJ-AA just was bizarre.

In terms of the actual tournament, the one major flaw in how they ran the tournament was that they did NOTHING to keep tables at the same level. Now, in normal poker tournaments, blinds go up according to a clock – yes, some tables play more hands than others but the differences are negligible. In Open Face, one table can play 4 hands before another table finishes 1; the rate of play varies drastically. Having levels go up on a clock would simply be ludicrous. So instead, what directors have decided to do is have the level-up process be tied to a set number of hands. Later tournaments switched to 8 hands per level, but Golden Nugget decided to do 4 hands per level. This itself was not the issue. The issue, however, was that nothing was done to ensure that one table would not be drastically ahead of another table in terms of what level they were on – it was possible for one table to be at the 1200/pt Level and another to be at the 700/pt Level; this happened when one table broke and the player was sent to my table – he had come from a table playing at 1200/pt, and now dropped to 700/pt (4 level drop). Similarly, when my table broke at the 1500/pt level, I was set to a table playing 3000/pt (a 3 level jump).

Clearly “something” had to be done to ensure that tables were at similar levels. Aria heard about what happened at Golden Nugget, and put in place a rule that over-corrected the problem, but that is something I will get to in Part II.

Now, the Golden Nugget tournament was still fun. It was only a $130 buy-in, so ultimately a lot of the players, myself included, had a good chuckle at the absurdity of the above-noted problems, and still just had a fun time playing Open Face Chinese in a Tournament structure. The floormen did a mostly good job breaking 3-handed tables – although there was a minor problem in that that they were instructed by the director to break from the outer-numbers in ONLY (so if you were at Table #1, which was also set to be the final table, you weren’t going to move unless you were eliminated); this did lead to the occasional silliness of a low-numbered table playing 2-handed (Which happened to my wife, who was at Table #3 and at numerous points had only 2 players, they refused to break her table because it was slated to be one of the last tables left).

An area that I feel Golden Nugget did a good job in was making sure the dealers at least ensured payouts were correct. Most of the dealers did not know OFC very well, and did not feel comfortable trying to score each player’s hand. However, all but one of the dealers I had (and my friends all agreed that their dealers acted similarly) were very good in letting all four players all agree which players owe points to other players, and then once it has been agreed Player A owes Player B 7 points, the dealer then makes sure that Player A paid Player B the appropriate amount of chips, based on the agreement that it was 7 points worth. The dealers may not have known how people came to the conclusion that A owed B 7 points, but they were very good about making sure that A paid B 21,0000 in chips if it was the 3,000/pt level. They also were very good about making sure the short-stack rules were enforced correctly (I will discuss short-stack rules later on). Sure, it would have been nice if every Dealer would know OFC well enough to score the hands as well, but I give credit to GN for acknowledging that some of the dealers had absolutely no clue on OFC scoring, and instead of trying to crash-course them on scoring and potentially having slow-downs and mistakes, rather, have the dealers focus on something that doesn’t require knowing all the OFC rules – ensuring proper payouts once the hands have been scored by the players (and only if there was a disagreement in scoring would they then have to really involve themselves).

Finally, I have no clue why GN did not take advantage of having extra dealers and extra empty tables to try to run OFC cash games during the tournament. Many players asked about cash games and the floormen kept answering “That’s next” or “Yeah I’ll get right on it”, without ever actually attempting to do so. This was simply a wasted opportunity for GN to make money; I saw many players who had busted playing friends on the App while watching their other friend still compete in the tournament.

Finally, here are a few pictures from the tournament: