Structures? Schmucktures!

By Keith ‘The Camel’ Hawkins / October 2005

More rubbish is written on internet poker forums about the structures of poker tournaments than virtually any other topic. (Except perhaps the endless "online poker is rigged and here is the proof" nonsense).

The threads start in one of two ways. Either someone asks "What is the structure for the main event in Outer Mongolia next week?" Or someone else gives a trip report from the Venezuelan Masters. The replies virtually always include gems like: "You only get 2,000 chips for a £1000 tournament?!" or "How can you play a $5000 event on a 30 minute clock?"

The debate in these threads is virtually always farcical. Some posters/players seem to think that the only way to run a high value poker tournament is to run it at a snails pace with a barrel load of chips for each player. Don’t these guys ever want to play a hand for goodness sakes? Let’s all sit around for a week and wait for aces. Why not give us 100,000 chips and a five hour clock?

There is a factor involved in this debate which I rarely see mentioned. For a main event a 45 minute clock is plenty long enough to determine the winner. That is with one stipulation. If (and it’s a big if) all the players play without the massive and unnecessary dwell ups which seemingly have become the norm in big tournaments. I have been on tables where perhaps 10 hands are played in 45 minutes.

Here’s what some players do. They wait until it’s their turn. They look around the table. Then they peek at the first card. And sloooooooooowly squeeze out their kicker. Then they contemplate their action. Seconds go by. Then they pass. How on earth can it take them 30 seconds to pass 72 offsuit? Maybe they’ve seen all the dwell ups at the WPT on tv and believe that’s the way it should be done. Obviously sometimes everyone gets into a pot which requires a bit of thought. But with some players it’s every bloody hand! Come on.

Ask anyone who the best poker players in Britain are and there will be a very short list in answer. Ben Roberts certainly. David Colclough of course. Devilfish would make most lists. John Shipley, Lucy Rokach and Ram Vaswani would also be there or thereabouts. What do these players have in common? Aggression, patience, reading ability, game selection skills and several other attributes. But, I would suggest the most important ability of the top poker players in the World is the knack of adapting to whatever conditions they are competing under and playing winning poker.

This is what I suggest players who don’t like the structure here, there or wherever do. Adapt. If the structure seems a little faster tempoed than you are used to, well, play a little more aggressively than usual and take advantage of the rocks who can’t win on a fast clock.

And please, keep the dwell ups for the tv studios. There’s poker to be played!