Why don’t we see more six max events live?

When the vast majority of online games played are at short handed tables, why is it we hardly ever see six max games in the live arena? Short handed games not only have faster action, but most agree the skill level is higher because you cannot simply wait for aces.

The obvious reason why cardrooms do not host short handed games is down to cost and space. It stands to reason that if you can get six players at a table paying rake, you can make even more money if you get another three or four players at that table. Not only do you make more money per head, but you also have to pay less dealers on average per player. Not only is full ring more profitable, it is also more space effective. There are only a certain number of tables you can fit in the poker room of a casino, so it is much easier to meet the demand of a busy casino by hosting full ring games. 

Those are the reasons why we don’t see six max tournaments and cash games much in bricks and mortar games; they make perfect sense and it is hardly likely to change any time soon. But when so much of the online action is six max, the amount of live short handed games we see is still vastly disproportional. There is certainly a much bigger market and demand for six max games in live poker, one which is not being met by tournament organisers and casinos, because they feel they don’t have to. In particular it is the low to mid stakes players who are suffering the biggest shortage of short handed options on the circuit.

But there is no reason why six max can’t be a regular fixture on the live circuit for players of all levels, and no reason why it still cannot prove cost effective and profitable for the organisers of these events. I know first hand; my company D4 Events regularly puts on affordable six max events, including several events at the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour, and the upcoming European Short-Handed Poker Championships in Dublin in September. In our last Short-Handed Poker Championships in 2011 we managed to get 656 runners in the €550 main event, and eventual winner Steven King walked away with €63,000. 

I once heard a well known tournament director say that running a six max event costs 50% more overall, but I disagree and have the figures to back it up. It only costs us a little less per player than in the full ring deep stack events that we run. Because all our events are deep stacked (20,000 to 50,000 starting stacks), we have never been in the business of trying to bust most of the field in super quick time. However, we tend to find that our deep stack full ring events end with 50-55% players busted on day 1, and in our six max events around 70% are gone by the same time. So even though we have to start with more dealers, they are also being freed up for cash games and side events much sooner. 

The other major issue when it comes to six max games is spacing. That is rarely a problem for us because we have always chosen venues where there is an abundance of space. In particular, events like the Short-Handed Poker Championships take place at hotels rather than casinos, which always have function rooms and ballrooms which can accommodate hundreds if not thousands of players. This also means we can get preferable room rates for our players and make it logistically easier for them and ourselves alike. This year we are expecting 400+ players from France, so it is very important we can house them all in the same place. This also helps to keep our own operating costs down, as well as ensure that the cash and side games (Which are also six max in the latter stages) are busy. 

Six max will never replace full ring in the live arena and that is perfectly understandable. But putting on six max events can still be very profitable and cost effective for a casino once the buy-in gets to a certain level and if it is complemented by a good cash game/side event schedule. Online poker has proven that the demand for short handed games is huge, and the players are being let down by being constantly force-fed nothing but full ring games on 99% of the tournament schedule. 

Mike Lacey is director of D4 Events. The European Short-Handed Poker Championships takes place at the Regency Hotel in Dublin between September 26-30. The €550 main event, side events, and cash games are all six max, and you can get a special rate at the Regency Hotel at the official event website.