April 29, 2011

Impending changes to SNGs on PokerStars

PokerStars have released some information pertaining to the SNGs they run, following their teaser in February that they were "currently evaluating all SNG offerings, including rake". This original statement led me to write this post on SNG rake, and it looks like PokerStars may have come to some similar conclusions to me based on the details they have released so far.

"PokerStars Steve" aka Steve Day, who is manager of SNGs on PokerStars (amongst other roles), was asked what was happening with SNGs during his interview on the recent episode of the 2+2 Pokercast (from 1:29:18 to 1:32:29). From that information, and his posts on this thread on 2+2 it seems the following changes will be made "sometime in May".

Standardization of buy-ins
Certainly one flaw with the SNG lobby at PokerStars currently is that it isn't very organised in relation to buy-in. It's a little bit all over the place. Turbo SNGs have different buy-ins to non-turbos, some 45-mans and 180-mans have completely different buy-ins to their 9-man and 18-man counterparts, and also some of the amounts are quite unusual, such as there being $6 and $15 buy-in SNGs.

This looks set to change, and we can expect to see buy-ins conform to a more standard $5, $10, $20, $30, $50 model.

It also sounds like the lobby will be smartened up by including "speed" (turbo, non-turbo etc.) and "type" (Hold'em, Omaha etc.) columns, rather than that information being included in the tournament name as it is currently.


Slight reduction of rake
Although it's somewhat disappointing to hear the rake reduction be described as "slight" as opposed to "significant", "colossal", or "ZOMG, forget rake, we're going to pay you to play", it is exciting to hear of any reduction of rake. I believe it is in the best interests for poker in the long term, as well as in the best interests for my pockets in the short term :)

Although no exact details have been released yet, the buy-in+rake format will look like this: $10+x, $20+y, and in many cases the x/y are likely to be non-rounded figures.

I'm not sure listing SNGs as $10+0.56 (for example) is a great thing to inspire fish to play, I think listing a SNG as $10 and it being $9.48+0.52 (for example) makes more sense. However I'm not really wishing to criticize anything that results in a reduction in rake, so I'll take it!

It has been said that not all buy-ins will see a reduction in rake, but we will "definitely" see a gradual reduction in rake as you go from the lower stakes to the higher stakes SNGs. This was one of the main points of my aforementioned blog post, so I am pleased to see them fix this issue.


Blind structure
There are also some changes to blind structures and levels. Structures are being standardized/synchronized as much as possible at NLHE and PLO. The new structures have shorter levels with more frequent but smaller blind increases. Antes will be 10% of the big blind.

These changes only affect non-satellite Sit&Gos.
There has always been a huge jump in turbo SNGs on PokerStars from 100/200(25) to 200/400(25), where your comfortable 12bb stack suddenly becomes a red-zone 6bb stack in the space of one hand (pretty much 100% of the time it's when I'm about to be in the big blind, FML). This jump doesn't however exist in a turbo 180-man SNG which transitions from 100/200 to 125/250(25) to 150/300(25) to 200/400(50).

9-man, 18-man and 45-man turbo structure, but not 180-man

Presumably anomolies such as these are being eradicated, and although one can currently only speculate, it sounds like we may see the turbo structure go from:

  • 5 minute levels: 10/20, 15/30, 25/50, 50/100, 100/200, 100/200(25), 200/400(25), 300/600(50)
to something like...
  • 3 minute levels: 10/20, 15/30, 25/50, 30/60, 50/100, 75/150, 100/200, 100/200(20), 125/250(25), 150/300(30)

We shall have to wait and see. I think the standardization of structures is a good idea, and although I am unsure what effect the reduction of level time/increase in the number of levels will have on the games, I can't see it being a bad thing. Despite these alterations, the duration of SNGs will remain approximately the same to what they are currently, for the most part.

Hyper-Turbos?
Many people seem to be wondering if non-satellite Hyper Turbo SNGs will be introduced with these changes. I would speculate that they won't be, as Stars seems reluctant to bring these in; evidenced by the fact they don't exist already. Personally, I'm not sure if I want to see them introduced or not.


On the one hand, it might provide a game where I could earn a higher hourly rate, and potentially earn more VPPs to get back on the SNE train. On the other hand it might drive away traffic from games that I currently do well in.

I also think Hyper/Super-Turbos blur the line between poker being a skill game and gambling. Whilst obviously that skill edge will still exist for good players, the edge is thin, and in the short term for the average recreational player, I'd argue that these games are tantamount to playing a few hands of blackjack. Having said that, it would be interesting to see some kind of trial rolled, as happened with the new Fifty50 SNGs earlier in the year.


MTT Lobby?
Personally, I think it will be interesting to see what effect the changes have on the MTT lobby, which lists some SNGs at the top. This is prime real-estate which can potentially supply a lot of traffic the the games it lists, if they. I feel it gets too clogged up with too many Hyper Turbo satellites being listed, as well as games that don't run enough to benefit from this exposure (how the $60 Turbo 90-players SNG is still there I'm not sure. I don't think even one of these runs a day. You can't expect a fish to want to sign up to a SNG that only ever has 4 people signed up!). I think it could be beneficial, for example, to list the new $20+45-man tournaments on this page. Hopefully PokerStars will give this some thought.

MTT Lobby with my cleaning-up suggestions!

Final thought
I am very happy to see PokerStars taking active steps to improve their games. I was worried that this issue would get put on the back-burner as a result of Black Friday and the more pressing issues that have come about as a consequence of that (player balances etc.). With poker sites as competitive as ever at the moment, it is good to see the market leader take quick action to keep it's players happy and to attract new players (although hopefully not too many good regs!), with the changes scheduled to take place within the next month or so.


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2 Comments to "Impending changes to SNGs on PokerStars"

Barry Carter said...

They should have high stakes, hyper turbo, double or nothings.

Could you imagine that for mindless grinder shit?

cocobizzo said...

Dude, I sent them an email a while ago when i saw ur post about the new rake structures you suggested. I think if a few people did that too, that may have tipped the boat. I do agree that rake is way too high, and im a low stakes grinder so i pay alot of rake. Well done man, i look forward to hearing more from you, keep us updated!!
peace