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Here's how you designed the PSPC

Here's an update on the PSPC from PokerStars Executive Tournament Director Danny McDonagh:

A few weeks back, I posted a quick update about a trip to Las Vegas where I had the pleasure of meeting the PokerStars executives behind the PokerStars Players NL Hold'em Championship (PSPC) and some of the players who'll be playing it.

We took a quick look at the potential prize pool for what could be the biggest $25,000 event in poker history. And to finish things off, we added a little reminder that players could also help us shape this fascinating event by taking part in the PSPC Have Your Say survey.

There is, after all, a reason the word 'Players' is in the name.

Well, I'm pleased to report that the results are in. Over the two-week survey we had hundreds of responses and every one made a difference. Thank you all.


We set just two conditions before seeking players' input. Firstly, the event would run for five days. Second, it would be a freezeout format. Almost without exception, players understand the decision to not allow rebuys to the PSPC.

Who was involved?

When we sent out the survey we included Platinum Pass winners, players we expected to directly buy in (DBI), and our social media followers. We looked at totals as well as weighted averages, given the number of responses over social media.

I also spoke to our Director of Live Events, Marta Norton and consulted with PSPC and PCA Tournament Director Mike Ward. Mike's been with the PCA since 2004, when it was held on a luxury cruise ship.

Finally, I got together with PokerStars LIVE staff and five players: Maria Konnikova, Daniel Dvoress, David Peters, Shaun Deeb and Dragos Trofimov. This was to smooth out some items that the survey couldn't address.

We combined this feedback and the survey results to create what we believe will be the ultimate people's high-roller.

Here's what it's going to look like.

1. Should the event be eight or nine-handed?

This was a tough one. The results were almost 50/50, and on a weighted basis, 55% favoured eight-handed with the DBI category significantly in favour. But the total ultimately found in favour of a nine-handed game.

So, we'll start the event nine-handed and, if space and seats allow, move to eight handed at the start of Day 2 at the latest.

2. Should players play for eight or ten hours each day?

Easy! It looks like 70% of you are in favour of an eight-hour day. So, we'll design the structure accordingly.

3. Should the eight-hour day include a dinner break?

60% of you favoured a dinner break. So, we'll introduce a dinner break at the earliest opportunity. We plan to not break for dinner during days 1 and 2, then look at player numbers.

4. What percentage of the field should be paid?

Based on total responses, the standard 15% for major live events was the clear favourite here. Then Mike Ward added something new. There's no rake for this event, so the additional prizepool is going to be distributed amongst those who make the money.

Based on 700 players, that amounts to $525,000, or more precisely, $514,500 less the 2% staff fee. Normally, for 700 players we pay 103 players. However, for the PSPC, an additional 20 players will be ITM for $25,000.

5. What percentage of the prize pool should be paid to first place before PokerStars adds $1 million?

Players favoured 17% to 19% of the prize pool for first place, followed by 15% to 17% based on 600 to 900 players. However, it also became very evident from the round table discussion that we need to slightly flatten the prize pool structure at the top, given the $1 million added to first place.

This is what the PSPC will award*:

600 players: 1st place 17.5% which equates to $2,495,325
750 players: 1st place 17.05% which equates to $3,205,079
900 players: 1st place 16.8% which equates to $3,796,887

Plus, $1,000,000 value added!

*These calculations are based on a contribution per player of $24,250 less 2% staff fee. As mentioned earlier, the $750 balance which is normally rake will be allocated to the prize pool as an additional $25,000, increasing the number of players in the money.

6. Should the PSPC use a shot clock?

Players are resoundingly in favour, with 77% leaning towards its introduction on Day 2. We decided the shot clock will be introduced at the in-the-money stage, which is expected late on Day 2.

7. Should the PSPC use the Big Blind Ante format?

The survey showed 56% of total responses and 64% of weighted responses desired the Big Blind Ante, so we'll use that format, as is the case for all major PokerStars LIVE events.

8. How many big blinds should be in a starting stack?

Resoundingly, 300 big blinds was the favourite. The PSPC structure will be very similar to the PokerStars LIVE standard High Roller structure, with an extra 10,000 in chips, meaning a starting stack of 60,000 and starting blinds of 100/200. We will play 60-minute levels for the duration of the tournament.

9. How much should a min-cash be worth?

Survey results were quite varied depending on the group of responders. Platinum Pass winners clearly preferred $37,500 (1.5x). DBIs were mixed with both $25,000 (1x) and $37,500 equally the most popular. Social media responders marginally preferred $25,000, with $30,000 (1.2x) and $37,500 also popular choices. During the round table the consensus came down to somewhere between 1.2x ($30,000) and 1.5x ($37,500).

We decided the min-cash will range between $31,900 and $36,300 depending on whether the final number is at the lower or higher end of the number of players-paid bracket. That equates to approximately 1.27 to 1.45 times the buy-in.

Plus, the extra 25k prizes from what is normally the rake component.

Here is a snapshot of how the prize pool will look at the min-cash stage:

600 players

• 87 players normally ITM
• Min-cash 87th $34,222
• Rake redirected to prize pool less 2% staff fee equals $441,000, meaning 17 additional players ITM.
• 88th to 103rd $26,000
• 104th $25,000

750 players

• 111 players normally ITM
• Min-cash 111th $32,974
• Rake redirected to prize pool less 2% staff fee equals $551,250, meaning 22 additional players ITM.
• 112th to 113th $25,625
• 114th to 133rd $25,000

900 players

• 135 players normally ITM
• Min-cash 135th $32,083
• Rake redirected to prize-pool less 2% staff fee equals $661,500, meaning 26 additional players ITM.
• 136th to 158th $25,500
• 159th to 161st $25,000

10. What's most important: 1st place, min-cash or percentage-of-field paid?

This has no bearing on setting the format, however "percent of field" was clearly the most important to players. Here's a summary of the key structure points:

Starting Stack 60,000
Starting Blinds 100/200
Ante BB Yes
Action Clock From ITM
Players 9 handed start, moving to 8 handed
% of field paid 15%*
Min cash $31,900**
Optimal hours per day 8
No dinner break if 8 hours played

* plus rake savings redirected as additional prizes
** Additional players ITM due to rake savings redirection get $25,000


Whilst in Barcelona, we also took the time to get some player feedback on the full schedule of events. After all, the PSPC is one of many tournaments that will take place in the Bahamas.

I am pleased to say that the full schedule is now completed and available on the PokerStars Live website and app.

Below are the key dates:

Event start day - January 5th (we will be running a satellite for the Players' Championship at 6pm)
Players Championship - January 6th to 10th
Super High Roller $100K - January 10th to 12th
PCA Main Event - January 11th to 16th
PCA National - January 9th and 10th

For all the details of the entire PCA, visit the PokerStars Live website here.

Thank you all, once again, for your contributions.

See you there!

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