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PokerStars to Modify Tournament Leader Boards in 2015

Always tinkering. PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker room, can’t seem to leave well enough alone these days. The latest: changes to the Tournament Leader Board (TLB) for 2015.

First, let’s take a look at the current TLB system so the differences can become more readily apparent. There are three TLB’s: Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly. Players earn points on the various leader boards for placing in the top 15 percent of any regular multi-table tournament. To define “regular,” let’s list the exclusions, the types of tournaments that do not count: satellites, heads-up tourneys, shootouts, restricted-entry tournaments, private tournaments, play money tourneys (obviously), VIP freerolls, and Sit-and-Go’s with fewer than 40 players.

PokerStars uses a specific formula to determine how many points a player is awarded for any given tournament finish, and while the nitty-gritty details are really unimportant, points are ultimately based on the buy-in (higher is better), the number of entrants (same), and the place of finish (ditto).

For the Weekly TLB, which goes Sunday to Sunday, only a player’s best 10 results count. The highest total points earner gets a chance to play in a $1,000 heads-up freeroll against a member of Team PokerStars Pro. If the pro wins, the prize pool rolls over and is added to the following week’s prize.

The Monthly TLB uses a player’s top 20 results for the month. The top 1,000 players at the end of the month split more than T$40,000 (tournament dollars) with the winner getting T$2,000.

The Yearly TLB takes a player’s top 100 results for the calendar year and, naturally, has the best prizes. This is easily the most competitive leader board, with only the top 10 points earners winning anything. Over $200,000 in PokerStars Passports will be doled out in a few weeks, with $50,000 going to the winner. The Passport money can be spent on any PokerStars-sponsored live event (such as an event on the European Poker Tour) or any PokerStars online tournament series (such as the World Championship of Online Poker).

That’s it. Aside from the actual points formula, the whole thing is actually quite simple.

Now for the changes, which will be implemented on January 1st, 2015.

The Weekly TLB will remain exactly the same, so let’s move on to the Monthly TLB. Rather than there being twelve of them, they will essentially be condensed into three months for the new Summer Leader Boards. As the name might imply, the three months will be June, July, and August, with $100,000 in prizes given out for each. No specifics have been given yet as to what the prizes will be, but it would not be surprising if they were tournament dollars again. The total value of the prizes will be significantly lower than it is now; $531,600 currently (if my math is correct) versus $300,000 next year.

The Yearly TLB has also been reworked. The calculations remain the same, as a player’s top 100 scores are still what count, but the prizes are now different. A total of 40, rather than ten, players will win prizes and PokerStars has determined that the total prizes are valued at $450,000, rather than the current $200,000. All 40 players will win entry into a $75,000 freeroll and $5,000 worth of major online series tickets. The top ten will also receive “up to” one year’s worth of Sunday Million tickets. On top of all that, the top three finishers will win cash prizes: $35,000 to first, $25,000 to second, $15,000 to third.  PokerStars Sunday Million

PokerStars says that the value of each of the top three prize packages eclipse the value of each of the top three packages as currently constructed. Fourth and fifth lose value, while sixth through tenth gain value. And of course, thirty more places are awarded prizes.

To give my quick analysis, the cash prizes for the top three are certainly better than their cash equivalent in Passport dollars, but it will really be up to each individual player as to whether or not he would appreciate Passport dollars for the rest of it or the Sunday Million tickets, online series tickets, and freeroll. The main problem I see people having is with the Sunday Million tickets. The winners will feel pressure to use them or they lose a ton of prize value, but the problem is that they would have to commit to playing a tournament every Sunday, one that lasts for hours and hours and hours for those who do well. The Passports offer more flexibility and players can plan their calendars accordingly. The online series tickets are basically a wash with the Passport money. The freeroll might actually be solid, as with only 40 players qualifying and likely not all of them playing, there looks to be some pretty decent equity with that large of a prize pool.

For the rest of the top ten, I think the new prize distribution is worse than this year’s, even with the extra calculated value for sixth through tenth. There is no cash and the rest of the prizes, in my opinion, compare less favorably to the Passport money. For the remaining winners, it will obviously be better because anything is better than nothing. The fact, though, that the Yearly TLB will pay to more places may satisfy a lot of players, as it naturally gives more people a chance to win.

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