WSOP

The WSOP’s Big Move to Big-Blind Ante

This week, in the latest in its series of updates about this summer’s WSOP, the folks at the World Seres of Poker detailed much of the day-to-day meat of the 2019 WSOP slate. Though the lead item in the WSOP’s latest presser was an increase in the amount of starting chips given to players in many events, the real news was that the WSOP will be shifting to using the new and widely popular “big blind ante” format in all no-limit hold’em events.

That’s right, all of them. From the $10,000 buy-in Main Event on down to the WSOP’s Daily Deepstacks, sit-‘n’-gos, and other satellite and non-bracelet offerings, they’re all being shifted to the BBA format. Last year, if memory serves, the BBA format was used in one or two bracelet events on an experimental basis, and it was implemented for the late-night (11 pm) Daily Deepstack tourneys.

WSOPIt’s unusual to see a format or variant shift grab hold with such speed, but that’s what’s happening with the BBA. The format was first introduced in a formal event at the Aria in April of 2017 by the Aria’s poker tournament director, Paul Campbell, though Campbell admitted that the concept wasn’t his; it was instead something that had emerged out of home cash-games and tourneys and had been brought to him by a player.

Though there are some possible flaws and hitches within the BBA format, it’s been widely hailed as a significant improvement in game flow, and thus welcome news for live-event play. There’s not a live-tourney player who hasn’t had a playing experience negatively impacted by “that guy,” meaning that person who’s far too interested in something besides the mechanics of the game around him to be bothered with throwing in the ante each and every hand.

Usually, “that guy” has been a headphones-wearing dude who’s far too busy with the music or the sports on his smart device to keep track of antes – or sometimes, even when it’s his turn to act – but drunks and blowhards are frequent members of the “that guy” group as well. Indeed, one person’s self-indulgence has impact on the rest of the table, and in the last few years, it’s grown from being just one of these people at an occasional table to being between one and three amid every single damn group of players.

Shifting to the big-blind-ante format doesn’t eliminate that boorish behavior, but its intent is to lessen that behavior’s impact. And because most poker players are generally decent folks, mindful of others at the table and of the flow of the game itself, the significant benefits of the BBA format have been easy to see. Some also rejoice over the demise of area-code bet sizing in an event’s early levels, though to me that’s less impactful than the need to keep the games moving. With no bottom-level, 25-count chips in play, those bets simply can’t be made, that is, unless tin shears are present.

It’s the fact that the bottom chip in play is now the 100-denom rather than the 25-denom is the real reason that many of the WSOP event structures had to be updated to offer larger starting stacks. There’s little or no change to the overall quality of play in any given event. A $1,000 buy-in event, given a set number of entries, will still end at about the same time, and an average finisher can still be expected to be around for the same number of levels. The “more starting chips” thing is just an extra appeal to casual players; tourney regular already understand that the quantity of starting chips alone exists in a value, and it’s the structure surrounding that starting stack that makes an event a worthy value.

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