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Saturday, July 31, 2010

What is a "deep stack" poker tournament?

Lots of casinos advertise "deep stack" tournaments, but this and similar terms are much abused.  A recent example is the Detox Poker Series at the Las Vegas Hard Rock, from August 13-22, 2010. 

A legitimate deep stack tournament should have starting chip stacks of at least 200 times the big blind. The gold standard is the Main Event of the WSOP, which in 2010 gave each player 30,000 in starting chips. With blinds starting at 50/100, this is 300 big blinds.  Most no limit holdem events at the 2010 Grand Poker Series at the Golden Nugget  featured starting stacks of 240 big blinds (12,000 in chips and 25/50 blinds).  This is not only a legitimate deep stacks event, but was a very well run tournament series. 

The Detox Poker Series claims to have "deep structures for extended play," suggesting a legitimate deep stack event.  While it does have a good blinds structure, the starting chips almost ruin it.  Most of the events give players only 5000 chips with starting blinds of  25/50, which is only 100 big blinds.  The insufficiency is apparent from the fact that playing the first three levels of 40 minute rounds costs players about 900 in blinds, which is 18% of the starting chip stack.  While the "deep structures" claim is not overtly false, it is very close to misleading because of the stingy amount of starting chips. 

Don't be fooled by "deep stacks" advertising claims.  To get good value for your tournament entry fees, it pays to do the math.