Poker Coverage:

A Proposal: Make The Money On Day One

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Mar 25, 2020


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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at

I travel around the country a lot, playing in tournaments and teaching seminars. Most of the events I travel for are multi-day events, with multiple day ones and then a day two, and usually a day three. Most of these tournaments do not reach the money on day one. In fact, most of them make it a point to NOT reach the money on day one, so that the field is fully combined for the bubble play.

For example, in most of the Heartland Poker Tour events I play, about 10 percent of the field will get paid, or perhaps a bit more. Most of their events play down to about 16-20 percent of the field on day one. Then, in case the pace of play is faster than expected on day 1A, they have a hard stop, earlier than planned, so the field doesn’t get too close to the money.

While I am all for more play in a tournament, it is also my belief that a lot of players would prefer to come back for day two only if they are already in the money. That way, they don’t make a long drive both ways to finish empty-handed, or instead of that drive, spend extra money on a hotel room. A lot of the players in these events are at least a 30-minute drive from the game, and some are making a one to four hour drive each way. It is extra painful to get up early on Sunday for day two, drive a long time to get to the poker room, and then bust within an hour or two and not make any money.

What if, instead, the structure were faster on day one? Fast enough that you could play for about the same amount of time, but expect to make the money at that point. It is typical for a day one to last about 12 hours in these tournaments, including breaks. If we had shorter levels, we could get to the money in about the same 12 hours, and then you would know you are getting paid when you come back for day 2.

The problem with this structure is that it is so fast, you end up with an average stack of only about 15-30 big blinds in such events. Whereas now, with day one ending several levels short of the money, you tend to see average stacks of 40-50 big blinds instead.

The solution here is simple. Create a structure that will get you to the money in the approximate 12 hour time frame (10 or so hours of playing time). At this point, if you are paying 10 percent of the field, you know that the average stack is about 10 times the starting stack. Then, completely ignore what blind level was reached on each of the day ones. Predetermine the starting level for day two, and pick a level where you will have the desired 50 or so big blinds in an average stack. If the start stack was 30,000, then we know the average stack on day two will be about 300,000. If we want the average stack to be 50 big blinds, then we start day two at the 3,000-6,000 level, and we roll it back even if the day one played to much higher blinds before reaching the money.

In some poker rooms, this will make a lot of sense. Especially when you are running a bigger event that is attracting players from a wide region. This way they can come in for one or more of the day ones, and only need to stay or return if they make the money and day two. In contrast, this change is unneeded if this is a multi-day event in the summer in Las Vegas. In that case, everybody is already there, with a hotel room booked, and it is not an inconvenience to return for day two, regardless of how close you are to the money. In some locations, it will also be unneeded, as players will either live fairly close, or will have had to travel from a distance such that they already have a hotel room booked either way.

I am not a poker room manager or tournament director, and this may not be a good idea for reasons I don’t know about. However, I have seen this method used in a couple of places, and it seems to be very popular with the players. As such, my goal is to put this idea in front of more of the people who schedule and run these events. I believe this might let you attract more players to your event, which is a good thing for all of us. Thanks for your consideration. ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.