PokerStrategy.com Column - Negreanu Takes A Stand Against The EPT

Daniel Negreanu
Negreanu Speaks His Mind
First published on PokerStrategy.com.

If you are one of the 131095 people who follow Daniel Negreanu on twitter, you may have noticed over the last few days that he has taken a stand against the European Poker Tour because of their policy of penalising the stacks of latecomers to their events.

So if someone has registered in advance but doesn't arrive at the start they get blinded away until they take their seat. If they buy in late, they receive less than the initial starting stack.

Negreanu is not happy about this, and chose to boycott the remainder of the side events at EPT London in protest.

One of my pet peeves in life is lateness (I am usually the first person to greet the dealer), but even more, I hate bad customer service. I can't help but think KidPoker is on to something with his latest protest.

Someone who registers late is after all a customer, and this practice is surely only going to alienate players who arrive late (Or arrived on time and were forced to be alternates).

They paid their rake like everyone else, and in the case of an event like an EPT high roller they paid a lot of rake, and I have never been a fan of any practice that looks like punishment to a paying customer.

My local gym used to fine people £1 for forgetting their membership card, a petty pointless practice which somehow enraged me more than some of the biggest injustices I have suffered. I can see why small things like this can piss poker players off.

Let us not forget also that our target audience, poker players, are among the tardiest consumers in the world. If we are going to start penalising them for being late, we may as well fine people for being drunk in bars.

Critical Decisions

Customer service aside, let us look at the actual impact of a late player arriving with a full stack vs a depleted one. The old adage of 'you cant win a tournament on day 1' is very appropriate here. The stacks are usually deep and 95% of the field is still in attendance during the late registration period. So a few orbits worth of blinds should never really factor into a critical hand decision yet.

Some people will make the argument that arriving four levels late with a full stack is an advantage, because you have already outlasted X number of players without losing a chip. I can only see such an argument applying to a really weird satellite overlay situation with a small field and a lot of guaranteed seats.

When you start a tournament on level 4 with the normal starting stack, you are already at a disadvantage, because you have less than the average stack. Starting late in a tournament actually has an opportunity cost attached to it, the later you start, the bigger the disadvantage. Penalising players further is only really going to put players off late registering in the first place, which is a lose-lose for both the tournament prize pool for the players, and the loss in rake for the organisers.

There is of course the issue that pre-registered players who arrive late have their stack waiting for them, and are thus blinding away from the start, whereas players who register late have their stack brought to the table with them. This could be said to be a disadvantage for those who register in advance but get held up.

This could be solved easily, by simply having the stacks being put into play when the player arrives at the table. This would also surely make it easier for the dealer to do their job beforehand, by not having to manage the stack on the late player's behalf.

I can imagine hundreds of small situations where giving late players a full stack can have an impact, but none of them being more significant for the players or organisers than negatives of latecomers deciding not to play at all.

Standardising The Rules

Is it worth Daniel Negreanu taking a stand against the EPT like this and boycotting the side events? I notice rather sensibly he didn't do this during the main event. There are bigger issues affecting poker right now than blinding off late stacks, that is for certain.

But you cannot fault a man for calling out his sponsor's flagship tour when he thinks they are wrong about something. Especially when you consider the turmoil that is taking place over at Full Tilt Poker, where 99% of the Red Pros have remained silent on monumentally bigger issues.

I happen to agree with him this time, but should we change the rules just because Daniel said they are wrong? Absolutely not. Negreanu has established himself somewhat as the 'Robin Hood' of poker, and regularly finds himself speaking out on issues others in his position would avoid like the plague. He tends to speak his mind about a lot of things, but it doesn't mean he is always right.

But where he does help poker is that, right or wrong, he gets people talking and taking notice. This issue is not the biggest issue to affect poker, but perhaps if it brings a few more of the right people into the larger discussion of standardising the rules of live tournament poker, maybe Kid Poker has done his job.

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