EPT9 Deauville Day 5: #whenwillitend A question of mathematics

It's been a few years now since the likes of Jason Mercier and ElkY stuck their tongues in their cheeks and began using the exasperated hash-tag #whenwillitend. They were referring to their perceived spells of bad luck which, for those two, means nothing more than about two months without a six-figure tournament score.

However in the press rooms of major poker tournaments, reporters have been asking "When will it end?" for years, referring not to droughts in winnings but rather to the tournament itself. The attempt to predict the length of a tournament has become one of the most common spectator pursuits, yet began as one of the most imprecise. In the early seasons, where structures changed frequently, we often didn't get much closer than if we span a ball around a roulette wheel and guessed that number of levels.

More recently, and as the structure has settled down, most EPT events of this size have lasted between 32 and 35 levels, regardless of the number of players. Every now and then someone like Benny Spindler comes along and blasts away the field--he wrapped up EPT London in 30 levels last season--but even the 299 players of Copenhagen took 31 levels to find their winner.

Here in Deauville this week, things have gone remarkably quickly, leaving us wondering whether we could be on for a new record. None of us could remember starting a Day 4 (the day on which we must play down to the last 24 players) with as few as 51 remaining, which we did here. The knock-on effect was that we played only three 90-minute levels yesterday before bagging for the night.

One of the theories being posited for the hastiness of the action is the unique betting laws that exist in French gaming statutes. Apparently, politicians in the French government have enough time to sit around and ponder the minutiae of Texas hold'em poker and have insisted that the sizes of raises and re-raises must differ from the standard on the rest of the EPT.

In all other countries, a raise or re-raise in hold'em is required only to be double the previous bet. But in France, a raise or a re-raise must be double the previous total chips committed to a pot, meaning mandatory minimum bet sizes escalate extraordinarily quickly.

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Big pots

To clarify, here's what a hypothetical min-raising battle would look like at any other poker table, versus a min-raising battle as it would appear in France. Let's say the blinds are 1,000-2,000 and it's the player on the button versus the big blind.

Regular min-raising - BTN: 4,000, BB (3-bet): 6,000, BTN (4-bet): 8,000, BB (5-bet): 10,000
Min-raising in France - BTN: 4,000, BB (3-bet): 8,000, BTN (4-bet): 16,000, BB (5-bet): 32,000

Min-raising like this isn't actually likely to happen at all, so let's look at it using the kind of bet-sizing real no limit hold'em players might utilise. Blinds are still 1,000-2,000 for the purposes of this example, and it's another heads up pot between the player on the button and the big blind.

Regular EPT betting - BTN: 4,000, BB (3-bet): 11,000, BTN (4-bet): 18,000, BB (5-bet): 32,000
Betting in France - BTN: 4,000, BB (3-bet): 11,000, BTN (4-bet): 22,000 (min), BB (5-bet): 44,000

According to Gordon Huntly, who has played around the world and is still on the final three tables here in Deauville, this has been big-pot poker almost from the off.

"The pots have been enormous, right from day two," Huntly said. "And there's been no slowing down. Depending on the table dynamics, you either go into it head on, or step back. There are many players intent on self-destruction.

"I think a lot of really good players have gone out because they've got involved in really big levelling, and only one of them is going to come out on top in a pot like that."

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Gordon Huntly, avoiding self-destruction

Paul Berende, who busted early from the main event here but stepped into the High Roller, said that he has had to modify the size of his three-bets, making later re-raising more difficult for opponents. "There's not much space for four- or five-betting," Berende said. "So it changes the amount of a three-bet. I tend to three-bet slightly bigger, knowing the other guy can't four-bet (without building an enormous pot)."

The table dynamics may be slightly different from normal, but Deauville does not ordinarily host quick tournaments overall. Last year's EPT Deauville was actually tied with Barcelona for the longest in mainland Europe of the season, taking 34 levels before Vadzim Kursevich emerged victorious. (The PCA is typically longer than all.)

Marc Convey, who has been following the action in both the main event and the High Roller for PokerNews here this week, said that he has noticed Berende's approach across all the tables, but that it has not necessarily changed very much. "I reckon it balances out," Convey said. "People are three-betting bigger but people are four-betting less. Time will tell if it makes the tournament longer or shorter, but I think it balances out."

Time will indeed tell. And in the time it took to do all the research above (about 90 minutes) only two players were eliminated from the main event, leaving us with 21. We are now in level 24, and it does not seem unreasonable to think at least another ten levels will be needed to find a winner.

Data dump:

Season 9
(Venue, players, end level)

Deauville 782 ???
PCA - 987, 33
Prague - 864, 33
Sanremo - 797, 31
Barcelona - 1,082, 34

Season 8

Monte Carlo - 665, 33
Berlin - 745, 33
Campione - 570, 32
Madrid - 477, 31
Copenhagen - 299, 31
Deauville - 889, 34
PCA - 1,072, 36
Prague - 722, 32
Loutraki - 337, 32
Sanremo - 837, 32
London - 691, 30
Barcelona - 811, 34
Tallinn - 282, 25

Throughout the day, our live coverage will be on the EPT Deauville main event page. And you can also watch it on EPT Live on PokerStars.tv. But there's also the High Roller playing its second day simultaneously. Tune in to that too.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour