PCA 2015: Rolling high and fast

For the most part over the past couple of seasons on the European Poker Tour, the High Roller events have been the best to report on. Not only are you guaranteed a constellation of superstars, but the tournaments get done much quicker than the Main Events.

Not so long ago, the High Roller tournaments -- €10,000 in most European destinations, €25,000 at the Grand Final and $25,000 at the PCA -- were two-day affairs, but their popularity pushed them into a third. These days they tend to last between 26 and 31 one-hour levels, which means High Roller champions are holding aloft their trophies when there are still about five or six people with designs on the Main Event.

We are looking today at another record-breaking field in the PCA High Roller: 200 unique players, plus 69 re-entries. The prize pool is $6,456,000. Smash, smash, smash. It has led to fears that perhaps the High Roller may now extend to Main Event length, ending the cushy days for High Roller reporters.

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Lots and lots of High Rollers - a "wealth" of High Rollers, if you will

It's pretty much impossible to state that with any real certainty whether or not that will indeed be the case, but the available data suggests that these bigger buy-in events are still likely to end more quickly. There's no television coverage of the High Rollers, which always helps to get things done sooner, and the general standard of player also means that there is significantly less faff over routine decisions.

Further than that, it's also often just a case of looking at the numbers from previous events and noting the general tendencies. Most people tend to agree that heads up play can tend to skew results -- heads up battles can take forever or be done in one hand -- so it's more significant to look at what level play reaches heads up. And even though players tend to get heads up with a huge number of big blinds in High Roller events, the tournaments still seem to wrap with a minimum of fuss.

Here's the past year of High Roller events on the European Poker Tour, including the last time one was hosted here at the PCA. We have looked at number of players, what level the tournament ended, what level heads up play was reached, and number of big blinds in play at these times.

We'll try to draw some conclusions from the figures beneath the stats dump.

PCA, January 2014

Entries: 247 (198 players, 49 re-entries)
Ended in level: 27 (40,000-80,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 74 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 27
Jake Schindler - 6,900,000 (86 BBs)
Greg Merson - 4,930,000 (62 BBs)

Deauville, February 2014

Entries: 115 (96 players, 19 re-entries)
Ended in level: 24 (20,000-40,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 96 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 23 (15,000-30,000)
Player 1 - Dominik Panka 2,935,000 (98 BBs)
Player 2 - 2,816,000 (94 BBs)

Vienna, March 2014

Entries: 181 (141 players, 40 re-entries)
Ended in level: 26 (30,000-60,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 90 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 25 (25,000-50,000)
Fabrice Soullier - 5,775,000 (115 BBs)
Andrey Filatov - 3,275,000 (65 BBs)

Sanremo, April 2014

Entries: 105 (88 players, 17 re-entries)
Ended in level: 23 (15,000-30,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 109 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 22 (12,000-24,000)
Ole Schemion - 3,475,000 (145 BBs)
Max Greenwood - 1,775,000 (73 BBs)

Grand Final, Monaco, April 2014

Entries: 214 (159 players, 55 re-entries)
Ended in level: 26 (30,000-60,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 89 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 26
Phillip Gruissem - 7,395,000 (123 BBs)
Player 2 - Scott Seiver (55 BBs)

Barcelona, August 2014

Entries: 393 (295 players, 98 re-entries)
Ended in level: 31 (100,000-200,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 49 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 31
Ihar Soika 13,500,000 (68 BBs)
Jason Mercier - 6,000,000 (30 BBs)

London, October 2014

Entries: 173 (127 players, 46 re-entries)
Ended in level: 27 (40,000-80,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 54 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 27
Andrew Chen - 4,600,000 (58 BBs)
Fadi Kamar - 4,000,000 (50 BBs)

Prague, December 2014

Entries: 309 (233 players, 76 re-entries)
Ended in level: 32 (120,000-240,000 blinds)
Average big blinds HU: 38 BBs
State of play heads up:
Level 31 (100,000-200,000
Andrey Zaichenko - 10,790,000 (54 BBs)
Laurynas Levinskas - 4,660,000 (23 BBs)

Although there is a clear correlation between number of players and length of tournament, it is far from certain that a bigger field means a super long event. The closest corresponding tournament to this one here in the Bahamas was the equivalent event last year, where there were 22 players fewer than are here. It lasted 27 levels (even if Jake Schindler and Greg Merson did smooth it along a bit by agreeing to chop and then essentially flipping a coin when they got heads up).

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Jason Koon heads out of the PCA High Roller

The only two EPT High Rollers with this structure that had more players, in Barcelona and Prague last year, are also the only two that lasted beyond 30 levels. In the case of the second of those, the final table comprised players who were largely unfamiliar to the deep stages of such an event. There were also a number of short stack double ups late on, particularly three handed, which forced the event to last longer.

Mike Ward, the PCA Tournament Director, thinks that this event will likely be done in good time, provided they play ten levels today, which will get down to about 24 players, and finish it off in about the same tomorrow.

Best guess is that the event will be over at around the 30 level mark.

Here's the complete payout structure for this event, while we're at it:

PCA High Roller - January 12-14, 2015
Buy in: $25,000
Entries: 269 (200 players; 69 re-entries)
Players: 200
Prize pool: $6,456,000

1 $1,294,460
2 $860,580
3 $629,460
4 $508,080
5 $398,340
6 $301,500
7 $221,440
8 $162,700
9 $134,940

10-11 $112,980
12-13 $98,780
14-15 $89,100
16-17 $79,400
18-20 $69,720
21-23 $63,260
24-27 $56,820
28-31 $50,360
32-39 $44,540