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Debate Heats Up Over Quantum Reload Tournaments

In the beginning, the poker gods created poker tournaments. Then the poker gods said, “Let there be freezeouts,” and there were freezeouts. Then the poker gods said, “Let there be re-buy tournaments.” And it was so. Then the poker gods said, “Let the players who bust out of a Day 1 flight be allowed to pay again to play in another Day 1 flight.” And it was so. The poker gods called these “re-entry tournaments.” And the poker gods saw that they were good.

And now…in what some people feel is the result of mad scientists scoffing at the poker gods, the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker Main Event that starts this weekend will be what is called a Quantum Reload tournament. It has some poker players, and Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, in particular, all riled up.

Image credit: Allen Kessler's Twitter page
Image credit: Allen Kessler’s Twitter page

To explain, in the $3,700 WPT Legends of Poker Main Event, there will be three Day 1 flights, running Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. They take the structure of a re-entry event, as is common nowadays; if a player is eliminated on one of the starting days, he can pay another $3,700 to start over on a subsequent starting flight. So far, it is all pretty standard. But the Quantum Reload “Concept,” as they call it, builds on that, giving players the opportunity to skip the starting flights altogether and advance directly to Tuesday’s Day 2 (or buy-in to Day 2 after bombing out in the Day 1 flights). There is a premium to be paid for that luxury: the direct entry into Day 2 will cost $10,000 and players who use this option will start with 60 big blinds worth of chips, which is estimated to be below the tournament average. From that point, the tournament proceeds as usual.

Professional poker player Allen Kessler, arguably the epitome of a high volume tournament grinder, hates hates hates the Quantum Reload idea and took to the Two Plus Two forums recently to express his displeasure.

In a post entitled, “My open letter to Adam Pliska (WPT president) regarding quantum reload in wpt sponsored events,” Kessler wrote, in part, “…this format creates a gap between the haves and have nots. Players who struggle to make it through day one but ultimately advance, will have to face a whole new wave of skilled players who are eager for the extra chance to buy an average day two advancing stack.”

He later adds an illustration:

Imagine you are a local l.a. grinder. You win a satellite, you’re playing day 1c and knock out a tough opponent, Brian Rast. You have slightly less than an average stack but are pleased to have made day 2, and to have eliminated a tough opponent. You come back for day 2, find your seat, and there’s Brian directly to your left, and with more chips than you, even though you already eliminated him.

This scenario will happen multiple times. Players that made it through to day 2 will have to knock out the higher echelon players an extra time, and this time the skilled players have bought an even bigger stack.

It’s easy to see how this format will dissuade recreational players from even entering, or even trying a satellite.

He then scolds Pliska, partypoker’s Warren Lush, and Executive Tournament Director Matt Savage for allowing the Quantum Reload format in an event as prestigious as the WPT Legends of Poker.

Kessler has his supporters as some see Quantum Reload as a “money grab” and/or a format that is inherently unfair to recreational poker players who do not have deep pockets. The wealthiest players, opponents of Quantum Reload say, not only can buy-in directly to Day 2, but because they have the ability to do so, can play much more aggressively on Day 1, knowing they have a fallback plan. And playing more aggressively means a better chance to build up a large stack during those Day 1 flights.

Not everyone is so against Quantum Reload tournaments, though. Galen Hall, the 2011 European Poker Tour PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event champ, does not believe this will hurt recreational players as they enjoy playing against big name players and get excited to play in WPT events when they can. He did add, though:

IMO the biggest losers here are the second tier pros, the mid level grinders who are are better than the fish but worse than the elite pros.

These guys can afford to buy in to these events once, and have a positive ROI when playing against a field that’s mostly fish. But once you allow elite pros to re-enter 3 times and also buy directly into day 2 (which causes elite pros to play events they would otherwise skip), then all of a sudden they have negative ROIs.

In the end, Hall (along with others) likes the Quantum Reload idea because it “rewards better players at the expense of weaker players… anything you can do to emphasize skill…is probably a good move.”

One of the biggest pro-Quantum Reload voices that has contributed to the discussion is the Bicycle Casino Tournament Director Mo Fathipour, who also just happens to be the CEO of Quantum Reload Tournaments. He said:

The poker economy is constantly evolving. Each year there are hundreds, if not thousands, of poker tournaments throughout the nation and the world. Players always have a choice as to which events they choose to play based on buy-in, prestige, and location. This newer QR concept has been a huge success for the Bicycle Casino throughout our poker series and is now an opportunity for the WPT players to experience this prize-pool increasing format, while allowing players of all skill levels and bank-rolls to play.

At the end of his post, he said something to which opponents of the format really take exception: “The day 2 direct buy-in can be viewed as the official day 1 start, where the $3,700 sessions can be viewed as qualifying heats for the official day 1, where the player carries their chips forward.”

Essentially, Fathipour is saying that the Day 1 flights of the WPT Legends of Poker Main Event are now bastardized satellites to the “real” tournament, which starts on Day 2.

The argument over Quantum Reload tournaments is an interesting one, one with sides which both have valid viewpoints. The debate will no doubt rage on, especially if Quantum Reloads become more frequent; we shall see how it all plays out.

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