Playing the Colossus? Structure Changes to Early Levels Make Fast Start Crucial
If you're planning to play the Colossus or any of the other low buy-in hold'em events at the 2016 World Series of Poker this year, you should be ready to take an aggressive stance early on.
Last year, the starting stacks for most of the events with buy-ins of $1,000 or less were increased to 5,000 chips, with $1,500 events getting stacks of 7,500. That led to some longer pre-bubble play, as structures hadn't been adjusted to the same degree as the stacks.
For 2016, the WSOP has stayed with the 5,000-chip starting stack for the $565 Colossus (Event #2), the $565 Pot-Limit Omaha (Event #12), and the $888 Crazy Eights (Event #54), as well as for the several $1,000 events and the $565 Casino Employees (Event #1).
Also, all of the events under $1,000 have 30-minute blind levels for Day 1 (last year's Colossus had 40-minute levels on the first day). In a big change, antes come into play in Level 3 in the NL tournaments this year, where last year they didn't show up until Level 5.
Here, side-by-side, are the structures for the early levels of the 2015 Colossus and this year's "Colossus II":
If the blinds remain the same, the introduction of an ante one-sixth the size of the big blind doubles the cost of a round on a nine-handed table. Unlike 2015, where the blinds don't go up on the level where antes begin, this year the blinds will increase by 50% when the antes start, effectively tripling the cost of a round between Levels 2 and 3.
Assuming an average of two minutes per hand and a full table, the cost of Level 3 in the 2015 Colossus was about 500 chips (225 chips per round, 20 hands in 40 minutes or just over two rounds). If you didn't play a hand during the first two hours (three 40-minute levels), you'd have lost a total of about 1,000 chips by the end of the level, or 20% of the starting stack.
By contrast, with 30-minute levels in this year's Colossus, Level 3 will cost 750 chips (450 chips/round, 15 hands in 30 minutes or about 1.66 rounds). And you'll still only be 90 minutes in with the shorter levels. Level 4 will be more costly, although the increase in cost isn't as significant. But by the end of two hours this year, you will lose 2,000 chips to blinds and antes — twice the cost of last year's structure, or 40% of the starting stack.
Keeping in mind this big change to the early levels, here are three tips for those playing the Colossus and other low buy-in events this summer:
1. Don't Be Late
If you're playing one of these events, it's unlikely that you're planning to pull a Hellmuthian-style late arrival. That's something you might be able to do in a $3,000 buy-in tournament, where the structure is identical at the low levels but you get 15,000 chips. Not in one of these events, though. You're probably itching to play, anyway. The fact is, you're going to need to pick up chips early on in these events in order to survive the first levels.
While it's not unusual for a tournament to have the cost of a round of play double between Level 1 and Level 2, you'll rarely find a structure where that happens after Level 2. In most tournaments, you'll see increases between levels ranging from 15% to 50%, with the occasional jump of 70%, but the cost per round of most WSOP events this year goes up by 200% in Level 3.
That means that first hour (Levels 1 and 2) will be crucial. Make sure you're in your seat on time. Don't put off that trip to the restroom and get stuck in a line (or having to walk back to your room). Good hands and good opportunities don't come around that often, and you want to be there when the magic happens.
2. If You Have the Choice, Don't Late Register
This goes with the previous advice, more or less. At the end of Level 4, if you haven't won any chips, you'll be starting Level 5 with 10 big blinds or less. The Colossus allows registration through Level 6, but anyone coming in at that point is going to be shoving their 10-BB stack at the first opportunity. The cost of the level then is just about half a starting stack.
If that's what you want to spend your $565 on, more power to you. But otherwise, you're going to need a stack large enough to survive through that phase, able to absorb paying nearly 2,400 in blinds and antes unless you can call one of those shoves. So get started building the stack early.
3. Make It Your Advantage
Not everyone at the WSOP is smart enough to read PokerNews. Not everyone pays attention to the structure sheets or understands the implications of a big jump like the one in this year's WSOP events. You can use this knowledge to your advantage if you see an opportunity.
Players who aren't expecting it will find themselves critically short on chips by the end of the third level if they've been active and haven't picked up any pots. Players who have lost chips and paid more than 1,100 in blinds and antes are going to see themselves as short going into Level 4 with less than 20 BB.
Some of those players will panic. They might nut down (in which case they're unlikely to survive the 70% round cost increase in Level 5) or they'll "try something" and fall victim to someone prepared to seize the opportunity — like yourself.
One Final Comparison
At the end of four hours of play in the 2015 Colossus, you would have paid about 4,300 in blinds and antes over six 40-minute levels — about 87% of the starting stack of 5,000 chips.
By the same time this year — eight 30-minute levels, but the same number of hands — on average you can expect to pay more than 10,000 in blinds and antes, or more than double the starting stack.
It's a far more aggressive structure, and it's more or less across the board. Don't turn your back.
2015 Colossus (40-minute levels)
|Time||Level||SB/BB/Ante||Cost per Level*||Cumulative Cost|
2016 Colossus (30-minute levels)
|Time||Level||SB/BB/Ante||Cost per Level*||Cumulative Cost|
*Ante * minutes per level / minutes per hand + minutes per level / minutes per hand / players per table * (SB + BB)
Darrel Plant lives in Portland, Oregon. A computer programmer by profession and a game player at heart, he writes about math and poker at his blog, Mutant Poker.