This past week, PokerStars launched yet another new game type and yet another designed to appeal to the recreational player: Beat the Clock tournaments.
Beat the Clock tournaments use the Zoom Poker – PokerStars’ version of fast-fold poker – format throughout. For those unfamiliar, in Zoom Poker, as soon as a player folds, he is whisked away to a new table to play a new hand. Generally, there is no wait at that next table – the new hand starts immediately. Zoom Poker is not a game for those who want time to rest their brains, but that’s the appeal – no down time, constant poker.
Right now, every Beat the Clock tournament is four-handed with 48 players in each match. Buy-ins are $1, $5 or $10 for these Sit-and-Go’s, so as soon as 48 players register, a new game gets going. Blind levels increase every minute.
Where these types of tournaments really differ from others is that they are on a fixed time limit, ending after five minutes. When the final buzzer sounds, every player remaining the tournament wins a piece of whatever remains in the prize pool.
The way the prizes are determined is based on everyone’s chip counts relative to the total. With starting stacks of 5,000 chips, there are 240,000 chips in play. If a player has, say, 12,000 chips when time runs out, he has 5% of the chips and is thus awarded 5% of the prize pool. In a one dollar tournament, the prize pool is $43.20 (90 cents of the buy-in goes to the prize pool), so that player would win $2.16.
As might have been able to figure out, some players will earn prize money, but will still lose money overall, as their chip count might result in a “win” of less than a dollar. Doing the math, the break-even chip stack is about 5,556 chips. But hey, winning something is betting than winning nothing.
As with any new game, reactions to Beat the Clock tournaments have been mixed. Some, particularly pros and serious amateurs, hate that the games are so fast, players start with such small chip stacks, and PokerStars rakes ten cents from every dollar. Valid concerns, all. Others, though, like the idea of being able to participate in a tournament knowing it will be done in five minutes. Recreational players don’t often care about the rake and a speedy tournament in which skill is perhaps not as big of a factor as it normally might be can be a lot of fun. The ability to play a tournament on the train to work or hell, even while taking a bathroom break, is likely welcomed by those who just play for entertainment.
In a press release, PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset said, “We are constantly looking to innovate at PokerStars and believe Beat The Clock is a great new addition to our poker offering. It’s the perfect format for those who want to fit in some quick, intense poker action and is ideal for mobile play, where, in just five minutes, players can experience all the emotions and excitement that only poker provides.”
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