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Old 01-17-2013, 12:46 PM   #1
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Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenge During the PCA

I originally posted this on another forum, but at the request of Mike McDonald I am putting it on 2+2. Feel free to move if this is not the right area to post this.

Let me say first off that my overall impression of the PCA is that it was very well run by PokerStars. But there was one glaring omission, the ZOOM challenge.

The ZOOM challenge was a new event (and concept) that PokerStars came up with. ZOOM poker is essentially the same as RUSH Poker that Full Tilt used to have. PokerStars had a tournament that they were running in the Players' Lounge where you had to run up as many chips as possible in 12 minutes (playing on an iPad). You start with 20,000 play money chips and they put you in the 100/200 play money game against real play money players. Any time you bust or fall below 20k chips, you auto-top back up to 20,000 chips. At the end of the 12 minutes, the amount of chips you have is recorded and put on the leader board. People with the most amount of chips cash in the event, with a normal pay-out structure (with $50k gtd). So if there's 50 entrants, then the top 5 chip leaders would cash with the largest chip stack getting 1st, 2nd largest getting 2nd, etc. The event took place throughout 4-5 days and you could play at any time from noon to 5pm in the player's lounge. The first 'problem' with the event is that it's obviously a big advantage to try to go as late as possible so you know how many chips you need to run up in order to cash/win. The day before the last day, they had something like 25 entrants total, including one guy who had gone 7 times (each entry is $1,000+25). You can enter as many times as you like, and I believe can even cash multiple times. For instance, you might have the 2nd most amount of chips on your first run, and the 4th most amount of chips in another run.

Okay, so far we have no problems. The 'chip leader' only had like 80k chips at this point, and I believe 2nd was like 60k. I thought this would be pretty easy to beat. My strat egy was to just go all in every hand and I thought these play money players would call with anything, and I'd just have to get lucky a few times and I could easily get a 100k stack if I ran well. Well, you learn very quickly how tight these play money players are. Yes, the 100/200 play money players are tight. I mean unimaginably tight for a play money game. The 100/200 play money is like the nose bleeds for play money players. They grinded for a long time to amass that many chips and they're not going to call you off with QJs even when they see your account shoving ATC (or top 50% of your range or whatever) every time. Another thing you have to understand is that they love to tank, which is super annoying because you want to see as many hands as possible. A hand might go limp, limp, I go all in, tank fold, tank fold, tank fold. So I went and ran it up to as much as like 42k and then got felted in a 80k pot and ended the 12 minutes with my starting stack of 20k. Okay, no big deal. I 'ran bad' and was on an equal playing field as all the other entrants.

Well, as soon as I finished Mike "timex" McDonald and another guy (believe his name was Andrew Chen) were both signed up to go next. PokerStars suggested they just play at the same time. Wait... WHAT? How can you have two people playing at the same time? The staff running the event said they'll have a strict 'eyes down' policy so that nobody cheats by looking at the other person's screen and sees their cards. Well, that's not really the issue. The biggest hurdle is getting somebody to go all in with you so that you can try to gamble up your stack. If you're playing against somebody who is the doing the same thing, obviously that's a big advantage (because busting is not a big deal, you just get a 20k starting stack back with no penalty). I watched the match go on and it seems like they didn't really end up on the same table except for once where they didn't realize it and one of them folded. Had they seen the other guy they definitely would've gone all in knowing they'd get called. They're in a pool of about 150 people so they're not going to be playing every hand against each other, but it's 'rush' poker so they'll definitely run in to each other, likely a few times. I immediately realized they had an advantage going at the same time and Timex and his buddy definitely realized it as well. I didn't say anything because for that particular match it didn't seem to really matter (though it definitely could have) and I figured if I sign up on the last day at the last minute I can maybe play with somebody else and have an edge against everybody who played by themselves. Somebody pointed out how it's an advantage to play with somebody else, but Stars' brushed it off and didn't seem to understand why.

So on the last day I got my final ticket. The latest you could register was 5pm, and Stars staff said at 5:15pm they'll have a drawing to determine the order of who goes when since obviously everybody wants to go last. Well before 5pm there were 5 people in the $25k high roller that were signed up to go and they all wanted to play on break and do it as quickly as possible so they wouldn't miss a hand of the $25k. Well, that was no problem. Stars facilitated it where ALL FIVE could play at once. This is a gigantic advantage obviously. I literally could not believe what I was seeing. So they all start at the same time, and what happens? Four of them end up at the same table the first hand and obviously they all go all in and some lucky guy ends up with 80k chips right off the bat. This is already enough to cash and is close to being chip leader. At the end of the match somebody ends up with 160k+ chips which was way way ahead of the previous chip leader, and 3 out of the 5 entrants in that match beat the previous chip leader (when there had been ~50 entrants at this point). None of them would've been able to amass as many chips as they did had they of been playing by themselves. It's not as if they were purposely colluding with each other, but everybody at this point had a pretty similar strategy of going all in a lot. And if you see another ZOOM challenger at your table and you have 20-40k chips, you're definitely going all in. I couldn't believe this was allowed to happen, and nobody seemed to really care. Almost everybody up until this point had played by themselves and then all of a sudden five people were allowed to go at the same time.

This got brought up to a Stars' coordinator and I expressed how unfair it was to everybody who had gone solo and how huge of an advantage those 5 players had. Especially the guy who went SEVEN times by himself and now wasn't even going to cash because people were going in multiples now. He shrugged it off. He basically admitted how he could see how it would be an advantage but said if five people wanted to go at once before that they would've accommodated it. Well, this is bull****. I'm pretty sure the first two dozen people who went all went by themselves. It was never presented as an option that you could go with somebody else until they started getting lines to go and wanted to reduce the queue. Obviously if anybody knew they could play in groups, everybody would've taken this option. I watched several people play and they all played alone. To my knowledge out of the first few dozen entries, they were all solo players. I asked for a full run-down of the rules prior to going, and playing at the same time as multiple other people was never presented to me as an option. In my opinion, nobody who went solo had any chance whatsoever of even cashing in this event (or at least a very very low chance, and certainly no chance of winning). Anybody who played solo might as well have thrown there $1,025 in the garbage. I overheard some Stars' staff talking about how next time they do this event to make sure that people can't play together because people are upset that it's a big advantage to play in a group. At this point they realized they had messed up, but didn't want to openly admit it because it's a difficult situation to rectify.

If I wasn't going to be allowed to play in a group of 5 people at the end, I was going to ask to be unregistered for the event. For the final 'flight' there were 7 people who were signed up to still go including one person who wasn't there, so there were 6 of us waiting around to go and of course we all wanted to play verse each other. They could only accommodate up to 5 people playing at once so Stars' suggested we break up in to two groups of 3. Well, we didn't want to do this because it's much better to be in a group of 5 than a group of 3. So we decided on having one guy have his name pulled out and that guy would get ****ed and have to go solo and basically waste his $1,025 entry and the other 5 of us would get to play with each other and have a pretty decent shot of cashing in the event. Luckily I dodged getting my name pulled out. One of the guys in my group of 5 said he had already played it by himself four times. Basically all of those entries were a waste. In the final group of 5 I ran pretty bad, but you could clearly how big of an advantage it was. I ran it up to 60k pretty easily and got involved in a 100k pot which I lost. Had I won that pot, I likely would've cashed in the event. If I was playing solo, it's very unlikely that I even would've been able to get in that spot. If I'm lucky enough to play a 100k pot against one of these play money players, I prob only have 20% equity, whereas in this type of a spot I'll likely have 40-60% equity and it's much easier to get involved in a pot like that. In the end I believe there were ~60 entrants, and I think everybody who cashed went in one of the last two groups of 5 (or at least almost everybody).

Everybody who went solo got completely screwed. What was weird, was nobody seemed to be all that upset by this glaring mistake by PokerStars. People who went solo should have been demanding refunds from PokerStars for their wasted entries, or at least some type of serious compensation. Especially those who didn't have a chance to go in a group of 5 or those who had multiple solo entries. I personally didn't press the issue too hard, because I probably had some edge by going last even though my first entry was a complete waste. Usually PokerStars does the right thing in situations like this, but it's hard for them to rectify this. They don't want to eat ~$40k+ reimbursing people who had a solo entry in the event. I haven't been following the situations super closely so I don't know if Stars' has made an official announcement or apology regarding the ZOOM challenge, but they need to. Kevmath informed me that Timex and others were tweeting about it, but I don't know if that went anywhere. To my knowledge PokerStars has not made any steps to resolve this major screw-up on their end. In my opinion, some sort of restitution needs to be made for all solo entries, including those who later went in a multiple group. At the very least a major apology and admission that they messed up needs to be made. If I was one of these guys who had multiple solo entries I would be livid. If any PokerStars staff (or any poker media) would like to talk to me, please PM me and I can give you my phone number or exchange e-mails with you.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:09 PM   #2
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

Obviously they didn't think thoroughly about it. Neither did the players cause there is so much wrong with this concept. You could have easily gotten a few friends to amass play chips and chip-dump it to you.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:13 PM   #3
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

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Originally Posted by Iamcloud View Post
Obviously they didn't think thoroughly about it. Neither did the players cause there is so much wrong with this concept. You could have easily gotten a few friends to amass play chips and chip-dump it to you.
This did occur to me, but I don't think it happened. For one thing, you would really have to plan it out ahead of time because you only start with 1k play money chips, so you would probably have to buy a bunch of chips. What would've been easier to do is get friends of yours to jump in the games and stall when another ZOOM challenger is at the table to run down their 12 minutes quicker. But again, I don't think any of this happened.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:13 PM   #4
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

cliffs?
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:24 PM   #5
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

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Originally Posted by Tryst_ View Post
cliffs?
Cliffs:
PokerStars allowed and encouraged players to essentially collude in a tournament they ran and gave certain players a huge advantage while screwing others over.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:34 PM   #6
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

This was definitely a very weird tournament. It was being run as a bit of fun I think but with a pretty high price tag (1k+r) they should have figured out the rules before running it.

For the record I played twice solo or with one other person in the pool which I wish I didn't and once on the 25k break which I don't regret but also resulted in me losing my 1k.

Something you don't mention in your OP that I think is somewhat relevant is that although the people playing earlier didn't know multiple people would play together later on they did know they were fine with being at a disadvantage by playing before they knew what the scores were to beat. So in a smaller way these people had agreed to take a bit the worst of it already.

I hesitate to make the point above since I agree there is a stronger advantage to having 4 other challengers in the pool at the same time, then there is knowing what scores you need to cash/win.

Also David Williams went either solo or with one other I think when he won? (luckbox)
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:35 PM   #7
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

OP - I'm sure you have a point but fml 'whoosh' - I understood none of that!


Colour me dumb ldo
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:36 PM   #8
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

Cliffs:

- 1k entry Zoom tourney at PCA, everyone starts with 20k and winner is the person with the most chips after 12 minutes. It's nose bleed play money level (lol, 100/200). If you bust you insta get another 20k as long as it's within the 12 minutes.

- Nosebleed play money players are tight and it's hard to get action, especially as it's a "good" strat to go all in a lot to try and spin up a stack.

- Players who played by themselves struggled to get action where as players who played with 4 other contestants got much action as they could gamble/freeroll vs each other for big pots to have a better chance of spinning up a stack.

- Mentioned to stars at the time but they brushed it off.

Sorry if there's any errors, done it quick!
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:38 PM   #9
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

not disagreeing with OP or anything, but who puts down this kind of money on something so ridiculous.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:42 PM   #10
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

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Originally Posted by DaycareInferno View Post
not disagreeing with OP or anything, but who puts down this kind of money on something so ridiculous.
The sort of people who have enough money to go play a $10k MTT in the Bahamas!

Last edited by handbag86; 01-17-2013 at 01:42 PM. Reason: disregarding people who get staked for a lot of action
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:43 PM   #11
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

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Originally Posted by Apathy View Post
Something you don't mention in your OP that I think is somewhat relevant is that although the people playing earlier didn't know multiple people would play together later on they did know they were fine with being at a disadvantage by playing before they knew what the scores were to beat. So in a smaller way these people had agreed to take a bit the worst of it already.


I hesitate to make the point above since I agree there is a stronger advantage to having 4 other challengers in the pool at the same time, then there is knowing what scores you need to cash/win.
This is true. But I think the reason some people went earlier (or at least the reason i did) is so that they could play it multiple times. You can only go once at the very end.

Quote:
Also David Williams went either solo or with one other I think when he won? (luckbox)
I'm not 100% on the details. But I know the large majority of the cashers are people who went in the last 2 groups of 5. The results aren't really relevant, it's more about how certain people were at a huge disadvantage. If a solo entrant went on to win or cash, then they ran way above EV and would've had to run much better than somebody who went in a group of 5.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:44 PM   #12
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

Did everyone play this on their own screen names? I think it's more likely for a known player to get action (David Williams) than someone with a relatively unknown screen name (Apathy - no offence dude, but your average play money player is gonna known of David Williams more than Peter Jetten).
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:48 PM   #13
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

Quote:
Originally Posted by handbag86 View Post
Cliffs:

- 1k entry Zoom tourney at PCA, everyone starts with 20k and winner is the person with the most chips after 12 minutes. It's nose bleed play money level (lol, 100/200). If you bust you insta get another 20k as long as it's within the 12 minutes.

- Nosebleed play money players are tight and it's hard to get action, especially as it's a "good" strat to go all in a lot to try and spin up a stack.

- Players who played by themselves struggled to get action where as players who played with 4 other contestants got much action as they could gamble/freeroll vs each other for big pots to have a better chance of spinning up a stack.

- Mentioned to stars at the time but they brushed it off.

Sorry if there's any errors, done it quick!

Many thanks
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:48 PM   #14
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

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Originally Posted by handbag86 View Post
Did everyone play this on their own screen names? I think it's more likely for a known player to get action (David Williams) than someone with a relatively unknown screen name (Apathy - no offence dude, but your average play money player is gonna known of David Williams more than Peter Jetten).
No, at first everybody was playing on the screenname "ZOOMchallngr" and then when there were multiple entrants it was like "ZOOM_PCA" "Daut_PCA" "ZOOM_EPT" etc. I'll post cliffs in a minute, I know my OP was long.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:51 PM   #15
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Re: Massive PokerStars Failure in the ZOOM Challenege During the PCA

Cliffs:
- You start with 20k play money chips and try to run it up to as many chips as you can. When you bust or fall below 20k chips, you get topped up to 20k chips with no penalty. Event took place across several days.
- A popular strategy was to go all in a ton to try to run up a big stack.
- At first, everybody played on a iPad by themself against other play money players
- Later PokerStars had people play in groups of two, so Zoom challengers were playing against each other.
- This is a big advantage because if you're at the same table you can go all in against each other and gamble it up. Also, the play money players are incredibly tight (believe me).
- Towards the end a group of 5 people were playing together
- In the very first hand 4 ZOOM challengers were on the same table and all went all in, so one of them ended up with an 80k stack.
- Waiting on a response from PokerStars
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