Once again, I’m writing this blog like a man on a mission. In the sphere of online poker, there is a situation that I would rate nothing short of a total travesty. A travesty worse perhaps than the lack of villains to root against in televised poker, because unlike that situation, this would theoretically be far easier to correct.
I’m referring, of course, to the near total vanishing of “Steps” events in online poker.
As obscure as they are, I have even more reason to believe that people who have no idea what I’m talking about will read this article, so here’s what Sit and Go Steps events are. Imagine a Sit and Go, let’s say a 6 max, called “Level 1” for the sake of example. Level 1’s buy in are a paltry $1.10.
However, instead of money, coming in first or second awards a tournament ticket to a Sit and Go called “Level 2.” This one is also a 6 max, but this time, it costs $3.30 to simply buy in. It awards a ticket to “Level 3” for winning or possibly just placing first or second again, or perhaps coming in second awards another ticket to Level 2 to try again. Level 3 also has a buy in, of $10 + $1, and awards a ticket to Level 4 for winning and a retry for placing second.
Get the picture yet? Each victory in a lower Step gives a player an entry into a higher step, until it eventually culminates into a chance to potentially turn a single dollar’s entry into hundreds or even thousands! And if you have deep enough pockets, you can skip one or several steps by buying into a later step straight up for more.
If the idea of having such a chance that isn’t some stupid lottery prize doesn’t excite you, I don’t know how you can consider yourself to be alive! Yet such events are hardly ever seen, at least on the clients I play. (If I find out that Pokerstars is still doing Steps stuff, there will be jelly. And salt.) If you get where I’m coming from so far, you might ask why?
As much as I can figure, the biggest reason behind the collapse of most Sit and Go Steps events is pretty simple: lack of higher level participation. Back when they were a thing and I was trying them, it was easy to find a game at level1, 2, or even 3. Get much higher than that though, and the events tended to not actually get enough people to start for a very long time, the highest levels not actually going through to that point for the entire day a lot of the time; at least that’s how things looked to me, it could have been less bad than it appeared since I couldn’t be on and checking if any had happened all the time.
I mentioned that this would be theoretically easy to fix, and that’s because I believe one organization just about has. The “National League of Poker” a “free to play” poker website that nevertheless offers cash prizes, has solved the upper-level problem in, I think a truly ingenious way, and I’m not easily impressed.
Their Steps event has a whopping NINE levels, but here’s the thing: only five of them are Sit and Gos that fire only when a certain number of participants has been reached. The other four levels are MTT events that fire at a certain time in regular intervals. In practice, sometimes they’re much like the Sit and Gos because very few people enter, but the point is that the upper step events actually happen, so the issue of a big prize being unattainable because of lack of participation is almost totally wiped out if not actually totally wiped out.
I’m completely certain that ACR/BCP could work the NLP way of doing things into something they could use. The poker world needs the hype of a potential hero emerging like Moneymaker did, now more than ever even more than it needs villains, and Steps are just the way to make that happen.