Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Restructuring tournaments for substantial cash prizes

Since the Dallas NABC in March, I haven't played a lot of bridge. Well, actually I have - it's just mostly been in If you are unfamiliar, this is a site where you play bridge for money and it's an all individual format and you don't know who your partner is so cheating really is eliminated. There is, however, a decent amount of randomness based on who you happen to get for a partner on a particular board. Plus, the bidding system isn't very well defined so if the auction gets complicated at all, you're pretty much just guessing.

About a month ago, they made some major upgrades to the site, which is based in the Netherlands, that have really attracted a lot more people. The big 32-board Sunday afternoon game used to draw 20-25 players and is now getting about double that, and daily tournaments of 20 boards, and cash games are doing well too. If you're scared about playing for money, there are some free games and low-stakes games, but if you're not in it for the money, you're probably better off on bridgebase where you can socialize. But really the biggest improvement they made since the initial bridgebig release a year or two ago is the mobile-friendly version so it is not tedious at all to play on a smart phone.

I've been playing pretty consistently on bridgebig and have won a couple of sizeable prizes. All in all, I'm just a little bit in the green but am optimistic about winning more.

When people ask what can be done to increase interest in bridge, they suggest teaching classes, making it a school elective, newcomer games, easybridge, and so forth, but very few seem to suggest monetizing the game. I think that would be great. Money makes the world go round, and the majority of bridge players are upper-middle class people who can afford a few extra bucks in the entry fee for the chance to have a real cash prize.

Look at how poker took off in the 1990's. Why was that? Because the game is simple enough that you can learn it relatively quickly and the fact that you can lose a little bit of money or win a substantial amount in a tournament is exciting. That gets the masses involved and then they can find what types of games work for them later on. It won't work with the kids but might work with the empty-nesters, recent retirees, and middle aged white collar workers, and that's really the demographic that will produce the most bridge players.

At a typical regional, entry fees are $11/player/session and in the MABC, 8 free plays are given to winning KO teams and 4 free plays to winning pairs in regional pair events. Let's take a look at this past Thursday in Raleigh - seems like a typical regional schedule. 69 tables in the two-session pair events so that's 552 individual session entries, and since there were four flights (A, X, 750, 300), 4*4*11 = $176 in free plays were awarded. That's 32 cents per entry. In the KOs, there were 70 teams in 6 brackets. That comes to 148 team sessions so 592 individual session entries. 6*8*11 = $528 were awarded in free plays, so 89 cents per entry. Like the masterpoint formula, this is skewed much in favor of KOs, although smaller regionals will favor pairs more (KO brackets sized are fairly fixed but pair game sizes can vary a lot). Regardless, it's less than $1 of each entry that goes back into the prizes for the winner. That's almost negligible.

I'd like to see some restructuring of prizes and entry fees. Raise the entry fee of the top bracket by $5/person that will all go to prizes. Over the course of a 16-team bracket, that's 120 individual entries or $600. If we put that on top of the $100 or so that is already being allocated to that bracket's winners, it's a $700 prize pool. Let's pay out something like $450 to 1st, $225 to 2nd, and $25 to the ACBL. Do a similar thing with the flight A pair event. In lower brackets and flight B events, give players an option to buy in to the prize pool, and only the people who paid the extra are eligible for a prize. Obviously, that will make the prizes lower.

In the 20 tables A/X pairs (9A and 11X), everyone pays $5 extra so that's 160 individual entries or $940 to the prize pool for that event. Since there are 40 competitors instead of 16, we'll pay more than two places and the X prize pool will be 11/20/2 times that for A so that's $737 to A and $203 to X. That payout for flight A might look something like $330 for 1st, $180 for 2nd, $120 for 3rd, $80 for 4th, $27 to ACBL. For X, $115 for 1st, $80 for 2nd, and $8 to ACBL. In the 49 table gold rush game, maybe only 20 tables pay in to the prize pool, meaning about $1100, counting the initial 80 cents/entry. Similar payout structure as for the A/X pairs but only people who opt-in are eligible for any winnings. And maybe the flight B or gold rush games should have only a $3 or $4 extra charge. Maybe the open games should be more like $8-10 extra per session. This could start a trend of players playing pro without a sponsor.

Yes, radical ideas for bridge because we are so used to seeing no monetary prizes in bridge, at least in the US, but a lot of other games give cash prizes, and European bridge tournaments often have cash prizes, so it's really not such a strange idea.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea, but am pessimistic it will ever happen.