PokerStars, APT, and WPT: The Payout Structure Question

For the avid tournament poker player, tournaments eat up hours and hours of one’s time. Even after multiple days invested at the felt, sometimes the return may not be that fruitful. Depending on what tour one joins, payouts also vary.

At minimum, the standard payout is 10% of the field with the top three spots earning huge chunks. The champion clears 20% or more of the prize pool, and when the field is huge, that could easily be life changing money.

APT Kickoff Vietnam
APT Kickoff Vietnam

Through the years however, that standard has undergone changes with organizers opting to pay out more players. Some tours have gone from 12% to 14%, even up to 20%. This results in a flatter pay table but more players walk away happy. Organizers feel making these changes helps the ecosystem.

Naturally, like with any deviation from the norm, players react. Unsurprisingly, most pros side with keeping it top heavy. This is where they have the bigger edge on recreational players especially at the final table. Pros constantly hunt for that big score while recreational players enjoy the thrill of cashing. It also increases variance since pros tend to own only percentages of themselves.

While there has been constant debate on pay tables, organizers have reviewed the landscape and have settled on what they feel works best for their tour. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest tours running in Asia – PokerStars, World Poker Tour, Asian Poker Tour – their pay tables along with player feedback and debates (if any) that have arisen due to the changes.

PokerStars: 15% standard pay table

In 2016, PokerStars expanded their pay table from 15% in the money to a generous 20%. This was first introduced at the European Poker Tour though with much disapproval from the professionals.

In a PokerStars Blog, Garry Gates, PokerStars senior consultant on player affairs, stated the reason for paying out more players was “to provide more winning moments to a greater number of players.” The pay scale was designed with the lowest earning around 1-1.2 of one’s buy-in.

Nine months later, they changed the table once again, reverting back to the old system of 15% for all of their major events – PokerStars Championships and PokerStars Festival – with some variations such as at the MPC which pays out 12.5% for the Red Dragon Main Event.

Player feedback:

As mentioned above, when the 20% was first tested at the EPT, the pros were none too happy. Especially the High Rollers. While seeing the numbers grow is always a positive, they felt paying out 20% was just too high. The stir was quite substantial that the High Roller events were immediately brought back to 15%.

In addition to the outcry of the pros, a survey was conducted at all PokerStars Live events in 2016 to determine the view of other players.

According to Gates blog the following year, “No question about it, the players have spoken. As a result, effective immediately, all PokerStars events will utilize a 15% distribution model… .”

He also mentioned that “More than 80% of survey respondents indicated a preference for top-heavy payouts”.

Asian Poker Tour: 1 in 6 ratio

This year, the Asian Poker Tour (APT) introduced a new pay table with “1 in 6” players guaranteed money. This was part of the many changes and improvements by the brand entering the 2018 season.

According to a write up on their website, “the change will make it much easier for players to identify the number of places paid in any given event and the 1 for every 6 formula equates to deeper generous payouts.”

At the APT Kickoff Vietnam 2018, players got a look at the new prize pool distribution implemented on all of the events. The Main Event which saw 664 entries paid out 111 players. With more players now taking a cut, the champion, Adrian Esslen, earned 13.6% of the prize pool and the lowest bracket received 2.7% or 1.7x the buy-in.

APT Vietnam - Payout Structure

Player feedback:

While the prize pool distribution did bring about concerns from various players during the event, some vocalized their thoughts on social media.

Inaugural APT Cambodia Main Event champion, Harry Duong expressed, “Payout structure is too flat.” Duong felt that the top three places should continue to earn a heftier sum even if it is 1 in 6. He said, “as I expect 18 – 20% for 1st…. 1st prize was only 13.6% prize pool in this event which was not attractive.”

Unlike Duong, Nick Gorman felt otherwise, “I like it as flat as it is. Every other series around the world has a steep top 3 heavy prize pool for every event. Let all the pros play those and reward the recreational players better on the APT so they keep playing here.”

In line with rewarding more players, APT Executive Tournament Director, Lloyd Fontillas defended the new pay table stating, “Going with top 3 heavy in this event makes 3 guys VERY happy. With the new table we made 108 players happier that they got the new pay table.”

World Poker Tour: 1 in 8 roughly 12%

On January 2016, at the WPT DeepStacks Hustler event, the World Poker Tour (WPT) introduced the 1 in 8 pay table which pays out 12.5% of the field. The idea was to pay out more including everyone at the final table. Since then, the 1 in 8 pay scale has been the norm for the main tour including their WPTDeepStacks festivals. Players were asked for their perspective on the change.

Debuting the New Matt Savage Payout Structure

Player feedback:

Some of course preferred the standard 10% pay scale, focusing more on the big money up top than just min-cashing or money back. Others saw the value of paying out more players especially for an event with a majority of recreational players in the field. One player felt that recreational players don’t really consider the payout structure when entering events but added that by paying out more it would help grow the market.

Taking a brief look back, from 2008 – 2011, the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic paid out 10-24% of the field. The number of payouts was determined by a rule that if 400 was reached, it would pay 100 places which was a huge 25%. This was in practice for several years until pros were up in arms in 2011. It is unclear if the uproar caused the organizers to abolish the 400 rule and just pay out 10%, but if it was, then until today, that event is one of the few that continues to pay out 10% of the field.

Article by Triccia David

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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