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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2007

Down to Final Eight, Byes Remain a Hidden Story of $5k NLH HU

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The quarterfinal matches are set for the $5k NLH Heads-Up event. Hidden in the results is the potential impact that byes had on the results.

During the registration period, Harrah's staff members seemed to scramble over a few significant logistical characteristics unique to the Heads-Up format. As in any single elimination tournament, the number of entrants needed to be a factor of 2. This meant that the ideal number of players would be 128, 256, or 512. There were three options on how to address the number of entrants:

Fix the number at 256, with the first 256 players to sign up guaranteed a seat in the event. This would almost certainly guarantee that a number of players would be turned away, decreasing the prize pool and revenue.

Have any player over 256 as alternates who would be allowed to play if the number reached 512. This was a problem as the field had to double to accommodate this.

Have byes for the first round. Byes normally are given to the best teams or individuals in competitions such as basketball or tennis. With no established ranking system in use in poker, other potential rankings could have included the WSOP Player of the Year points to date, the lifetime WSOP earnings, or the 2007 WSOP earnings. With no plan, a random system was put in place.

Rather than stop registration in time to conduct a random draw, players were allowed to buy-in until noon. Subsequently, a manual draw for byes as well as opponents occurred. This created a significant delay, with play beginning approximately 2:15PM.

Once the dust settled, play went forward with pushed back start times for Round 2 due to the late start times. From there, play proceeded. 120 players received byes while 272 players played a first round match.

Down to sixty-four players, a bracket was determined for the rest of the tournament. Play proceeded in Day 2 until we had a Final Eight.

Toto Leonidas v Dan Schreiber
Shannon Shorr v Vanessa Selbst

Keith Block v Steve Sarrafzadeh
Jared Davis v Mark Muchnik

A closer look at the results yield some interesting facts. 21 of the 32 players in Round 4 received byes and 11 of the final 32 players did not. This means 17% of the players who received byes made it to Round 4. Six of the eight quarterfinalists received byes.

Before winning her match with Paul Wasicka, Vanessa Selbst said, "I don't think that is relevant. It's not like someone who played an extra match is more fatigued or something."

Data unavailable includes how Round 2 opponents were determined (e.g., a random draw or did all players with byes play a Round 1 winner) and how many players with byes played each other in Round 2. Any good poker player knows that one data point does not a trend make. It does make sense that players with byes had an advantage over those who did not. And at least in regards to the byes, poker was indeed a game of luck.

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