Cookies on the PokerWorks Website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the PokerWorks website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time.

Continue using cookies

Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Why Duplicate Poker Didn’t Work

Share this
When I was in college, I was a tournament duplicate bridge player.  If you have ever played bridge, you know how frustrating it can be to sit for hours at a time getting horrendous cards, and watching your opponents rack up game after game. Sound familiar poker players?  The beauty of duplicate bridge is that the luck factor inherent in any card game is minimized to the point where skill almost completely dictates who the winners will be.  How is this done?  It is quite simple, really.

A small duplicate bridge tournament consists of approximately 12 tables of four players each, with the four players sitting at a table forming two partnerships, one sitting in the north-south direction, and one sitting east-west.  Rather than competing against the players sitting in the other seats at your table, you compete against the other 11 partnerships sitting in the same direction as you are.  After a hand has been played, each player places his/her cards inside a metal case, which is then passed around from table to table.  In addition, every three hands or so, the two people sitting east-west move to another table, so not only do you get to play every hand that everyone else has played, but also you get to play against all the east-west pairs by the time the tournament ends, as does every north-south pair.  

To some extent, this sounds like the format used on Duplicate Poker, where you get judged against the players sitting in the same seat you occupy at the table, meaning that if there are five tables, and you are sitting in the #1 seat, the players you are playing against are the #1 seat players at the other four tables.  This, however, is where the similarity ends.

The brilliance of duplicate bridge is that no one hand’s result weighs too much on your position in the tournament.  In a typical tournament, the results of each hand are entered on a piece of paper.  Each hand is then evaluated separately, based on how your score compares to all the other partnerships.  In a 12-table tournament, the top score on that hand would receive 11 points, second would receive 10 points, and so on, down to zero.  Ties are each awarded a half point, so if two teams tied for second, they would each get 9 ½ points.  At the end of the night, the team with the most points wins the tournament.  

Notice that if your team gets 60 points on a hand, and everyone else gets 50, it is no different than if your team gets 3,000 and everyone else gets 50.  It’s still given the same 11 points towards your final total.  This is the critical difference between duplicate bridge and what was done on the duplicate poker site.  Where no one hand is more important than any other in the bridge tournament, the poker format was completely based on the total amount of chips won or lost in the entire tourney.  This meant that a single hand could, and most often did, determine the entire order of finish.  So, rather than it diminishing the luck factor inherent in poker, like duplicate bridge does, it actually increased it to the point where the tournament outcomes were almost all luck-based.

Allow me to explain further:  In a duplicate bridge tourney, you only have a vague idea of where you stand during the course of the event, based on filling out the sheets of paper for each hand.  You can play different strategies of aggression based on where you think you might currently stand, but no one hand will take a last-place team and move them very far up the standings.  

In Duplicate Poker, the opposite was true.  First of all, in most tournaments, you were able to see exactly where you stood at every point in the game.  So, let’s say you were playing the sixth of six hands, and were in last place out of five players, and found 8-3 offsuit under the gun.  Despite the fact that this is a hand you would always muck in a “normal” tournament, the right play would be to play it aggressively, hoping to get action on the hand, hit a winner and win lots of chips, thereby passing the other players with whom you are competing.  Now imagine there are two other players at your table in a similar situation.  Obviously, all three will be going all-in, for the same reason.  In other words, the skill of poker is almost completely replaced by a lottery, where, through no fault of your own, you could go from first to last place simply by playing your hand the correct way.

Ironically, the site was advertised as taking the luck out of poker, and was trumpeted as a result as a completely legal game of skill for US players, as opposed to the UIGEA-impeded normal online poker sites, which are considered games of chance.  In reality, the complete opposite was true.  As my colleague Linda Geenen pointed out, your results were based almost entirely on whether the players at your table would give you action on your good hands.  Moreover, they were completely dependent on how many players were being forced to simply throw all their chips in the middle on any given hand, praying for a miracle.  As soon as I saw that this was the case, my own interest in playing on this site disappeared, and I suspect that was true for the vast majority of players as well.

Could Duplicate Poker have worked?  

I believe that it could have, but would have required a much more complex software program that would have allowed players to rotate tables and play with as many of the people in the tournament as possible (reducing the quality of play variance to a great degree), combined with a duplicate bridge-style format where each hand’s result was calculated separately and assigned a point value, thereby lessening or even eliminating the need for radical, desperate play.  Players also should have been kept from seeing where they stood in the tournament (which was done at the sit-n-go heads-up tables, by the way, which was a much more effective format), thereby further bringing play in line with more skillful technique.

In the final analysis, Duplicate Poker was and is a very intriguing idea that, unfortunately, was brought to the public in a very poor initial offering.  I will be interested to see if anyone brings the idea back with modifications that will actually allow the game to have as level a playing field as duplicate bridge.  For the time being, we have to consider it a noble effort that failed due to it becoming the very opposite of what its founders intended.

News Flash

The IRS Scores Big at 2015 WSOP ME Final Table

The IRS managed to snag 34.13 percent from the payouts of the 2015 November Nine, totaling $8,467,091.

Read more

Quick Room Review

Bonus Room review

Subscribe to the Nightly Turbo

Be the first to know all the latest poker news, tournament results, gossip and learn all about the best online poker deals straight from your inbox.

RSS Feed