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Predictions for time of WSOP bubble burst right on target

14 Jul 2010

By Aaron Todd
Figuring out how long you'll have to play in a poker tournament to finish in the money essentially comes down to math.

In four of the last five years, the average chip stack at the World Series of Poker's Main Event was between 50 and 60 big blinds when the money bubble burst. This year was no different, as players were in the middle of level 16 (blinds at 2,500/5,000 with a 500 ante) on Day 4 when Tim McDonald of Lexington, Ky., finished 748th. McDonald won a free entry into next year's Main Event, but lost out on the $19,263 that 747th place wins. A player with an average chip stack this year had about 294,000 chips, or 58.8 big blinds when the money bubble burst.

It took almost exactly the same amount of time to burst the money bubble as it did last year, with the tournament at level 16 in both years. An average chip stack was 60 big blinds deep when the bubble burst last year.

In 2008, players started with 20,000 chips instead of 30,000 and it took 15 levels to reach the money, with an average stack of 68.8 big blinds -- the deepest in the last five years. In 2007, with the same 20,000 starting stack, an average chip stack held 51.1 big blinds and the bubble burst in the 13th level. In 2006, the last year players started with 10,000 chips, players reached the money in level 13 with an average stack holding 50.2 big blinds.

Before Day 4 play began, Tournament Director Jack Effel correctly predicted that players would reach the money right around the dinner break. In fact, he started the dinner break 15 minutes early with just four players left on the bubble instead of beginning hand-for-hand play as scheduled. (Link to a story by Casino City Managing Editor Vin Narayanan coming soon)

Looking forward, the math is similar when it comes to predicting how long it will take to play down to a final table. With nearly 22 million chips in play this year, the average stack at the final table will be about 24.4 million. Last year, because the field was smaller, the average chip stack was about 21.7 million. Blinds were at 120,000/240,000 when the final table was determined; Darvin Moon held nearly 59 million chips (245 big blinds), while the short stack, James Akenhead, held just 6.8 million, or 28 big blinds. The average stack had a healthy 90 big blinds, though Moon's dominance meant that only three players had above-average stacks.

In the last four years, final table starting stacks have varied from roughly 60 big blinds at the low end (2006 and 2008) to 90 at the high end (2007 and 2009). If that trend continues, the November Nine will most likely be determined during level 33, when the blinds will be 120,000/240,000, level 34 (150,000/300,000), or level 35 (200,000/400,000), meaning that the players who will be part of this year's November Nine have already waded through more than 90 percent of the field, but are truly only halfway home.
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