The World Series of Poker is underway once again, and with it comes poker and poker-related companies trying to promote the hell out of themselves to the best captive audience in the industry. Three years ago, Party Poker built up anticipation for its “Monster” promotion throughout the WSOP, despite never revealing what the promotion actually entailed. In the end, the timing of Monster could not have been worse, and a questionable promotion became a debacle.
Started in late July, Monster was a massive series of freeroll tournaments funded by extra rake taken from specially-marked Monster cash tables and Sit-and-Go tournaments. At the end of the eight-month promotion, a multi-million dollar, several thousand player tournament was to be held.
To reach the Monster Grand Final, players needed to start with one of thirty-two $100,000 Monster Weekly Freerolls. The top 1,000 in each cashed and the top 2,000 qualified for the Monster Monthly Freeroll. The 1,000 finishers in each of the Monster Monthly Freerolls both cashed and made Monster Grand Final.
To earn a seat in the Weekly Freerolls, a player would have to win a specially designated Monster Sit-and-Go, place in the top three of special Monster multi-table qualifiers, earn some number of Party points some time period, or play at a Monster Jackpot table when the Jackpot is hit at the table or at a table of the same type of table.
Because the horrible odds of making the Weekly at the cash tables plus the extra fifty cents in rake taken from the pot, the Monster promo was essentially a rip-off for cash game players. For Sit-and-Go players, it wasn’t too bad, actually, as depending on the stakes, as much as 98 percent of the prize pool was still awarded in cash.
What was idiotic in the beginning of the promotion was that almost every cash table at the stakes used for the Monster promo was a Monster table. That means that players had virtually no choice but to accept the extra rake if they wanted to play cash games. It looked like Party Poker was just trying to siphon extra rake from its players using the Monster promotion as a front. Fortunately, Party Poker heard the complaints and opened up more non-Monster tables to satisfy its customers.
So, the Monster freerolls, like them or not, were moving right along. But then the UIGEA happened in October 2006. Party Poker stopped serving players from the United States. And because it now didn’t have the player base to support the Monster promotion, Party Poker had to cancel it altogether.
Aside from the obvious problem of Party Poker’s largest promotion of all time ending prematurely, the poker room also had to figure out what to do about all the players who had already won Freeroll entries. After all, they had paid extra rake to win those seats.  Party Poker decided, as one would have hoped, to pay each player a certain amount of money based on how far they had made it in the Monster ladder. Party Poker claimed that it paid out over $14 million to Monster Freeroll ticket holders. So everything was good, right? Wrong.
Educated estimates of how much Party Poker really paid out were around $5 million. These estimates were based on the number of players who had already qualified for the Monster Grand Final plus the likely numbers (derived from observations from previous tourneys) for the Monthly and Weekly Freerolls and cash game qualifiers. As such, it was estimated that Party Poker had shorted its customers around $9 million.
Party Poker never disclosed the exact number of players who got the different compensation amounts, something that made many in the poker community very suspicious. There are many lessons to be learned from the Party Poker Monster fiasco, but one big one has to be to keep your promotions short – there are way too many things that can go wrong over the course of eight months.

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