I like Party Poker.  I really do.  Solid software (although I do miss the old school client), good game variety, plenty of players, fun monthly promotions.  It has its quirks and annoyances like any poker room does, but overall, it’s a very good poker room.  But man, oh man, did I just find out something that puts me on tilt.

Party Poker has a rule for bounty tournaments that makes zero sense whatsoever.  It is so bizarre that I would wager a not insignificant amount of money that zero poker players would agree with it.  The rule?  In a bounty tournament, the player who wins the main pot when someone is eliminated is the one who wins the bounty.  Always.

Ok, I admit that on the surface, this may sound reasonable.  But let me show you why this is ludicrous.  The following situation actually happened recently, although I have simplified the chip stacks and condensed the action for illustration purposes.

In the tournament, three players ended up all-in pre-flop.  Larry had 1,000 chips, Moe had 2,000 chips, and Curly had 3,000 chips.  Therefore, the main pot was 3,000 chips total (Larry’s 1,000 plus 1,000 each from Moe and Curly to call Larry’s bet) and the side pot between Moe and Curly was 2,000 (Moe’s remaining 1,000 plus a 1,000 chip call by Curly – Curly’s additional 1,000 chips are returned to his stack).  At showdown, Larry had a straight, Moe had three-of-a-kind Jacks, and Curly had three-of-a-kind Kings.

So, naturally, Larry tripled up to 3,000 and Curly knocked out Moe, winning Moe’s bounty.  Except that’s not what happened.

Larry still tripled up (we’d be in big trouble if that didn’t happen) and Moe was still sent to the rail, but it was Larry who won the bounty, not Curly.  That’s right.  Even though Larry had fewer chips than Moe to start the hand, Party Poker still considers Larry to be the one who dealt the knockout blow, not Curly, who was the one who had Moe covered.  Soak that in.

It is all because of the nonsensical rule Party Poker has put in place.  At Party, the bounty winner is the player who wins the main pot.  Larry won the main pot, so he won the bounty.  Party figures it like this: the side pot is settled first, so Curly wins that with his higher set, getting him right back to 3,000 chips.  Even though he now has no chips left, Moe isn’t done yet, since if he can win the main pot, he wins 3,000 chips and stays in the game.  Unfortunately for him, he loses the main pot to Larry.  Because Party Poker deems this to be the point where Moe officially has no more chips left, the poker room says that Larry technically knocked out Moe.  I know, I know, I am feeling nauseous, too.

Never mind the fact that Moe would not have been eliminated had Curly not had him covered with the better hand.  Never mind that the first thing we all learn when it comes to the mechanics of poker tournaments is that if you have as many or more chips than an opponent, call his all-in, and win, you get all of his chips and eliminate him from the game.  Let’s not worry about any of that.  You know, the rules of poker.  Party Poker is going to make up its own rules.  Rules which make no sense.

Interestingly, there is actually a reason for the rule, albeit a poor one.  As those of you who play at Party Poker know, the poker room sometimes runs special promotions where players win cash prizes for winning certain hands.  For example, when Party Poker was approaching its five billionth hand, it awarded jackpots for specific milestone hands along the way, with the winner of the hand winning 50 percent of the jackpot.  To avoid confusion, the winner was the player who won the main pot.  Now, this is a good way to do it.  After all, in those milestone hands, most players will just go all-in pre-flop to give themselves a chance to win the hand and the greater prize, so having to deal with several side pots and the implications of all of them in relation to the jackpot would just be too confusing.  Plus, whether or not someone lost of all their chips in the hand is irrelevant in a cash game.

But Party took this reasoning and applied it to bounty tournaments, which was wrong.  There is a universal definition of a “knockout” or “elimination” in tournament poker.  Everybody knows it, everybody accepts it without question.  A bounty in a bounty tournament is awarded to the player who eliminates someone else.  There is no confusion as to who the “eliminator” is.  There is no reason to try to fit the special rule for promotional cash game hands into a tournament situation.  No reason at all.

Despite my criticism, I am not discouraging anyone from playing at Party Poker.  This is one silly rule in a specific type of tournament for a situation that is not extremely common (though it is not extremely rare, either).  Personally, I would just avoid bounty tournaments at the poker room.  This should be a good lesson, however, that you should always be aware of the rules at every poker room, lest you be blindsided by something you never expected.

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