If you are a poker room and you are about to proudly launch a unique new high buy-in tournament named after one of your two big star pros, you had better make sure the first one goes off without a hitch. Especially if it’s only a monthly tournament and any bad taste will have to linger for thirty days. And even more especially if you are already a poker room with a dodgy reputation.
Enter UB.com, which debuted its heavily hyped “Annie Duke Heads-Up Challenge” Sunday. The Heads-Up Challenge is a $1,000 + $50 heads-up bracket-style tournament that features a $128,000 guaranteed prize pool, even if the field does not hit the 128-player maximum. It was created to celebrate UB pro Annie Duke’s triumph at this year’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship, where she became the first woman in the six years of the event to win the 64-player invitational. It was only her second time even making it out of the first round, and only the first time that her good friend and opponent in the finals, Erik Seidel, advanced past the opening round.
Duke herself plans to play in each running of her namesake tournament whenever possible and she did on Sunday, tweeting that she won her first round match. Anyone that is able to eliminate her from the tournament will receive a seat in the following Sunday’s $200K guarantee on UB, a $530 value. She did not post anything further about what else happened in the event. So let’s explore that.
The Heads-Up Challenge began with 109 players, meaning that even brackets could not be created in the first round. As such, some players receive byes to the second round. While that may sound odd, it is not unprecedented – the same thing has been done at the World Series of Poker. But then, after the tournament had started, UB permitted late registration, resulting in a field that was greater than 128 players. This is where the fun began.
Each player started the tournament with 3,000 chips and carried any chips won over to the next round. Thus, the first round winners would start with 6,000 chips in the second round. And that is what happened. Unfortunately, that was the only correct chip calculation made in the tournament. The errors included:
1. Those who received second round byes were not given an extra 3,000 chips, so they began with half as many as their opponent, who had collected an extra 3,000 in the first round.
2. Some first round winners were made to play another first round match against a late entrant and also started with the 6,000 chips they had at the end of their initial first round match, giving them a 2-to-1 chip advantage.
3. Players who won the repeat first round match (or the late entrants who defeated the repeat player) would advance to the second round with 9,000 chips and play against the player with the bye who only had 3,000 chips.
Additionally, some players who received byes reported that a message popped up at their table indicated that they received a bye. The problem was that it never disappeared, making it so that they had trouble seeing the community cards and the chips in the pot.
Needless to say, players were frustrated with all the issues, taking to poker message boards to vent and logging into to UB’s online chat to find out what was going on. Eventually, when UB.com realized that the problems were out of hand, the tournament was aborted and buy-ins were refunded. Trying to make up for the time players lost, UB held a freeroll on Monday and will hold another on Wednesday, with the prize pool being seats in two of UB’s guaranteed tournaments.

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