It is nearly that magical time of the year again - eight action-packed days of wild tournament action on 888poker are set for January as the Super XL Series returns with a vengeance.
An astounding 38 events will be packed into those eight days of poker, with the action kicking off on Sunday, January 24 and running through the following Sunday, January 31 - capped off with a $1 Million Guaranteed Main Event.
This is the fourth edition of the Super XL Series, and 888poker is putting a tremendous amount of value on the table for their players yet again this time around. A grand total of over $2 million in guaranteed prize pools are spread among the 38 tournament schedule. Other highlights include a $150,000 Mini Main Event and a $300,000 Guaranteed High Roller, along with a $200,000 Whale - giving the biggest weekly tournament on 888poker a bumped up guarantee on the opening day of the XL series.
While millions of poker players around the world have played in the XL Series or similar online poker tournaments over the years, few people get to see inside the process that leads to the final tournament schedule.
888poker Listens to the Players
The poker room management team at 888poker is a group that’s spent the better part of the last year working on crafting the ideal series for their tournament players' bankrolls and interests, this time around.
“We start planning months in advance with all of the poker minds within our company,” said the poker room management team leader. “We posted the original plan for the series on the 888 tournament feedback thread on 2[plus]2. We received many player requests and feedback, and edited the schedule accordingly.”
The feedback received, along with calculations based on hard numbers from previous events, led to a very noticeable change to this schedule. The 4-Max event was changed to 8-Max for a couple of reasons; players voiced their displeasure with the four-handed format and how much it limited them in playing other tournaments simultaneously, since the action is so frequently on them.
Players also requested the Super XL version of the Whale - their regularly scheduled $600 buy-in tournament held every other Sunday - and 888poker delivered with a prize pool increased from its usual $150,000 to $200,000 on first the Sunday of the series.
“We try our best to offer a large variety of different tournaments in order to keep things spicy and interesting.”
The other big step the brain-trust at 888poker has taken in listening to their players is offering a wide variety of ways to make a lot out of just a little bit. After receiving a lot of feedback requesting Mega Satellites to the Main Event, 888 delivered in a big way. There’s a 25-seat guaranteed satellite on the first Sunday of the XL Series and a 50-seat guarantee on the last satellite of the series, scheduled just three hours before the big Main Event. Players can build their way up to a Main Event tournament buy-in for as little as one cent.
One of the dangers of building a major tournament series is striking the balance between big tried and true tournament types with big guarantees, and innovation to keep the rest of the player base creatively stimulated and interested. The allure of something like a $1 Million Guaranteed Main Event and a $3 Million guarantee on the series tends to take some precedence.
“We try, with the XL Series, to hold to a variety of 888poker’s most successful formats.”
There’s still plenty of room for a wide variety of tournament formats. Buy-ins range from $5 all the way up to $1,500, with plenty of options to win your way in, and the games include Omaha and Texas Holde'm. The majority of events are Hold’em, but there’s a tremendously wide range of different tournament styles available in that game - including a few unique to 888poker.
“For example, this year we will be trying for the first time a quarterback event, which is a new format we have been running on our regular schedule. In this format, you can rebuy a quarter of a starting stack for a quarter of the [initial] buy-in, in case you lose all of your chips during the late registration period.”
Other tournament formats include a wide variety of turbo offerings, rebuy and add-on events and knockout tournaments, as well as 6-Max, 8-Max and full ring options.
Figuring out what works and what doesn’t can also be a difficult process in building out a series of this scale. But 888 is aggressive in pursuing the best possible line-up of tournaments.
“Very much so,” said the poker room management team leader, when it comes to 888poker’s willingness to adapt. “We remove tournaments that did not succeed and increase the guarantees of tournaments that succeeded beyond expectation. Guarantees are based on analysis of [the] performance of previous similar buy-in tournaments.”
The Super XL Main Event
Setting the bar higher and higher for themselves and their players paid off in a big way the last time the XL Series ran on 888poker. Last year’s opening event saw 1,559 players build a $290,700 prize pool, beating 2013’s opening event record (1,501 players, $280,800 prize pool) for most players ever on 888 for a tournament with a buy-in of over $100. The 5,196 players who turned out for the Micro Main Event set an overall record for players in a real money tournament on 888.
Players turned out in historic numbers throughout the series and the action culminated in a tremendous finale of a Main Event.
“Last year was the first time we held a $1,000,000 tournament that covered its guaranteed prize pool - we were very proud of this. In addition, the Super XL mini and micro tournaments usually achieve record-breaking numbers of players in a real-money tournament.”
The Main Event saw the prize pool reach $1,022,580 with 1,794 total players, crushing 2013’s record for the biggest tournament to meet its guarantee.
Serbian pro, Anđelo "Adza32" Božić, was the beneficiary of the biggest prize in that Main Event, taking home a top prize of $199,000 as the champion. After winning his way into the tournament for an initial investment of just $30, Božić took the lead very early on and held on for the first three hours of the tournament.
He waxed and waned to some degree during the middle stages of the tournament, but once he reached the final table of the Main Event, he was simply unstoppable.
Božić gave some of the credit for his win to the tournament structure that was put together by 888poker. "It was very deep all the way; I was never all-in for my stack. Since I am a cash game player, it did wonders. I was able to exploit other players a lot post-flop" said Božić shortly after his December 2014 victory.
One particularly memorable hand for Božić came with just four players left in the tournament.
“I was the chip leader and opened 53o (off-suit),” Božić recalled in an interview with 888poker. “At the time, I was playing 90% of the hands from the cutoff and the button. I faced a 3-bet from the SB, and I believed that he was a low stakes player, so I knew that he couldn't risk going out 4th when he was 2nd in chips. I 4-bet him, and he called. The flop was T-7-6 rainbow, I bet 1/3 pot and apparently he folded AQ. I showed the hand, and my rail went crazy in the chat. From there on I was just stealing every hand and was lucky that they didn't get AA or KK, since that was their all-in range at the time.”
2015-2016, Better Than Ever
There’s been a gap of well over a year since the last edition of the Super XL Series, but it will once again fall well within a present range for 888poker. In an effort to maximise field sizes and prize pools, they’ve done everything they can to offer tournaments when the most number of people are playing on the site.
“The series is always scheduled for between November and January, which is our peak as far as numbers of players. During this week, we see many of our players increasing their volumes, as well as players returning after being less active.”
There will, undoubtedly, be dozens of massive winners over the course of the eight days of the Super XL Series, and for those working behind the scenes to put it together, that’s exactly how it should be. Having so many big winners obviously helps those particular players, but the ability to play in such well-timed and well-structured events shines a light on all of the other great things 888 is able to do.
“It is our flagship celebration of multi-table tournaments. Tournaments are one of 888’s greatest strengths - and we have a reputation for building a great tournament schedule.”