WPT Montreal Introduces a Win the Button Tournament

WPtlogoWin the Button is a novel twist on No Limit Hold’em poker which has appeared at the WPT a few times now. The concept is simple: instead of the dealer button rotating around the table as usual, it moves after each hand to the player who won the pot. It seems like a format designed to reward good play, but how does it work out in practice?

Having played the $110 buy-in Win the Button event at WPT Montréal, I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun and does have a significant impact on the style of play.

Loose play, big pots

As you’d expect, the desire to win the button leads to loose play. Some players turn into maniacs, but a surprising number opt to be rather passive, perhaps hoping to catch a big hand and relying on the maniacs’ aggression to get paid.

Complex table dynamics

Seating is hugely important in a Win the Button tournament, as your cost per orbit depends largely on the number of pots being won by the player two to your right. A player to the left of a maniac ends up having to loosen up themselves to avoid letting them keep the button, while one with a tight player in the critical seat can tighten up too and wait for good hands without worrying about getting blinded down. These adjustments will in turn affect the players to that person’s left, and so on; thus, a single player changing gears can set the tone for the entire table.

Steals from early position

Later in the tournament, blind stealing strategy is impacted heavily. Unlike in a normal tournament, stealing from the button is a bad idea, as the remaining players have strong motivation to call and avoid paying the blinds again. Conversely, early position steals work better than normal, since the players in the blinds will enjoy good position if they let you have the button.

In the end, Win the Button may not in fact provide as much advantage to the better players as you’d think, since seating draws and speculative play both up the luck factor considerably. Nonetheless, it’s a very entertaining format, and I hope to see more such events in the WPT in future.

Alex Weldon is a game designer by day and poker tournament wizard by night. You can read more from Alex at www.benefactum.ca and follow him on Twitter at @benefactumgames

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