Dougherty's Gambit

Posted in Event Coverage on November 9, 2002

By Alex Shvartsman

Splitting the prize money is the time-honored tradition on the Pro Tour. Evening out the odds a bit when a single match could mean a difference between getting thousands of dollars or nothing relieves some of the pressure from both players and insures that everyone walks away from the table a winner. Usually the winner of the match pays loser a set amount of cash, or a percentage of the difference between their total winnings. Two players do not have to face off in a tournament in order to have a split. Teammates will occasionally pool their winnings together, or organize the system where teammates who did not make it into the top 64 get a small percentage of their more fortunate comrades' winnings.

This weekend, Rob Dougherty took money-splitting to a whole new level. He offered Your Move Games teammates Danny Mandel, Zvi Mowshowitz, and Darwin Kastle a 50:1 split in the masters! That means Dougherty would pay them 1% of his Masters winnings, whereas they would have to pay him 50% of theirs. Before you assume that this deal is incredibly unfair, there is a catch. None of those three players were qualified for the Masters. In order to win any money at all, they would have to battle their way through the single elimination Gateway tournament, estimated to attract about 150 players. On the other side of the coin, Dougherty was guaranteed $2,000 just for showing up. That meant at least a $20 payday for anyone willing to take him up on the deal.

So is a bird in hand worth several thousand of them in the bush? Danny Mandel, the first player offered this deal, certainly thought so. Kastle and Mowshowitz both declined the offer. After all, the maximum payoff they could receive would be $250, whereas simply qualifying for the Masters would force them to give up $1000.

The team spent a few minutes trying to work out the logistics of this split. We predicted an attendance of about 150 players at the Gateway. All three players involved should have had enough Pro points to earn a first round bye, which means they would begin playing at the level of 128 players. Top 4 players qualify for the Masters, so a record of 5-0 would be needed to make it in. As the resident math wiz, Zvi did some calculations and proclaimed that a "fair" split would be 1:32, rather than 1:50. Dougherty was generous enough to renegotiate his deal with Mandel, agreeing to 1:32 instead.

Unfortunately, the story's ending was not as exciting as it could have been. Mandel failed to make it onto the Masters and Dougherty lost in the first round. Mandel earned his $20 and, more importantly, an interesting story to tell.

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