PokerStars Crushes Guarantees With Bounty Builder Series

The Bounty Builder series at PokerStars smashed through its guarantee.

While it's been a very busy time for major live poker tournaments over the past few weeks, with multiple World Poker Tour events and the World Series of Poker Europe rolling toward its finish, online poker's world leader wrapped up a major online series just a couple of weeks ago to a little less fanfare.

PokerStars held its first Bounty Builder series Oct. 7-21, attempting to feed the growing demand for knockout and especially progressive knockout tournaments.

Standard knockouts, wherein a portion of a player's buy-in goes to the pocket of the player who knocks that person out, have been around for years and are a staple of many weekly live poker room schedules. Progressive knockouts take it to the next level by splitting each player's bounty. Some of it goes to the eliminating player, and some of it adds on to the eliminating player's own bounty, making it progressively more enticing to knock that player out.

A Bountiful Bounty Series

After not having run a bounty-focused series since 2015, PokerStars released the schedule in early October with ambitious guarantees totaling over $20 million across 140 tournaments. Buy-ins ranged from as little as $1.10 up to the $2,100 High Roller.

The $530 Main Event featured a $2 million guarantee, and PokerStars even threw in some opportunities to win $30,000 Platinum Passes.

Based on the player response, there's plenty of appetite for more Bounty Builders. It turned out to be a knockout for the operator as well, as they knocked it out of the park by crushing many of the guarantees and getting a strong indication from the player pool that this is a series that should be here to stay.

"The operator will assuredly consider running it annually in the month of October."

The inaugural Bounty Builder drew 120,097 entries, according to PokerStars, and paid out $29,474,285 in prize money. That represented a hefty roughly 50 percent increase over the total guarantee.

According to Poker Industry PRO, only five of the 140 tournaments featured an overlay, with the biggest of those only amounting to about 11 percent of the guarantee. Most of the tournaments easily covered the numbers, with many more than doubling the mark.

The Main Event, which lasted two days and offered reentry, drew 5,673 entries, with 3,975 being unique. That enabled it to crush the $2 million guarantee with a prize pool north of $2.8 million.

PRO compared the series favorably to other PokerStars series and expects it to become a mainstay on the schedule around this same time.

"The operator will assuredly consider running it annually in the month of October," Anuj Arora wrote.

Big Winners

A 21-year-old German named Julius, grinding under the entirely numerical moniker "121323243435454", shipped the Main Event for the single biggest prize of the series, $306,000. What's more, he streamed the entire thing on Twitch, where he's trying to build a following.

Needless to say, the deep run served as a sort of grand opening sale for his channel, as he went from about 100 followers to about 1,100, according to the PokerStars Blog.

"I'm really happy about the win and the money," he said. "But to be honest, the joy that we had with so many spectators from the Twitch community outweighs it at the moment. Part of the prize money will, of course, be invested in the stream. This project is a lot of fun and we have now the opportunity to take it to the next level."

Ivan Luca
Ivan Luca

Ivan Luca also scored big with a win in the $2,100 High Roller. Luca, best known for his participation in live super high rollers, topped a field of 403 runners for $165,580, more than half of that coming courtesy of bounties. The event smashed its $500K guarantee with a pool of over $800,000.

He wasn't the only Argentinian winning big in a high roller. "patass" won the $2,100 Eight-Max High Roller, which nearly doubled its $500K guarantee, for $145,546. Meanwhile, Charlie "JIZOINT" Combes from the U.K. won the opening $109 Six-Max for $57,193.

As for the Platinum Passes, those went to the winner of a total knockout leaderboard and the winner of a unique freeroll wherein a player's starting stack varied based on knockouts accrued in the events. Nicolas "bananero17" Olmedo claimed the former with 392 knockouts over the course of the two-week series. Mihai Iulian "llemarc" Grigore grabbed the latter as champ of the $25K freeroll. The $1,175 he won pales in comparison to the Platinum Pass.

"It's a dream come true," he told PokerStars. "I'm sure it will be a unique experience I'm going to make the best of it! I want this qualification to change my life.”

Mihai Iulian Grigore
Mihai Iulian Grigore is the latest Bahamas-bound player.

The Stars Group owns a majority shareholding in iBus Media.

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