It appears that PokerStars may be getting ready to roll out Mystery Bounty tournaments. The folks over at Pokerfuse have a history of digging through hidden files in online poker client installations to find hints as to what may come and this time, they uncovered graphics of cases and envelopes that would likely be used with Mystery Bounty events. PokerStars has not confirmed anything, but Pokerfuse has an excellent track record on this sort of thing.
Mystery Bounty tournaments have become increasingly popular over the last couple years, quickly becoming one of the highlights of the World Series of Poker. Both 888poker and GGPoker offer the tournament type in Europe and WSOP.com offers it in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Mystery Bounty tournaments are basically exactly what they sound like: players have bounties on their heads, but nobody knows exactly what the dollar amount is until after they knock out a player. In many Mystery Bounty tournaments – the WSOP being one example – some of the bounties are astronomical compared to the buy-in, giving players the opportunity to win big with just a single elimination.
To allow the bounties to be large, the bounties don’t typically begin right away with the first elimination. After a certain point, the bounties begin. In some instances, that might be when the regular payout structure begins. In others, it might be a defined time period, like, say, the second day of the tournament.
The appeal is clear: the chance to win tons of money via eliminations, rather than needing to actually run deep or win the tournament. Depending on the structure, players can sometimes make a great return on investment without even “making the money.”
Plus, the format taps into that part of our brain that loves the lottery aspect, the further gamification of a game.
Last year, Chris Straghalis, the Director of Online Poker Experience at PokerStars, told Pokerfuse that Mystery Bounty tournaments are tricky for the operator, as they want the format to be as appealing as possible to as many people as possible. He said that he doesn’t like that they way it works most of the time is that players who get the bounties are already in the money. He wants more people to be able to have fun with Mystery Bounties, not just those who have already gone deep in the tournament.
In traditional bounty tournaments, you don’t have that problem, as there are known bounties on everyone’s head from the very first hand.