“The Social Experiment” Warmly Welcomed, Breaks Guarantee



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Despite being roundly derided by what turned out to be a minority of people, the latest creation of tournament director Matt Savage has gone off not only without a hitch but also greatly supported to the point of exceeding the guaranteed prize pool of the event.

On Friday at Savage’s home base, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, the California State Poker Championship preliminary schedule got underway. As a part of those preliminary events, Savage put in Event #2 on Saturday, a $100,000 guaranteed tournament for only $315 (including juice) that saw the players start with 30,000 chips. That type of stack is usually reserved for major tournaments such as the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker and, because of the guarantee, gave players a great shot at a big payday for a small buy in.

If you’re wondering whether there was a catch or not, there most certainly was. The tournament, called “The Social Experiment,” sought to return poker to the way it was only a short 10-15 years ago. Players in the event had to abstain from using any electronic devices at the tables, eschew from wearing sunglasses and hoodies and not to wear headphones at all (players were allowed, during breaks, to access electronic devices, but they still had to step from the tournament zone).

Even the structure sheet for the tournament took some shots at the usage of electronics in today’s poker world. After calmly stating during the first scheduled break that players “could use electronics,” the second break allowed players to “check their Facebook” the third advised players to “appreciate that battery life,” and so on. “It’s going to be an interesting day,” Savage noted, ironically enough, over Facebook prior to the start of the event.

Although there had been a great deal of outrage by players over the banishment of some of their “blankies” that help them get through a tournament, players overall came out firmly in favor of Savage”s creation. “No penalties so far,” Savage noted in a Facebook post, showing a picture of the Commerce Casino tournament room packed with players (and Savage cheekily wearing both headphones and sunglasses in the shot).

Just how popular was the tournament? Just what were the final numbers from “The Social Experiment?” In the end, they blew away expectations. “511 entries, $153,300 prize pool (besting the $100,000 guarantee), and the final 64 finishers ITM,” Savage posted to Facebook once the late registration period ended.

Once the final stats were in, Savage opened up a bit about why he wanted to try such a tournament as “The Social Experiment.” “Cell phone rules are way too lax and every tournament director in the industry knows this,” Savage stated on Facebook. “While “The Social Experiment” was just a test, it did prove that not only do we have a problem in poker but we (also) have a problem in society (myself included) when it comes to being attached to technology and social media.”

A look at research reveals Savage’s words to be true. According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults who own a cellphone has jumped from 65% to 92% in just the last ten years. There has been a correlating increase in smartphone usage but in a much shorter period, jumping from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2015. Furthermore, there have been other notable increases in the usage of tablet computers (3% to 45% since 2010), MP3 players (20% to 40% since 2006) and e-Readers (2% to 19% since 2009). The increase in all those technological wonders naturally increases the amount of connectivity a person has with technology and, with that connection, a disassociation from human interaction.

Plenty noted that the tournament was quite friendly and jovial, something that led to Savage slyly indicating that there could be a future for “The Social Experiment” in other locations. When asked if the concept could be copied elsewhere, Savage said, “I think they (other tournament directors) will after today was such a hit, but I don’t think this is a long-term solution as much as a fun “one off” special.”

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