Is Battle Royale a game changer?

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Is GGPoker’s Battle Royale the future of online poker or just a novelty? Barry Carter takes a look at this new format.

Last week GGPoker launched Dan Bilzerian’s Battle Royale – a fast format with a lot of moving parts that looks very promising. 

It’s a 100-person PKO SNG with a Rush Poker stage until you get to 50 players, then a shootout stage until each table has a winner and finally a ten handed final table. 

First and foremost, it is a fast format and that has always been where I think online poker should go. Recreational players don’t necessarily want to play for seven hours for a mincash nor do they want to wait around between hands. The beauty of this format is it is fast and fun, but also tough to solve, so it works for pros and amateurs alike.

The Fast Fold Stage

Lots of moving parts

You should play loosest at the start of a PKO because you get the biggest relative equity boost at the start by winning bounties. That makes the fast fold format of Stage 1 perfect because it guarantees action when action is needed the most.

Stage 2 is really interesting because it is a shootout and you have to play down to a table winner. ICM influences all stages of normal tournaments but here you have to play a ChipEV/winner-takes-all style in the middle of the tournament. It guarantees everyone has collected a reaonable bounty and has similar stacks at the final table, but also means there is no ICM just before the final table when it usually is most severe.

GGPoker Battle Royale stage 2 - Shootout stage
The Shootout Stage

There is, however, a bizarre ICM dynamic in Stage 1 if more than 50 players remain, because the players below 50th place are eliminated after 15 minutes. This turns the early stage into a pseudo satellite. It still makes most sense to play for the win/bounties even at the final moments of this stage, but there will occasionally be times when stalling or making tight folds to survive round 1 is optimal.

Most of the time it is academic because 50 players are usually dispatched of within 15 minutes.

Shallow stacks but requires skill

The stacks are shallow which will lead some to think this is a crapshoot, but they would be wrong. There are so many moving parts to Battle Royale it takes reflexive skills to adapt. There is six handed, five handed and 10 handed play, fast fold poker, progressive bounties, a bizarre bubble dynamic in Stage 1, winner takes all and heads-up play in Stage 2 and normal final table ICM skills in Stage 3.

PKOs are already a hard format to solve and the sheer number of moving parts in Battle Royale make it fun for recreationals and skilful for serious players. There is also quite low rake of 5% or less.

GGPoker Battle Royale stage 3 - Final Table
The Final Table Stage

It is also a natural game to stream and for gamers to take an interest in. There is no waiting around between hands and there are a lot of nice touches, for example a pop-up which tells you when X player busts Y player on another table. This could be especially fun if you are playing against friends or for streamers when they notice another streamer has bust on the next table. I really can’t wait to watch players like Kevin Martin stream this game.

If anything it’s too complicated

I’ve made no secret that I thought the Dan Bilzerian signing was a mistake, but this was perhaps the least controversial way his branding could be used. He has a loose association with the military and guns, which is reflected in the style of this game.

If anything it is too quick and too complicated to keep up with. I enjoy each of the three stages so much that I actually wish they were each a little bit longer, though I really respect that each game has essentially an hour limit. One thing I am quite convinced of, however, is the final table could last a little longer. They tend to start with effective ten big blinds and GGPoker have a blind rollback feature that should be used here so everyone has closer to 25BBs.

I really hope they increase the stakes a little and make a slower version of this in the future, especially because a higher stakes format would be very marketable for streamers.

Earlier this year I raved about Flip & Go and was pondering about making it my ‘go to’ quick game. I still love it but unfortunately they don’t run often enough for me to be a regular in them. Now that Battle Royale by GGPoker has launched this was enough for me to move some of my bankroll to GG, to play alongside Flip & Go and whatever crazy format they come up with next. 

Do you like this format? Let us know in the comments: