Full Tilt Poker has announced that it will hold a 20-event series of tournaments over the course of 10 days, from September 11 through 20. Described as “getting back to basics” by Managing Director Dominic Mansour, the series features affordable buy-ins from $10 up to $100, and relatively modest guarantees: $75,000 for the Main Event and $270,000 for the series as a whole.

The lineup is also mostly no-frills as well, with 11 of the 20 events being No-Limit Hold’em and most of the remainder being various forms of Omaha. The most unusual offerings are a $50 10-Game Mix and a $25 25-Game Mix, the latter of which should be pretty wild. There’s also a single $50 Razz event representing for non-flop games, a $10 Rebuy, and $100 6-Card Omaha.

What’s most interesting about the series, however, is its timing. PokerStars’s World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) kicks off this Sunday, September 6, and runs through the 27, placing the Full Tilt Classic squarely in the middle of its run. Given that both sites are now owned by the same company, Amaya, this seems at first to be a weird decision, placing the two series in direct competition. And given that most individual WCOOP events have higher guarantees than the entirety of the Full Tilt Classic, for many professional players, there’s not even a question about which series holds the greater value.

Indeed, sarcastic responses to the announcement have already begun to appear on Twitter. Those knocking the Full Tilt Classic may be missing the point, however.

Increased differentiation

There have been a lot of changes recently, both to PokerStars and to Full Tilt, and they all point towards one consistent strategy by Amaya, which is to increase differentiation between the sites.

On the one hand, PokerStars keeps adding new, higher buy-in options, like $100 Spin-and-Gos and 21 events on this year’s WCOOP schedule with buy-ins over $1000, including a $51,000 Super High-Roller. On the other hand, Full Tilt has removed many high stakes options, simplified its cash game lobby, made the “hunting” of recreational players by pros more difficult, and overhauled its rewards system to both seem more fun and pay out more to lower-volume players.

Providing an alternative to WCOOP on Full Tilt which has a less technical lineup of games, lower buy-ins and modest guarantees makes perfect sense in that light. Although it isn’t being advertised, a look at the structure of the Full Tilt Classic events reveals that they’re designed to progress a little faster as well, with smaller stacks, fewer minutes per level, and taking about 20% fewer levels to reach a similar multiplication in blinds. With much smaller fields expected as well, this makes these events far less of a time commitment. Most importantly, all of the Full Tilt Classic events will have a high probability of being won by a recreational or small-stakes player, because all the serious professionals will be busy with WCOOP.

In other words, if the Full Tilt Classic lineup seems unappealing to veteran mid- and high-stakes players, that’s probably the entire point. It’s not for them, but for everyone else, such as the recreational players who like the concept of a championship series, but who lack the bankroll, the time and/or the skills for WCOOP to be a reasonable option.

As I’ve said in the past, the biggest problem facing the new Full Tilt is that ability to retain casual players is only useful when you have a player base to begin with, and most of that base is already gone. Convincing a portion of the casual players on PokerStars to make the switch is a good first step towards rectifying that problem, and the Full Tilt Classic may be just the thing; at any rate, I for one will at least move some funds over to play the 10- and 25-Game mixed events. Low buy-ins, reasonable time commitments, fishy fields and fun games are exactly what I’m in the market for these days. I understand why professionals need huge guarantees and slow structures, but those aren’t everyone’s priorities.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.