Card Player Magazine, August 13, 1993, Poker Strategy, Page 28-29.
Transcribed here with permission from:

In the June 30 issue of Card Player, “Anonymous Andrew” wrote a letter attempting to debunk the newly-developed format of “duplicate hold’em.” He did this without having any idea whatsoever what “duplicate hold’em” is and how it could revolutionize and improve poker tournaments by eliminating the “luck or the cards” as the primary factor in determining the ultimate winner or a poker tournament. How is that possible? Read on.

Duplicating cards allows the same exact cards and positions to be played at different tables by different players so that individual results are determined by how well or poorly a player has handled his cards in comparison with others who have played the same cards in the exact same seat but at different tables. Although it has never been attempted at poker, this is not a new concept. Duplicating cards has been used at bridge tournaments for decades by using a board made out or wood, light metal, or plastic that allows bridge players to return their cards to a slot after the hand has been played. The duplicated boards (in a set rotation) are then passed to other tables. By this method, the “luck” of the cards is virtually eliminated from bridge competitions. Bridge pairs win only if they have played their cards better than other players playing the same hands; the quality or the bridge hands has no bearing on the outcome.

Duplicate poker can be played in a hold’em or an Omaha event where the cards are pre­ordained -raises or folds do not alter the flop, turn, or river cards. Meaningful comparisons between various players playing the same hands at different tables can be made. In order for duplicate hold’em (or Omaha) to work, three necessary components had to be worked out: first, a “board” had to be designed to hold the various two-card hands (or four cards for Omaha) with additional slots for the flop, the tum, and the river. Second, there had to be a simple scoring system; because winning the most chips at your table does not make you a winner. Losing chips at your table is not fatal if you have limited your losses better than other players playing the same hands at other tables. Third, a rotation had to be developed so that various players would move to different seats against different players between rounds as well as to allow the event to accommodate any number of players.

All of these problems have been solved. We have designed individually-numbered duplicate boards made from a light metal. Among other things, the board rotates the button so that the blind(s) move after every hand just as in a regular poker tournament. Obviously, if seat No. 3 has the blind on board No. 13 at one table, then seat No. 3 must also have the blind on that hand at all tables playing board No. 13.

The scoring of duplicate hold’em is completely different than a determination of who ends up with all the chips. A duplicate tournament is divided into a series of rounds with a pre-determined number of hands or “boards” played for each round. For example, suppose you have 10 tables of nine players each. (In a duplicate event, each table must have the same number of players. Otherwise, the comparisons would be flawed.) If 30 hands are played during each round, each table would start with three different boards. Instead of discarding their hands after a fold, or at the completion of a hand, the players merely return their cards to the slot on the duplicate board. After the hands have been played, the boards are passed to the next table. Other new boards are then received from one of the other tables. This distribution of boards continues until all 30 boards (hands) are played at each table during the round. (Note that once the hands have been dealt in the first three-hand segment beginning each round, there are no reshuffles and play begins as soon as the new boards are passed to your table.) At the end of the round, the dealer counts each player’s chips, records them, and turns the scores into the scorekeeper.

Although the players compete against players at their table, their real opponents during each round are the players sitting in the same seat at each of the other tables. Once the scores are turned in, the scorekeeper determines the average or par for each seat during the round. For example, if seat No. 6 was an “unlucky seat” with aces losing repeatedly or trips losing to a back-door flush, those “unlucky cards” will be experienced by all the players sitting in seat No. 6 at the other tables. If the par result at seat No. 6 was minus $150, and you managed to hold your losses to an impressive minus $70, then your score for that round will be plus 80 points (you scored 80 points above par for your seat). In the same example, if your chip total for the unlucky seat No. 6 is minus $180, then your score for that round would be minus 30 points.

The winner of a duplicate event is the person who finishes with the most overall points (not chips). In this type of event, it is possible to have a long string of “bad” cards or bad beats and triumph by limiting your losses on such hands. Conversely, if you have an abundance of great cards – but do not win enough chips on those hands compared to the other players – your score will not be good even if you win more chips than you lose.

We also have developed a rotation system for each round that can accommodate 24 or more players. This rotation allows the players to play against a mix of opponents at different tables and to compete against different opponents playing the same cards at different tables during the event.

It should be noted that in duplicate hold’em, a player is never “all in” since that would affect the normal result of the hands at other tables where the same players are not “all in.” If a player runs out of chips at a duplicate event, he merely borrows additional chips from the dealer. This “loan” is recorded against his score for that round. In fact, this may be the best feature of a duplicate event-no one is eliminated by running out of chips or by doing poorly in the early rounds. In a duplicate event, each entrant plays a set amount of hands (depending on the length of the event). After a certain number of rounds, the field is cut to a final round. In the final round, everyone stays in until the end of the event. The winner will not be known until the final scores are tallied.

Duplicate hold’em also can be played as a team event with teams of four to nine players. Each teammate would participate in a different seat at each table with the winner being the team that finishes with the most points. Imagine a team consisting of Chip Reese, David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, Mike Caro, and Doyle Brunson against all comers. Or how about geographic teams from Los Angeles, versus Las Vegas, New York, London, or Texas.

That’s duplicate hold’em in a nutshell. A duplicate event will place a premium on skill. Although the pros will have a higher win rate than in a chip elimination event, the skillful amateur can win by careful play. The great players will not win every duplicate event, they will just win more often because they will not be eliminated merely because of an unfortunate run of bad cards or bad beats. More importantly, in duplicate hold’em, poker players will no longer be able to credit or blame the luck of the cards for winning or losing. Players will no longer suffer the indignity of paying a large entry fee only to be eliminated after a few hands in a tournament. In a duplicate poker event everyone will get a fair chance to win since there are no early departures.

We approached a few managers of prominent casinos to see if they would consider holding a duplicate hold’em tournament or to introduce duplicate poker by holding a team game. Some were intrigued and excited about our duplicate hold’em concept, however they hesitate to invest in a bold new tournament format unless they knew that the players would play in a unique event. Now that you know about duplicate hold’em, and would like to try it, talk to your tournament directors and ask them to offer it. Or write to us in care of The Card Player with your opinions. With duplicate events, poker tournaments will never be the same.