Event #18 in the FTOPS XIV schedule was a rare first for the festival. Although the Full Tilt Series of Poker always lays on a wide variety of different games and structures, it’s unusual to see something completely new pop up. This latest style of tournament is a completely original idea, made possible by the recent upgrade to the Full Tilt Poker software. The recent client update added Cashout Tournaments to the list of available games.

At any point during the action, players in the the Cashout event were able to pick up their chips and leave table. They wouldn’t depart empty handed, however. Depending on their chip-stack, they would receive a portion of a special prize pool. In a Cashout Tournament, half of the buy-in forms the regular prize pool, while the rest goes into a special Cashout pool. In Event #18, each player contributed $100 to each pool – for a total of $200 + $26. Any time before the final table, a player can click the Cashout button and leave the tournament. He or she will then receive chips relative to their current stack, with the starting amount worth $100. The Cashout payout increases in 10% increments, so in this tournament, cashing out twice the chips you began with would net you $200.

When a player cashes out, the money is removed from the special prize pool and their chips are removed from play. If they withdraw from the tournament inside the money bubble, they will also receive the standard payout for that spot. Players do not have to withdraw all their chips at once. They are free to pull out any amount, in 10% increments of the starting stack. Once play reaches the final table, no more Cashouts are permitted and the remaining Cashout pool is transferred into the standard kitty.

This experimental Hold ‘em event attracted 1,844 entrants. Clearly the strong turn-out surprised Full Tilt, as the $184,400 prize pool easily surpassed the $150,000 guarantee. There were 189 money spots, but any player could walk away with cash at any time. Holding on until the end was m_hawk_1, who picked up $37,986.40 for his perseverance. The internet pro, otherwise known as Michael Hawkins, now has online tournament winnings of over $300,000. In second was bd3109, another accomplished online expert, who adds $25,078.40 to the $400k he has already accumulated in online MTT winnings. In third place for $18,624.40 was MagicGog, real name Igor Bakay.

Hosting the event was Full Tilt veteran and game theory maestro Chris Ferguson. “Jesus” has spend the last 15 years establishing himself as one of the top tournament professionals in the world. His success is built on a strong academic background, having spent 18 years at UCLA working towards a Ph.D in computer science. He was also an early champion of online poker, playing on the stone-age IRC servers that spawned the current flashy online clients. The highlight of his career came in 2000, when he became the first WSOP Main Event champion of the new millennium. Also on his résumé are 5 WSOP bracelets, 3 WSOP-C rings, the 2008 NBC Heads Up Championship, 25 WSOP final tables, and 42 WSOP cashes.

All this expertise didn’t help him cash in FTOPS XIV Event #18. He finished in a disappointingly low 1464th place. In fact, none of the Red Pros who bought in for the event managed to beat the bubble. However, any number of them may have taken advantage of the unique format and cashed out early. The tournament stats don’t indicate who cashed out and who was knocked out, so we can only speculate. Among the other Team Full Tilt pros who failed to finish in the money where: Aaron Bartley, Allen Cunningham, Andrew Black, David Pham, Eric Shoenberg, Huck Seed, Ram Vaswani, and Scott Fischman.