When we see these big guaranteed tournaments it’s often easy to look at the number of people who registered and the amount contributed to the prize pool and make a determination about whether the guarantee was met or not.  While, technically, from a player’s perspective this is all that matters, from a business perspective there is much more going on. 

Let’s say I’m running a $1000 guaranteed tournament with a $100 buy-in.  Obviously at 10 players it’s break even and anything over that is icing on the cake.  And if we have less than 10 players then we say that the tournament is offering an overlay equal to the difference between $100 times the difference in players to break even.

But what you don’t see in this simple calculation is how those 10 players got into the tournament.  If I gave out 2 seats in freerolls then my break even on a $1000 guarantee isn’t $1000 but $1200.  Likewise if I had a 2 seat guarantee qualifier and I only attracted enough players for 1 seat then my break even cost goes up to $1300. 

The reason I mention this is that players can still get an overlay on an event that has met it’s guarantee.  Probably the best way to do that is to play in the guaranteed qualifiers.  Many of these high-profile tournaments have to pump a lot of players in via qualifiers.  I’ll take a stab and say that the industry average is about 70% of a big event’s players are through qualifiers.  That’s a guesstimate because so many other factors come into play.  For instance, a $200 buy-in event will have more direct buy-ins than would a $1,000 buy-in event. 

If 70% of the entries are qualifiers then an event that needs 2000 players to break even will be qualifying approximately 1400.  That’s a lot of qualifier players.  And many of the qualifying tournaments will offer overlays. 

Most sites would rather eat it on the qualifiers where nobody is paying much attention than flop on the guarantee which will most certainly catch the attention of investors, players, and the industry.  Nobody wants to be seen as not being able to make a big guarantee on a marquee event so you could find a lot of value in the qualifiers where they may be giving out a lot of free seats in order to pump up their numbers for the target event. 

Your best bet for value is to wait for something big where the room has a lot of money on the line.  Think along the lines of FTOPS, WCOOP, Party’s recent Birthday Millions, etc.  Obviously the size of the room will dictate how "a lot of money on the line" is defined but what you’re looking for is a period where the room is trying to shovel as many players into an event or series of events as possible.

Then start taking note of which guaranteed qualifiers are missing their guarantees.  Chances are that if it misses once it will keep missing unless some other factor changes.  For instance, a tournament at off-peak hours may miss every day because of reduced liquidity at those hours.  Another tournament might only miss on Mondays.  Figure out the pattern of the losses and get some added value for free. 

Obviously, we’re not talking about a massive amount of EV here but it’s free so why not take it?