In February 2011, one of the largest and most notable Smash tournaments to date happened in Arlington, Virginia: Pound V was the fifth instalment of the legendary Pound tournament series.
The Pound events had carved out their own space as the home of some of competitive Smash’s most iconic moments; Pound 3 saw Mango make one of the most impressive loser’s bracket runs ever, and Pound 4 saw the infamous upset with SilentSpectre beating Armada.
Pound V also saw some incredibly hype moments, but the tournament is most famous for the controversy surrounding it when, after the event, the head tournament organizer Plank announced that none of the winners would receive any prize money due to issues that arose while hosting the tournament.
As a result, over $10,000 in prize money was lost and the winners of the tournament went home empty-handed.
Pound V Prize Money: What Happened?
A few weeks after Pound V had concluded, Plank made a lengthy post on Smashboards detailing why he would be unable to pay out players who placed in the money.
Plank had negotiated a deal with a hotel (that also had a room where the tournament could be hosted) where if a certain threshold of rooms were rented, there would be a significantly cheaper cost to renting the venue. After the success of Pound 4, Plank had budgeted for at least the same amount of entrants to try and make this new plan work; the idea being that if a set amount of these entrants rent a room at the hotel venue, it would hit the threshold for the discount.
…Except Pound V notably didn’t come close to hitting Pound 4’s numbers; there were 104 less entrants for Melee and 41 less entrants for Brawl. Plank claimed that a large amount of cancellations stacked up in the week leading up to the tournament, forcing him to purchase a large amount of rooms to fulfill his end of the contract. Due to the nature of the contract, it’s possible that many players reserved a room at first and then cancelled the reservation. Plank also alluded to rooms that were overcrowded with people, another factor for why enough rooms weren’t rented.
The end result is that even with venue fees, Plank was way short of the money required to rent the venue, and had to dip into the entry fees (which make up the prize money for every tournament.) It took all of the prize money to pay off the debt, meaning everyone who placed in the money at tournament would get nothing for their play.
Plank disappeared after writing his statement, and the Pound series would essentially cease to be for that time.
Aftermath Of Pound V
Plank was met with extreme hostility when he announced there was no prize money; many were quick to point out how irresponsible it was to book a venue outside your price range, and using prize money to bail yourself out.
Bobby Scar pointed out in the same thread that it was irresponsible to expect prize money to be subsidized by the turnout, as the standard formula for hosting tournaments is that venue fee covers the venue, and entry fee covers the pot; you should only work with a venue that you can feasibly cover with that initial venue fee. Even thinking that having prize money as a bailout option is a sign that you’re in over your head.
Plank was placed on the Tournament Organizer Blacklist, the only time a TO was placed on the list. His actions, as well as the fact that he left the scene immediately afterwards, earned intense scorn from the community, and the infamous Pound series had a massive stain on its reputation.
The Rebirth Of The Pound Series
Two and a half years later, Plank made a return to the scene in late 2013 with Pound V.5, a smaller event that ended up having 95 entrants for Melee, although it still attracted top talent such as Mango and Mew2King. There was outrage over the fact that Plank seemingly popped out of nowhere after a couple of years, having still not paid out players for Pound V.
Then came one incredible day in 2015.
Team Liquid’s Hungrybox tweeted out that he and others had received a message from Plank asking for payment info, as he was finally paying out the owed prize money from Pound V.
Plank paid out the players in full almost five years after Pound V. Because of this, he was removed from the Tournament Organizer Blacklist and resumed hosting the Pound series in full force; today the Pound tournaments remain some of the most popular Smash events of the year, with Pound Online being one of the more notable online events hosted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pound V and Plank’s actions were an important lesson for the Smash community; at a time when it was all grassroots, trying to bite off more than you could chew as a TO would lead to disastrous consequences. Tournament hosts today can take a lot of healthy lessons from the Pound V controversy; but at least it had a (delayed) happy ending.