ISL To Introduce ‘Jackpot Times’ – Point Stealing For Blowout Wins

The 2020-2021 International Swimming League season will introduce “jackpot times” that allow teams to steal points for winning a race by a wide margin.

Here’s how the jackpot times will work: each “jackpot time” is effectively a winning margin. If a swimmer beats someone else in their event by a certain amount of time, the winner steals the loser’s points. Here are a few examples of how this could play out:

  • Scenario 1: Partial jackpot. Hurting for a breaststroker, an ISL team drafts SwimSwam writer Jared Anderson to swim the 100 breast. Adam Peaty beats Anderson by more than 1.05 seconds. (Not that much more than 1.05, though. It really could have gone either way.) Peaty gets the points for winning the event (9 points under the current scoring format). But because Peaty hit the jackpot margin over Anderson’s time, he also gets Anderson’s points (1 point for a very respectable 8th place).
  • Scenario 2: Total jackpot. Every distance swimmer on the planet is unavailable for an ISL meet weekend. (They’re all at a TED talk about dealing with brutal physical pain). But Katie Ledecky is still swimming the 400 free. (Ledecky doesn’t feel pain). She blows out the 400 free field – the seven other entrants, SwimSwam readers signed off the street as free agents, finish more than 8.50 seconds behind her. Ledecky gets 9 points for winning the event, but she also gets the points of all seven finishers she beat by the jackpot time margin. That means for the 400 free, Ledecky takes home 37 points for her team, and the other three teams competing all earn zeroes for the event.
  • Scenario 3: Skins jackpot. The same rules are in place for the triple-point multi-round skin events. In round 1 of the men’s skin race, Caeleb Dressel beats the 8th-place swimmer by more than 0.85 seconds. That swimmer earns zero points. Dressel gets the 1 point the losing swimmer would have earned for 8th place. In the second round, two swimmers are clearly exhausted from trying to make it past the original cuts, and Dressel (who isn’t even breathing hard, somehow) beats both by more than 0.85 seconds. They both get nothing, and Dressel steals the 12 points (3rd place) and 10 points (4th place) they would have gotten, had they finished closer to Dressel. In the final, Dressel wins again, and when the other finalist gives up and starts loafing his way to the wall, Dressel beats him by more than 0.85. Dressel’s total earnings for the event would be:
    • 27 for winning
    • 21 for beating 2nd place by the jackpot margin in the final round
    • 12 for beating 3rd place by the jackpot margin in the second round
    • 10 for beating 4th place by the jackpot margin in the second round
    • 1 for beating 8th place by the jackpot margin in the first round
    • For a grand total of 71 points

The jackpot times are also in effect for relays, with a winning relay able to steal points from losing relays if the winning margin is bigger than the jackpot time. Theoretically, a really dominant swimmer could earn up to 37 points in an individual event (with a total jackpot sweep), a dominant relay could earn 74 points with a total jackpot, and a total jackpot in a skin event could earn 80 points.

There have also been hints this spring that the ISL plans to broaden its skins races to include non-free strokes, rather than only the 50 free as they were last year. There have been no details yet, though, on how that will work in 2020-2021.

Here are the jackpot times (in seconds) for the 2020-2021 ISL season:

Note: jackpot times appear to be based on 4% of the standing world record in each event.

Men Women Mixed
50 free 0.85 0.95
100 free 1.8 2.05
200 free 4 4.5
400 free 8.5 9.4
50 back 0.9 1.05
100 back 2 2.2
200 back 4.3 4.8
50 breast 1.05 1.15
100 breast 2.25 2.5
200 breast 5 5.4
50 fly 0.9 1.05
100 fly 2 2.2
200 fly 4.4 4.8
100 IM 2.05 2.3
200 IM 4.4 4.9
400 IM 9.4 10.4
4×100 free relay 9 10 10
4×100 medley relay 10 11

The jackpot times should reward teams with a clear standout in one event, and will further punish teams that can’t fill both entry spots with solid contenders in a given event. The ISL will still continue to have penalty points too – those are negative points eaten by a team when a swimmer (a) swims slower than a set ‘benchmark’ time, (b) is disqualified or does not finish an event, or (c) does not show up for their event.


How Would Jackpot Times Have Affected 2019?

SwimSwam’s Barry Revzin ran some numbers to see how this extra scoring wrinkle would have affected last year’s season. The jackpot margin appears to be based on 4% of the world record in each event. Per Barry’s numbers:

  • Individual Jackpots would have been hit 170 times over the 2019 season. That’s a huge majority of the 210 total individual events in last ISL season. (There are 30 individual events per meet, with seven meets across the season).
  • Jackpots would have been hit in every single relay event last year: 35 jackpots in 35 relay events.
    • The ultimate outcome of this might be to force the weaker teams to split their relays, trying to keep their B relay within the jackpot margin to avoid losing all their points.
  • Jackpot times would have dramatically helped overall season scoring for the top three ISL teams, and would have hurt the remaining five:

Overall season scoring change with jackpots retroactively applied:

  • Cali Condors: +166.5
  • London Roar: +139.5
  • Energy Standard: +122
  • LA Current: -34.5
  • Iron: -35.5
  • DC Trident: -79
  • Aqua Centurions: -130.5
  • NY Breakers: -148.5

The biggest individual point gains across the season if jackpot rules had applied:

  • 124.5: DRESSEL Caeleb CAC
  • 107.5: ATHERTON Minna LON
  • 68.0: SJOSTROM Sarah ENS
  • 53.0: KING Lilly CAC
  • 46.0: GUIDO Guilherme LON
  • 42.0: MANAUDOU Florent ENS
  • 33.0: GASTALDELLO Beryl LAC
  • 33.0: le CLOS Chad ENS
  • 29.5: CAMPBELL Cate LON
  • 21.0: SETO Daiya ENS

Of course, this data is somewhat skewed by its hypothetical nature – if the jackpot rules were in place, it’s likely we’d see lineups and roster makeups change to account for the jackpot scoring. With two new teams entering the league, we should see each team get somewhat thinner for the 2020-2021 season, and it appears some or all of the teams have assembled rosters already, though only a few have published rosters or had names leak.

The jackpot scoring could have a huge impact on roster construction and team building down the road, though, when teams can fully account for the jackpot system in assembling their rosters.

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2 years ago

I echo everyone’s comments about this being a bad rule. I sort of see how this rule could prevent people from throwing races in Skins where they know they will lose and maybe also reward swims that are especially dominant, which is nice. But the cons of this (tilt towards stars, complexity) outweigh the benefits by a lot IMO. Just say that a WR swim is 2x the points or something like that. If you want it to be a bit more common you could make up times that are a little off the WR. Or make it based on ISL records once you have 2-3 seasons completed.

Swim fan 44
2 years ago

I don’t think it’s good because if dressel goes and steals every point from every other swimmer in skins he’s brining home like $21,000+ (assuming that it’s still $300 a point) and the other guys get nothing

Reply to  Swim fan 44
2 years ago

I think maybe there’s some confusion over “points.” We gave ISL this feedback last year, but there are multiple kinds of “points” available. The “points” awarded that apply to the team totals are not the same as the “points” that apply to prize money. So, for example, last season, only the top 4 finishers in each event received “prize money points.” 5-8 received “team scoring points” and “MVP points” but not “prize money points.”

So, Dressel would have to ‘jackpot’ the 4th place finisher for that to come into effect. It’s not yet clear if swimmers can steal “money points” as well, or just “team scoring points.”

2 years ago

Is there any way of telling the isl this seems like a bad idea?

2 years ago

Wouldn’t it be better to do something like this when they swim a world record or something. like for example getting a wr in an event would get you all the points of that event

Reply to  Swimmer9000
2 years ago

I agree, perhaps the winner could get not all the points, but double points for WR. I don not, however, why should the winner be rewarded for the poor performance of the weakest competitor. If one swimmer is disqualified or performs substandard, his one point ought to be equally distributed among the rest, each one getting +1/7 points Well, that was only a joke, but the whole idea may lead to ridiculous situations.

2 years ago

This is basically a waste of time now. Give Caeleb all the individual points and Energy Standard the team title and go home.

2 years ago

To me jackpot implies a luck based aspect but it’s really about blowing people out of the water. Not the biggest fan I’d say but I don’t have a good solution either so I can’t complain

2 years ago

Was April Fool’s postponed to today?

Some people have had way too much time to think and not enough time to race.

Reply to  Jiggs
2 years ago

It does seem like a bit of a joke.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
2 years ago

I hope they don’t do this. I could see many swimmers earn nothing but the basic attendance fee in a meet, and this will be very discouraging. If ISL wants to expand the number of teams from 8 to 12, they have to attract much more swimmers that are not at the very top. I don’t think this rule will help.
The only thing I would like ISL to introduce is a random drafting that makes teams more balanced.

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
2 years ago

In 2019 this was actually already true, there were quite a few swimmers who competed and made only their salaries (and some swimmers who actually swam on a $0 salary in fact). I don’t really like this rule either, but I don’t think it’s actually going to impact that, depending on what other rules changes are coming – only top 4 finishers in each event earned prize money last year anyway.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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