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.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
IU Swammer
1 year ago

Hmm… I guess theoretically this would incentivize teams to invest in a big name because they can snatch even more points. And a big name may be more willing to switch teams. For example, Dressel may be slightly more likely to move to a different team because he brings enough points alone to make them a contender (or close). In reality, I think this will just make the meets more lopsided.

Reply to  IU Swammer
1 year ago

I think in a future world, where we pretend like the salary differences are big enough to really entice the athletes from signing on the team where their friends are all signed, or where their coach tells them to go, it could impact recruiting strategies.

If you spend half your salary to get Dressel, he’ll steal a bunch of points, but that might hurt the back end of your roster and you get points stolen from you more frequently. You’d still obviously spend the money on Dressel, but at least there’s SOME offset.

This rule probably makes things way less interesting until you insert other rules that force parity. Until there’s better parity between teams, the team battles remain really… Read more »

1 year ago

The ISL in 2020-21 won’t be like it was originally going to but it still sounds really exciting with all the cool new announcements. I really hope it happens!
This makes it so that star power becomes more important in ISL. Having a really fast swimmer on your team immediately gives you a great advantage. But this also makes it that teams that lack depth will get their points blown out more.
One question: do points still get deducted if a swimmer misses the minimum time but the swimmer’s points are blown out by a jackpot?

Reply to  swimfan210_
1 year ago

It’s unclear. We’ve asked the league for more info, but they aren’t willing to share much yet, so it’s still piece-by-piece.

1 year ago

Keep it simple. Too many scoring rules will cause people to be confused and lose interest. I’ll watch regardless and learn these rules because I love the sport and want to fully understand how the scoring is being done, but others may find it to be too much. I understand why they are implementing this, but it just isn’t the best move in my opinion.

If I could determine how the ISL works, I would simply use the college dual meet/tri meet format spread over two days with additional relays. It values swimming fast and winning events (9-4-3-2-1 and 11-4-2), it’s simple, and it’s exciting.

Reply to  JCO
1 year ago

I’m actually surprised by this rule too, because they’ve been so intent on keeping things simple, and this rule runs counter to that.

Reply to  JCO
1 year ago

I agree, this gets really complicated really fast. I kind of like the concept of it if it were applied to say one random men’s and one random women’s event each day and the event was announced as a jackpot once the swimmers are behind the blocks so it’s less about strategy and more about the swimmers in the event fighting tooth and nail for every point. It would allow some point swings, but would keep things like Dressel pulling it 80-90 points for swimming the skins and 50 free from happening.

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 …

Read More »