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Rebuy Tournaments

Utilize the right strategy

by Todd Arnold |  Published: Mar 14, 2007


If you are not playing rebuy tournaments, you are missing out. I hear many players say they do not like them because of the "rebuy maniacs," that it's too much of a gamble, or it costs too much. These are definitely poor excuses and incorrect mindsets. They are a great value. They have much larger prize pools with fewer opponents than a freezeout tournament. You just have to go into them with the right strategy.

First, be willing to spend five to seven times the buy-in amount, or more. This doesn't mean that you have to, but just be willing to do so if the situation dictates. You will be taking some gambles in big pots with a wide range of hands. Others who are playing correctly will be doing the same thing, so when the results are not in your favor – rebuy!

Rebuy immediately when the tournament begins and start with double the amount of starting chips. This will make a huge difference in your stack when you get all in and win, whether or not your opponent did the same. Observe how your table is playing. Do they have the gambler's mindset? Are they playing "tight"? Regardless of what they are doing, you need to be active, very active. Turn them into gamblers. I like to open every pot with a minimum raise. If I am the first to open the pot, I will "one-up" with almost any hand from 3-2 to A-A. I watch how the table reacts to these silly bets. Who is getting frustrated, who is waiting for a big hand to "crack" me, and who just doesn't care. I play the rebuy period like a "mindful fish." This means that I will see a flop with nearly any two cards for up to four or five times the blind amount. Raises before me that are higher than that require me to look at the situation a bit more, and narrow my hand selection – but not very much. After the flop, I simply play poker – betting to gain information as to what my opponents do not have, and based on my image and actions up to that point, what I can make them believe that I have. I will run bluffs to take pots that are not mine or, better yet, stack my opponent with my 8-3 offsuit when I make two pair on the turn. I make it absolutely impossible to put me on a hand during the rebuy period. I will show bluffs and monster hands that I bet the exact same way. I win pots and even call all ins with the most insane of hands, given the situation. All of this "maniacal" play creates an image that I can use to take advantage of my opponents, not only after the rebuy period is over, but also during the rest of the rebuy period.

Combined with the above mindful-fish strategy is the all-in strategy. When to open-push your chips all in and when to call off your stack are two important aspects of the rebuy period. If you are not getting all of your chips in the middle during the rebuy period at least a few times, you are playing too tight. This is not a freezeout; this is barely even poker; it is simply playing the game for what it is. It's a rebuy tournament, so use it to your advantage. If you have read any of my earlier columns (either in the magazine or on, you have seen me discuss decision-making and all of the factors that go into it. During the rebuy period, you can almost narrow those factors down to only chip stacks and image. Not much else matters. If two or more players shove all of their chips in ahead of you, and you have $3,000 in chips (equal to a double rebuy) and are holding the 8heart 6heart, what should you do? You call! Instantly. You have nothing at risk based on your chip count. You are risking only the dollar amount of a double rebuy, and you planned to spend that anyway. Any reasonably connected or suited hand, or any pair, is worthy of a call here. You have a chance to triple up, or more. Get those chips in there. How your table is playing will determine when and if you should be open-shoving all in preflop. Some players love to shove all in with A-A or K-K, assuming that they will get called by the "gamblers." This may be true, but make sure that there are definite gamblers acting after you before you waste a hand like this just hoping to get called. After I have loosened up my table, I like to do my little one-up raise with A-A, K-K, and so on. More often than not, someone who has seen me make that silly raise 15 times already will decide to shove all in on me. Provoking action is very important in poker, and at no point is it easier to do than in the rebuy period. Pay attention to your chip count in relation to the amount that you can "buy back," and don't be afraid to open-shove with A-K, A-Q, pairs, or even less. If your image is correct and others at your table are gambling, you will get called. Don't fear the call, as this is what you want.

Here's the key question: What are we trying to achieve with this so-called maniacal play during the rebuy period? Well, a few things, actually. Obtaining a large chip stack is certainly one of them, but, surprisingly, it is not of utmost importance. Having a boatload of chips is a huge advantage and an important tool for abusing the table later, and we'd certainly like to have all of those chips to work with. But, what happens when you lose every race or keep getting outdrawn during the rebuy period? You have spent several times the buy-in plus the add-on, and still have only the minimum starting amount. Let's say that you have $5,000 in chips. The rebuy period is over, you have $5,000, the blinds are $75-$150, and you have spent a gazillion dollars. Is this a disaster? No! You still have a mountain of chips in relation to the blinds, giving you all the flexibility you need. You have created a very good image to get paid off when you make your hands. And, there is a ton of chips at your table now, all for the taking! Conversely, at the next table over, all of the players played tight, and they will have a much harder time chipping up after the rebuy period is over. One of the huge benefits of rebuy tournaments is the amount of chips in play. The more chips there are in play, the more flexibility you can maintain in relation to the blind levels. The only true disaster, which happens rarely, is that after you create this image and fill your table with chips, and spend a gazillion and still have only the minimum amount of chips – you get moved to a new table, with no chips on it! Fortunately, that happens only once in a great while; otherwise, I'd be taking a warm bath with a toaster.

OK, here's a little summary with a few extra thoughts. Fish around with a wide range of hands, but play smart poker after the flop. Don't just mindlessly donate. Pay close attention to your chip count and always keep the largest amount in front of you. This means that if you have $1,850 in chips, then bet $350 and lose, buy $1,500 more (the rebuy amount). Keep your stack at its max, so that when you do double up, you get the most. Pay attention to your opponents' tendencies and capabilities, more so than trying to read their hands during the rebuy period. Get your chips in with reasonable holdings when you have heavy pot odds, unless you already have accumulated a large amount of chips. Don't be afraid to gamble, have fun, and good luck. spade

Todd Arnold is the trainer and co-creator of and a private coach for online and live players. Visit his site or contact him at