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Re-Entry Tournaments

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Dec 01, 2013

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Gavin GriffinI recently wrote about a tournament that allowed players to buy in for a premium on Day 2 with an average stack. I felt like it was an interesting concept for a tournament, if not the greatest thing for the health of tournament poker overall. That tournament series recently concluded and it culminated in a $3,700 buy-in main event with three starting days. If you busted from the tournament on any of those starting days, you could try again the next day. You could even buy in at the beginning of Day 2 and get a starting stack. In total, if you were determined enough and unlucky enough, you could buy in four times. I was one of those unlucky ones who bought in four times. It was the first time I’ve had such an experience and it wasn’t exactly pleasant. It did make me think more about reentry tournaments overall and I’ve come away with a stronger opinion on the matter.

In short, I don’t like them. My main reason for not liking them is that they make the fields much tougher overall. If you think about which players will be exercising the option to reenter, you’ll realize that it will almost exclusively be very good players. Good players who have won satellites and who aren’t quite good enough to get backing for tournaments will most likely just fire one bullet. Rich guys who love to play tournaments might fire two bullets or they might just buy in for the beginning of Day 2, because their time is precious. For the most part, it will be very good-to-expert players who will be willing to fire multiple bullets at a tournament. As a result, Day 2 and beyond will be tougher. Because they will enter multiple times, very good and great players, who are more likely to make Day 2 in the first place, will have even more chances to do so when faced with the option to re-enter. In a regular freezeout tournament where you can only enter once, a good portion of the very good to great players are eliminated on Day 1 and that makes Day 2 and beyond a little easier. When you can reenter over and over, Day 2 and beyond becomes more densely populated with very good-to-great players, thus making the tournament tougher.

Extrapolating from there, if the very good-to-great players are more likely to make Day 2, they are also more likely to make Day 3 and so on. Reentry tournaments make it more likely for the best players to win tournaments and, as a result, the money gets concentrated in the hands of those players. Poker can only grow through the influx of new money. New players will get broke faster and enjoy tournament poker less if they have such a reduced chance of winning because of reentry tournaments. Not only that, imagine the exhilaration of a novice player who gets to play with one of the greats of poker on Day 1, someone they’ve admired and watched on TV, someone who has inspired them to play the game. Phil Ivey comes to mind. So, you’re a novice player in what, for you, is a big buy-in tournament. You play patiently all day, catch some cards, and get into a big pot with Mr. Ivey. You flopped a set against his straight and flush draw and all of the money goes in the pot. You immediately fill up and knock your idol out of the tournament. It’s a spectacular moment for you. You won a big pot and eliminated a very tough opponent that you won’t have to face for the rest of the tournament. Or so it should be. Instead, he buys back in the next day, makes it to Day 2 with a big stack, and gets seated at the same table as you. You get into another big confrontation, only you are on the wrong side of it this time and you’re headed out the door after being busted by a player you busted earlier in the tournament. Imagine the frustration you would feel because of this format.

Obviously this format is great for the tournament venue. They get to advertise huge prizepools built on the money of the re-entrants and, at the same time, they get to rake the same percentage from each entry. They are big money makers for the tournament industry and they won’t be going away any time soon. I’d like to say I won’t play them, but the truth is that would only be hurting my bottom line. I guess I’ll have to just keep on playing them and heading to the back of the line when I bust. See you there. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG