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Re-Entry And Rebuy Tournaments: Part 2 -- Attitudes

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Oct 07, 2020


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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at
Click here for Part 1 of this series.
In the long-ago, olden days of the last century, almost all tournaments were freezeouts, meaning you could enter one time only. If you lost all your chips, you were done. There were also a handful of rebuy tournaments, usually lower buy-in events that happened weekly at your local poker room. That way, the players with smaller bankrolls could enter once and take a shot, and those with bigger bankrolls could splash around and rebuy and add-on as much as possible to increase their odds of building a stack and going deep. 

In today’s environment, most live tournaments offer re-entry, and many online tournaments offer rebuys and add-ons.
Despite the almost ubiquitous nature of these formats, there are many players who very much dislike them. They feel the ability to re-enter gives an advantage to the players with deep pockets who can afford to re-enter frequently. Which means they think those without deep pockets are at a disadvantage.
Some players also dislike how the ability to re-enter causes some of their opponents to play very loose and aggressive during the re-entry period. And it is true, there are many players who do this, who take huge, almost suicidal, risks during the re-entry period. They often have the goal of getting lucky and building a giant stack, or busting out to re-enter and try again.
As for the first concern, I must disagree. It has often been said that poker is just one long game. This is more obvious in a cash game setting. If I visit my local poker room several days per week and always play $1-$2 no-limit holdem, the result of each individual session isn’t of much importance. What matters is how well I do in the aggregate, that is, in the long run.
However, much the same can be said about tournaments. Let’s say your poker room runs a tournament every Tuesday night that permits re-entry. Every week it is the same buy-in, same structure, and approximately the same field. 

When you think about it, what does it matter if you re-enter the tournament tonight, or come back next Tuesday to play then? How is a player at a disadvantage because they don’t have the bankroll to re-enter? The difference between a player who never re-enters, and another who averages one re-entry per week is not that the player who re-enters has any monetary advantage. It just means that one of them will play 40-50 entries per year, and the other 80-100 entries. 

If they have the same skill level, they will achieve the same return on investment. But the player who re-enters has no advantage over the player who does not, or cannot, re-enter. Yes, the player who re-enters is more likely to make it to the money tonight, and to win the tournament tonight. They are, in this example, about twice as likely to do so. But they are also spending about twice as much money for that benefit. In the end, if these two players have the same skill level, they will each win, or lose, about the same amount per dollar invested in entries.
With respect to the second concern, I also must disagree. Yes, in my experience, there is a lot more loose, aggressive play during the re-entry period. I see this all the time. Sometimes, there are players who are capable of playing with great skill, but instead choose to gamble like crazy during the re-entry period. If that is what some people are complaining about, I say to them, “Are you crazy, too?” If your opponent is capable of playing well, but is instead playing poorly, why would you want to stop them? 

I say, let them make their foolish plays. While it adds a lot of variance to the game, it also adds a lot of profit to my bottom line, and to the bottom line of everyone else in the field.
The thing is, making a negative expected value (-EV) decision in a hand of poker does not become positive expected value (+EV) just because you can re-enter if you bust. If you are getting the same number of chips per dollar for the re-entry, then choosing to re-enter is no different than coming back next week to enter this tournament afresh.
As far as your personal long-term EV is concerned, choosing to re-enter just saves you time, and lets you get your bankroll back into action sooner. Just like it is your right to play each hand as you see fit, it is their right to do the same, both during and after the re-entry period. Let your opponents, if they choose to do so, play wild-and-crazy. Accept that this will increase your variance, but stick to making the smartest decisions you can. Re-enter, or not, as you wish, when that becomes an option.
If you still just believe that rebuy and re-entry tournaments are a bad idea, there is one critical thing you can do. Vote with your feet, don’t play them, and let the poker room know why you’re avoiding these events. If enough people agree with you, I promise you the poker room will listen.
Just like every other part of the game, have fun, and Play Smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.