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Poker Strategy With Greg Raymer: Re-Entry and Rebuy Tournaments

Part One: Definitions


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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

More from this series:

Part 2: Adjusting Your Attitude
Part 3: Late Registration
Part 4: Strategy Considerations

Many tournaments in today’s poker world offer players the opportunity to rebuy, or re-enter, or add-on, or more than one of these options. I first want to discuss the differences between them.

Live tournaments today are more likely to offer re-entry, as opposed to the other options. In a re-entry tournament, for a designated period, any player who is eliminated may return to the buy-in desk, and re-enter the tournament. This almost always involves paying the same total price as when they first entered the tournament, often including the rake paid to the house. Typically, this player is treated the same as a player who is new to the tournament. The re-entering player is assigned a random seat in the field, given the same starting stack of chips, and so on.

In most tournaments, even those with multiple day 1 flights, you are only allowed to re-enter if you have been eliminated from the tournament. I am not aware of any exceptions for same flight re-entry. However, in some cases, usually at the end of the re-entry period, a player may choose to surrender their remaining chips, and can then re-enter. This should only be considered when the player has a truly short stack. It is rarely going to be a positive expected value (+EV) decision to surrender any number of chips, no matter how small. 

In some tournaments, a player who bags chips at the end of a flight is allowed to enter a subsequent flight. In some events, that player must first surrender the chips that were bagged in the previous flight. In other cases, they are not required to surrender those chips. If they reach the end of the subsequent flight with chips, they are allowed to go forward with only the larger of the two stacks (referred to as best stack forward). In a very few tournaments, they are allowed to go forward with all such stacks combined.  

There are even some tournaments where you take the best stack forward, but are awarded a fixed prize amount, generally deducted from the prize pool, for each stack you surrender. I even know events where there is a bonus prize for the player who surrenders the single biggest stack (that is, the second largest stack from flights they played and bagged), or who surrenders the most total chips (combining all surrendered bags). 

Again, such bonuses are generally taken from the prize pool. For this reason, if you are considering playing such an event, but only have time to enter one or two of the starting flights, you might want to spend your time and money on a different event instead. Since the bonus money for these surrendered stacks is removed from the prize pool, you are paying for this loss of equity in the main prize pool. And since you have time constraints on how many flights you can enter, you have no chance at winning any of this bonus money.

Rebuy tournaments still exist in live venues, but are seen more often online. In a rebuy tournament, for a designated period, a player is allowed to rebuy, pay a fee, and get more chips. Most of the time, there is no house rake paid when making a rebuy. In some cases, the rebuy is the same cost as the initial buy-in (minus the rake), and gives the player the same amount of chips. In other cases, the rebuy cost is lower. In other cases, the rebuy gives the player more chips than the original starting stack.

In almost all rebuy tournaments, you can only purchase a rebuy if you have a qualifying stack. Sometimes, this means having zero chips. In other cases, your stack must be at or below some specific number. In most rebuy tournaments, this specific number is equal to the starting stack. In these events, you are qualified to purchase a rebuy before the first hand is dealt. And if you lose all your chips, you can rebuy once, or twice, at that moment.

A key feature of a rebuy tournament is the player doesn’t leave their seat. This means you know your table draw if you continue. When you re-enter, you are reassigned a seat at random, potentially any table in the field. This leads to some strategy when deciding to rebuy. If you have a soft table draw, you almost certainly want to take a rebuy, since you will get to continue playing at this soft table. Contrarily, if you have a tough table, you might choose to not rebuy for exactly that reason.

An add-on is somewhat like a rebuy. In almost all cases, there is no house rake attached to purchasing an add-on. The main difference is that an add-on is typically only available at one moment during the tournament. This moment is always, in my experience, at the end of the rebuy period. 

The add-on does not require the player to have a qualifying stack. That is, you can purchase an add-on regardless of how many chips you have. Although not always the case, in most events, the add-on either charges the same price as a rebuy, but gives you more chips; or, you get the same amount of chips, but at a lower price. Anytime the add-on is at a lower cost per chip, you should take it. Even if your stack is exceptionally large, it is still going to be +EV to take the add-on when the cost per chip is greatly reduced.

In my next few articles, I’m going to get into attitudes about re-entry and rebuy tournaments, my feelings about them, and strategy adjustments you should make when in these events.

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.