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

Part Four: Strategy Considerations


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More from this series:

Part 1: Definitions.
Part 2: Adjusting Your Attitude
Part 3: Late Registration.

In my last three columns, I have described what defines a re-entry, a rebuy, and an add-on, as well as the attitudes, misconceptions, and concerns about these formats. If you missed any of those articles you can find them, as well as all of my previous articles, at my author page on

As discussed in the first article, rebuy/add-on tournaments come in many variations when it comes to how many chips you are given for the original buy-in, the rebuys, and the add-on. It is quite common for the buy-in and the rebuys to offer the same or close to the same number of chips for the same amount of money. 

It is also common for the add-on to offer you many more chips for the same amount of money, or the same amount of chips for less money. That is, the add-on frequently lets you buy chips at a significant discount. It is important that you pay close attention to the cost per chip for each of these purchases, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Consider a typical online nightly rebuy tournament with an add-on on a site like Big Dog Poker. It has a cheap buy-in and a high guarantee. There is plenty of loose action, and players make lots of rebuys that juice up the prize pool. 

The initial buy-in is $10+$1 for 15,000 in chips. Rebuys may be purchased any time you have 15,000 chips or below, and give you 15,000 chips for another $10. This means you can rebuy before the first hand is even dealt, and can take a double rebuy if you happen to lose all your chips. At the end of the rebuy period, you also have a one-time opportunity to take an add-on, paying $10 for 50,000 chips. You can take the add-on regardless of your stack size.

In these formats where the add-on chips are such a great value, you should be buying the add-on no matter how large your stack might be. Even if you’ve built your original 15,000 into a stack of 150,000, it is still profitable to purchase the add-on. 

If everybody who enters follows this advice, they are all going to put $20 into the prize pool ($10 for the buy-in and $10 for the add-on) and receive 65,000 in chips. This equals 32,500 chips per $10 paid. That means taking a rebuy, at a price of $10 for 15,000 chips is not ideal. You are paying more than double the price per chip than you pay for the buy-in and the add-on chips. 

The correct strategy in this structure is to always take the add-on, and never rebuy unless you must. Even then, the only reason you are taking a rebuy is so you will still be in the tournament when the add-on becomes available.

Of course, there are other rebuy tournament structures. Many of these events charge a buy-in fee (which I will call $2X) plus rake for a single stack of chips. The charge for a rebuy is half the buy-in fee ($1X), and you get a single stack of chips in return. The add-on also costs half the buy-in fee ($1X), but gives you a double stack of chips. 

Because it is far cheaper on a cost-per-chip basis, you should again buy the add-on regardless of your stack size. And you should always stay in the tournament, rebuying as much as needed, until this cheap add-on purchase is available. The cost for a buy-in plus the add-on is $3X, and you will get a triple stack of chips for those two purchases. The cost for a rebuy is $1X for a single stack. 

Notice that in this structure, the rebuy chips are a neutral deal. As such, if you wish, you can choose to take a rebuy every time you qualify, as you will not be overpaying when you do so. Or you can take a rebuy only when you get felted, as you will not be foregoing any extra value by skipping extra rebuys.

For almost all re-entry tournaments, you pay the same amount of money (usually plus rake) for each re-entry as you did for the original buy-in. In return, you are given the same number of chips for your new starting stack. As such, there is no different strategy you need to consider when choosing to re-enter or not. 

If you believe it would be a smart decision to enter the tournament as a new player, then re-entering is exactly the same. Do pay attention to your frame of mind, however. It is not uncommon for a player to be on tilt, or at least in a negative mood, after they bust. If you have this poor frame of mind, maybe now is not the best time to play poker. Most of us can’t play our best game without a positive mindset. If that’s the case, take a break, go home, and play again tomorrow.

For every tournament you play, it is important you look closely at the cost per chip of each buy-in, re-entry, rebuy, and add-on before the start. This will allow you to determine in advance the smartest rebuy and add-on strategy and maximize your profitability in each structure. 

Poker should always be played for fun, but if you utilize a strategy that helps you win more money, it is going to be that much more fun.

So 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.