The secret of the re-entry tournament

Gather together, kids, as we look back on a day in poker when – SHOCKING! – You only have one chance at a poker tournament. Yes, there were those days when you laid down your buy-in and, through trickery, luck, or fortune, played your way to either a big stack or to the table. Anyway, the thing was, you only had ONE chance at the tournament and when you were done, you were done.

The problem with this approach is that players sometimes had to travel long distances to participate in these tournaments. Imagine how these players felt when, in the first hand of the tournament, their pocket aces were cracked by the 9-3 off suit that Local Hero played to “take out the pro.” In even earlier times, players went out to play cash games, but today players need to experience the action of tournament play – many don’t seem to have the skills to go to the cash games and give it their best shot.

Unfortunately, that has changed in the 21stst Century. Tournament director extraordinaire Matt Savage admitted that he started the “rebuy” phenomenon in poker during his time at the helm of the World Series of Poker – much to his chagrin, he admitted – but it seems to be more common now an epidemic has become an exception. Check out any tournament schedule and you’ll see that ALL tournaments are now “re-entry” events – in fact, it’s become notable when they point out that this is the traditional one-shot freezeout tournament.

Why is that happend? In the middle of the last decade, casinos and poker rooms realized that if they offered a guaranteed prize pool, they all but guaranteed that they would reach that total amount of player buy-ins, especially if they held more than a day’s flight (and if not? They simply ate it up for a year and never held the tournament again or, much to the displeasure of the players, “adjusted” the conditions of the tournament. Guaranteed prize pools are like catnip to poker players – if you offer them, they will come – especially if the prize pool is large (over a million dollars is usually enough).

So how should you deal with these mysterious creatures? How should you approach playing these events? I have a few ideas, but I’m always looking for more information on this topic – hopefully we’ll get some great ideas here.

The opening bell

The great thing is that there is plenty of opportunity to play from the opening bell – depending on which approach you choose. Typically, these re-entry events will leave you with a decent stack of chips to play with compared to the blinds. At Hard Rock Tampa, you can start these events with chips between 25,000 and 40,000, more than enough to wait for the right time and look for opportunities.

But here’s the question: Do you wait for opportunities or take your chances? There are different approaches to the re-entry tournament. One of them is to try to play it like a normal freezeout tournament. With this approach, you make your decisions as if your entire stack was at risk and you had no way to return to the event. The positive thing about this approach is that you can be classified as a “tight” player, which can benefit you in later stages. The disadvantage? Entering pots will not give you any action.

The other possibility is that you will see at least one player at the tables of a re-entry tournament. This re-entry option allows players to play a little more freely and take risks that they might not take in the traditional Freezeout tournament. The positive thing about this approach is that you can build a big stack quickly because players are either not attacking you or your hands are giving you a big stack. The disadvantage? You can burn a few buy-ins if you ruin your hands.

The end of the registration/re-entry period

Once the end of the registration/re-entry period expires, you may need to make a decision. In some of these tournaments you can use a solo re-entry to increase your stack. In any case, use this option; Every other player in the tournament, regardless of their stack size, will use the add-on to increase the size of their stack. Why put yourself at a disadvantage compared to players who can fit a little more ammunition into their magazines? If you can afford it, take the add-on and go for it.

There could also be another decision a player has to make. At Hard Rock Tampa you have the opportunity to sacrifice your stack and secure a new stack of starting chips with which to continue. If you are below the starting pile at this point, it would be playful not to give up your center pile for a new set of balls for the fight. Again, if you can afford it, don’t let it hinder your efforts – swallow your pride and reload.

After the re-entry rush

After the re-entry/registration period has passed, it will become a freezeout tournament at that time. There are no second chances, it’s up to you to use your skills and build the deck you’ve put together to move forward. This is a point where some players struggle to adapt.

Players who take a more “free” approach to the tournament sometimes find it difficult to slow down after a somewhat relaxed style of play and settle into a solid tournament play mode. These are the players who build big stacks but are unable to keep them after the late registration/re-entry phase ends. You can throw away just about every book about a player that you have built up to this point because everyone will lock their games when the urge to make money starts.

What experiences did you have with the re-entry tournament? Is there anything that has worked for you? Let us know in the comments!

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