Learn What Are Re-Entry Tournaments and How To Play Them

Learn What Are Re-Entry Tournaments and How To Play Them

Building off the concept of rebuy events, re-entry poker tournaments have been around for quite a few years now, and it definitely looks like they are here to stay.

The consensus among both recreational and professional poker players is that having at least one re-entry available in most tournaments is a positive, which is why the format has had so much success in both live and online poker arena.

Today, most poker tournaments allow players to re-enter, but many still don’t fully understand how the concept works, how re-entries differ from rebuys, and what kind of strategy they should be taking when playing re-entry tournaments.

If you have any confusion in regards to the re-entry poker tournaments or are looking for better results in them for the future, keep reading and find out all there is about the concept of re-entry in tournament poker.

What Are Re-Entry Tournaments?

What Are Re-Entry Tournaments?

The first thing we need to make clear before we move on is what exactly re-entry poker tournaments are and how they differ from other formats.

A re-entry tournament format allows players who lose their stack to buy into the event again by going to the cash register, paying the tournament buyin and fees in full, and entering the event as “brand new” players.

In essence, re-entering a tournament is the same as going to late registering for a new event with the same structure and playing field.

Every time you use your re-entry option, you will be seated at a new table, given a full stack of chips, and entered into play at the current level.

So, the next time you are playing in a re-entry tournament, you should really make sure to remember that the event is more like a freezeout tournament than a rebuy one.

Rebuy vs. Re-Entry Poker Tournaments

For many years, the rebuy tournament format used to be one of the most popular ones in both online and live poker rooms, but lately, it has been mostly replaced by re-entry tournaments.

While the two might seem quite similar to an untrained eye, there are actually more differences than similarities between rebuys and re-entries.

For starters, a rebuy poker tournament allows you to buy new chips anytime your stack dwindles below its initial size, adding a full stack of chips on top of anything you have left. If you lose all your chips, you can usually buy two full stacks for double the price.

However, rebuy poker tournaments also don’t charge any rake when rebuying and almost always offer a chips add-on during the break following the registration period, which also costs the full price of the buyin.

So, if you imagine you are playing an $11 rebuy MTT online, you can count on the event costing you $11 in original buyin, $10 to buy the additional stack, and $10 to buy the add-on, even if you don’t end up losing your entire stack.

On the other hand, a $11 re-entry tournament will cost you exactly $11 if you reach the break with your initial stack, and you will only be offered the re-entry option if you bust out, which you can also decline.

While not buying the initial rebuy and add-on will give you a strategic disadvantage over other players who do this in rebuy tournaments, not re-entering events will not put you at any disadvantage at all.

In fact, if you want to play every re-entry tournament as a freezeout and only play it once, you are more than welcome to do this, and you could actually give yourself quite an advantage by doing this and always playing a single stack from level 1.

While this approach would not allow you to make as many final tables as players who re-enter often, it could very well give you a higher long-term ROI than they have with their approach.

Perks of Playing Re-Entry Tournaments

Re-entry tournaments are more or less the norm these days, and there are many things that make them better than freezeouts or rebuys for all player profiles.

Recreational and professional players are looking for different perks when they enter tournaments, but here are a few that almost everyone can agree on:

  • Multiple chances to play
  • Bigger prize pools
  • More aggressive approach

Multiple Chances to Play

This one is especially true for live poker tournaments, as the freezeout format can be quite annoying for players who have to travel to a venue to play.

Imagine spending hours in a car, train, or plane, only to get to the casino and lose your chips in a cooler situation on level 1, sending you back home.

These kinds of situations used to regularly happen back when most tournaments were freezeouts, but don’t happen anymore, as you get a chance to re-enter in case you bust out.

Many tournaments these days also allow more than one re-entry, as well as one or multiple re-entries per Day 1 flight, which means you could be all but guaranteed a place on Day 2 of a major event if you are willing to fire enough bullets.

Bigger Prize Pools

One of the big reasons re-entries were introduced into poker tournaments was as a way of boosting prize pools, and they have certainly managed to do that.

Bigger Prize Pools

Today, major tournaments with re-entries often see thousands of players show up, many of them entering more than one time, creating eye-watering prize pools in comparison to the buyin.

If you play poker with the hopes of making it big and turning a small buyin into a massive win, then re-entry tournaments are ideal for you.

Re-entry tournaments almost always shatter their guaranteed prize pools and end up making those players who do get to the very end extremely happy.

More Aggressive Approach

Having the option to re-enter means you get to take some chances in the early going and potentially gamble it up a bit to try and build a big stack.

While playing in a –EV fashion is never recommended, taking all the slight edges and pushing it as much as possible can be a viable strategy in a re-entry tournament.

Having a big stack in the middle and late stages of a tournament can be very valuable, which means taking some chances early on can be a good idea.

While the idea of busting out for good in a freezeout tournament may seem quite scary, the ability to re-enter will allow you to take all the chances you want and play your most aggressive game if you so choose.

Downsides of Re-Entry Tournament

Downsides of Re-Entry Tournament

Of course, every good thing comes with a few downsides as well, and so too do re-entry poker tournaments. There aren’t too many negative sides to the re-entry model, but a few minor downsides can definitely be found, and these include:

  • Tougher overall fields
  • More expensive average buyin
  • Chaotic early gameplay

Tougher Overall Fields

Re-entry tournaments may sometimes seem like a clown show in the early going, and that’s because they often are, but only during the early levels while all the recs are still in-play.

What happens more often than not in re-entry tournaments is that the pros in the field make multiple re-entries and end up surviving Day 1, progressing into the later stages.

On average, pros are a lot more willing to re-enter than casual players, and combined with the skill edge that the pros have, the end result is more pros and fewer recs in the late phases.

While it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, the truth is that freezeout tournaments are more rec-friendly, while re-entry tournaments work in the favor of professionals.

More Expensive Average Buyin

While the re-entry option is not obligatory, most players tend to use it at least from time to time, which means they pay for extra buyins on occasion.

Over the long run, this will add up to more money spent on tournament buyins, although you can view every re-entry as a completely new tournament and a new buyin.

For some players, however, re-entry tournaments can be quite a bit more expensive, as they approach them in a very aggressive way and punt off stack after stack in pursuit of a big chip-up.

Keep in mind that you should not fall into this category and should stay away from excessive gambling in the early stages of a re-entry tournament if you want optimal results.

Chaotic Early Gameplay

As already mentioned, there are quite a few players who approach re-entry tournaments like they are freerolls and are willing to punt off a stack with virtually nothing.

For that reason, the early stages of a re-entry tournament can seem like a bit of a crapshoot, as some players will be getting their chips in very light and even pushing all-in with any two cards once in a while.

If you find yourself playing against such players, remain patient and wait for good spots to get it in as a huge favorite, and let the cards fall as they may.

Strategy Adjustments for Re-Entry Tournaments

Now that we have looked at how re-entry tournaments compare to other formats and what their main upsides and downsides are, let’s talk a bit about poker strategy adjustments you should make when playing re-entry tournaments.

The truth is that re-entry tournaments don’t require too many strategic adjustments if you are used to playing freezeout events, while players more used to rebuy tournaments probably need to change their strategy a bit, especially in the early stages.

Early Game Adjustments

Strategy Adjustments for Re-Entry Tournaments

Early game is the best time to make strategic adjustments in the re-entry period, as this is the only time people actually play differently than they would in a freezeout.

When the MTT starts, there will be a percentage of the field playing quite wild because of the ability to re-enter. Your job is to identify the players playing too loose and aggressive and try to take advantage of the fact they are looking to double up or bust.

Such players will be more than happy to stack off with one pair or a flush draw for hundreds of big blinds, and this is a great spot to get an easy double-up through them.

On the other hand, you should not be looking to gamble it up and re-enter if you bust, as this strategy does not add EV to your overall game.

In some spots, it may be reasonable to take a break-even or slightly losing play in a spot where you can build a really big stack that might let you push others around in the levels to come.

Yet, you will mostly want to play a reasonably tight and aggressive style, relentlessly betting with your big hands and bluffing way less than you would be in a freezeout.

Late Game Adjustments

Once the re-entry period is over, any re-entry tournament will start playing like a true freezeout, and you should revert to the way you would play in one.

With re-entry no longer an option, everyone’s stack is now what it is, and the only opportunities to chip up are by winning pots.

This brings us back to the fact that re-entry tournaments are, in fact, just freezeout tournaments you get to play more than once, so make sure to limit your strategic deviations and play the best poker you know how without changing your style much in either direction.

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