Back when the poker boom hit there was no shortage in tournament players and huge fields. If you think back then, the casinos didn’t give much in terms of chips and the structures were pretty bad compared to todays tournaments. There were limits to the number of entries because they would fill up so fast and not have enough tables or dealers to run anything any bigger. This also meant that you could only enter once. As the poker boom wore off and coincidently the economy took a downturn, poker tournament fields were devastated.

Re-buys were standard in quite a few tournaments as a way to add more chips and add to the prize pool, but only for existing tournament players. As the casinos struggled to get even medium size fields they had the brilliant idea to allow re-entries. What also helped this was that the structures slowed down to a crawl, so that if you did re-enter you would still have a decent stack for the blind structure. Whether it was allowing re-entries until level 3 or level 10, the players had another shot to play again. And of course the prize pools swelled along with the number of “entries”. The reason I put entries in quotes, is that it’s the number of paid entries, not the number of people in the tournament.

People immediately loved this. Some loved it because they got a second, third or fourth chance at cashing. Most players loved it because now the prize pools got up to poker boom levels. We as dealers loved it because most tournaments have some sort of add-on or dealer tip included in each buy in. We were getting our share. With more levels and chips and more dealer downs to split up between the now bigger prize pools it helped our bottom line.

Of course with new changes come negativity. You start to hear people complain about the guy that buys in 5 times, and cashes. They complain that during the early levels, players play more loosely, they try and double up or re-enter. When I looked at who was complaining it was the guys that will never buy in more than once. It was the players that played so squeaky tight, everyone, even the waitress knew what you had when you raised. In an effort to try and “please” everyone the casinos and tournament organizers adjusted some rules, only allowing 1 re-entry, or even having some tournaments that have no re-entries.

This is entirely my opinion, as I have always done, but why would you ever limit re-entries? First the casino should never do it, as they get a fee for every paid entry. They also don’t have to staff more because you aren’t increasing the number of players, you are just increasing the prize pool. If they usually get 100-130 players for a regular tournament and 50-60 re-entries. This will mean that they will only ever have to have 10-13 tables, but they will have 150-190 paid entries. As they fill the open seats with re-entries they never increase the number of tables needed. The tourney will not break down as fast which may be the only minimal cost, but your staff is scheduled 8 hours, its shouldn’t be a problem. The tourney will last a little longer because there is more chips in play. Wow you had a bunch of entry fees and you have people in the room longer, how is this a bad thing? One thing I’ve heard from casinos is that the tourney players will blow their money with re-entries in the tournament instead of playing cash games. How is this a problem? First they are paying a fee, from 10-50% juice on an entry, every entry. If they go to a cash game, who is to say that they will sit there paying rake at a rate of 10-12/hr? If they bust a tourney, their entry is paid in full, again and again. If they bust in cash, they will be gone and pay no more rake.

As for the player complaints. The first thing is that our tourney, which had 100 players and 50 re-entries. You still only had to beat 99 players to win, not 149. You still only had to beat 90 players to cash and not 140. The prize pool is now increase by 50%. You still only had to get through the same field. There are 50% more chips in play, so the tourney lasts longer. You’ve always asked for longer tourneys so the “best players” cash.

The players that re-enter still have the exact same odds of winning as the previous entries. They still start with the exact same stack that everyone started with. In fact they are getting less for their money. They are now paying 2, 3, 4 even 5 times as much to try and cash. So the guy that re-entered 4 times payed 5 times as much as you did to get to the final table. Even though he is still only playing for the same prize pool. You paid once to get a shot at the 150 player prize pool, so you are getting a 150-1 on your money. He is getting 30-1 on his money, in fact he paid 1/30 of that prize pool. He probably has to get 4th or higher just to get his money back. So if you min-cash you make money guaranteed.

Do you complain if someone buys 10000 lottery tickets to your one? Who are you to deny someone the ability to buy in as much as they want, within the timeframe of course. It’s their money, they can do with it what they want. Yet the tournament benefits with all the extra prize money. If someone cashes say 20% of the time. They play 5 tournaments and cash 1 time on average. If they buy into a tournament 5 times, they can still only cash once, and probably at a loss. Does this mean they will cash? They have the same odds with the last entry as the first, same starting stack, already at a disadvantage because the blinds are higher and the players at the table have a higher average chip count. Why do they do it? They just love to play. Do you criticize a bad cash game player for re-buying over and over every time they get felted? NEVER. Why do they keep re-buying? Because they want to play, will they get their money back? Probably not, since they are stuck so much now, as opposed to one buy in.

They complain that these guys shove early and often and gamble, because they can just re-enter. Just think about what you are saying. Tournaments are tough, even tougher now that a lot of bad players are gone forever and we are left with players with lots of experience. You are complaining that they are willing to give you chips with bad hands? They are over betting bad hands? When is this a bad thing for a good tournament player? Isn’t this what you want? Or do you want to sit there and grind against other grinders. Plus its only for the first few levels.

They complain because the “good” players are giving themselves more chances to win. So? You can re-enter as well.

The world isn’t fair. People have more money, success and fame than you. Why be jealous? Just take advantage of the benefits they are giving you, bigger prize pools, longer tourneys and bad play. Plus you have the exact same rules and odds.  And who are you to EVER criticize how someone spends their money? You would never do it in a cash game. I don’t know how most players feel about re-entries, but this is my opinion and if anyone wants to debate just leave your reasons in the comments and I will gladly reply.

Brought to you by Your Poker Dealer

11 thoughts on “Re-Entries

  • December 21, 2014 at 6:22 am

    Your analogy to lottery tickets is flawed as that is not a skill game. You miss the argument that re-entries reduce the skill gap in an already thin advantage situation; bad for the skill player. “Or do you want to sit there and grind against other players”; it’s not either or as we grinders want lesser skilled players in the tourney also, but with only one chance to get lucky.

    • December 21, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Ok first how do re-entries reduce the skill gap? If it was 10 bad players firing one bullet or 2 players firing 5 bullets each, they all start with the same stack. Are you saying the more players/entries in a tournament reduces the skill gap? Tournaments are designed with long structures so the more skilled players are supposed to come out on top. Of course if there are more entries it reduces EVERYONES chances of winning, but the prize pool is bigger. Would you complain if it’s a no re-entry tournament, and 100 more people sign up than expected? That your thin advantage is gone?

      Now your second argument is that you want lesser skilled players only getting one chance to “get lucky”. Is that what it takes to win a tournament? Get lucky once and you cash? This sounds like someone that doesn’t like players playing bad and YOU take the bad beat. What does it matter if its 1 player trying to get lucky 5 times or 5 players trying to get lucky once? They all start with the same stack, they all have the same chance to get lucky. If you can’t build your stack early to absorb the bad beats along the way from people getting lucky(good player or bad), its probably not your day.

      • December 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

        “Reduce the skill gap” may have been an incorrect choice of words. What I mean is, if you are always a 4-1 favorite against a rec player when the money goes in, but you give them 4 rebuys, then one of those times they may knowck you from the tourney. It’s hard enough to get through a tourney with no re-buys, even if always a 4-1 favorite when your money goes in, so I don’t want that “skill gap reduced” by giving the opponents enough chances that their odds equalize. Does that make sense?

        As for the second item, you are putting words in my mouth. I don’t think you can cash by getting lucky once. That’s why I don’t want re-buys. Also, I do like players playing bad, but I don’t want to give multiple bad players multiple chances to eventually get lucky against me…because at some point they will.

        I don’t always build my stack early because my tournament game is more about survival than pushing small edges, especially when early and deep. So, rather than just think “it wasn’t my day”, instead I’d rather not be knocked out by a player that is on their third rebuy and looking to get lucky. I’d rather that a player that has busted, live with the consequences of their actions and stay busted.

        For what it’s worth, I don’t have a problem with the occasional re-buy tourney, but I don’t like this trend toward almost every tournament being multiple rebuys (and multiple starting days). Also for what it’s worth, the WSOP agrees since the player committee had rebuy tourneys banned from bracelet events.

        I prefer poker to be more about poker skill and less about getting lucky. Luck is already a big enough hurdle to overcome, let’s not increase it.

        • December 23, 2014 at 11:53 am

          I just love to debate, so here we go. You are always a 4-1 favorite against a rec player when the money goes in? I find that hard to believe. Tourneys are tough, no matter who the opponent. Any good tourney player knows you have to build a stack to absorb a few beats. It’s 4 to 1 AGAINST winning 2 coin flips. If you get it in with 4-1 odds 4 times in a tourney, yes you are bound to lose the 4th one, but you should’ve doubled up with the other 3 right? so the 4th wont hurt as bad.

          So what is the difference between 1 player re-entering 4 times and 4 bad players entering late? They all play bad, they all can shove at any time and beat you. They all are contributing the same to the prize pool, they all start with the same stack, they all give you equal opportunity to get your money in at 4-1, what is the difference?

          If your argument is you don’t want more players in an event because you think you can cash more often, then that has nothing to do with re-entries or late entries. Of course you cash more often with less players. Re-entries have NO ADVANTAGE. Why don’t good players always cash? LUCK, its part of the game. The more players you have to get through, good or bad you have to avoid luck. Having more bad players(or more bad players re-enter) should increase the chances of good players, like yourself, building your stack more easily. Maybe you should wait to enter until the re-entry period is over then you won’t have to worry about the same guy shoving twice on you.
          I guess I see re-entries as a good thing for good tourney players the more I debate with you.

          • December 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm

            Thank you for the back ‘n forth, but neither of us is changing the other’s mind. I’ll have to leave it with my strongest argument of the debate thus far and that is that the WSOP eliminated re-buy events for bracelet tournaments. In so doing, with the lobbying & blessing of a multitude of top players, they have confirmed that rebuys decrease the inherent skill in the game while increasing the reliance on luck.

  • December 22, 2014 at 3:55 am

    I agree the lottery ticket analogy doesn’t work perfectly but the rest of the post is spot on. In fact I have always wondered about the advantage to the house for re-buys other than keeping people in the building longer, so this post helped clarify for me. Thank you for that. As someone who is at least as interested in the business/operations side of poker rooms as the player’s side, I love finding out this kind of information. It’s especially important to me now with a new casino opening 15 minutes from my house in 12-15 months. Current plans do not include a poker room but as we all know the one constant in casinos is change, and I am going to see what needs to happen to get that changed.

  • December 28, 2014 at 1:51 am

    I can see why the WSOP does it for bracelet events, because its such a rare and honored feat. And only getting one shot at that event makes sense. And since there is no difference in 5 re-entries vs 5 late buy ins by different players, it has nothing to do with luck. A player playing recklessly because he will re-enter brings more of a luck factor, but whats the difference? Players play bad and recklessly all the time. If they get it in bad more often, doesn’t that add to your edge? I think it has to do with your personality of not wanting to take chances, and nothing to do with luck and skill. Dan Harrington plays this way, so can you. Re-entries DO NOT give a player an edge. Give me one mathematical example of a re-entry gaining an edge vs another random player entering.

    • December 29, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      Negreanu just wrote a blog post about re-entry tournaments. Here are two of his quotes…

      “I assume some of you are surprised that I don’t like re-entry events, since I will often fire multiple bullets to help me get a big stack. I would rather play “good poker” from the outset, rather than gamble recklessly to increase my chances of winning the tournament. Having said that, if it’s within the rules, I’m going to take advantage of anything available to me that helps me with my goal.”

      “Personally, I do think it makes a bit of a mockery of the game during the re-entry period…”.

      These are exactly the points that I was trying to make. Re-entries take much of the purity and skill out of the game. I believe it, the WSOP believes it, and now Negreanu has stated it.

      • December 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm

        I just read his article and he keeps stressing that he does not like re-entry tournaments and thats like using fox news to back up your argument for conservative values.
        First if you do not like how a tournament plays during the re-entry period you can always buy in at the end of that period. End of argument.
        Second, only people that can’t adapt to something new cry that it takes the purity out of the game. What is the purity? Did the stud players cry that hold em took the purity out of poker? Some did, the other learned to play hold em. Did the National league say that the designated hitter took the purity out of the game when the AL adopted it? Who wants to see pitchers that can’t hit? Did teams cry about the 3 point field goal in basketball? Some did, others learned to shoot 3’s. Games evolve, and you need to evolve with it or get left behind. Re-entries give you bigger prize pools and more chips with the same amount of people to beat. They give the re-entrant no advantage, same starting stack. Winners adapt, losers cry.

        • December 31, 2014 at 7:01 am

          “only people that can’t adapt to something new cry…”
          “Winners adapt, losers cry.”

          Since your arguments have devolved to name calling and belittling, it’s time to agree to disagree.

          For the record, my issue was never that I couldn’t adapt and play that style. My issue is that re-buy tournaments reduce the edge (an already slim edge) of the more skilled players. We can disagree on that point without having to call each other names.

          Best wishes for a successful 2015.

          • January 4, 2015 at 7:28 pm

            Show me mathematically how re-entries reduce the edge? Taking into account that ANYONE can play bad on their first or last buy in. And also prove that re-entries are different from late entries of different players.

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