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For decades, there were only two types of poker tournaments. You had your straight freezeout events and you had re-buy tournaments. Some poker players started to complain that re-buy tournament didn’t favor amateur players because pros could simply buy their way to victory. As such, those events began to fall by the wayside.

A new format later arose known as re-entry. Unlike a re-buy event, a re-entry event requires a player to put up another buy-in and come back into the event like they are a new player. In recent years, these events have grown in popularity to the point where they are a staple of nearly ever poker tournament series both live and online.

While enjoyed by many, there are a percentage of poker players that still go out of their way to avoid playing in re-entry events. That begs the question whether re-entry events are good or bad for the game of poker.

We know you hate hearing this phrase but “it depends.” There are both good points and bad points to re-entry tournaments. Let’s take a look at a few.

Re-Entry Events Increase “Participation” and Prize Pools

One major point many argue in favor of re-entry events is the fact that they increase overall participation and increase prize pools. For many events, there is going to be a physical cap on the number of players that attend an event. One way to get around this limitation is with re-entry.

Let’s say you run a poker series and even with your best efforts, freezeouts only max out around 400 players. With a re-entry event, you can easily see total participation shoot up 20% or more depending on how long the re-entry period lasts or if there are multiple Day 1s.

Every time a person re-enters, that’s another buy-in that is added to the pool. Automatically you are going to get larger prize pools because there are a percentage of players that are going to re-enter the event. This benefits the players that make the money in the tournament and the event as a whole as it bolsters the numbers and the prize pools.

In the current poker economy, players want to play in events with guarantees. Knowing this, casinos have to devise a way to make the those guarantees appealing enough to draw in players. That is why you are seeing an increasing number of guaranteed events become re-entry events.

For many casinos, re-entry tournaments are the only way that they are going to make their guarantees. Online poker started the trend and now that trend has carried over into the live arena.

Re-Entry Forces Players to Rethink Bankroll and Playing Strategies

Two things that your average player views as a negative in terms of re-entry tournaments is the shift in both playing and bankroll strategies for these events. First, most serious or pro players are forced to adjust their bankroll strategy if they hope to remain competitive.

You can’t just into these events with a single bullet and expect to always be able to compete. While you will certainly have events where you can get away with just firing a single bullet, others will virtually require you to fire extra bullets due to the next point.

Due to the ability to re-enter, a number of players employ a hyper-aggressive and sometimes even a lottery-style strategy to these events. Their purpose is to build a massive stack to go deep in the event. If they bust out during the re-entry period, they pony up another buy-in and try again.

Also, there are certain re-entry events that have added wrinkles such as “best stack forward.” Even if you make it through a Day 1 with a stack, you can always come back on one of the other Day 1s and try to earn a bigger stack. If you finish the first Day 1 with just 10 big blinds, are you going to sit on that stack and wait until Day 2 or are you going to come back and try to build a stack capable of making a deep run?

Some events, such as the Colossus at the World Series of Poker will even reach the money on Day 1s. This prompts some players to play ultra-hyper aggressive to build a stack or bust out, collect their cash and re-enter on another Day 1 and try again.

Re-Entry Events Can Take a Lot Longer to Run

By design, re-entry events are going to take longer to run than freezeouts or re-buy tournaments. You don’t really start eliminating players from many re-entry events until the re-entry period is completed, so in essence the real tournament doesn’t start until then.

Also, there are an increasing number of re-entry events with multiple Day 1s. Some events at the Bicycle Casino actually have weeks worth of Day 1 entries. On average you are looking at two or three Day 1 periods before you start making the march to the money or the final table.

In the past, most poker tournaments would wrap up in a couple of days. Many were done in a single day. There are very few re-entry events outside of small casino daily tournaments that you see conclude in a single day. Overall, tournaments are going to take longer with a re-entry structure.

Re-Entry Geared for Winners Not Allen Kessler

Due to the format and the fact that many players are going to have to invest double the buy-in or more in these events, re-buy tournament players are often only going to be turning a profit if they are regularly going deep and making the final table.

Just min-cashing in these events isn’t going to cut it, especially if they are smaller buy-in events with very flat pay scales. For example, we have seen re-entry events that barely pay more than double the buy-in for most spots before the final table.

You’ll often find situations where players invest so much in an event that they have to finish in the top three in order to turn a profit. A great example was at the Big One for One Drop this year.

Andrew Pantling was one of two players who re-entered the event for €1 million. In order to turn a profit, he had to finish fourth and even then he would have only made €100k. He had to finish 3rd or better to make any real money in the event.

While most of us will never play for super high stakes, the point is still clear. Re-entry event players need to shoot for the final table and in some cases only the top three spots if they hope to make a real profit in the games.

Re-Entry Tournaments Going Nowhere Soon

Whether you love or hate re-entry events, the fact of the matter is that they are going to remain part of the poker economy for the foreseeable future. The format enables events to host events with monster guarantees and a sizeable percentage of players like being able to take multiple shots in this format.

As such, poker players have a few choices. They can go out of their way to avoid them. Next, they can play in them and treat them as freezeouts and endure the variance associated with that strategy. Lastly, players can modify their style of play and bankroll strategy and try and take advantage of the dead money in these fields.

Regardless of your choice, there will still be plenty of games out there to suit your needs. Re-entry events are not everyone’s cup of tea, but at one point neither was Texas Hold’em.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.

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