Editorial: Re-Entry Tournaments? Same Crap, Different Day



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Earlier this month, the traditional finale to the calendar year for the World Poker Tour kicked off its action in Las Vegas at the Bellagio. The Five Diamond World Poker Classic had all the trappings of a big time tournament poker – exquisite location, big money and tough competition at every table. What it didn’t have, however, was one of the things that is gradually disappearing from the tournament poker world – a singular buy-in freezeout format.

The 2016 version of the Five Diamond, a $10,000 buy in tournament (also unheard of in this day and age), featured unlimited “re-entry” until the start of the NINTH level of play in the tournament (prior to the end of the second day of the event). Per Keith Kwazar, the statistician for the WPT, there were plenty who took advantage of this “re-entry” rule. Of the 791 entries that were received, there were 152 players that bought in twice, 43 players who bought in three times (including 18th place finisher Richard Seymour, who busted twice when his Kings ran into Aces, before running up a stack and running deep) and a stunning 10 players who bought in four times OR MORE (Daniel Negreanu is reported to have bought in SIX times).

If you’re not near a calculator, that is a total of 205 players that counted for a minimum (remember that OR MORE above) of 473 buy ins. Along with the 318 players who “only” ponied up $10K once, then you have your 791-entry field. If it reminds you of the day when “rebuy” tournaments were popular, you’re not out of line because the “re-entry” tournaments are basically the same crap, just a different day.

The subject was brought up by poker professional Raymond Davis, a confidante of fellow pro Allen Kessler, who was discussing Kessler’s departure 30 minutes after buying in at the Five Diamond and Kessler’s subsequent grousing about the rake at the tournament. “The rake is high at a lot of events (and) I have no complaints about it,” Davis began. “What bothers me is this re-entry BS! I think it has gotten totally out of hand!”

Davis went on to say that he could have been staked into the Five Diamond, but he felt “one bullet against people willing to fire two to three bullets isn’t fair at all.” Davis continued his diatribe in stating that the “recreational” players are “turning away” from the game and that it isn’t good for poker overall. “Whatever happened to the good old days? When you eliminated someone, they were actually eliminated?”

Overall the commentary from Davis’ Facebook followers were in his favor, including a couple of notable names in the poker world. Eric Mizrachi, the brother of two-time WPT champion Michael Mizrachi, noted in the discussion, “Nothing better than a freezeout poker tournament where everyone is equal…one shot, one chance and one opportunity is how it should be!”

Former World Series of Poker Europe champion and CardPlayer Magazine owner Barry Shulman saw the argument but countered, “Some would argue that the prize pool is relatively massive this way and some of the re-enterers are more likely to get it in bad than usual which creates an opportunity for more of a long run statistical edge for the one bullet folks.” Shulman also noted that different poker rooms have different rules and that “people should enter those tournaments that they feel comfortable playing.”

The problem with Shulman’s last statement is that it is difficult to find the traditional “freezeout” tournament anymore. Virtually every major poker tour and every major individual tournament has gone to some sort of “re-entry” format (either through allowing for multiple Day One entries or another variant, the “one time” re-entry after busting on a particular day). In fact, it has gotten so bad that some tournaments offer the option of simply buying into Day 2 for the starting stack AFTER you haven’t been able to make it through multiple Day Ones.    

More than four years ago, I touched on this subject in an editorial on these very virtual pages. It hasn’t gotten any better since then and, many would argue, it has become even more a scourge on the tournament poker world. The problem doesn’t rest on the individual poker tours or even the casinos, however. They are there to provide the game and, along the way, make a little money for their businesses (there’s quite a bit of cash that goes into the production of a poker tournament). The tours and the casinos are going to try to squeeze every ounce of blood from the turnip that they can, hence the continuation of the re-entry tournaments.

The true power lies in the players, and that is perhaps a detriment. Players, if they don’t approve of a format or discipline of the game (how many razz tournaments do you see outside of the WSOP?), can vote with the one piece of power that they have – their wallets. If players don’t show up for these re-entry tournaments, then the tours and casinos will quit using the re-entry format. Unfortunately, most players can only see the dollar signs and don’t look at how that massive number was reached. Thus, despite fevered discussion about the subject, the re-entry tournament doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

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One Comment

Raymond Davis

This was very well written, I am really impressed


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