Gather around, kids, as we look back to a day in poker when – SHOCKER! – you only got one shot at a poker tournament. Yes, there were those days when you laid down your buy-in and, through your guile, luck, or fortune, played your way either to a big stack or down to the felt. Either way, the thing was you only got ONE shot at the tournament and, once you were done, you were done.

The problem with this approach is that sometimes players had traveled a great distance to take part in these tournaments. Imagine how these players felt when, on the first hand of the tournament, their pocket Aces were cracked by the 9-3 off suit that Local Hero was playing in an attempt to “take down the pro.” In even older days, the players would go off to play cash games but, nowadays, players have to have the action of tournament play – many don’t seem to have the skills to head to the cash games and grind it out.

Alas, that has changed in the 21st century. Tournament director extraordinaire Matt Savage has confessed he started the “rebuy” phenomenon in poker during his days at the helm of the World Series of Poker – to his chagrin, he has admitted – but it seems that it has become an epidemic now rather than an exception. Look at any tournament schedule out there and you’ll see that ALL tournaments are now “re-entry” events – in fact, it has become notable when they indicate that it IS the traditional, one-shot freezeout tournament.

Why did this happen? In the middle part of the last decade, casinos and poker rooms found that, if they offered a guaranteed prize pool, then they pretty much would ensure that they would meet that total in player buy-ins, especially if they held more than one Day One flight (and if they didn’t? They just ate it for a year and never ran the tournament again or, much to the disgust of players, “adjusted” the terms of the tournament). Guaranteed prize pools are like catnip to poker players – if you offer it, they will come – especially if that prize pool is a large one (over a million dollars is usually enough).

So how are you supposed to handle these mysterious creatures? What should be your approach to the play of these events? I’ve got some ideas, but I am always looking for other information on the subject – hopefully, we’ll get some great suggestions here.

The Opening Bell

One of the great things is that, from the opening bell, you’re given plenty of opportunity to play – depending on the approach you take. Normally with these re-entry events, you have a decent stack of chips to play with in comparison to the blinds. At the Hard Rock Tampa, these events can see you start with 25K-40K in chips, more than enough to be able to bide your time and look for opportunities.

But here’s the question – do you wait for opportunities, or do you make your opportunities? There are a couple of different approaches that can be taken with the re-entry tournament, one of which is to try to play it like a normal freezeout tournament. Under this approach, you make the decisions as if you have your entire stack at risk and do not have the option of coming back into the event. The positive of this approach is that you can get pegged as a “tight” player, which can work for you in the later stages. The downside? You don’t get any action when you enter pots.

The other option is what you will see at least one player doing at the tables of a re-entry tournament. With that re-entry option in the pocket, players can be a bit freer with their play, taking some risks that they might not take under the traditional freezeout tournament. The positive of this approach is that you can build up a big stack quickly as players either don’t take you on or your hands make you a big stack. The downside? You can burn through a few buy-ins if you brick your hands.

The End of the Registration/Re-Entry Period

Once the end of the registration/re-entry period comes to a close, you might have a decision to make. In some of these tournaments, you can utilize a solo re-entry to add to your stack. In every case, use this option; every other player in the tournament, no matter their stack size, is going to use the add-on to increase the size of their stack. Why put yourself at a disadvantage to the players who can put some more ammunition in their clips? If you can afford it, take that add-on and run.

There could also be another decision that a player has to make. At the Hard Rock Tampa, you do have the option of sacrificing your stack and claiming a fresh stack of starting chips to move forward with. If you are below the starting stack at this point, it would be ludicrous to not give up your middling stack for a fresh set of bullets for battle. Once again, if you can afford it, don’t hamstring your efforts – swallow your pride and reload.

After the Re-Entry Frenzy

After the re-entry/registration period has closed, it becomes a freezeout tournament at that point. There’s no second chance, it is up to you to use your skills and make whatever stack you’ve put together to drive forward. This is a point where some players have some difficulty adjusting.

The players that take the “freer” approach to the tournament, after being a bit loose with their play, sometimes have a tough time dialing it down and settling into a solid tournament play mode. These are the players who build up those big stacks but can’t hold onto them after the late reg/re-entry period has ended. You can pretty much toss out any book on a player that you’ve built up to that point because everyone will lock their games down as the drive to the money begins.

What has been your experience with the re-entry tournament? Is there something that has worked for you? Let us know in the comments!

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