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What Is The Difference Between Rebuys, Re-entries and Freezeouts in Poker Tournaments?

Home » Darren’s Den » What Is The Difference Between Rebuys, Re-entries and Freezeouts in Poker Tournaments?

What Is The Difference Between Rebuys, Re-entries and Freezeouts in Poker Tournaments?

Should poker tournaments be Freezeouts or should re-entry be allowed? This is one of the classic debates among tournament players. Since the advent of Re-entry tournaments in live poker around 10-15 years ago, this has been a hotly contested topic. Many players and fans have strong opinions for one side or the other. I wanted to give my views on the subject and break down some of the pros and cons that go along with each option.  

The Origins of Freezeout and Rebuy Tournaments

Let me begin with a little history. When I started playing tournaments as more of a beginner poker player around 20 years ago, nearly every tournament was a Freezeout. In a Freezeout tournament, if a player loses all their chips at any point they are eliminated from the tournament. Game over. 

The only exceptions back then were “Rebuy” tournaments which typically had a very short period at the beginning of the tournament in which players could pay an additional entry fee for another shot at the tournament if eliminated. These tournaments also typically had “Add-Ons” available as well where players could purchase more chips at the end of the rebuy period for another fee. With all these rebuys and add-ons available, a $100 Rebuy tournament was essentially a $300 or $400 tournament at the minimum if players were taking the maximum available chips in pursuit of victory. 

While popular online, the logistics of running these types of tournaments in the live arena were difficult and Rebuys were eventually phased out. A few years later, “Re-Entry” tournaments started to be introduced and gained popularity. The difference with Re-Entry tournaments was that the re-entry period was much longer than that of a Rebuy tournament, and there was almost never an Add-On available at the close of registration. 

Nowadays, the vast majority of poker tournaments are of the Re-Entry format. And while there are a number of different wrinkles from venue to venue or tournament to tournament, the gist of the format is the same. There is a period at the beginning of the tournament where players can re-enter if eliminated (after paying again of course), and after that period if you are eliminated, you are out of the tournament. So is this a good or bad thing for poker tournaments?

Benefits of Re-entry Poker Tournaments

One of the biggest benefits of Re-Entry tournaments is that they create much larger prize pools. As players are eliminated, re-enter, and contribute more money to the tournament, the prize pool grows. This in-turn can attract more players to the event in pursuit of the large prizes. The option of re-Entry also makes traveling to play a tournament a more viable option for the player. In poker, especially in a game as volatile as No Limit Hold‘Em, a player can go from sitting pretty to being eliminated from the tournament as quickly as one hand. Knowing that you have the option to re-enter the tournament makes the idea of spending all the time and money to travel for a poker tournament a lot more logical for players. 

Cons of Re-Entry Poker Tournaments

As for the downside of Re-Entry tournaments, the critics will often complain that players with larger bankrolls are at an advantage in these tournaments, and often gamble wildly in attempts to build a stack during the re-entry period. While I do agree that players who have the bankroll and funds available to re-enter a tournament are going to be at an advantage, I think that Re-Entry tournaments should be considered differently while budgeting buy-ins as a player.

If I were to be playing a $1,000 Re-Entry tournament, I would typically budget $2,500-$3,000 for the event to prepare for possible re-entries. If you only have $1,000 available as a bankroll and want to play a Re-Entry tournament, then I’d recommend playing a $300 or $400 event. The important thing here is for players to bake the format into their budget when preparing for tournaments. Most professionals would tell you they usually average somewhere around two to three entries in Re-entry tournaments. 

Regarding players wildly gambling for stacks during re-entry periods, this is a foolish and vastly overblown concern in my opinion. We cannot forget that players have to pay for their re-entries. In my experience, it is incredibly rare that a player will play poorly on purpose due to the format of the tournament. I believe a few isolated incidents of this occurring are often shouted by the loudest critics of the Re-entry format. Imagine complaining about another player playing badly!

So, Which Is Better?

In today’s poker world, we have also found the happy medium of limited Re-entry tournaments. In this format, a player is only allowed a certain number of total entries in the tournament (typically 2-3). I believe this is one of the best formats for poker tournaments at the moment. However, I still enjoy a mix of Freezeouts, limited re-entry, and unlimited re-entry in the poker tournaments I play. With the number of Re-entry tournaments on the schedule everywhere, playing a Freezeout is often a welcome change of pace for the tournament player. In the end, neither format is better than the other but just different. Luckily as poker players, we have the freedom to choose and play whatever we like.

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