After reading an article from well known tournament director Matt Savage (pictured left) last week I decided to make my latest blog post a discussion about reentry tournaments. Like them or loath them reentry tournaments are a huge part of the modern day tournament scene. In the past few years the number of reentry tournaments have grown exponentially and it now seems like the majority of tournaments are of a reentry format.
In my opinion they are in general bad for the game and are unsustainable long term. I’d like to make it clear that I’m not talking about the huge 100k’s that have become the norm over the past 5 years as I think that actually helps to provide some value in these tourneys (from the rich businessman who can readily afford to reload) but events such as the World Poker Tour, which I played in Montreal last week.
WPT Montreal is a $3850 reentry event with three separate starting days. In theory you could be in for $11,400 when the minimum cash is only $5204. In fact if you played all three bullets in this tournament you would need to make the top 5 percentile of the tournament (45th place out of 862 entries.) This means that in a reentry tournament there are very few winners. However, in a freezeout tournament with no reentrys, normally around 15% of the field make the money and are all guaranteed to be ‘winners.’ Not big winners of course but especially for recreational players coming back with more money than you started with is seen as a big thing.
Another important issue with reentry tournaments is that they cater for the pro players and allow them to have an unfair advantage over the recreational players as the pros generally have bigger bankrolls or backers which allow them the luxury of playing the event multiple times if necessary, whereas the recreational player might only have played the event because they won a satellite.
WPT Montreal only managed 862 entrants this year compared to 1173 last year. The buy in for the event did increase by $550 overall but I find it highly unlikely this had that big of an impact on the field size. Also I found it to be one of the most well run events and the players were incredibly well looked after by the Playground Casino so I don’t think the loss of 311 entrants was down to negative experiences of last year’s event. I believe that the loss in players was to less satellite winners, as they didn’t want to play one bullet where their opponents would be able to take advantage of up to three bullets.
The reentry format means pros can effectively gamble with their first couple of bullets in order to try and build a huge stack which they will be able to use to their advantage later in the tournament. It also takes out a lot of the ‘pureness’ of the game. For example, it would be silly to put Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey all in for their tournament life as a bluff on day 1a when you know they can easily rebuy and the money means very little to them, whereas in a freezeout tournament it would be much more of a feasible option as you know they are unlikely to want to bust such a big event early.
Reentry tournaments also threaten the longevity of the live poker scene because the best players are more likely than ever to rise to the top in these formats (see Seminole hard rock example later in the post.) What chance does your random live satellite winner stand with 1 bullet against pokers elite with three or sometimes even more opportunities in the same tournament? Even if they are fortunate enough to make it into the money they are likely to be surrounded by pokers biggest sharks when the serious money becomes involved rather than in a non-rebuy format where the mixture of players would be of a much greater spectrum. Although we are yet to fully see the effects of this in the live poker scene we can look to the Full Tilt Poker model before Black Friday of their reentry tournaments to see the likely results of reentry tournaments long term. Even though they were only widely ran for a 6 month period many players went bust or went on a significant downswing during this period with the only real winners being the people who were fortunate to hit a huge score in one of them or the elite regs who are the only players this tournament format really benefits.
Reentry tournaments are not all bad, though. Without them the guaranteed prize pools would be nowhere near as large in these events, which in turn would mean that a lot fewer players would make the effort to travel which then decreases the field size and prize pool further. For example, if WPT Montreal was a $3850 freezeout it really wouldn’t be worth it for a lot of people to travel to play when you consider the expenses with flight and accommodation costs.
What I am proposing in these cases is perhaps increasing the buy in amounts in certain events and making them freeeouts instead, which will make it more of a level playing field once again. At the WSOP they used to have $1k rebuy events but they got abolished because they didn’t want people to be able to ‘buy’ bracelets. In a way rebuy tournaments are similar to reentry tournaments so I really hope that the WSOP doesn’t start to introduce them to the most prestigious series of all because that could be very damaging indeed.
Besides WPT Montreal, one of the more recent live tournaments that I played in was the Seminole Hard Rock $5k reentry in Florida in August. Without the reentry format there is no way that it could have got anywhere near the $10 million guarantee they offered. I for one wouldn’t have made the long journey without that guarantee and the chance of multiple bullets if I busted out early.
Overall the tournament proved to be a major success and looks like it will be having a permanent place for poker players on the tour in the future. The long-term problems of reentry tournaments are highlighted in the final results of this tournament, though, with two of the best players in the field, Blair Hinkle and Justin Bonomo, ending up heads-up. It was a case of fifth time is the lucky charm for Justin as he had already managed to bust the tournament four times over the previous two days of reentry. A number of other pros with deep pockets also made it deep in this tournament, which highlights the fact of how much of an advantage it is to have a big bankroll for the reentry format of tournaments.
I am not arguing for reentry tournaments to be abolished in the live poker tournament scene but I think it is essential that they are monitored and don’t keep increasing at the rate they have over the past few years. In the end, if the poker rooms and casinos keep seeing doubled prize pools and rake, what is going to stop them from making every tournament a reentry?