Knowing when to do a poker tournament re-buy and when to avoid one is a very important factor in your overall success as a poker player. It of course makes sense to know how to play poker, but you also need to know that poker tournaments are not all structured the same. Some favor a re-buy, but more often than not, re-buys and add-ons are a long-term drain on your poker bankroll.
In a standard freeze-out tournament, there are no re-buys and the game continues until one player has all the chips. However, many tournaments offer players a chance to re-buy into the tournament, usually for the same cost as the original buy-in. Players receive the same number of chips, stay in the same seat, and are simply replenishing their supply.
The better a player you are, the more likely a re-buy will help you. Obviously the reverse is true, and if you are a less experience player, the re-buy will likely just drain your bankroll.
So, lets take a look at some reasons to re-buy and not re-buy, all based on a standard No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament where the blinds increase each round. You must make your first decision based on your own bankroll. The following examples are based on small buy-in tournaments that you can comfortably afford to play in.When Re-buys Make Sense
- When it's early in the tournament
- When you are clearly better than the competition
- When more than 10% of the players cash
- When most everybody is re-buying
- When there is an add-on after several rounds
Re-buys are most successful when they happen early in a tournament. This is most true if the blinds are still low compared to your re-buy chips.
If you are an experienced tournament player, and especially if you know many of the players and are correct in assuming that you are better than a large majority of them (this happens often at Frat parties and at company poker nights), it is usually correct to do a re-buy.
A standard tournament pays 10% of the participants. However, some tournaments pay a higher percentage, such as all players who make the final table. If said tournament has 50 players and everybody at the final table gets to cash, re-buying makes more sense because you have a greater chance of landing in the money (20% instead of just 10%).
Sometimes, especially in very low-cost tournaments, many players will be re-buying. Because there will be a much larger prize pool and because they will be playing more recklessly, it usually makes sense to try a re-buy. Sometimes even more than one.
If the tournament structure offers an add-on at the end of a certain period, especially if it is inexpensive and for a substantial amount of chips, doing a re-buy to try and make it to the add-on period can make sense. Many re-buy tournaments offer more chips for the add-on than the original buy-in. For instance, if the original buy-in or re-buy gets you 2000 in chips but the add-on gets you 5000 (or more), it might be worth it to try and reach the add-on.When Not to Re-buy
- When you are playing poorly
- When the other players are mostly superior to you
- When the blinds have already gone up considerably
- When the final payout is small or includes a small number of players
If you are playing poorly or seem to be getting beat on good hands, take a break and pass on the re-buy. Bad play and bad luck almost never turn around quickly enough to get back into the hunt of a tournament.
Sometimes you can look around the room and see that most of the tournament spots are filled with solid players. That presents a problem, and signals that perhaps this is a time to pass on the re-buy and wait for the next tournament. Don't be hard on yourself, be happy that you are making a good decision
If the blinds have risen several times, a re-buy may not be a good idea. Certainly in a limit tournament this is the case, because the small stack you get won't go very far. However, in a no-limit tournament this is diminished because you can bet your stack and double or triple-up at any time. However, if the blinds are so high that you are forced to go all in almost right away or just to complete a blind, then you will have a very small number of hands before you risk your whole tournament on just one hand. Better to pass on the re-buy.
When the overall payout is small, the percentage of return to your investment is not good. A re-buy in such a tournament is usually a bad deal. This usually happens in a small tournament and is compounded by a structure that returns payoff to only 10% of the players. Suppose there are twenty players and 10% cash - that just two. You have to come in first or second to cash - that's very tough, and if you do, the prize money is going to be small. Better to pass on the re-buy.Advanced Thinking
The more tournaments you play, the more likely you will make good decisions based on your previous success. If you are struggling with poker, you are more likely to be making a mistake when making any re-buy. However, if you keep track of all your tournaments you can really nail down your decisions.
Let's say for example that you have played 100 tournaments (this is still a tiny sample) and cashed in ten of them, never having won. You are likely to be a more conservative player, and might be more likely to go ahead and do a re-buy in a tournament where more than 10% of the players cash.
If you took first-place several of those 100 tournaments, even if you cashed a few times less, you might do a re-buy because your return is likely to be greater. This is because the top three places pay the most, and a single first-place win goes a long way. If you seem to win or go home without cashing, a re-buy in a 10% only tournament makes more sense because your payoff for first place will be higher. In a tournament where a higher number of places are paid, the top three spots are likely to be a lower percent of the total.
If you do the math for your total buy-ins and total cashes, and your are not showing a profit, you really need to maximize your tournament dollars - and that means it is most likely that just the single buy-in and no re-buy makes sense for you. Don't let pride and vanity damage your bankroll. Re-buy when you are still getting a good bang for your buck!