Should poker tournaments allow reentries?

Daniel Negreanu says reentries “shouldn’t exist, or at least be the norm”

Mike Sexton says “obviously, the purest and most equal form of tournament poker” is one without reentries.

But reentry tournaments keep becoming more common and more popular. The WSOP Circuit allows players to reenter for up to six hours. The LA Poker Classic allows players to reenter up to ten times.

Are Negranu and Sexton wrong? Or is it the tournament directors and players who are wrong?

The answer is, like everything else in poker, it depends.

It depends on the purpose of poker tournaments.

Crown the champion

Lots of competitive endeavors have tournaments to determine who the best player or team is. The NBA has a tournament. The NFL has a tournament. Even NCAA football, after some pressure from President Obama, established an annual tournament.

At the end of the tournament, the winner is crowned champion and we say they are the best.

We can say that because we assume the better competitor is the one who won each of the matches (or the chips).

This isn’t entirely true in sports. A bad call or a lucky bounce will often cause the better team to lose.

But it’s especially wrong in poker. The outcome of a day or a week of poker has more to do with the cards than with the players.

It takes a lot of luck to win a poker tournament. And the more times you enter, the more chances you have to get lucky.

Reentries make tournaments even worse at finding out who the best player is because it makes players who are willing and able to reenter more likely to win regardless of their skill.

Grand prize dreams

In theory, there is no limit to the amount of money you can win in a poker game. But if you bought in for $10 thousand you would almost certainly quit before you got to $10 million. If you didn’t, all of your opponents would.

But in a poker tournament no one gets to quit until it’s over. The winner is going to walk away with a grand prize that is dozens, hundreds, or even a thousand times more than what they bought in for.

It feels good to believe that a big win like that is possible.

Reentries inflate the prize pool and make that big win even bigger.

But the grand prize is a lot more possible for the players who are willing to reenter as many times as they need to. If you aren’t one of those players it may feel like an impossible dream.

Win money

If you are playing poker tournaments in order to win money, reentries are almost entirely a good thing.

More entries means there is more money to win.

Even better, reentries are made by people who busted early so they are disproportionately bad, or at least loose, players.

On top of that, reentries give you a chance to enter a profitable tournament even after you have busted out.

What you should do

Figure out why you play tournaments and then find the tournaments that best serve your goals.

Find the best

If you want to know who the best poker players are or want to claim to be the best, you will want to be in the big, prestigious tournaments with few or no reentries.

It’s not a good way to know who the best poker player is, but it’s the best way we have.

Take a shot

If you want to enjoy the feeling of having a chance at a big score, choose the tournaments with enough reentries to make the prize pool large, but not so much you don’t feel like you can win.

Alternatively, choose tournaments where you can afford to reenter as often as you need to.

Even better, play the lottery or bet on sports. A four-game parley pays 12-to-1 and doesn’t require playing poker on someone else’s schedule.

Maximize profits

If you want to maximize your profits, play the tournaments with the softest fields. That will usually be the tournaments with reentries.

Or better yet, play cash games and enjoy lower variance, higher volume, choosing your stakes, choosing your opponents, and choosing your schedule.

If you are serious about winning money playing poker you need to manage your bankroll. Learn how with The Definitive Guide to Poker Bankroll Requirements or sign up for a free account on Neverbust to get your custom bankroll requirements.