To provide poker players with the best possible tournament experience, poker rooms and poker sites offer dozens of different poker tournament formats.
From freezeout poker tournaments to rebuys and satellites, each available format has its dynamics, style of play, and pros & cons.
This article will explain the freezeout poker structure, how it stacks against other tournament formats, who it is for, and how to play it.
Freezout tournaments are the basic and most common type of MTTs. The term “freezeout” is used because it perfectly describes what happens after you enter this type of event.
You only have your stack in front of you, and the game is over when the stack is gone.
In freezeouts, players can not re-enter the tournament after they lose their stack. This is why a player's stack is much more valuable in this type of MTT than in other tournament formats.
A good example of a freezeout tournament is the World Series of Poker Main Event, in which all players enter only once, and there are no second chances for glory.
On average, freezeout tournaments tend to have much lower guarantees because there are no re-entries to additionally boost the prize pool.
When it comes to the dynamics, in theory, freezeout poker tournaments even out the playing field much more than other formats because each player gets only one chance which increases the variance.
Nonetheless, freezeout poker is considered the purest form of tournament poker by the majority of players. Apart from the dynamics, one of the main reasons for this is that each poker tournament originated from freezeouts.
Freezeout tournaments are the easiest to learn and comprehend without additional features that impact the gameplay, dynamics, and strategy.
Some of the pros of playing freezeout poker tournaments are:
The length of every poker tournament depends mostly on the blind levels and starting stacks size. However, freezeout tournaments tend to have much shorter running times than most other variants.
This is because players who bust can’t come back and play again, so each elimination has a bigger impact on the running time of the tournament than in, for example, rebuy events.
For many professional and amateur poker players, shorter tournament running times are a big plus because they don’t want to spend ten or more hours playing the same event. This is especially true for recreational players that play one tournament at a time.
Although professional tournament players are used to all kinds of formats, they usually also enjoy shorter tournaments because it gives them more time to rest before playing poker again tomorrow or the day after.
It can be frustrating if your favorite tournament type is available only on one poker site, on a small number of sites, or even during certain events and series.
That is if your favorite MTT type isn’t a freezeout poker tournament, as they are available across all poker platforms and rooms throughout the year. This gives poker players all the room to maneuver when choosing a new poker site with good benefits.
Furthermore, freezeouts are available during the whole 24 hours of the day on various sites, and players from all over the world can play them when they want without having to be up all night because there are no tournaments of this type in their part of the world during the day.
While the freezeout poker strategy is not simple, it is much more straightforward than strategies for other tournament types with many additional features.
With clear structure and rules that give players more information and more chances to implement a solid tournament strategy, freezeout tournaments are much more grateful in this respect.
Nowadays, online poker rooms offer so many different types of tournaments that keeping up with the rules and dynamics of each one can be overwhelming even for season poker players.
Let’s take progressive bounty events as an example. The payout structure difference in this tournament makes optimal strategy quite different from what you would usually play, making things much more complicated for beginners.
But with freezeouts, there are a lot fewer factors that need to be taken into account, which makes this format ideal for players that are new to poker or are looking to switch from cash games to tournaments.
One of the main indicators that poker players enjoy freezeouts for their simplicity is that they remain one of the most popular formats despite many new variations becoming available.
Remember how we mentioned that freezeout tournaments create more variance because players get only one chance which allows luck to become a bigger factor? Well, while this is true, there are two sides to every coin.
If we take a look at freezeout tournaments from a financial and bankroll strategy perspective, we can also conclude that this format cancels the advantage that poker players with larger bankrolls have in other formats like rebuy tournaments.
Poker players with large bankrolls can use this fact to create additional advantages by putting maximum pressure on their opponents in each situation during the rebuy stage of a tournament.
This can be frustrating if you have a bankroll that can’t afford more than a couple of buyins, as you will have a limited number of re-entries. On the other hand, players that play below their stakes or just have huge bankrolls use this to their advantage, and there is nothing you can do but hope that you will get in as few of these situations as possible.
However, this isn’t as big of a deal in freezeout tournaments. Yes, sure, players with bigger bankrolls will always have a mental edge because they are risking a smaller portion of their bankroll, but they can’t put as much pressure because no matter how big their bankroll is, they get only one chance just like everyone else.
One of the great things about freezeout tournaments is that the information about the prize pool is available earlier than in other variations. This is because there are no rebuys or add-ons that would change the payout structure.
This fact can be used to make more efficient calculations about the number of players and the prize pool to determine if the tournament has hit its guarantee or will have an overlay.
This is much harder to do in other formats that allow players to rebuy even after the tournament registration faze is over or that allow players to make add-ones during breaks.
Like any other format, playing freezeouts has its disadvantages. These disadvantages do not apply to all players and mostly depend on the player's style of play and skill level.
With this said, the three main disadvantages of playing freezeout poker tournaments are:
The poker site determines the prize pool by offering a guaranteed amount for freezeout tournaments. They base the prize pool on the number of expected entrants, and the only way it can be increased is if the tournament has more entrants than expected because each player can enter only once.
On the other hand, other tournament formats that allow multiple entries, rebuys, and add ones tend to surpass the guarantee and increase the prize pool more often. This is because each player can enter multiple times.
Because each player gets only one chance for a deep run in freezeout tournaments, this increases the variance as luck plays a bigger role. On the other hand, other formats that allow rebuys give players additional chances to make a deep run even when they get unlucky.
For example, if you play a freezeout tournament and go all-in with Aces against Kings and lose, the tournament is over for you, and there is nothing you can do no matter how weak the competition is. This will increase the number of tournaments you need to play to realize your return on investment.
However, if the same scenario happens in a rebuy tournament, you can always re-enter the tournament and give it another chance. This means that, on average, you will need to play fewer tournaments to realize your ROI.
In terms of poker strategy and prize pool, we have mentioned numerous times throughout this article some of the advantages and disadvantages of not being able to re-enter a poker tournament.
However, it is important to note that one of the biggest reasons why poker rooms have started allowing re-entries is convenience. This is especially true for land-based casinos and traditional poker rooms where players can travel long distances just to be eliminated after a few hands without the possibility of re-entering.
There was no other option than to allow players to fire multiple bullets or risk them not traveling at all because it wasn't worth their while.
Read our best short-stack poker strategy tips!
Below you will find a few tips that will increase your chances of becoming profitable in freezeout poker tournaments.
When it comes to strategy and theoretical approach to poker tournaments, freezeout tournaments are divided into three stages:
Each mentioned stage requires a different approach because each has different dynamics. A good rule of thumb is to become increasingly more aggressive as each stage passes.
In freezeout tournaments, you want to start slow, pick your spots, and end up furious while fighting for every chip.
Of course, to become a crusher, you will need to dive deeper into the strategy behind each stage, but this is a good starting point.
The payout structures in freezeout tournaments are extremely top-heavy, so most of the money will be concentrated in the top spots, unlike in bounty tournaments, where a big part of the prize comes from bounties.
Because of this, it is crucial to understand how to approach final table play based on different factors.
The main factors you need to consider are your stack size, position, and payouts, which have much to do with ICM considerations.
To put things into perspective, here are the best and the worst possible scenario:
Scenario 1 represents the ideal situation, and in these spots, you should play loose and aggressive and use your stack to put maximum pressure on your opponents while collecting as many uncontested pots as possible.
Scenario 2 represents the worst situation to be on the final table because there is little you can do to increase your chances apart from waiting for good cards. In these spots, you should play tight and wait for the right opportunity to try and increase your stack.
Finally, one of the best things you can do to increase your bottom line in freezeout tournaments is to memorize or print out push fold charts.
Push fold charts represents solved ranges that tell you what to do when you have 20 BB or less.
Based on the number of blinds, all hands in these charts are put into two categories: go all in or fold. This makes them very easy to understand and implement, and to be honest, in today's poker environment, you can’t afford not to know them.
The Independent Chip Model or ICM is a model that tournament poker players use to evaluate the value of their stack during short-handed play on the final table.
This model is necessary because chips in tournaments have a different value than in cash games, and it can be tricky to realize how much your stack is worth in a certain situation without using the ICM
ICM considerations can drastically change certain decisions, and you can go from all in to fold after realizing how much your stack is worth.
Our advice is to sacrifice some time and learn ICM, as it is one of the most important things you can do to improve your game in freezeout tournaments. You can find everything about poker ICM theory online and different ICM calculators to help you practice short-handed play.
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