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How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes


Over the last decade, rebuy tournaments have become one of the most popular types of MTTs.

Most tournament formats give players the option to rebuy during certain stages of the event, which makes understanding how to play this format essential.

Today we will dive deeper into the rebuy tournament strategy and explain some interesting facts about these MTTs.

What Are Rebuy Poker Tournaments?

If you lose your stack in the rebuy tournament, you have the opportunity to buy chips again and keep playing in the same event.

Most rebuy tournaments have similar structures:

  • Players can rebuy chips during the rebuy stage of the tournaments
  • Players can buy more chips if they are below the starting stack
  • Players have the opportunity to buy additional stacks, in most cases 2x the starting stack
  • Players have the opportunity to add on chips when the rebuy stage is over

It is important to make a distinction between rebuy tournaments and re-entry tournaments. In rebuy tournaments, players have the option to reload their stack, and if they do that, they will stay in the same seat in which they were and be treated as the same player.

This also means they will not pay additional rake when they rebuy chips.

In re-entry poker tournaments, after players lose their stack and re-enter, they will be seated at a different table and treated as completely new players.

This means they will get the same amount of chips they got when they first entered the tournament.

For example, in a rebuy tournament, a player can start with 5k chips and have the opportunity to buy an additional 5k chips during the rebuy period or choose between rebuying for 5k chips or 10k chips if he loses the entire stack. Usually, players also can buy an add-on at the end of the rebuy period and add additional chips to their stack no matter how many chips they have.

On the other hand, when a player gets knocked out in re-entry tournaments, he can only pay to re-enter again with the same starting stack. In these events, players don’t have the chance to make additional purchases of chips unless they lose their stack.

How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes
If you lose your stack in a rebuy tournament, you can buy another one.

Add-ons In Rebuy Tournaments

Add-ons stand for additional buy-ins in poker tournaments and are most common in rebuy tournament formats.

The add-on allows you to buy more chips during certain stages of the tournament, even if you didn’t lose all of your chips. They are different from rebuys because you can buy an add-on no matter how many chips you have.

The poker site determines the price of the add-on and how many chips you will get for that.

In most cases, you will get chips worth two times your starting stack when you buy the add-on, but the exact size can vary depending on the tournament.

All of this information is usually displayed at the start of the tournament, but you can get the information from the tournament director or staff if you are playing in a live event and not sure about something.

Advantages Of Playing Rebuy Poker Tournaments

Rebuy tournaments have become very popular thanks to the many advantages they offer to poker players, including bigger prize pools and the fact that they aren’t as punishing as other tournament formats.

The three mains reason why you should play rebuy tournaments are:

  • Bigger prize pools
  • Weaker opposition
  • Plenty of second chances

Rebuy Tournaments Have Bigger Prize Pools

In tournament formats such as freezeouts, prize pools are often limited by the number of players, resulting in lower payouts.

Rebuy tournaments, on the other hand, generate some pretty amazing prize pools thanks to the fact that players can pay to rebuy multiple times and buy add-one, which additionally increases the prize pool.

For example, let's say there are 1000 entrants into a freezeout tournament, and each pays $5 (without the rake) to participate. This means that the prize pool will be $5,000, and the only way the prize pool can increase is for new players to register.

If the same number of entrants pays $5 to enter rebuy tournaments, the prize pool will be the same - $5,000. However, the prize pool will certainly increase because the players can rebuy and take add-ons, so new players don’t have to register for the prizes to increase.

How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments and Avoid Costly Mistakes
Rebuy tournaments can earn and lose you a lot of money.

Rebuy Tournaments Usually Feature Weaker Competition

The competition in rebuy tournaments doesn’t have to be literally weaker. It can be the same as in other formats, but players in rebuy tournaments usually play more relaxed and splashier because they know they can always rebuy if they lose their stack.

This is a great opportunity for players who understand poker tournament strategy and know that they should be played with the same intensity as other formats and that the rebuys should be used as a second chance in situations where they get unlucky.

Furthermore, there are a lot of poker players that don’t approach rebuy tournaments the right way. For example, they will add on only where they have a small stake or avoid adding on when they have a big stack.

This is an additional incentive to play these tournaments because the correct strategy for rebuys and add-ones will give you an edge over the opposition.

Rebuy Tournaments Give Players A Second Chance

One of the main reasons why rebuy tournaments were invented is to give players a second chance. There is nothing worse than losing your stack in the first few levels by getting unlucky.

With rebuy tournaments, players can rebuy and keep playing even if they got unlucky or made a mistake.

The number of rebuys depends on the tournament and can vary anywhere from one rebuy to unlimited rebuys, so players have a decent number of chances to get things right.

In the end, it creates a more interesting environment for recreational players and has a positive effect on the poker community as players don’t lose interest in the game after busting a few tournaments in a row in the early stages.

Disadvantages Of Playing Rebuy Poker Tournaments

Rebuy tournaments came into the spotlight thanks to the many advantages we already mentioned, but like with all other formats, there are some cons.

Some disadvantages of rebuy tournaments are:

  • Increased variance
  • Bigger impact on the bankroll
  • Rebuys can quickly add up
How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes
Fedor Holz playing in a poker tournament

Rebuy Tournaments Increase Variance

Looking from the outside, this format's rules and payout structure don’t reveal anything that would suggest that something hectic is going on. If you never played rebuy tournaments, you might think they are pretty mild in variance.

For the most part, it is true, but if you have ever played a rebuy tournament during the rebuy stage, you will know how crazy things can become.

Players start playing wide ranges aggressively, and pots become enormous, which increases the variance.

This is because players are trying to build as big of a stack as possible to have a better chance of making a deep run once the rebuy stage ends.

In some cases, weaker players will go all-in multiple times in a row with weak holdings hoping that luck will be on their side and they can spin their stack up.

Rebuy Tournaments Can Have A Significant Impact On The Bankroll

Thanks to their specific structure, rebuy tournaments can have a significant impact on your bankroll.

This is especially true for tournaments that allow more than one rebuy and add-on.

If you are playing a $5 freezeout, you know in advance that this tournament will cost you $5 in total, and you can calculate how many bullets you have and decide if you have a big enough bankroll to play.

With rebuy tournaments, things are a little different because a $5 tournament can easily turn into a $15 or even a $30 tournament with all the rebuys and add-ons.

This means that one rebuy tournament can have the same impact on your bankroll as three or more freezeout tournaments, and you need to count this in when calculating how many buyins you have.

This is one of the mistakes players new to this type of tournament make most often regarding bankroll management.

Rebuys Can Quickly Add up In Rebuy Tournaments

Busting out from a tournament is never fun, and in most cases, there is nothing you can do after a bust except take some time off or even study until your next event.

Rebuy tournaments can give you a second, third, or fourth chance, and while this can be good, it can also turn into a disaster if you get irrational with your rebuys.

You have probably heard stories of poker players who made dozen or more rebuys in a tournament without any success. These situations make for a good story, but they are rarely +EV.

The biggest reason you should avoid making too many rebuys is that your stack is worth fewer big blinds every time you make a rebuy. With fewer big blinds, players have less room for maneuver, and luck becomes a bigger factor.

A good approach is to determine how many rebuys you want to make before the tournament starts or, even better, to determine the minimum amount of blinds you are willing to rebuy with.

How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes
Tournament table

Rebuy Tournament Strategy Tips

Because rebuy tournaments have high volatility, having the right approach becomes even more important as swings can increase compared to other poker formats.

To give you a good idea of where to start regarding these events, we have prepared a few tips to polish your rebuy tournament strategy.

Create Your Rebuy Strategy In Advance

A lot of the strategy for rebuy tournaments revolves around the rebuy stage. This is why it is very important to have a solid approach to this part of the tournament.

Our advice is to create a game plan before the tournament even starts and decide how you should approach the rebuy stage based on the tournament structure.

Check how many rebuys and add-ons are allowed and what the rules are for each of them. Does the tournament allow players to make one or multiple rebuys, and when you can do it, these are the question you need to answer to create a good game plan.

Additionally, you need to decide how soft the tournament is and what is the minimum amount of blinds for which you should make a rebuy.

This is the easiest way to gain an edge over the field because many players focus only on the poker strategy and fail to prepare in a more general way.

Always Buy Add-ones But Don’t Always Rebuy

Another core part of the rebuy tournament strategy that most players neglect is the add-ons.

Many players fail to realize how important add-ons are and think they don’t need them if they have an average or a big stack.

The truth is that you should always buy the add-on, no matter how big or small your stack is.

The bigger your stack is, the more room for error you have and the more chips you can take from your opponents when they make a mistake.

Increasing your stack through add-ons increases your chances of making a deep run.

The situation is slightly different with rebuys because your stack is worth fewer big blinds every time you make a rebuy.

For this reason, you need to set a threshold on the number of blinds you are willing to pay for during the rebuy stage.

In most cases, you should avoid making a rebuy if your stack will be worth less than 20 big blinds after the rebuy. Anything less than this, and you have to rely more on luck than skill to make a deep run.

How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes
Steffen Sontheimer playing poker

Practice ICM Situations

The ICM is a model that allows tournament players to calculate how much their stack is worth during the late stages of the tournament. It is extremely hard to become a successful MTT player without actually understanding the implications of the Independent Chip Model, simply because you will make too many mistakes with your stack during short-handed play.

Unlike in cash games, not every chip is worth the same amount of money in tournaments, and you need to consider this during each of your decisions.

As you become better and better at identifying correct ICM spots, you will recognize when your opponents are putting ICM pressure on you and when you should put ICM pressure on your opponents.

Get Used To Switching Gears

Tournament poker is all about switching gears, and rebuy tournaments are no different. You need to learn how to recognize different stages of the tournament and switch gears accordingly.

Most articles about rebuy poker will tell you to start slow and look for good opportunities because your stack is worth a lot of chips at the beginning of the tournament.

Then as the rebuy stage is coming close to the end, you should widen your ranges to avoid getting exploited by players who will be looking to put maximum pressure and spin their stack up.

After the rebuy period, the tournament will slow down drastically, and you should too. Finally, the closer you are to the end of the tournament, the more aggressive you should be, but don’t forget to consider ICM, as it can have huge consequences for your bottom line.

How To Approach Rebuy Poker Tournaments & Avoid Costly Mistakes
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