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Top-10 reasons I've come around on late registration and re-entry

7 April 2014

A few weeks ago, I jumped into a $400 no-limit Hold'em tournament at the Foxwoods Poker Classic. I busted out about an hour before play ended on Day 1 after losing two-thirds of my stack with pocket queens vs. kings.

The event included a couple of my longstanding tournament pet peeves: late registration and re-entry.

For years, I railed on the two practices. I didn't like late registration, because I thought that if you wanted to play a tournament, you should either start at the beginning or get blinded off until you do want to start. And I didn't like re-entry because I thought it gave players who are willing to buy in multiple times an unfair advantage.

But after playing in a tournament that included both, I think I can actually live with these relatively recent innovations. Here are the top-10 reasons I'm coming around on late registration and re-entry.

10. Gives players shorthanded experience
When casinos run tournaments without a late registration option, they know exactly how many players will be in the tournament when they deal the first hand. As a result, every table starts full, or pretty darn close to it. With late entry available, casinos generally start the tournament six-handed and fill in the empty seats as latecomers arrive. As those tables fill up, they open new ones as necessary.

Previously, tournament players only got to play shorthanded in events that were designed as such, or when they made a deep run and made it to the final few tables. But late entry gives tournament players a chance to play shorthanded for a little while when the blinds are relatively low, and that experience may pay dividends later.

9. Because life happens
Part of the reason I decided to play the event at Foxwoods was because my friend Todd had won a Casino City Home Game satellite into the event. He ended up being about 10 minutes late. He actually showed up on time, but I'd paid him his winnings in $1 bills. (You've got to get the money on the table when it's heads up, right? And what's more impressive? Four $100 bills, or 400 $1s?) When he tried to pay with it at the tournament window, they made him go down to the cage and get it counted.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can be late. It would have been a big downer if Todd missed the window to get into the tournament, especially because it would have been my fault for paying him in $1 bills.

8. Because bad beats happen
One of the players at my table had a rough go in the first couple of levels. He lost a couple of big hands, and ended up busting in a blind vs. blind battle when he flopped trips, only to lose to trips with a bigger kicker. He decided to re-enter – and since he was one of the first to bust and all the tables were full, he ended up right back in the same seat. He ended up finishing 38th and posting a $118 profit for the tournament, overcoming the double-entry price point. (Of course it helped when he found KK late on Day 1 when I was holding QQ!)

This guy is not a grinder. He's a businessman who took the day off to come play some poker. When his day ended before he wanted it to, he jumped back into the event. He is exactly the type of player that poker needs to survive. If he goes home after playing for an hour and has a bad experience, is he going to feel good about coming back again? Who am I to say that he shouldn't be allowed to buy-in again after he busts early?

7. Lets high-volume players rest
The event I played was about a week into the Foxwoods Poker Classic, and it was clear that a number of the players in the tournament had been at Foxwoods for at least several days. They had been playing a lot of poker and you could see it on their faces. These guys needed a nap. If they wanted to sit out the first few levels and get some rest, so be it.

6. Adds new strategy wrinkle
A poker tournament is filled with strategy. I actually kind of like that there's a new strategy of figuring out the optimum time to register, now, too. There are lots of benefits to playing a tournament from the first hand, and lots of benefits to sitting out the first few levels, too. If you want to hear a great summary of the benefits of both strategies, give Vanessa Selbst's interview with Jared Tendler on The Mental Game of Poker podcast a listen. She talks about her cost/benefit analysis of late registration roughly five minutes into the interview, and it's definitely worth hearing.

5. Get a redo on a bad table draw
Yes, poker is a skill game, but in any single tournament, so much depends on the luck of the draw. If you sit down at your first table and it's full of top-notch players, it makes your road to victory much more difficult than if you were sitting at a table full of recreational players. In the first scenario, it probably wouldn't be a big surprise if you bust out early – and if you get the chance to jump back in and get a better table draw and are willing to take the chance, why not?

4. It's fun to watch the tournament grow
If you know the size of the tournament field before you start, then you know how big the prize pool is and how much the winner will get. But when a tournament has a robust late registration/re-entry period, it's fun to watch the entry numbers climb whenever tournament organizers update the clock. It also gives players something to speculate about – you may even want to make some side bets on it.

3. Lets early players get to know each other better
Poker should be a social game. It's a lot easier to have a conversation with six or seven people than with nine or 10. Sitting down at a shorthanded table, when the blinds are low and people are likely to be sitting together for awhile, promotes conversations that may not happen at a full table. Giving players a chance to get to know each other in the low-stress early stages of a tournament is a good thing.

2. Improves the casino's bottom line
Let's face it; if casinos don't make money on poker tournaments, they're not going to happen. In order for poker to be offered and marketed, it needs to be profitable. If late registration and re-entry are good for the casinos, maybe they'll promote their tournaments series' a little more aggressively. They also may be able to put more money in tournament prize pools; I'd rather see lower tournament fees and more money going back to players. If this tournament were going to be $340+$60 without late registration and re-entry, but is $350+$50 instead, then I'm all for it. (Though, as an aside, if Mohegan Sun can run their $400 events as $360+$40, why can't Foxwoods?)

1. Increases tournament prize pool
Of course, the No. 1 reason to allow late registration and re-entry is that it increases the tournament prize pool. As a result, you get a bigger prize for the winner, which makes the tournament more interesting for everyone involved, including some people on the sidelines who may decide to jump into an event down the road. Big prize pools are good for poker, and if late registration and re-entry help increase prize pools, then they are probably good for poker, too.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.