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Top 10 tips for playing rebuy and freezeout poker tournaments

18 Jun 2018

By Tadas Peckaitis
Poker chips and royal flush

Poker chips and royal flush (photo by History Channel)

You can find many advanced poker training options online and learn any game that you want. However, very few sites touch on the differences between freezeout and rebuy tournaments, so today I want to concentrate precisely on that.

So, no matter if you are playing live poker games or multi-table tournaments (MMTs) online, understanding these differences and adjusting your strategy accordingly will help you reach better results.

10. Different bankroll requirements
Before discussing strategy, we have to cover bankroll requirements. Many players assume they can follow similar money management strategies for both formats, but that could end up being a very costly mistake.

If you play a $100 freezeout, you know that this is the most you can lose. But in a $100 rebuy tournament, you can easily end up making few rebuys or maybe even an add-on, making your total investment $500 or more. Therefore, make sure to account for that when choosing the right games for your bankroll to prevent yourself from going busto because of the variance.

9. Ability to take few shots at the same event
If you are playing a freezeout and bust your whole stack, you have to stand up and leave the table. Luckily, this is not the case when you play rebuy tournaments. You can simply rebuy and continue playing after losing your chips, and that can be a huge benefit.

For example, if you get an excellent table draw, but lose your whole stack after an unlucky hand or running bad in a freezout tournament, you can’t do anything about that. However, you can rebuy and continue playing if the tournament's format allows that. This gives you more chances to take down weaker players and build your stack for later stages, which is a huge factor to consider.

8. Bigger prize pools
Another significant benefit of rebuy tournaments is bigger payouts. Naturally, players will be making many rebuys, and some will invest in add-on at the end of rebuy period when there is such option so that will inflate the prize pool.

If you are playing a $100 buy-in freezeout with 100 players, you know that there will be a $10,000 prize pool (let’s not consider rake in this example). For an identical rebuy tournament, total prize pool can easily reach $30,000 or even more, so you can have a much bigger payday.

7. Much looser play
In rebuy tournaments, you will see more players getting involved in the pot and trying to build their stack early on.

Obviously, this means they will be playing weaker hands in general. On top of that, you will be enjoying more action instead of seeing everyone just sitting around waiting for cards, so this could a lot of fun to the games on top of all extra money.

6. You can build a bigger stack
Because of the loose play, many of your opponents will engage in pots with weak holdings, chase even weak draws and pay you off in the spots where they should fold.

Because of this, you will have a chance to build a pile of chips quite easily and prepare yourself for later stages with a playable stack to punish your opponents later on.

5. Take advantage of add-ons
In most rebuy tournaments, you will have a chance to add extra chips by making an add-on when rebuy period ends. As a general rule of thumb, you should never miss this option.

First of all, some players will not be adding extra chips to their stack, so you instantly will be increasing your chance of finishing higher by getting more chips. On top of that, an add-on will give you more chips than initial buy-in for the same price in many tournaments, so it is the mathematically correct move – and as you know, math is your good friend in poker.

4. Adjust your strategy after rebuys
When the rebuy period ends, you will need to adjust your strategy a little bit based on your opponents. To be honest, there are no major differences, and from that point, the rest of the event will be played as a simple freeezout.

However, some of the players will start playing much tighter compared to rebuy time, and you can take advantage of that by stealing their blinds or bluffing when you have a good spot.

3. Take advantage of deeper play
Moreover, players will have deeper stacks, so this will give you a chance to play “normal” poker without going into shove or fold mode very quickly.

If you understand poker tournament strategy, this will be a great time for you because you can simply outplay weaker players and continue to build your stack by putting pressure on them.

2. Learn ICM
Even though ICM (independent chip model) does not take skill level, positions or table dynamics into consideration, it can give you crucial insight for the right end-game strategy.

When playing MTTs, chip value is not equal to the money as in cash games, so you have to understand the value of your stack and make your decisions accordingly. ICM can dictate a very aggressive or very tight strategy depending on your stack and payout structure, so without understanding it, you can make huge mistakes.

If you are not aware of this concept, I highly recommend investing some time to understand how it works and improve your game on the way.

1. Adjust your play and keep learning
Lastly, I want to highlight the importance of adjusting your play for the rebuy period and when it ends. At the beginning of these tournaments, you want to take some risks to build your stack, because later on it will pay big dividends and give you a chance to take it all down. If you merely finish the rebuy period with the same stack that you started with, you will already be at a disadvantage because average stack will be much higher, and you will need some luck to catch up.

Obviously, that does not mean you should play trash hands or chase draws. But instead of being very tight, add more suited connectors, suited ace-X hands and other speculative hands to your playing range to have a chance to hit big. Remember, if you get unlucky, you can always rebuy, but the value of having a big stack in later stakes far outweighs the risk of investing additional buy-in.

No matter which format or game you play, you should always be looking to improve because this is the only way to guarantee success. To see how to do that, you can grab a copy of my free poker book, and jump into your games with full confidence.
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