In recent years there has been a huge shift in the format of tournament poker. In the beginning tournament poker was always played with a freezeout format, meaning that once you were eliminated you could not get back into the tournament. You were required to lumber away from the table, defeated, and find something else to do with the remainder of your day.
Then, several years ago, casinos and online poker sites began offering players the opportunity to buy back into the tournament if they were eliminated early enough in the event. This enabled operators to boast gigantic payouts for a small buy-in. When you can offer a person the opportunity to win a life-changing sum of money for a relatively small buy-in it’s obviously a huge selling point. That’s one reason why you see Borgata packed to the brim with poker players every time they host the $560 buy-in opening event.
People who play on BorgataPoker.com often ask me why the site doesn’t feature more re-entry tournaments. Hopefully this blog will help clear up the very sound reasoning that BorgataPoker.com has for not falling victim to the re-entry trap, because I concede that on the surface it does seem like an appealing option to allow unlimited re-entry in more tournaments to help boost the total entry and first place prize numbers.
While casino operators and professional poker players as a whole seemed thrilled with the frenzy of re-entry format events, myself included, it has become more and more apparent that there are drawbacks that no group involved seemed to be giving enough credence to when the trend emerged. Matt Savage wrote an op-ed piece about re-entry events a few years back that helped me understand the issue from more of a macroeconomics of poker perspective and I highly recommend reading it.
The most important point that Savage makes, in my opinion, is that recreational players tend not to like the re-entry format. They feel — and correctly so — that allowing more skilled players with deeper pockets to buy in over and over puts them (the recreational player) at more of a disadvantage than they’d be in freezeout events. As I’ve mentioned before, the recreational players’ opinion needs to be put at the forefront of these types of arguments because the poker economy is sustained by them and the bottom line is that the poker economy will crumble if they stopped showing up to play.
The other extremely compelling argument he makes pertains to both professional players and the casino operators. It is that when players bust out of freezeout events, they will often buy into a cash game, side event, or satellite. Numbers may be up in the big re-entry event, but casinos are often forgetting how much of that money would have ended up in other event prize pools or being raked in cash games anyway. Players, even pros, are spending way too much of their time and money on single events chasing huge prize pools with higher volatility rather than spreading it out and playing more total events.
I believe BorgataPoker.com has it right by not offering unlimited re-entry events on its online site. Most tournaments run on the site are freezeouts, and the few that do allow for re-entries have a cap on the number of entries re-entries allowed (capped at one re-entry). Not only do they want to provide you with a great product today, but they want to continue to have great product for years down the road by maintaining the proper poker ecosystem.
One final note I’d like to make that’s mostly related to big buy-in live events is that a true freezeout format lends itself to more prestigious titles. I believe it says more about a victory when you know the winner had to play with only one starting stack and wasn’t able to gamble it up in order to accumulate the chip lead early in the event. That is why I hope that more “championship” events resist the urge to allow re-entries all together from a “poker purist” standpoint. I like when a players can’t buy back into an event after they’re eliminated…it’s like those poker TOURNAMENTS we used to play back in the day! Remember those?
So, in conclusion…FREE THE FREEZEOUT!