Does Poker Have a Tournament Reentry Problem?

Does Poker Have a Tournament Reentry Problem?

The subject of tournament reentries has long been debated in poker, especially in the past few years as they have become more prevalent.

From small tournaments at local casinos to large events in series like the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker, there are almost always reentries allowed. And late registration for big events has also become the norm.

Several high-profile people in the poker industry have recently brought up the subject again. It might be time to have a larger conversation about it.

Norman Chad: This is a Sham

When the World Series of Poker Europe began on October 13, longtime ESPN poker commentator for the WSOP Norman Chad took a look at the schedule.

He didn’t like what he saw. And he took to Twitter to note that all 15 events were reentries. Moreover, 11 of those tournaments – all bracelet events – offered unlimited reentries. “Somebody has hijacked the World Series of Poker…IN BROAD DAYLIGHT,” he wrote, using the hashtag #ThisIsASham.”

Chad continued by saying, “This is not poker. This is open up your wallet and try to build a stack, and if you bust, open up your wallet and do it again. And again. And again.”

He noted that reentries, along with super-late registration periods and publicity tournaments that twist the game to generate interest, are turning poker into a joke.

Of course, some of the high-stakes pros who have the financial means to fund multiple reentries into each tournament took issue with Chad’s opinion.

Scott Seiver, for example, claimed that reentries are good for casinos and players but bad for the “media-crafted narrative.” Chad responded that reentries keep tournaments from offering a level playing field, as some players can pay for five chances to cash in a tournament while others can only afford one.

Other players seemed to stand up for reentries as well, saying that it builds prize pools higher for lower buy-in events.

But many responded to Chad’s tweet in agreement, saying it is bad for recreational players. Not only do reentries make the tournament feel unfair to those who can only afford one buy-in, they also stretch the tournaments out for additional hours.

Daniel Negreanu: Hurts Recreational Players

One high-stakes pro poker player, one known for reentering when necessary, also tweeted recently about reentries. Daniel Negreanu tweeted an idea for a poker tournament series with no reentries or late registration and only one event per day.

He then responded to a favorable comment from Joey Ingram, “Reentry hurts recreational players absolutely.” Negreanu added, “Makes the end game of tourneys that much tougher and the ratio that much worse for them if they have to bust Fedor (Holz) 5 times to get rid of him.”

Ryan Laplante tweeted in agreement, as did Dan Shak, Ismael Bojang, David Paredes, and Brett Richey.

Negreanu had far more players arguing with him about late registration than about reentries. Many players argued for some type of late registration, though none responding to his tweet seemed to argue in favor of 10 or 12 levels of late registration.

Flashback to Greg Merson re Ali Imsirovic

The subject of reentries entered the spotlight in February when high-stakes poker pro Ali Imsirovic won a WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas. It was a $2,200 buy-in, which constitutes a high-roller tournament on the WSOP Circuit.

Imsirovic won, however, after buying in seven times. Former WSOP Main Event champion Greg Merson believed that the incident exemplified the unfairness of reentries.

Despite Merson’s status in WSOP history, his opinion seemingly had no impact on WSOP organizers. The 2019 WSOP in Las Vegas had more reentry tournaments than freezeouts on its schedule.

Op-Ed: What Does Poker Want?

The bottom line is that the live tournament poker scene – as a whole – must decide what it wants from players today and moving forward.

If tournament organizers want more rake, bigger prize pools to make their guarantees, and an abundance of high-stakes pros with apparently unlimited bankrolls, they should stick with the trend of reentries. There are definitely benefits for the poker rooms and many professional players with solid bankrolls. This will sustain the tournaments for a while.

However, in order to preserve the basic elements of tournament poker and keep attracting more new players, industry leaders should consider removing some of those reentries.

Tournament poker has always been promoted as a freezeout concept. The one player who outlasts the others wins first place. It may take stamina and patience, a lot of skill and a bit of gamble, but it can be done. And the result is a well-earned victory.

Players who reenter as many times as needed, however, can throw that concept under the bus. Often the winner of a tournament achieved that top position because of one or more reentries. Fatal tournament mistakes weren’t fatal for them because they could afford to reenter.

However, it is rarely documented anymore. Live tournament reporters are not given reentry information. So, when a player busts out and then reappears, it is seen as normal. And when that player wins, there is no official record – outside of the private books kept under wraps at the casino – as to how many times the player reentered in order to earn that win. And there is no record of how much money the player invested to win.

Recreational players often consider reentry tournaments out of their bankroll possibilities and unfair. Speaking as one of those players without a bankroll and who only plays occasionally, I tend to avoid most tournaments that come to my city because I know that other players can take more chances and play a more aggressive game if they know they can just reenter if needed. Since I can’t reenter, I mostly choose not to play at all.

If the overall goal in poker is to attract new players and keep them coming back, it’s probably not a good idea to give them an unfair shake at the tables. It’s also not good to drain their bankrolls so fast that they cannot play anymore.

Reentries may be fun for some and profitable for organizers, but they’re not good for the long-term health of tournament poker.

 

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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