Table Talk: How Many Re-buys Is Too Many?

unlimited re-entries

Join me in a soothing glass of cognac this week, won’t you? Many parts of the world are getting rather cold at this time of year, and whether we’re pretending to be (or if you actually are) in Prague for the European Poker Tour or in chilly Las Vegas with me, it’s time to break out the bottles of warming solutions. Cognac, coming right up.

It’s been an interesting week in poker, as the last of the 2012 major tournaments are filled with players looking for that last big score of the year. The World Poker Tour Prague wrapped up its event that drew 567 players to the tables, and Marcin Wydrowsky won it for €325k. On the international circuit, WPT players are now in China for the first event of its kind at the MGM Grand Sanya. Meanwhile, the EPT Prague got underway this week, and the massive field of 864 players broke records for that EPT stop and for the Czech Republic. The €4,190,400 prize pool was set, and play nears the final table today.

In United States news, PokerStars confirmed that it is looking to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The half-million dollar price tag is part of a large contract amidst negotiations. Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to tease the poker community with the possibility of a federal online poker bill. The Democratic Senate Majority Leader says prospects are dim, while the Republic Senator says there are enough votes to pass the bill. However, experts are saying chances are slim that it will pass in 2012, as the bill hasn’t even been introduced to the U.S. Congress yet.

Back to tournaments, the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic finished up a few days ago. The tournament showed 503 entries and a $4,879,100 prize pool. In the end, Antonio Esfandiari finished fourth in his third final table at this event in three straight years. Ravi Raghavan then defeated Shawn Buchanan heads-up to take the title and more than $1.2 million.

The most interesting thing, to me, about the WPT tournament at Bellagio in Las Vegas was the number of re-entries. There was no limit to the number of times a player could bust out and re-buy for another $10k. So, of the 503 entries, only 272 of them were single entries and 71 players entered twice. There were 18 players who bought in three times, three players who were in for $41,200, one player for $51,500, and three players for $61,800 with six entries.

There was a big social media controversy about the re-buy events, as most of the WPT tournaments in the U.S. are now re-buys. However, most of the WPT events are also in the $3k buy-in range, so re-entries don’t seem too significant, at least to many players. But put unlimited re-entry options on events like the $10k Bellagio tournament, and some players objected. Those who have the largest bankrolls have the best chance of cashing or winning, they argue. It’s unfair to those who have only one $10k bullet to use, others say. And the other side of the argument says all’s fair in poker. Re-buy!

As a poker fan, I lean towards doing whatever brings the most money to the tournaments, making them lucrative, swelling the prize pools, and encouraging big action for the cameras.

As a poker fan, I also feel that the single-entry event is pure tournament poker. Buy-in, play smart, and win or lose as the cards and your skills determine the outcome.

As a normal human being making a meager living as a freelance writer, I say WHAT?! Unlimited re-buys for a $10k buy-in tournament? Three players were in it for nearly $62K? That is insanity. If you have that kind of money to blow, play every tournament, then fly to the Aussie Millions in January and play the $250k buy-in and the $100k buy-in high roller events. (Actually, if you have that kind of money, charitable donations should be at the top of your list of places to put your money.)

But I digress.

Buying in to a $10k tournament four, five, or six times is proof that bankroll management is probably not as practiced as is preached. It allows players to flaunt their money as other players who might have satellited in for a much cheaper price sulk away from the table after a bust-out. Not only is it a terrible example of money management for new players, but it creates a class division in the world of poker. There are those with practically unlimited bankrolls to re-buy as many times as they choose and play every high roller tournament, and there are the rest who grind and fight for every chance to compete at the WPT Main Event or EPT tournament level.

Sure, there are divisions in poker on many levels, but it’s never as obvious as in re-buy tournaments. I believe there has to be a line drawn, and that is at the unlimited re-buy point. Offer a second-day re-entry for those who bust on the first flight, but there needs to be a stop to unlimited re-buys in regular poker tour stops. It is alienating many poker players and rewarding the elite few who can afford any offering on the table.

Go ahead and scoff. I’m a writer, not a poker player. I choose to write for a modest wage rather than take my chances at poker and try to become one of those elite players. I don’t even have a Hendon Mob page, for the love of the game!

On the other hand, I see poker from a unique point of view, and I stand by my opinion.

I also stand by this lovely glass of cognac. And unlimited re-fills are okay in this situation. You’re going to have to trust me on that one. Stay warm, folks, and I’ll see you next week.