Variety is the spice of life and the more different kinds of poker tournaments available to casino and online players the better. That being said, I am not a big fan of the rebuy poker tournament.
There are different kinds of rebuy tournaments and the ones I have the least amount of issue with are those that allow for a limited number of rebuys in a short period of time. Predictably, the ones I am least crazy about are those that allow unlimited rebuys during a long period of time.
I have always felt this way and as a result I avoid most rebuy tournaments but last week I enrolled in a PokerStars SCOOP tournament that allowed/encouraged rebuys. Let me be clear, this was probably the “perfect storm” of rebuy tournaments. You see, I reside in the USA and as such cannot play online poker for real money at PokerStars – PokerStars does not allow it and the US government does not allow it. But, in order to keep my poker skills from getting too rusty between my trips to Connecticut, New Jersey, or Las Vegas, I often play poker with “play money.” Following this latest rebuy experience I developed a little equation. It’s quite simple:
PT + OL + PM = D
Translation – A poker tournament (PT) which is online (OL) and for play money (PM) equals disaster (D).
Here is the scenario – Pony up 5000 worth of play money (which you can accumulate by good play after an initial donation from PokerStars (I forget how much) or you can now purchase millions of play chips for a few American dollars, and you are in the tournament. Rebuys (for 3000 or 6000 chips) up to the end of the SECOND break are unlimited and at that point you can purchase an add-on of 5000 chips. All of this made me so dizzy that I may not have the exact numbers right but you get the idea. Rebuys galore for at least an hour and a half.
Pandemonium! I played through two entire levels without ever playing a hand where someone at the 9 person table went all in and was called, often by multiple players. This, in my humble opinion, is not poker. I’m guessing that someone would have better odds spinning one of those huge casino carnival wheels over and over again until they hit the $100 spot.
Poker is a game consisting primarily (not entirely) of skill. In a rebuy tournament, especially one for low stakes or no stakes (play money) skill is reduced to zero.
We all know that casino chips are an illusion – created so that we players disassociate them from real money and consequently gamble more freely. Play money casino chips are a fantasy even greater than the original. Yet, I have played on play money tables (especially Sit n Go tables) where adversaries play pretty close to real life strategy and procedure. That’s enjoyable and a way to keep sharp until we can all play online for real. But a rebuy tournament erases all of that and is really just a waste of time.
Rebuy tournament strategy aside (most “experts” will advocate aggressive play that takes advantage of your ability to keep buying back in) the math of a rebuy tournament usually doesn’t add up or adds up very badly. Each rebuy, assuming it equals the cost of entry (if it’s less, the math is a little different but along the same lines) makes it increasingly more difficult to get your money back or make a profit.
If a small tournament pays 150 places of nearly the amount of the buy in, after one rebuy a player would have to finish half or more as many places higher (somewhere between 70th and 80th) in order to come away with the same small profit. After two rebuys 40th place would get you your money back. Unfortunately, the mind set of many rebuy tournament players is “Everybody else is doing it; I might as well do it to.” The result is 150 or so players all needing to win outright to get their money back.