Rebuy Poker Tournament Strategy – Part #1 - The First Hour

Poker Rebuy Tournaments Are A Fun And Profitable Online Poker Game.
Here We Consider Rebuy Tournament Strategy For Hour Number 1.

Rebuy Tournaments are now a common sight in any online tournament schedule. This article looks at the different types of rebuy, the different behaviors of the players in them - and looks at what kind of strategy adjustments you should be making the maximize your chance of making a big score. As with most tournaments, I'm not going to outline a strategy for min-cashing, that will never be profitable over time. The sub-title for this piece should be 'how to adjust your tournament strategy for rebuys to maximize your chance of hitting that final table'.

This article is part #1 of a series that will examine rebuy tournament strategy in detail. Here I look at your approach during the first hour – while the rebuy option is still available. The second and third will look at moving into the second hour compare some of the best rebuy tournaments available online to suit different budgets and experience levels.

Rebuy Poker Tournament Strategy - Not All Rebuy Rules Are The Same

The first thing to mention is that not all rebuy rules are the same. Many sites allow you to rebuy right from the start, and again each time you have your starting stack or less. Other games (often called '2nd chance' or some variation of this) only allow you to rebuy when you are down to zero. Some tournaments specify the number of rebuys available in advance, for example the increasingly popular '1 rebuy, 1 add-on' games - and yet others have extended rebuy periods, for example the Pokerstars 2x and 3x turbo games.

All sites also have an ‘Add-On’ option, which allows you to add between 1500 and 3000 chips for an additional entry fee at the end of the rebuy hour. I have often forgotten to add-on, especially when keen to take my 5 minute breaks, though fortunately there are now 'Auto Add-On' buttons are now available on several sites, my advice is to check this box as soon as you sit down.

Action Hours: This is a cool innovation from PokerStars. These have high blinds for the first hour to encourage a crazy rebuy period... and it works. For me these are a reaction against the general tightening up of regular rebuys. Players from low earning countries now join the lower buy-in games in large numbers all trying to take advantage of the looser play by waiting for a premium hand with a single rebuy. This kills off the games... for example the $3 and $5 rebuys are far tighter than the crazy-loose games they were before. These players are entitled to their game-plan of course... though hopefully 'Action Hours' are the first of many policies which will see a reduction in the hordes game-killing Eastern Euro nits!

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2x and 3x Turbos: Just a quick note not to mix up these games, which are usually used for satellite qualifiers, with regular rebuys. The 2x turbos are great fun, and will allow you to buy-in for 3 big blinds if you lose your stack late in the rebuy period. These are more of a gamble to get a spot in a big event, though you can get an edge with a solid push / fold game. 

1r + 1a Games: These tournaments have a rebuy option, though it is restricted, usually to one rebuy and one add-on. Some sites will call these 'second chance' tournaments. It is up to you whether you take the available rebuy right away, or whether you use this as a backup in case you get busted. If several players at my table take the rebuy option early, I generally do the same.

Multiple Entry Tournaments: Full Tilt run tournaments which you can enter up to 4 separate times. If you survive long enough with 2 or more entries, then your stacks will be combined together in the late stages. You can choose to take all of your entries at once, or to take one and then re-enter if you bust in the first hour - or some combination. These are not strictly rebuys in the sense that this article is describing, though a fun variation that you can find at FullTilt Poker and now Titan Poker too. .

Rebuy Poker Tournament Strategy - Planning Your Rebuy Strategy In Advance

Before the first hand is even dealt you need to decide whether to take the initial rebuy and begin the poker tournament with a double sized stack. If other players at your table have done this then there is a very good case for following suit. If you get a big hand early then the chance of doubling up your stack to 4 (or more) times the initial buy in will give you a huge advantage – if you did not take the initial rebuy then this double may only get you to the same level as your opponents. As long as you can afford it the consensus is that you should always take this initial rebuy, you'll be kicking yourself if you double-up without it!

Rebuy Poker Tournament Strategy - Gamble Early Or Wait For An Opportunity?

The main strategy question for rebuy poker tournaments concerns whether to ‘gamble’ early in an effort to build a big stack or to play a little more conservatively to prevent yourself from spending too much money rebuying. To a large extent this will depend on the tendencies of the other players at the table - see my note on Eastern Euro nits clamming up the games above.

You'll find the lower buy-ins even more loose / passive than usual at many sites, and it can be frustrating to raise and get 6 callers. If every hand results in all in confrontations between multiple players – who are showing down medium pairs or weak aces (A-10, A-J etc) then adjusting your game slightly can result in getting the big stack without too much risk. Your strategy should be to wait for a high ace or high pair and get your money into the middle with the best of it. At a tight table you are going to have to play some poker, building pots with your quality hands in position and hoping that you get paid off with a monster. Tight tables can be difficult in rebuys, for the sake of your wallet you need to resist the temptation to push junk hands to liven up the table… you’ll only be called by the strongest hands of your opponents and the blinds you steal will not adequately compensate for this.

Note the tighter players at your table and please, when they want to build a big pot do not pay them off... If you saw how wild rebuy tournaments were just a few years ago you would understand why these rebuy parasites are frustrating. 

You need to balance waiting for a big hand with ensuring that someone pays you off when you are dealt one. Folding everything and then suddenly pushing those aces or kings after 40 minutes may make even the least experienced opponents suspicious! In the bigger games the need to build is more urgent, you will see from the chip counts in your site's lobby that there are often several 'gamblers' going for big stacks - it will be hard work to catch these players later in the game if you do not accumulate at least some additional chips early on.

The balance in a rebuy tournament rests between loosening up enough (being prepared to rebuy) to have a good chance of making a big stack, and not being so wild that you end up spending 8, 10 or even more buy-ins. There is a diminishing return in terms of each buy-in spent – your chances of a big cash are largely determined by the hours following the rebuy period. ‘Buying a big stack’ will help, but not in proportion to the amount of dollars spent.

Rebuy Poker Tournament Strategy - Budgeting For Bankroll Purposes

A good balance is to budget for 4 or 5 times the original buy-in for each tournament. This will allow you to play with the confidence that losing a single showdown will not bust you, get provide a balance within your poker bankroll compared to the chances of reaching the final table or higher paying positions.

At the end of the first hour you will have the opportunity to add-on, many newer players ask the question of when should I add-on. The question actually needs to be asked the opposite way around – what are the circumstances in which one should not add on!

There are really only 2 reasons not to add-on. The first is if your stack is so small that you have basically ‘given up’ on the tournament and intend simply to gamble with your remaining chips after the break (I'd still add on to make my gamble a little more meaningful). The second is that you have such a large chip stack that adding on will provide little benefit compared to the additional cost. The exact line is the subject of ongoing debate but as a rule of thumb if the add on is less than 10% of your stack and you have more than twice the average chip stack then you can consider saving the add-on money – even then if the cost is a small proportion of your online bankroll you should consider it!

Part #2 of this series looks at the 2nd Hour Of Rebuy Tournaments.

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