Is it time to retire re-entry tournaments?

Following the news partypoker LIVE may get rid of re-entry Main Events, is it time major poker events returned to the 'pure freezeout' format?

Rob Yong
Rob Yong

One of the most remarkable things about the rise of re-entries has been how they have become the norm with little to no pushback. WCOOP and the EPT, as well as some bracelet events, have all recently become re-entries and it was barely news when these changes happened, because we are so used to them.

However, last week partypoker LIVE owner Rob Yong announced that next year their Main Events will most likely be pure freezeouts, with only one Day 1 and a reduced late registration period. He commented:

I remember playing the original EPTs, the excitement sitting down at the start with hundreds of other hopefuls and famous faces, hearing ‘shuffle up and deal’ – the relief when I swerved an opponent’s nut flush draw, knocking out a top pro and him really being ‘out’, the feeling of accomplishment making day 2, chatting at the bar with friends about all the hands I played and the anticipation of getting a good table draw on Day 2. Apart from the WSOP Main Event, most players don’t experience this nowadays, you can wander in anytime and register, if you have deep pockets or are staked you don’t worry about busting, and you can easily make Day 2 – just skip Day 1 and buy-in on Day 2! You don’t often get seated with a famous player as they tend to late reg, sometimes you can start with less than 10% of the field, and it must be soul destroying to bust Fedor Holz and have to bust him again...and again!

I’m not entirely sure if these changes are 100% confirmed, but it looks like at a minimum we will see re-entries reduced in partypoker events. This is quite a significant move by partypoker LIVE, who have become a major player in poker already in no small part due to re-entries. They have hosted lots of massive guarantees in their first two years and managed to avoid huge overlays because of re-entries. Just this month their UK MILLIONS event just beat the £5 million guarantee as a result of the fact players could re-enter twice every day across three Day 1s and a late registration period on Day 2 (so a potential eight entries maximum per player).

The romanticism of a pure freezeout

poker John Hesp
Amateurs have their 'one time' but pros have their 'eight time'

Next year the guaranteed prize pools would be lower, but I think this will be a welcome change from the poker community. The last few months I have had so many conversations with players and industry people about how the pure freezeout should make a comeback because the perception is that re-entries allow pros to ‘buy’ their way to a title. Recreational players get one chance whereas every pro can buy-in time and again.

With the exception of the rich ones, when a recreational player takes a shot at a big online or live event, they usually only have one bullet. Either they have justified a once-a-year punt at an event like the WSOP Main Event, or they won a satellite. There is something very pure and romantic about the casual player and the professional player having one chance each in a tournament. This romantic ideal of the game is what makes the World Series of Poker Main Event so alluring, and God help poker if that ever becomes a re-entry.

These massive prize pools are great if you are the player who wins one of them, but if the public perception of re-entry events is as bad as it seems to be, it is only a matter of time before casual players stopped trying.

A bubble set to burst?

poker bubble
Are all these big guarantees and high buy-ins a bubble that could burst?

The poker economy as a whole might also thank partypoker LIVE if they do indeed axe re-entry events. In recent months I have been pondering whether all these massive guarantees and big buy-in events could be heading towards the bursting of a bubble in poker. I know of players, for example, that bought in for more collective buy-ins during the WCOOP/PowerFest month than they did during the World Series of Poker.

Every month there is plenty of reason for tournament regulars to spend tens of thousands in buy-ins, just as every month all the major operators have to guarantee millions and millions. I’m not sure it’s the worst thing if the collective poker world could pump those brakes now and then.

Whether they are fair or not, optics really matter, and if the broader poker community thinks re-entries are unfair, we should listen to them. I hope partypoker LIVE do go ahead with this change and other operators at least make pure freezeouts more of an option at their events. Obviously the number of runners and prize money will go down significantly but there are lots of ways to judge success that are harder to quantify, like prestige and enjoyment, as well as more tangible things like number of unique entries and how many recreational players make the money. Whatever success looks like in this regard, we'll probably know it when we see it. 

Should poker tournaments be pure freezeouts as standard? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (5)

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  • Zeezout


    Yup, quit all freezeouts and please (!) stop late registry, since it spoils MTT fun badly. Just be on time if you want to play, or stay out ...
  • OldSchoolPapa


    888Poker should also stop with their very very very late registrations and addons. It's pretty annoying in my opinion. Check well the rake, structure and format of games poker rooms provide before to make any deposit or registration to a MTT , SNG or whatever game you play.
  • Primrose6789


    The late reg period of some Partypoker MTTs is really a pain in the bum bum. Some tourneys have like 2,5 hours or even longer late reg periods and re-entry options. That really sux because those MTTs take forever. You play about 4-5 hours until you get ITM, the whole MTT takes 8 hours to win. Late reg can be ok but not more than 1 hour. As Zeezout says: Be on time or stay out!
  • bradomurder


    Not only does re-entry discourage casual players, but it also means you're playing the regs 3 times and the fish once, which makes the games tougher.
    I don't think you need to get rid of them completely, but at least provide some genuine freeze outs.
  • Svinhugg


    Late reg should be something like 10 or 15 minutes so that you can get in if your internet connection fails or something like that.