Stud: Maximizing tournament value

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

Most of the tournaments we see today are the "conventional" type, i.e. single buy-in events, with no rebuys. Although I have had success in this type of structure, I believe that for most people there is much more value in the following types of events:

  • Tournaments which offer multiple rebuys. We find these types of events offered from time to time, online and off, as well as events which offer only a limited number of rebuys. This will likely be a controversial opinion, but I think that the way you will get the proper odds on your money in these types of events is to NOT rebuy. That is strictly because everyone else IS rebuying, and that means that the payouts in this event will be greater than in a regular event.

    For instance, let's say that there is an event for $500 and 200 people enter. That would give you a $100,000 prize pool, without rebuys, and if first was 30% of the pool, a big prize of $30,000. But if you are playing in a rebuy event with 200 entrants, there will undoubtedly be a much larger prize pool. In fact, it will be substantially bigger.

    You might see your opponents rebuy as much as an average of three times each; this would push the prize pool up to $400,000, and first prize to $120,000. A win would be worth significantly more!

    However, the only way this becomes mathematically beneficial for you is if you do not rebuy. In that regular event, your $500 buy-in could win you as much as $30,000 (60x), but in the rebuy event, your same $500 investment could return $120,000 (240x).

    Although I have had good success in my tournament career, I just feel that there is far too much short term luck in any given event to warrant rebuying. This applies to all types of games, i.e., Hold'em , Stud, Omaha, etc. This also applies regardless how well you play these games and/or tournaments, as well as how much money you have in your poker bankroll.

    The person who rebuys the most might give himself a slightly better chance to win, but if he invests 10x more than I do, his Return On Investment (ROI) will be much lower. If someone rebuys ten times in a $500 event, that's $5,000 in entries, and if first prize is $120,000, his ROI will be 24x if he wins it all.

    And no matter how many times you rebuy, you're still not a favorite to win any particular poker tournament. Believe me, even if you are the best player in any given event, you will have a hard time reaching a final table, much less winning it, whether it is a rebuy event or not.

    Although there certainly are people who have a winning track record in their tournament careers, especially the ones who have had one or more "big cashes," I assure you that many players, including some of the "name" ones who are both advertised and lionized as big winners, are not. This has to do with a number of things, among them -

    a) They do rebuy too much in those events.

    b) They play in too many events which do not have enough equity.

    c) With the advent of so many books, videos, and other learning tools, as well as the overall boom in poker globally (especially tournaments) the "younger generation" are really putting in the time and effort to learn all types of poker strategy correctly. The general quality of play has improved, making it harder to win. Although this mostly applies to Hold'em right now, if and when other games either catch on or make a resurgence, the same thing will undoubtedly happen.

    d) The larger fields these days make it even harder to win, increasing variance and "risk of ruin".

  • Another prudent way to maximize your tournament buy-ins is to only enter main events after winning a satellite. Before I got staked, that is the only way I did it.

    I recommend playing in 1-3 single or multi-table satellites to try to gain an entry to its corresponding event. For example, let's say you are considering entering a $1040 buy in event. It will cost you approximately $130 to enter each single table satellite. Multi-table satellites will be even cheaper, but tougher to win because there are more entrants.

    If you win the first satellite which you enter, you now have succeeded in getting into a $1040 event for $130. That's true value. Even if it takes you three satellites to win one, you still have invested only $390 for a $1040 buy in. Decreasing your investment increases your ROI in the events you win.

    Of course there will be many times when you will not win a satellite to your desired event. When that happens, just do not buy into that specific event. There will be other of the same or similar events which you will be able to enter after getting the proper equity by winning a satellite. Mathematically, you only need to win 1 out of every 8 satellites to attain the same value as those who are buying in directly. If you play satellites well, and win more often, you will be getting an overlay in the main events you do play.

    If you are entering these events purely for recreation, this concept may not apply to you. But, if you are playing tournaments to either try and earn extra money or to make a living, I recommend considering these concepts.

  • Although I rarely see them anymore, you can sometimes find shootout events which are generally structured as follows.

    Assuming there are 500 entrants for a given event, there would be 56 tables. All you have to do is win your initial table to advance - tables are not broken in this format of event. Once you have done that, you will usually have made the money. Then the 56 remaining players will be placed on 7 new tables. If you win your next table, you are now down to the final 7 entrants and go to the final table, to see who ultimately wins.

    In many of these events, which you can find on PokerStars and elsewhere, all you may have to do is win your initial table to cash out. If you can find this type of structured event, especially if it is in the poker game you prefer, I recommend buying into it outright.

  • Some casinos, both live and online (PokerStars is among them), offer guaranteed or added prize money in some of their events. Usually, these casinos estimate the dollar amount of the guarantee based on their speculation of how many entrants there will be to that event. Offering a guarantee helps build interest in an event, and most guaranteed events exceed their guarantees. But there will be times where you can get a substantial monetary overlay in these types of events, even on PokerStars. Usually, entering these events will have to be a "game time" decision, since there really is no way of accurately predicting exactly how many entrants there will be for an event. But, if you see this type of overlay, I do recommend buying in.
  • To close this discussion, although tournaments are a lot of fun, and in rare cases can have life changing monetary profitability, the reality is that because of short term luck, most likely you will just lose your buy in, regardless of how well you play. I think that this high variance makes it much harder to succeed, so I try and look for some additional edge.

    Remember, in a cash game, you can take breaks when the cards are not going your way, when you are tired, when the game is not that potentially profitable because there are too many good players in it, etc. You can't do any of that in tournaments.

    On the flip side, though, following good habits both on and off the tables may enable you to become a successful and profitable tournament player, too.

    In the meantime, you can find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games in our Stud section, as well as in our weekend $215 buy-in tournaments for Stud games. Please check the starting times of each of those events under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at adamr@pokerstars.com. See you at the tables!

    Simon Young
    @MrSimonYoung in Strategy