I Don't Hate Rebuys[ return to main articles page ]
By: Shane Schleger [See all articles by Shane Schleger]
Published on Sep 15th, 2006
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Published on Sep 15th, 2006
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“I hate rebuys” is a common refrain that I seem to hear everywhere from the chat in the $10 rebuy on Pokerstars to the $1,000 rebuy event at the WSOP. “It's just one more decision I have to make,” is the best articulation I've heard on the issue, and I think it's what most people are trying to say when they express a distaste for rebuy tournaments. In fact, rebuys require an entire stylistic shift that seems to make a lot of players uncomfortable. <READMORE>
Generally, the players who get the most perplexed or bothered by the rebuy structure are the ones who don't come prepared to take a few thin gambles during the rebuy period, or who maintain the delusion that buying in for x (where x usually = 1 or 2, or hinges upon other random factors) buyins is the best strategy. While it may be possible to execute a limited-buyin strategy with some success, and buying in for as little as possible will certainly maximize your ROI, I have no doubt that the biggest long term winners in rebuy tournaments are the ones who employ an aggressive (tight or loose) style during the rebuy period and are willing to double-rebuy as many times as they bust. Everyone knows that NL tournaments favor aggression, and the rebuy period amplifies the advantage that aggressive players enjoy.
What winds up happening—especially in live tournaments where more players construct elaborate strategies about if and when they will rebuy—is that I am relaxed during the rebuy levels, and I can put pressure on people who are trying to keep their investment down or are otherwise distracted by the rebuy format. There is no possibility of busting out before the add-on break, and my mind is clear to gamble. When I play a freezout tournament, I often feel clumsy and inhibited during the early levels and don't make my best decisions.
The rebuy period is good for establishing a loose-agressive or fearless image, but the advantages carry over past the first hour. After the dust settles on the rebuy period and players can't buy any more chips, the table dynamics are much better defined: there are short and big stacks, the rocks and the maniacs have been identified, and there are players on tilt, muttering about how much they hate rebuys. I usually have a sharper sense of how my opponents view me, too. With more information and familiarity, I make better decisions.
The flip side to this happy picture I'm painting is the blackhole of the rebuy period, also known as “Rebuy Tilt.” There are a few different causes of this, but in every case I wind up taking far too many close gambles, calling off my chips with junk hands hoping to suckout, or making big plays without realizing that my opponents have adjusted and probably have the best of it. I've thrown away plenty of great stacks (in addition to cold-hard cash) while caught up in Rebuy Tilt, and my average buyin (somewhere around 5-6x in the $100 rebuy on Stars and probably much higher in the lower limits) is probably at least a little bit higher than it needs to be. Although there are some great players, live and online, who have gone off on severe Rebuy Tilt and still show a positive expectation, it's really nothing more than a leak.
My biggest score came from a $300 rebuy event during the 2006 LAPC, despite a severe Rebuy Tilt session. I was in for 13 buyins, and I was miserable. At one point after playing a big pot with AQ vs KK allin preflop, the player in the one seat, nursing his sole buyin, said “You're just wasting your chips.” A little annoyed, I replied, “they're my chips and I'll do with them what I like.”
The first thing I want to illustrate with that anecdote is that I think I had the better outlook on the tournament than he did, despite the predicament I found myself in. Although the player who made the comment was far less likely to play a big pot as a 2.5-1 dog in level two, and had no chance of spending more than $300 on the tournament, he was also less prepared to take the risks and fire the bullets that ultimately win tournaments.
The other thing that story hints at is the importance of keeping your focus when times are tough in a tournament. Maintaining clarity after tough breaks is a crucial trait for any poker game. But when things are going badly in the rebuy period, it's important to remember that the tournament is still just beginning. No matter how much you are over-invested for or how few chips you have, rebuys were your salvation and you're still in better shape than the people who weren't willing to spend more than one buyin and are now on their way home..