Rebuy Tournament Strategies

© 2006 Randy Saylor

Rebuy tournaments offer a lot of hidden value. Many players on short bankrolls may register for a tournament without noting its rebuy status. These players are swept up in the early flurry of loose action, only to drop out when their pathetic bankrolls do not allow them to rebuy. This creates a lot of dead money in the prize pools.

Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) come in many different formats, but all of them can be categorized as either a freezeout tournament or a rebuy tournament. Freezeouts simply mean that a player continues to play until out of chips. In a rebuy tournament, a player busting out has the option to rebuy and continue playing. Rebuy events are occasionally called R&A (rebuy&addon) tournaments.

Proper strategy decisions can set you up for a nice payday in these events.


The most important consideration to make regarding rebuy tournaments is your bankroll. If your bankroll does not allow you to play $55 freezeout tournaments, you should not be playing $11 rebuys.

A player must go into the tournament expecting and willing to invest five buy-ins. This includes the initial entry and an early rebuy. Two more rebuys will be used in the event your aggressive play does not pay off. The final re-buy is technically called an “add-on”, which will be explained. It is possible to get away with two buy-ins occasionally, just as it is possible to get stuck for seven or more as well.


It is crucial to know the structure of rebuy tournaments at your chosen site or casino. Most allow unlimited rebuys for an initial period of play (often one hour). More rarely, the number of rebuys is capped at one or more. Unlimited rebuy tournaments are the subject of this discussion.

Some rooms allow a player to rebuy only after busting to zero chips, but most allow rebuys anytime the player has less than the original starting stack.

The most important structure consideration is rake. Specifically, are the rebuys raked? A site that requires an $11 buy-in ($10 buy-in +$1 entry fee for the site) usually allow rebuys to be made for $10. Some sites don’t charge entry fees, but instead rake a fixed percentage of the prize pool. In this case, each purchase may be $10, but a percentage of every rebuy also goes to the house. There is slightly diminished value for players in these tournaments. These can still be entered if all other factors are favorable, but the slight loss of value should be considered.
The final consideration is add-on amount. At the end of the initial rebuy period, players are allowed to purchase an add-on to their stack for the cost of one buy-in. This add-on is allowed regardless of the player’s current stack size. The add-on usually gives more chips than the initial stack size. A tournament offering 1500 chips per buy-in may give 2000-3000 for the add-on.

Early Rebuy Strategy

We would hope that players would stick to the same strategies regardless of the stakes, but the reality is that play is much looser as the buy-ins are reduced. Proper poker strategy says we adjust to the conditions of the game. Seeing a player open-pushing all in with 87 offsuit from first seat is not unusual in the early stages of cheap R&As. This ultimately has the effect of loosening up the table as less-than-premium hands are shown down. If this is the case, we adjust our game accordingly. You must be willing to call two preflop all-ins in front of you with JJ. In a cheap rebuy, they might not have AA, KK, or QQ.

The first decision is whether to rebuy immediately after the tournament starts. This allows you to start with a double stack and take all of the chips from another player who does likewise. The decision to purchase right away should be made based on how many players at your table do so. If three or more players have doubled up early, you must keep maximum chips in your stack to take as many of theirs as possible.

The other players and your bankroll should determine your level of aggression. If you are willing to take high risk in exchange for the possible reward of building a huge stack, then you can play lesser hands all-in from later position if the pot is offering significant odds. If the buy-in is high and play is tight, you might adopt a more normal freezeout strategy.

One important consideration is not to be caught with slightly more than the starting stack. If the buy-in gives 1500 chips and you have 1700, you are not able to make a rebuy. You might consider making (or calling) a bet of 250 in order to reduce your stack, allowing a rebuy after this hand. You can easily give up on the hand if you meet resistance. Alert large stack players should look out for this move. If a player bets down to 1490, often a larger reraise gives you an easy steal if no one else is in the pot.

Part II of the Rebuy Tournament Series will take us through the remaining stages of these games.

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