The Perfect Poker Tournament Part 2: Freeze-Out, Single Reentry, or Unlimited Reentry?
In our first article about the perfect poker tournament, we asked five of the world’s most respected poker players what their thoughts were on how many players should sit at a standard, full-ring poker table. This time, we’re asking them what they think makes for the perfect tournament format.
We sat down with Unibet Poker Ambassador Dara O’Kearney, PokerStars Team Pro Igor Kurganov, 888Poker’s Dominik Nitsche, Scottish poker legend Niall Farrell, and Spanish powerhouse Winamax sponsored Adrian Mateos to set the poker world to rights. What is better; freezeouts, single reentry tournaments, or unlimited reentry? And, maybe more importantly, why?
What’s the Best Poker Tournament Format?
Kurganov: I think this depends on the customers. If it’s a Main Event structure, then making it an unlimited reentry is just wrong as that doesn’t cater to the type of people you have playing the tournament. They have to be single reentry or freezeout.
O’Kearney: "Freezeout is the best format. They’re by far the most popular with recreational players."
O’Kearney: I personally think Freezeout is the best format. They’re by far the most popular with recreational players. If they’ve satellited in, they just have one bullet. If they are buying in, they only want to do one bullet. It plays really, really badly for a recreational player to knock out a big-name pro, then see the cash desk and they’re buying back in.
Nitsche: I prefer freezeouts if I had to choose. Thankfully, these days there are all kinds of tournaments. Variety is nice.
Farrell: I’m a big fan of the standard freezeout. It’s the format that gives the recreational players the most chance to win. It makes the tournament the most value because you only have to knock out the good players once.
O’Kearney: Yeah, that feels wrong from a recreational player’s point of view. They want the story of ‘I knocked out Jake Cody’ and if it turns out Jake Cody then makes the final table, people go ‘Well, how did you knock him out’virgutis’ data-zone=’sponsored:post’>
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Any industry is propped up on the strength of the people who are coming to join in, especially a game and entertainment hybrid such as poker. Are we turning the lifeblood of the game away to make the game unbeatable for them?
Farrell: When a recreational player finally does run well and have a chance of winning the tournament, it’s just much more likely that it’s all professionals that he or she is going to have to get through. In the old days of the EPT, it was very prestigious to win one because they were always freezeouts. The people that make the games run are the locals or the satellite entries. And if you don’t give these guys a reasonable chance to win, they’re just not going to play more. The game’s going to dry up.
O’Kearney: The only people who are benefitting, are the organizers, and they’re not benefitting long term if it turns away recreational players because they’re the lifeblood of live poker. Once they stop showing up, it’s all over; the pros completely depend on them.
We should always do whatever the recs want, within reason. If something is deeply unpopular with recreational players, for example, the 25% payout structure that ‘Stars tried to introduce, or unlimited reentry, it should be scrapped. What’s happened over time with let’s say 400 recreational players and 100 pro players, the pros have a decent edge. If you change that to unlimited reentry, suddenly the pros start firing on average four bullets each, which is happening at a lot of tournaments now, you turn it to 400 recs, 400 pros and that’s really bad for the bottom line of the professional player as well.
Farrell: "I understand why reentry exits; more rake, more prize-pool. But when you have unlimited reentry, it’s really tough deeper."
If freezeouts are ideal, they aren’t necessarily perfect. Would a happy compromise be a single reentry in a Main Event or similarly structured tournament’virgutis’ data-zone=’pn2013:article728’>