How to Play

Rebuy tournaments

In this section, we’ll talk about rebuys, including:

How rebuys (and add-ons) work

Most tournaments you see online and on TV are freezeouts (basically, when you’re out of chips, you’re out). But in some competitions, you’re allowed to top up your chips – or rebuy. If the game’s a double buy-in, you can also buy yourself back in the game if you run out of chips completely.

Depending on the exact rules, you can either rebuy as many times as you want, or just at certain stages (or only if your chips fall below a certain level). Some games also have an 'add-on' period, where everyone gets a chance to buy more chips. Once the rebuys and add-ons are over, it’s a freezeout situation for the rest of the tournament.

To make the most of this type of game, you need three things: a few re-buys in your pocket; a good gambling attitude; and a keen eye for what other people are doing – both during the rebuys, and afterwards.

Budgeting for rebuys

If you go into a rebuy tournament, you need to be prepared to rebuy. After all, everyone else will be doing it, and if you’re short-stacked you’ll have a hard time. So if the buy-in is $10, you’ll want to budget $30-$50 for the whole tournament.

You should also check how many chips you’re getting for your money, as sometimes add-ons are better value. For example, if you get twice as many chips for your money in an add-on, you might want to skip the rebuys, play ‘tight’ (carefully) to make your chips last, and wait.

Playing strategy

In a freezeout tournament, people usually play tight (folding all but the best hands), at least in the early stages. In a small rebuy, you’ll see players go all-in right from the start with small pairs or one high card. This is your opportunity to get some chips.

Your job is to try and blend in, without actually putting in a lot of bets. A few raises, bluffs or the occasional all-in should do the trick. As the rebuys come in, the sizes of bets will get bigger. Then, when you do get a big hand, your opponents will take the gamble – and you’ll get the pot.

Staying in control

The hardest thing about this strategy is that by pretending to be a maniac (someone who plays all over the place), you can easily become one for real. Just make sure you don’t get carried away.

For example, if you’ve got lucky with some crazy hands and doubled your stack, it’s time to calm down and step back for a while. The other players won’t notice your change of pace right away, and it’s not worth losing your advantage if the next hand goes wrong.

And if things haven’t gone well, don’t think you always have to rebuy. If it’s early in the game and you’re at a good table, maybe it’s worthwhile. But if you're at a mediocre or tough table, you might decide to tighten up and wait for the freezeout stage.

After the freezeout

Once the rebuys and add-ons are over, you’re in freezeout (no more chips for you – or anyone). To make the most of the game at this stage, you need to watch your opponents and see how and if their strategy has changed.

For instance:

  • Have they noticed that they need to play differently?
  • Have they taken any add-ons or extra rebuys? How many?
  • How many chips do they have now compared with the blinds and average stacks (both at your table and overall)?

If you can get a feel for these sorts of points (especially compared to other events you've played), you'll be well on the way to the final table.