I always seem to do well when I register late for a tourney. It's become a habit, but I'm beginning to question whether I'm making a mistake by skipping early levels. Do you think it's better to start on time or register late? —Chuck
This is a hot topic amongst my peers. Many of my friends assume that it would be less advantageous to register late for a no-limit tournament, as opposed to a tournament with a limit betting structure. I would argue the opposite.
During the early levels of a tourney, I'm on the lookout for any type of reliable information I can gather on each player. There's nothing more reliable than seeing a players’ cards at showdown after action has taken place. I tend to think that there are more showdowns in the early levels of limit events vs. no-limit events.
There are other factors to consider when formulating a buy-in strategy. Most important, you need to evaluate the tournament structure. How big are starting stacks? How long do the levels last? What are the blind increases? How many levels will be played on Day One? Think about your playing style and how it translates to the structure. The more cerebral players may benefit by being at the table right from the start.
In live events, a day's play often lasts 12 hours or longer, with only occasional breaks. Tournament poker can be grueling, so it might make sense physically for a player to register late and miss the early stages of an event.
But consider the possible consequences of showing up late. The event may sell out, or you could be put on an alternate list that guarantees you a seat but not a starting time. Table breaking order is a factor, because your registration time often determines whether your table is broken early or late. Your registration time might also determine the skill level of your early opponents. Sign up early, and you could end up at a table of eager-beaver amateurs; sign up late, and you risk facing a table full of lazy poker professionals.
The pros and cons of late registration can also vary depending on the type of tournament. A few examples:
Hyper turbo: Late registration tends to work well here, as the gap between the value of a starting stack at the completion of late registration and the value of a big stack isn't so great that you'd be at a monstrous disadvantage.
Super satellite: The number of players correlates to the payout structure. Waiting until just before the close of registration to decide whether the payouts fit your playing style could boost your expected value (EV).
Multiple rebuy: Look for information about the number of chips per rebuy and for the add-on. Typically, the add-on would be about double the chips given for the initial buy-in. But in some rebuy tournaments, players get far more chips for the add-on than for the buy-in. If the add-on is really big, late registration might make sense: You can buy in late, start with a large stack and not risk investing extra money during the rebuy period, when your dollar is worth far less per chip.
There are other EV considerations. If I enter a $100 tourney, with no late-registration option, against 99 clones of myself, my EV is x. If I play the same tournament with the same 99 clones, but 50 of them sign up late, my EV increases. If I play the same event but I'm the only player to sign up late, my EV decreases.
Personally, I feel that tournaments offering late registration put me in a win-win situation. It's nice to have that lifeline for occasions when I get caught up in traffic or my alarm malfunctions. While I believe that I lose a bit of EV on those occasions when I sign up late, I also believe that the EV pendulum swings back my way with my opponents constantly entering late.
Scott Fischman is a professional poker in both the live and online poker worlds. He has won two World Series of Poker bracelets and has accumulated nearly $3 million in career earnings. He is also the author of the poker book “Online Ace” Send your poker questions to him at email@example.com or on Twitter: @scottfischman88.