Rebuy Baby

If you can keep your head above water when others are sinking in the rebuy period of a PLO tournament, you’ll soon be swimming with ease

Many times I have seen players going off for so many rebuys they can only show a profit if they finish in third place or better

Pot-Limit Omaha Tournament are often run as rebuys. The game has such high variance that the prizepools can be easily pumped up, representing great value. Also, because so many close all-in situations come up in pot-limit Omaha, rebuys are an advantage for the good player because it allows them to have some control over the short term variance in the game.

In a no-rebuy PLO tournament, a good player will often get their money in on either side of a very close proposition: very strong drawing hands against made hands, like full wraps with a flush draw against a set. These situations are very high in variance and come up a lot. As a result, a good player will often be knocked out of a tournament by them. Experienced players tend to try and play lower variance styles, on the theory they have a bigger advantage over the table. They would rather not get their money in the pot in high variance situations where the edge is less than their expected edge at the table in general. But in PLO, these situations are often unavoidable.

Pie in the sky

Rebuys in tournaments work in a similar way to ring games, where good players will often agree to deal out the turn and river cards more than once in order to reduce their variance. This is done only after the players are in the pot. The players might then agree to deal out the five cards two or three times if the money is in before the flop. You then win the proportion of the pot equal to the proportion of the deals you won. For example, if you win 50% of the deals, you get half the pot, 1/3 of the deals, 1/3 of the pot – and so on.

Consider a situation where your opponent has only one out in the deck and you agree to deal the turn and river twice. You are guaranteed half the pot at a minimum even if that one out hits on one of the deals. It avoids the mathematical variance disaster and good players like to create situations where they are more likely to realise their true mathematical expectation. The more iterations of a hand you deal, the closer to your mathematical expectation you will get. If the player loses the hand, he can rebuy and have another shot at the tournament. For the first few hours of the tournament it prevents the player from being dealt that one knockout blow from the maths gods in the sky.

So, we’ve agreed that rebuys are an advantage to the good player. But managing your re-loads is a big part of working them to your advantage and this needs careful consideration in tournament play.

Chipping away

There are two main philosophies: the first is to rebuy a lot, taking more chances during the rebuy period in an attempt to gather a lot of chips before the non-rebuy period. Even if you lose many of those situations and rebuy a lot, the chips are still at your table to be gathered back into your stack – assuming you think you are a player who is much better than the other players at your table. If you know those chips are sitting in your opponents’ stacks at a disadvantage to them, then rebuy away because even if you lose you will eventually get those chips back.

If you do choose this strategy, it can be a big winner for a great player if two circumstances hold true. The first is that you are at a non-breaking table. If you are going to apply the high variance strategy, you need to check the breaking order before the tournament starts to make sure your table is not breaking any time soon after the rebuy period. Simply put, if the chips are not going to be at your table for you to gather back in the case that you sail off for a ton of rebuys, then there’s no point to the strategy and all you have accomplished is a waste of time. If you can’t win your chips back, don’t send them out to the other players at the table if they are going to disperse and lock them away from you. Secondly, even if you are planning to play a high variance style, you need to make sure you do not go off for so many rebuys that as a result you have no reasonable chance of making a profit. Many times in rebuy tournaments I see players going off for so many rebuys they can only show a profit if they finish in third place or better. This is ridiculous and obviously makes no sense at all.

Another strategy is to play more conservatively. Allow the crazy rebuy people to offer you a huge overlay, not only in the tournament, but in each hand they play. If you know your opponents are going to be doing some reckless gambling during the rebuy period, you can take advantage of the overlay they are offering by playing conservatively and running the nuts into them.

Calling my bluff

Think of it in terms of a cash game. You’ll play looser in tight games because your bluffing equity goes way up and you need to advertise in order to get paid off in bigger confrontations. If no one is paying off – which happens in a tight game – you should be bluffing for two reasons: opponents are folding more, causing your rate of successful bluffs to go up. Moreover, the bluffs themselves have high equity, even when you get caught because those tight players might pay you off more. In a loose game, on the other hand, you should not be playing fast and loose yourself. First, your bluffing equity becomes almost non-existent. Opponents with a high frequency of calling are nearly impossible to bluff so the equity in the bluff itself is almost non-existent.

Combine this with the fact that there is almost no increased future equity in getting caught bluffing since your opponents are paying off regardless. The money you spend bluffing is money wasted against opponents who were going to pay off, whether or not they see you bluffing. Ask yourself this question: why spend money advertising to customers who are going to buy your product – no matter what?

Be the best

The rebuy period often creates a situation similar to a very loose cash game. Players are playing fast and loose with their money so you can sit back, play tight and run the nuts into them. They are giving you an overlay on each hand and generally in the game itself. But they are also offering you an overlay in the overall tournament. The ‘sit tight’ strategy reduces the number of rebuys you will make, so you will generally be in the tournament for a much smaller investment than the faster and looser players. While you will have gone off for much fewer rebuys than your opponents, you will be playing for the exact same prizepool as they are – offering you a better return on your total investment than them.

The ‘fast’, ‘loose’ and ‘sit tight’ strategies all have their advantages. If you are going to play fast or loose, you need to make sure you are a better player than your opponents at the table and that your table is non-breaking. If your table is breaking quickly, it doesn’t matter how good a player you are, you should always play a tighter strategy. Finally, if you feel that you are a weaker player, it is crucial to do whatever you can in order to reduce your variance and play tighter during the rebuy period.

,i>Next month we’ll be looking at the strategies for headsup play in pot-limit Omaha – a subject on which literature is conspicuous by its absence, but a scenario that is inevitably going to come up time and again. If you any suggestions for future articles, please log on to

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