Rebuy rumble!

Play a low-stakes rebuy tourney in a casino – they’re a great place to sharpen skills – and get paid out

If you’re not lucky enough to live near one of the dedicated card clubs, which seem to be springing up all over the land these days, the good news is that most of the big casinos have caught the poker bug.

The majority run £10 or £20 no-limit Hold’em rebuy tourneys two or three times a week and the format is fairly standard: the rebuy period lasts for the first 60 or 90 minutes with starting stacks anywhere between 1000 and 2000 chips. You’re normally allowed to rebuy if you drop down to 50 percent of your starting stack and at the end of the rebuy period you’ll usually get the option of an extra rebuy called an ‘add on’, regardless of the size of your stack. The blind structure may vary a little here and there, but will invariably start at 25-50 rising every 20 minutes, and a typical field will be about 60 runners.

A word of warning though – make sure you haven’t got an early work appointment, as an 8pm start time should see you finishing somewhere around 2am if you make it to the final table.

Registration and buy-in

You don’t have to join a casino 24 hours in advance any more. As of October 2005 you can now turn up and play on the same night – just check with the casino beforehand to see what ID you need if you’re not already a member. It’s also worth asking about dress code. Usually it’s ‘smart casual’, which basically means not too scruffy and no football shirts or shorts. A few get sniffy about trainers.

If the tourney starts at 8pm registration is usually between 7-7.45pm. Friday and Saturday night games are usually popular so don’t leave it to the last minute. Once inside, the poker room should be easy to spot. You’ll find one or two casino staff sat with a list and a cash box. Pay your buyin and registration fee and they’ll stick your name on the list and give you a ticket.

Shuffle up and deal

It’s not just the distraction of clacking chips, waitresses asking for drinks orders, players chatting and cheers from other tables that are going to knock you off your usual game. Cheaper tourneys don’t usually provide a dealer until the final table so you’ll have to take it in turns to shuffle and deal. Rules vary from place to place, but usually before the deal the player to the left of the dealer shuffles the deck and the player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck. Before you go, practise shuffling a deck for 15 minutes. Don’t worry about it too much though – you won’t be the first person to spill the deck across the floor on his or her first go.

There will always be players at your table who will talk you through when to deal the flop, and remind you to burn a card before flop, turn and river. Even if you’re pretty confident and know what you’re doing it’s always handy having others to make sure you don’t accidentally deal the flop before all players have acted. Before the night is out you will probably misdeal a few, and see many other misdeals or flipped cards. It happens, even with experienced players, so don’t worry about it.

Cannon fodder

There are going to be a lot of loose cannons firing in the rebuy period. If you’ve cut your teeth playing tight-aggressive poker in online sit-and-gos you’re going to find the crazy plays and outdraws pretty terrifying! If you’re a supertight player, the bad news is that you’re going to have to get in there and gamble a little. Don’t go crazy but try to get involved in a few value pots. You may well normally muck J-9, but if your table is a passive one there are going to be a lot of family pots with excellent odds for drawing, and plenty of callers to give you the implied odds once you hit. A mid-to-late limp with mediocre cards such as unsuited connectors and single-gappers can be well worth it.

IIt’s here that you need to make the transition from online to live play. When you hit with mediocre cards you need to get a read on your opponent. There are going to be a lot of players drawing to hands and you can profit off them. Likewise there will be people looking to slow-play made hands, so choose wisely. Become a people watcher. Some players will make little or no attempt to disguise their position in a hand and your route to the money relies on taking advantage of this. Generally speaking, attempting to bluff in the rebuy period is a waste of chips – you’re unlikely to push anyone off a hand, even half a hand, so only bluff once you’ve made a full assessment of your opponents.

How much?

In total you should bring three or, if it’s a very low-stakes game (£5), four times the buy-in. You can play on just a single buy-in but you’ll need to catch a good run of cards or risk playing too scared and cautious.

A buy-in, a rebuy and a top-up should be enough ammunition. Think of it this way: if you play about once a week and a final table place pays out an average of £150 (say the prize fund usually runs up to about £1,200 and eight places pay) then if you’re spending an average of £30 on a game you need to make the final table at least one time in five for it to be profitable. The more you spend on rebuys and add-ons the worse this ratio becomes and the more frequently you’ll need to make the final table to justify playing.

However, don’t bother adding on if the add-on represents less than a fifth of your stack. It can be hard to resist the temptation when everyone else is doing it but you should save your bankroll for when you really need it.


Your first aim is to make it to the end of the rebuy period with more than three times the chips you started with. If you’re way under this target you’re going to need to start pushing in while you’ve still got enough chips to knock people off their hands. If you make it with six times the chips then you’re doing well and can now sit and wait for the hands and make the odd well-timed bluff or steal (these will now be possible, but pick your moment and player).

From now until the final table it is real poker: patience, position and psychology. Be on top of your game – watch your opponents, their chip stacks and the other tables. In a complete reversal to the rebuy period you now need to err on the side of caution. Sometimes just waiting and picking up a few small pots can take you all the way to the final table. While you’re waiting and picking your spots you’ll see loads of players get impatient or simply play themselves out of the game unnecessarily. Play a solid game with measured aggression and – bad beats notwithstanding – you should make the final table.

If you’ve played a lot of sit-andgos then the final table should be meat and drink to you. Your stack size and position will determine much of your play. Keep an eye out for all those stacks shorter than you if you’re getting close to the green. If you’re the short stack then play position until you get the hand you can move all-in with and never let your stack dwindle so much that a call is automatic. Sometimes the final table can be tight. People have made big stacks getting to this point and don’t want to throw them away at the final hurdle. Hammer these people’s blinds. To them the blinds aren’t important, but to you they’re your key to survival.

If you make the final table with a big stack then use those chips like weapons; a combination of patience, reads and aggression should see a top three finish. And if you do win, don’t spunk it all on Blackjack on your way out.

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