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Rant: Late Reg’ing Tournaments is Just Plain Stupid

Stacks are deep and bad players are giving away chips early in tournaments. So why do some of the best poker players usually show up late?

I recently returned from a gig at the World Poker Tour Merit Cyprus Classic.

The schedule called for 10 levels on Day 1A and Day 1B with late registration remaining open until the end of the sixth level.

Sam TrickettMichael MizrachiMarvin Rettenmaier and Alexey Rybin all registered as late as possible.

What do all of these players have in common? None of them has to worry about the €4.4k buy-in and all of them have experienced much success in either poker or business.

Alexey Rybin actually ended the day as the chip leader before going on to win the competition, proving that you can register as late as possible and still go all the way.

But this doesn't necessarily mean it’s a sound strategy, and if not why do poker player act this way when their job is to seek out and exploit +EV spots?

I believe the reasons players register late for tournaments are three-fold.

1. They are drunk, jet-lagged, unwell or tired. Either way they need more rest.

2. They are not adept at playing deep-stacked poker.

3. They have a big ego and don’t want to look uncool.

Too Cool to Show Up on Time

I believe the main reason people register late is because of their ego.

It’s a rite of passage for poker players who become successful after winning a series of tournaments. It suddenly becomes uncool for professional poker players to be seated on time, waiting for the tournament director to announce shuffle up and deal.

Jon Eames
Jon Eames (Photo credit: Neil Stoddart for PokerStars Blog)

“Can you imagine Trickett, Rettenmaier or Mizrachi sitting at a half-empty table whilst completing a player release form?” says Ivey Poker team pro John Eames.

I have to concur with Eames. In today’s climate none of the players mentioned above will be raring to go when the blinds are 50/100. But there was a time in the not too distant past when at least two out of the three would have been.

Have the structures suddenly changed thus creating an advantage for the better players who arrive late? Of course not. The only thing that has changed is the players' success. Their bankrolls have swelled and so have their egos.

Mizrachi joined after the dinner break at the end of Day 1A and his stack was gone within the hour. We were all expecting to see him on Day 1B but the day's ten levels came and went without any sign of the WPT Champions Club member.

He then tried to buy in on Day 2 because his advisers had told him incorrectly that registration was still open.

Even had this been true he would have started the day with 30,000 chips with blinds at 600/1,200 and a 200 ante. Surely a man of his supposed talent could expect to make it to Day 2 in a more advantageous position?

In the end he flew to Cyprus and effectively missed the competition because of this lackadaisical attitude of registering late.

Late Registration Clearly -EV

“I’m really not a fan of registering late. I can understand if you have a really late night, but when you are getting so many gifts in the lower levels I never want to turn up late,” said German pro Manig Loeser.

Manig Loeser
“I’m really not a fan of registering late," says Manig Loeser.

The Mizrachi situation saddened me in a way. It made me realize that for some people poker has become an inconvenience. Just a way of making money, and the quicker it was over and the money deposited in the bank the better.

People who enjoy what they do for a living need to be prized away from work; so why are poker players avoiding playing poker?

“You can see it that way. They are playing for the title and just want to run up a stack even if that means losing EV by missing the lower levels,” said Loeser.

“It depends how good someone is. A player who isn’t adept at deep-stacked poker might think they may get outplayed in a large field with deep stacks, so it may make sense for these types of players to register later,” said Eames.

“But who is ever going to admit that they late reg because of a lack of skill? Some do it just to look cool.”

I think, given the choice, a lot of the successful professional players would skip the first day altogether and just start Day 2 with 25 big blinds.

This flies in the face of everything that all the books, all the training sites and all of the coaching have taught me about poker strategy. I’m starting to think a high percentage of poker players fall into the "do what I say, not what I do"brigade.

Late Registration Usually Means Tough Starting Table

When speaking to Kelly Kim on the subject in Cyprus he said, “You start with a huge stack in the first level, but if you run good you may only chip up 10-15k, whereas if you run good in the fourth or fifth level you could double your stack.

Kelly Kim
Kelly Kim

“The important thing about tournaments is the table draw," explained Kim. "I sometimes reg late to avoid tough table draws.”

I disagree with Kim on this one. Table draws are extremely important but registering late only increases the likelihood that you will have a much tougher table draw.

At EPT London I watched players like Mike McDonald, Martin Jacobson and Dan Smith all lined up like ducks because they regged late.

During an interview with Smith he told me that the tournament organizers should be looking at this problem and avoiding it. I couldn’t help but think that there was already a way to avoid it – just turn up on time.

“When I see a lot of top players all playing on the same late-reg table I think that’s just plain stupid,” said Eames.

If you turn up late you'll be competing with opponents who have bigger stacks than you, and if you're a good player you shouldn't be turning your nose up at deep-stacked poker, instead choosing to flip. You'll have no reads on anyone at your table and will have missed all of the +EV opportunities bad players were giving away at the beginning of the game.

Poker players are smart people. They know all of this. It’s not new, and this is why I firmly believe the decision to turn up late in a poker tournament is no different than turning up late at the school disco.

It’s just not cool man, not cool at all.

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2021-12-17 21:44:58

For me I disagree with this article. I took .08 cents left in bank on a poker site 8 days before Halloween 2020 using a late registration system starting with micro tournaments. It has worked for me as Im just over $90.00. For me no ego here. Im a tight poker player so its easier to finish in the money even if you dont have the cards and have to fold. Also,complain about late registration online or live in a casino, but if the rules allow it stop complaining! If there is a timer and an extended timer that a online poker site has then they not only allow it but poker players need to use these poker tools to there advantage. If Im placing in the money 98-99% of the time that is a good thing!

phil bill
2013-08-29 04:47:56

I would assume, since they’re aggresive players, they don’t want to play from the start and get a tight image. To get to the point where they could still register they would need to play tighter or get lucky with mediocre hands. So registering late means they will get more action when trying to get chips then getting to that stage by folding and trying to hit sets. It’s harder to play against someone without history so they can also use this to bluff more first hour of play after a late reg.

2013-08-26 12:58:42

@Phil Ivey

But don’t you want to be there to flop a set and have some terrible player stack off with top two pair? Seems like in bigger buy-in events it’s hard to argue against showing up on time. Also you might be playing with same guys in more important spots later. Missing the early levels means missing the chance to observe their play and build some reads.

phil ivey
2013-08-26 12:14:52

Deep stacks are meaningless in a tournament early on. Tournies all boil down to getting it in and winning 3 or more flips at some later stage no matter what you do normally. Unless you just get hit by the deck. These players recognise this, sign up late so they can double or triple up or bust, if they win great now they can put pressure on the others, if not, they have just saved a lot of boredom winning pots which are fractions of the starting stack, ie meaningless.

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