Pros & Cons of Late Registering for Poker Tournaments – Top Tips by Upswing Poker

late registering poker tournaments

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Last Updated: December 1, 2023

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Tournament poker is easily the most popular game format out there. There are thousands of recreational players who enjoy the thrill of poker tournaments, which makes them potentially a very profitable proposition.

However, if you are (or strive to be) a serious player, there are many aspects you should consider when playing tournaments.

Analyzing your hands and learning new strategies is a big part of it, but that’s not what we’ll talk about today.

Instead, this article will touch on a different topic entirely, and that’s when you should register for a particular tournament you want to play?

These days, almost all poker sites will let you buy into tournaments late (once the play has already begun), and some rooms really take it to the extreme.

With your ultimate goal being winning money, the question becomes, what’s the most profitable registration strategy?

Should you always buy-in at the start, is it better to enter as late as possible, or is the correct answer somewhere between these two?

Creating Your Tournament Registration Strategy

When trying to give an answer to the above question, there are several factors to consider. The correct answer will largely depend on these factors.

The first and the biggest one is your expected ROI – return on investment. The lower it is, the more inclined you should be to register early on.

late tournament registration

The reason for this is simple enough. If your ROI is low as it is, you want to play in the tournament while there are as many bad players as possible left in the field.

When you’re registering late, you’ll always have to face stronger competition as good players tend to last longer.

Another thing to consider is the size of your bankroll. Variance in tournaments is big as it is, and if you register late, it will only increase.

So, if you have a smaller bankroll and a lower tolerance to risk, you shouldn’t be registering too late. If your average ROI is also fairly low, then you should most likely avoid late registration as much as possible.

Late Registration & ICM Considerations

The above aspects are very important in determining whether to late register for tournaments, but there is another big one – and that’s ICM.

How close to the money bubble can you late register, and how much will this improve your chances of making money in an event?

As an extreme example, if a tournament allows you to late register with 140 players remaining and 100 making money, this is a pretty good spot to be in.

Even though you’ll be on a short stack (five to ten big blinds, most likely), you just need to survive for a few orbits. With one or two double-ups and a few stolen blinds, you’ll make it past the bubble.

late registration and icm

Of course, you’re still not guaranteed to make the money. When you start with such a short stack, the variance will play a huge role as you’ll have to survive a few showdowns with your fold equity virtually non-existent to start with.

With all this in mind, if you’re new to poker tournaments, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and stick to a more conservative approach.

As you build your bankroll and improve your skills, you’ll learn to better recognize +EV late registration situations.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic and pick up some more useful tips for your games, definitely check out the Upswing Poker Lab.

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