To Late Reg or Not to Late Reg Part II

If you are going to register late for tourneys, you must be confident in your ability to play with a short stack. If you are not comfortable in playing against players with much larger stacks, then try not to wait beyond the first level or two to enter a tournament.

Making Late Registration Work for You

Last week I wrote about the pros and cons of late registering for MTTs, both online and live. My fellow CardsChat blogger, Justin Buchanan, recently posted his desire to eliminate late registration.

For online tourneys, I prefer to register late for several of the reasons I mentioned last week – it lessens my time commitment, and I can avoid some of the knuckleheaded play you encounter early. But in live tourneys, I generally like to be there when the tourney starts. Interestingly, my only live win, however, came when I was last person to register for a tourney, so maybe I should rethink that strategy as well.

In this column, I will give you some ideas how you can make late registration work for you, both as a player who late registers and as one who does not.

Develop a Plan and Stick to It

As with anything in poker, I think late registration requires some strategy. First, you must be confident in your ability to play with a small stack. Lots of players freak out when their stack is well below the chip average and feel like they have to get a double up immediately. Playing with a small stack takes patience, and you must learn to pick your spots and pay much closer to attention to position. If you feel this is a weakness in your game, then I would avoid late registration at all costs.

When I late register for an online tourney, I generally like to have at least 20 BBs. This gives me some wiggle room to feel like I don’t have to shove all-in with any pocket pair or Ace-rag. This gives me the opportunity to see a few flops before I reach the fold-or-shove mode.

I generally avoid late registering for turbo tourneys (5 minutes or less online, 15 minutes or less live). Instead, I look for a tourney with longer levels (at least 12 or 15-minute levels online and 30 minutes live). Longer levels give me plenty of time to see a lot of pockets and pick a good spot to build my chip stack. Another consideration is to see if the tourney has reached the levels where antes have kicked in. Seeing your chip stack dwindle with every hand can be tough to take, especially if you are not comfortable playing from behind.

Take Advantage of Late Registrants

Several online sites now offer extended late registration, particularly for deep stack tournaments, and people continue to sign in right up until the window closes. I played in a tournament at America’s CardRoom last week with a five-hour late registration window, and people were joining right until the last minute. By then the BB was 1,200, and even with a starting stack of 10,000, that left little margin for error. In that position, you’re likely going to face an all-in the first time you play a hand.

Late registration can be profitable for players who were there from the beginning and have already built up a solid stack. Late registrants can feel pressure to get an immediate double up, and a seasoned player with a big stack can take advantage of these players and go chip hunting.

If you have been in the tourney for a while and have already built up a nice size stack, this is an ideal time to go hunting for chips. If you see a player join your table with the starting stack, and they are already at 10 BBs or less, then you can assume they are going to be looking to shove at the first opportunity – any pocket pair, any ace-rag, any suited connectors, any Broadway cards.

A strategy I have used successfully many times against these players is to limp into a pot ahead of them with strong cards and hope they shove all-in.  This particularly works when they are either on the button or in one of the blinds. I have scooped a lot of pots this way from unsuspecting players, who mistook my limp for weakness.

The downside to that is they may choose not to shove, and you may wind up letting 2 or 3 other players in a hand for cheap. Those pocket Jacks or that AK might not look so good after the flop, but the good news is that you can get out of that hand relatively cheaply, and no one will ever be the wiser.

Of course, you can make this same argument for any player with a short stack, but I have noticed that players who have been in a tourney for a while and find themselves with a short stack tend to fight a little harder to rebuild their stack. I think it’s a psychological phenomenon. They have invested a lot of time already in this tourney, and they’re just not going to throw it away.

A lot of players who join late have made no emotional investment in the tourney and are oftentimes more than willing to throw away the entry fee in an effort to get a quick double up.

Despite the fervent wishes of my fellow blogger Justin, I don’t think late registration will ever go away. That’s why it is important that you figure out ways to make it work for you.

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