To Late Reg, or Not to Late Reg

Late registration allows more players to enter a tournament and helps grow the prize pool, but many players do not like extended registration windows.

Registering late for a tournament is an issue that causes consternation to a lot of players. Some would like to see the practice banned altogether. Others would like to see the window for late registration to be shortened, while others argue for more time to register or re-enter a tourney.

Late registration rules vary by casino or website, and even within tournaments at the same locale, but it is highly unlikely this practice will ever go away. The question should be, then, how do you use late registration to your advantage?

Reasons to Late Register

There are a lot of reasons players will register late for tourneys, but probably the No. 1 reason is that they simply could not get there before the tourney started. Having a late registration window gives more players time to enter, and that in turn grows the prize pool.

Many online players purposefully register late to avoid some of the loose play that goes on early in MTTs, particularly at the lower stakes buy-ins ($5 or less). There appear to be a lot of players who feel they can win a tourney in the first 15 minutes simply by doubling up. Either that or they are drunken college students who could care less about the $100 they just charged to their dad’s credit card to fund their account. However, losing to one of these idiots makes for a very unsuccessful and short experience.

This issue is a lot less pronounced in the live tourneys I have played in, mainly because the buy-ins are usually much larger, which eliminates a lot of the reckless players you find online. Even so, I saw several players re-buying very early at the $365 tournament I played at the Harrah’s Cherokee World Series of Poker Circuit stop in April, so that is not to say it doesn’t occur. I just don’t think it’s as widespread as what you see online.

Another reason to register late is that it lessens your time commitment to play in a tourney. Playing in an MTT online or live can take hours to complete, and a few players feel it is to their advantage if they can skip the first couple of hours. Registering late also puts you closer to the money.

I signed in to play a $3 tourney at America’s Card Room over the weekend near the end of the five-hour late registration window. It was a deep stack tourney (starting stack of 10,000 chips) and had been running for more than four hours when I registered. When I looked at the lobby, the tourney paid 72 places (it eventually paid 90 as even more players joined in the final hour) and about 550 of the more than 700 players had already been eliminated. If I had been playing from the beginning, I would have to have finished in the top 11 percent to get in the money. By waiting, now I only had to beat barely half the remaining players in order to get into the money.

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.

The Dark Side of Late Registration

The biggest drawback to late registering, of course, is that your relative chip stack size is extremely small. When I joined the ACR tourney, the blinds were already up to 400/800 with a 75 ante. I had less than 15 BBs. I had very little wiggle room and knew I was going to have to win one of the first 2 or 3 hands I played. Players who enrolled at the beginning, when the blinds were 10/20, started with 500 BBs and had plenty of room to make mistakes. Registering extremely late left me very little room for error – at least initially.

Another drawback is that you do miss a lot of the loose play that happens early. Yes, I mentioned earlier that avoiding the loose play is viewed by some as an advantage, but those same loose players offer the possibility for easy chips. They like to chase flushes and straights, they refuse to lay down pocket pairs, and their bluffs tend to be poorly timed and poorly executed. In other words, they are generally not very good and are just itching to give their chips away to the right person. If you guess correctly, you can get a double up – or two – very early. However, a bad guess can be fatal, so you do have to be careful.

In a future column, I’ll look at some strategies that have worked for me when I have late registered, and also some strategies to take advantage of those who have late registered.

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