June 24, 2023 Poker Strategy, Featured Articles, Poker Gossip, Poker News Lars Liedtke

Late Registration in Poker: Pros and Cons

In the latest poker strategy, poker coach John “WhatA289” Bradley discusses the pros and cons of late registration in poker tournaments.

Late Registration in Poker Pros and Cons

Poker tournaments, online and live, offer players the option to start playing from the beginning, after several hours, or even sometimes, on Day 2 of the tournament.

In this article, you will discover the benefits of registering late, why you may be ‘missing a trick’ by entering the tournament from the start, and the associated downsides.

Time is your most precious resource

Poker tournaments take a long time to play. Online they can last up to 12 hours, and live they can take days to complete.

When you are playing poker for profit, how long a poker tournament takes to complete is a very important factor.

Let us say you have three hours to play poker tournaments and you can choose one of the following options:

  1. Three $100 buyin tournaments, which take one hour on average, with a 10% ROI
  2. One $100 buyin tournament, which takes three hours on average, with a 20% ROI

If profit is your only motivator, then you would choose the first option. The ROI is lower, but the hourly rate you will make in profit, is higher.

When you register late in a tournament, you reduce the average duration that you spend playing that tournament.

Oftentimes, a large amount of your ROI in a tournament comes from the latter stages, and thus, by registering late, you can save a great deal of time, and lose little or no ROI in the process.

The ICM benefits of late registration in poker

When you register late for a tournament, some players have already bought in and been eliminated.

Oftentimes, 50%, 60% or even more of the field has been eliminated, by the time late registration closes.

The prizepool remains the same, however. In essence, the chips that you buy later on in the tournament, are worth more than those bought at the start of the tournament.

An extreme example to highlight the point:

  • You are playing a $100 tournament where 20% pays, with a starting stack of 10,000 chips, and a mincash of $200
  • Late registration is still open after 80% of the field has busted
  • You can now buyin for $100, and are guaranteed $100 profit, without winning any chips at all

No scenarios in real life will be this extreme, however, you will see some situations where 15% pay, late registration is open and only 30% of the field remain.


It is particularly beneficial to late register for satellite tournaments, due to there being no benefit in winning all the chips in this tournament variant.

Satellites are all about survival, and so buying in late and short stacked is not as detrimental as it would be in a regular tournament.

Short stacks have a lot of leverage

When buying in late, you will often be the short stack.

This is not as much of a detrimental situation as it first appears. Winrates of short stacks, on tables with a lot of big stacks, are often very large.

When short stacked, you cannot be easily bluffed off hands, and therefore your equity realisation is very high.

You can also apply a relatively large amount of pressure on big stacks, who must worry about other big stacks, in addition to your short stack.

Weaker players may have already busted

One major downside to buying in late, is that weaker players in the tournament may have already busted, and therefore, you do not have access to these relatively easy chips to win.

It is worth remembering that these players’ chips are still in the tournament however.

Unlike in a cash game, where players can leave the table upon busting a weaker player.

Lower ROI means higher variance

It is possible that your ROI can be lower when buying in late.

Despite this, it may still be the most profitable approach for you to take.

This lower ROI will lead to higher variance, however, and thus a larger bankroll is required when routinely late registering.

Late Registration in Poker Conclusion

Deciding when to buy into a tournament, is as important a strategic decision, as which hands to open from the button.

When you buyin late, you use your time effectively and can often profit the same, if not more, in a reduced amount of time.

Your short stack is more valuable than it appears on the face of it, and this is most evident in a satellite tournament.

It is worth remembering, however, that late registering may decrease your ROI, and thus you may require more strict bankroll requirements.

Overall, late registering is a tool, which can increase your bottom line, just as much as any improvements in your playstyle.

Good luck on your poker journey and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them in the poker coaching section of the VIP-Grinders Discord Channel. 

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