late register tournaments

Late Registering Online Tournaments: How Late Is Too Late?

You’re starting to take tournaments seriously.

You put a decent amount of time into studying theory / analyzing hands. But you keep finding yourself asking the same question: When should I buy into a tournament? Should I always pre-register, register as late as possible, or something in between?

The world of online tournament poker can be pretty daunting these days. There are so many different tournament structures to get familiar with: Progressive Knockouts, Freezeouts, Turbos, Hyper-Turbos, etc.

Plus, almost all of sites allow late registration, in some cases to a comical degree (shout out to ACR). So not only do you have to worry about your strategy at the table, you also have to consider when to sit down at the table in the first place.

In this article we are going to cover:

  1. What to Consider Before Registering Any Tournament
  2. How Late is Too Late to Register
  3. The Case for Late Registering Close to the Money
  4. Advice from Upswing Coach Daniel McAulay

Let’s get started.

What to Consider Before Registering Any Tournament

These are some of the most important factors that you should think about when deciding when to register for a tournament.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The first thing you need to consider is your ROI.

The lower ROI you have, which is determined by your skill, the more buy-ins you should have in your bankroll and the earlier you should register.

The reason for this is because your edge over the field is largest over the field at the start of tournament. You want to register early to play as much time as possible when you have an edge.


Recreational players generally register earlier for tournaments than regulars. This means that by registering early, you generally get to play deeper-stacked poker against worse players, on average.

The later you register, the stronger the field is likely to be because many of the weaker players will have busted already. So, registering early allows you to play against softer competition, which is important if your ROI isn’t particularly high.

Related article: The Ultimate Guide for Dominating Weak Tournament Competition.


The later you register into a tournament, the lower the ROI you will have, which comes with higher variance. This means you’ll need a bigger bankroll cushion.

For example, a comfortable bankroll for $11 tournaments is $1,500 to $3,000. But if you were to register late with a short stack (20-30 big blinds) you should aim to have 2x or 3x that amount.

Note: If you want to win at poker, you need a solid preflop strategy. This free Preflop Guide includes 8 easy-to-read charts and crucial tips that will help you play like a pro before the flop. Get it now!


How Late is Too Late to Register

(Note: The following chart is bankroll management advice for players that are relying on a large portion of their income for poker. Recreational players with other streams of income can attempt more aggressive bankroll strategies as long as they are not playing out of their means.)

  Freezeouts Progressive KOs Turbos Hypers
When to Late Registerwith 40bb or morewith 50bb or moreAt the startAt the start
Bankroll Requirements150-300 Buy-Ins300-400 Buy-Ins400-500 Buy-Ins500+ Buy-Ins
More InfoFreezeouts will generally be the tournaments with the least amount of variance. This is due to the fact that there are no rebuys and people can not re-enter, so they tend to play a lot more ‘standard’.When you play PKOs it is essential to take high variance spots to hunt for bounties. If you aren’t doing this, you shouldn’t register these types of tournaments. PKOs generally follow a similar structure to freezeouts with larger starting stacks and longer blinds, but the hunting for bounties is just another way to make money and means you will need to call in certain spots when you know you are <40% to win a hand.Turbos have the 2nd highest amount of variance due to the structure being fast paced. There are going to be a lot of all-ins because blinds quickly get bigger and stacks get shorter.Hypers are the ultimate variance-fest. The starting stacks of Hypers generally tend to be short from the get go and the blinds go up even faster than in turbos. Only play hypers if you have a larger-than-usual bankroll.

Late Registering Close to the Money

The table above is a great jumping off point, but there’s one more factor that might make you want to register a tournament as late as possible.

It has to do with ICM. Specifically, how close you are to the money bubble. Let’s consider an extreme example.

Suppose there’s an online tournament with 1,000 total players, 100 of which will make the money. The late registration period is seconds away from being over and just 140 players remain.

In this situation, late registering can have a lot of value. You’ll only have to outlast about 40 players to make the money, which likely amounts to a couple of orbits. Stealing the blinds once or twice, or doubling up once, might even be enough to get you there.

Your starting stack will likely be very short upon registering — as little as 5 big blinds depending on the site. So, the variance of late registering in this situation will be quite high and you will often bust short of the money.

But if you’re okay with the swings and good at playing with short stacks, give max late registering close to the money a try. At the very least, it’s a fun and exciting way to approach an online tournament.

Advice from Upswing Coach Daniel McAuley

The topic of late-registering was posed in the Upswing Engage Facebook Group and was answered by Upswing Coach Daniel McAuley. Check out his full answer on the topic:

It depends on your ROI and bankroll.
The lower your ROI in any given MTT the more buy-ins you should have in your bankroll for said MTT.
When you enter at the start of an MTT you’re deeper stacked which gives more room for higher bb/100, also there are more fish since on average they will bust faster than regs. If you busted the 1st hand then clearly imo you should always re-enter, since there is no difference in ROI if you can enter in the first place you should be able to re enter.
The problem becomes when you start with 20bb late into the MTT you have a much lower ROI and hence the variance is much higher, so maybe now you need 2x or even 3x as many buy ins as you did at the start for it to be a good investment and within good bankroll management.
This is why you will see the best players fire unlimited entries into events when they have huge bankrolls, they can afford to fire bullets on very low ROI spots, so re entry is always better for the best and richest players.
Other factors might be how many tables you are playing, or if it’s a bounty or not. In bounties being short is worse than normal MTTs since you are forced to play tighter. I am always far more cautious about re entering in those since its an even lower ROI compared to a normal MTT.

Final Thoughts

If you are deciding to take the plunge into tournaments full-time, you should air on the side of caution. Bankroll management is a personal thing and depends on outside circumstances.

You also have to consider the variance that is encountered by late registering with shorter stacks. Hence why we have included a table of what a usual bankroll strategy would look like.

Want more fundamental tournament advice? Read 4 Valuable Pieces of Poker Tournament Advice.

Note: If you want to win at poker, you need a solid preflop strategy. This free Preflop Guide includes 8 easy-to-read charts and crucial tips that will help you play like a pro before the flop. Get it now!


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About the Author
Josh Jones

Josh Jones

Just an MTT player trying to get to the long term #variance

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