In recent years, late registration has become a part of the norm with major poker tournaments. In contrast to the traditional way of taking part in events where players were required to start the action right on the first day for a single shot at victory, today you can register into most tournaments even when it’s already running.
At first glance, it is easy to see the pros of late registration and the benefit it brings to tournament organizers and to the players who take advantage of this option.
The Positive Side of Late Registration
First, late registration gives players that much-needed freedom of time to attend to other important issues taking place in their lives, knowing that they can still make it to the second half of their favorite tournament. If you’ve missed the start of your game due to annoying travel delays, late registration is there to take all your stress away.
Poker operators also see this as a way of attracting more players. As registration numbers increase, prize pools become bigger as well. In the event of an overlay, late registration alleviates the losses for the organizer.
Registering late into an event allows for more freedom and flexibility on the part of players, while at the same time helps organizers reach their targets. While these are the obvious pros, there are a few negative aspects that late registration brings to the table. Poker pro Kenny Hallaert believes the late registration system is now being abused by certain players and the ultimate victims are recreational players.
The Downside
With more than $4 million in live cashes, Hallaert is best-remembered for making the final table in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. He is also the main man behind the popular Las Vegas Summer Poker Tournament Schedule. While he remains active in live tournaments, Kenny Hallaert spent the last few years serving as tournament director for Unibet.
As a man who has a lot of knowledge organizing poker events and big tournaments, his views on important subjects such as late registrations are worth-considering. In a recent tweet, Hallaert stated that extended late registration is bad for poker.
To support his claim, Hallaert came up with his own analysis into late entries, delving deep into the stack values involved when a player decides to late-register into a tournament. Using ICM calculators and a specific model developed by his programming-inclined friend, he was able to calculate the value of a starting stack at long late registration and the expected profit of a late entrant.
In some events, players can earn a 16% return on investment before even playing their first hand, giving them an unfair advantage over the rest of the field in terms of financial gain. Meaning, players can just sit down and wait until the last second to register, and boom – they’re already guaranteed to reach the money. A 16% instant profit, even 10%, is far too much of an edge to give late entrants who are mostly better-positioned financially over the amateurs who are likely to register at the start of the tournament; a 5% advantage would be sensible according to Hallaert.
The subject was briefly discussed at the TDA Summit where Hallaert was present along with WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage and others. Savage also thinks extended late registrations particularly in huge tournaments like the WSOP can have a negative effect on the game of poker in general.
Recreational Players Should Be Protected
Some poker pros intentionally late-register into tournaments because they know it will bring them closer to the bubble. While they start with a shallow stack, Hallaert’s calculations prove their chances of finishing in the money are much higher. The problem is that amateur poker players are not aware of this strategy.
While Hallaert made it clear he isn’t pointing fingers at anyone for taking advantage of this situation, he remains firm in his belief that this system is generally hurting the recreational players who are the main reason why poker continues to grow across the world.
While late registration brings numerous benefits to poker tournaments and eases the pressure off tournament directors, Hallaert thinks there are still other ways out there to monetize players without jamming them into an event and continuously recycling them through late registrations and re-entries.
He is urging poker tournament directors to come up with a better way going forward – something that will lead to a two-way benefit for everyone involved, protecting recreational players. One suggestion to get things started with to schedule a nightly turbo after the end of the registration period.

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