A freezeout is easily the most popular format of tournament poker in existence. Prior to the days of all the wild formats, this was the only tournament game you’d be able to get. By definition, a freezeout is a tournament format where you are out of the tournament once you are eliminated. You are not able to buy back in or do anything to get back into the tournament. You have one shot, and when you lose all of your chips, you are out.
The payout structure for freezeout tournaments is fairly standard across the board, within a range. Typically, the top 10-20% of players will receive money. The higher that a player finishes within that 10-20%, the more money they will make. The player who finishes first will always receive the most money, unless a deal is made to chop the prize pool.
One of the great things about freezeout tournaments is that you are capped on your losses. If it is a $100 buy-in tournament, the most money you can lose that day is $100. Yes, that sounds like a negative way of looking at things, but it’s nice to know that you’re protected from a much worse or catastrophic day. Freezeouts are great for newer players, as they won’t be tempted to dump more money into the tournament, or lose more than they realize they are losing.
The second perk of freezeout tournaments is that they do help to protect players from the professionals. Wait, what? Let us explain. Professionals and great players are still allowed to play in freezeout tournaments. However, they are also only allowed to play one time. This means that once a great player is knocked out of the tournament, you never have to deal with them again.
An issue a lot of people have today with rebuys and re-entry tournaments is that they give the pros with deep pockets a leg up. Imagine if there are 10 people in a tournament (including you). Four of the other players are pros, and five of the other players are fish. This is not a bad set-up. Half of the field has no clue what they are doing, and you only have a few tough players to get through.
Now imagine the same tournament, but this time, imagine that people are allowed to re-enter as many times as they’d like. Let’s say you start with the same 10 players – 4 pros, 5 fish, and you. Let’s say that, during the re-entry period, 3 of the fish bust out and only 1 elects to rebuy. Let’s also say that 3 of the pros busted out and re-entered 3 times a piece. Technically you are now playing in a tournament that had not just 10 entries, but in fact had 10 initial entries, 1 fish re-entry, and 9 pro re-entries.
This means the tournament actually had 20 entries, with 13 of them coming from pros. You now are playing in a tournament where 65% of the entries are from pros. That is WAY worse than earlier, when only 40% of the entries were pros. Most fish and recreational players don’t come with tons of money to re-enter into a tournament. Pro players, on the other hand, come ready to fire as many re-entries as necessary to get a stack and win the tournament. It simply is not fair that a player can have a higher chance of winning just because they have more money.
A freezeout tournament protects you from this happening.
Freezeout Tournament Strategy
As the most popular format of tournament poker you’ll see, it’s no secret that this is the most important format to understand. While these tournaments are becoming slightly less prevalent as the world goes insane over rebuys and re-entries, it’s still extremely important. Remember as well that re-entry tournaments are a different format, but each re-entry is effectively its own freezeout. Let’s talk about some of the strategic considerations that you need to take into account with freezeout tournaments.
Tournament Life Is Everything
It’s really hard to win a poker tournament if you’ve been knocked out of the tournament. Common sense…yes. But it’s something that you need to pay closer attention to. In a rebuy or re-entry format, you can take some bigger risks and gambles during the first few levels, because you can always get back in (assuming that you have the entry money to do so).
In a freezeout tournament, though, you don’t have this luxury. Your tournament life becomes everything. What does this mean from a strategic standpoint? This means that, when faced with close decisions, you may want to err on the side of caution to preserve your tournament life. Does this mean that you should avoid any risks and play like a scaredy-cat? It definitely does not. What it does mean, though, is that you should factor your tournament life into decisions.
For example, let’s say that you open the pot with two queens. A tight player behind you 3-bets all in for a ton of chips. Now, you know that this player loves to 3-bet huge when they have AK. In fact, to make the point easier, let’s say that you know this player only does this with AK. You have the option of calling or folding. What do you do?
Well, this is close. In some situations, you could argue that you have a slight edge and should get it in and hope for the best. But is this the best idea if you have a skill advantage over the tournament? If you take into account your tournament life and realize that you can’t get back into the tournament, you might look to fold here instead of calling.
It might seem nuts to fold pocket queens to one all in pre-flop, but you’re turning over your tournament life to the luck of the draw. Should you always fold queens in this situation? No, that’s not the point of our argument. All we are trying to get you to understand is that in a freezeout tournament, you need to factor in your tournament life when making decisions.
Understand the Different Stages of the Tournament
Freezeout tournaments follow a very natural progression through the early stages, mid stages, bubble, race to the final table, and ultimately the final table. You need to be fully aware of these different stages and the strategic implications of each. If you try and play a freezeout tournament the exact same way throughout every stage, you’re going to run into a world of hurt.
In order to help you out with this, we cover the different tournament stages in depth in our dedicated strategy section.
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
There’s a reason that our freezeout tournament strategy section is the shortest of all the different tournament formats. This is because it’s the most basic tournament format out there and does not need to be overcomplicated. If you play great poker, pay attention to your tournament life, and understand how to adapt to the changing flow of the tournament, you’ll do great.
The Wrap-up | Freezeout Poker Tournaments
All in all, freezeout tournaments are a lot of fun and a great way for you to make money playing poker. They protect you from the sharks, don’t take quite as long in duration as rebuys and re-entries, and your losses are capped while still maintaining a high ceiling on what you can make. If you’re brand new to poker tournaments, this is a great spot to start. If you’re a seasoned veteran, here’s a secret…this is where all the newer players will be. How do we know this? Well, we just told them to go there!