Late registration can be commonly seen in live tournaments. In WSOP, for example, it’s not uncommon to see players who have been busted out rush off to catch the late registration of another table. And this late registration format applies to most online poker tournaments nowadays.

Many online poker platforms offer the possibility of late registration as it’s in their financial interests to do so. After all, they get a fee for each registration. However, there are differing opinions among the community as to whether or not it is a good idea. Today, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of late registration in online poker tournaments and answer the question once and for all.

Key Considerations With Late Registration 

As with so many elements of online poker, the debate around late registration in tournaments doesn’t have a simple answer. Whether or not you should do it simply depends on the specific circumstances. 

Let’s talk about the main points to consider when deciding if late registration is a good idea.

  • ICM
  • Variance
  • The Field
  • Your Ability
  • Tournament Type


First things first, you must consider the ICM implications. If you can register very close to the money, you’re obviously going to be in with a much better chance of cashing. For example, in a situation where there are 100 players who will make the money in an online tournament and there are only 150 players left, it makes sense to register late as you will have fewer players to deal with.

Yes, you’ll be coming in with a very short stack. But with a timely double through and some stolen blinds, you can quickly be in contention. This makes late registration look a lot more attractive.


However, if you’re going to play with a short stack more often by frequently registering late, there’s a price to pay. When you rely on good fortune to double up and get into the game, then variance will play a much bigger role. 

If you’re playing in high volatility games, you’ll naturally need a bigger bankroll. So, if you’re not properly set up for risky play, then late registration has a lot less appeal. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable handling long droughts and big swings, it can be a pretty exciting way to enjoy online tournaments! 

The Field

It’s fairly normal for casual players to register at the very beginning of an online poker tournament. Therefore, if you also join early, you’re giving yourself a longer time to play against inferior players with a good stack size. That represents a greater chance of acquiring chips and putting yourself in a strong position.

On the flip side, the later you enter a tournament, the more likely the fish are to have already been eaten. The further the event progresses, the greater the average strength of the field.

Your Ability

Similarly, you’ll need to be honest about your own ability. Check your records and look at your ROI in this type of online poker tournament. The weaker you are as a player, the bigger your bankroll needs to be and the earlier you should join.

Registering nearer to the beginning, as we mentioned, gives you more time to play against weaker players. And if your bankroll is not adequately sized, you definitely shouldn’t be leaving it late to enter, as it increases the variance involved.

Tournament Type

Finally, you need to think about what type of poker tournament it is. After all, a turbo is not the same as a deepstack, and a rebuy event is completely different from a freezeout. 

Here’s some general advice regarding the types of online tournaments:

  • Freezeout. Since there are no rebuys, variance is much less of an issue with a freezeout. It’s generally okay to register late for such tournaments. You can comfortably do so as long as you still have 40 Big Blinds or more.
  • Turbo/Hyper. Late registering for these events is always a bad idea. The entire structure is set up to encourage action, so you’ll see many more all-in situations. As a result, variance is the highest in these tournaments. Since late registration ramps up the variance even further, you should avoid doing so unless your bankroll is enormous.
  • Progressive Knockout. A PKO is similar to a freezeout, but since they’re all about accumulating bounties, the strategy is different. Due to the nature of the tournament, you may find yourself playing more high-variance situations. As such, you’ll need more chips to play with. So, you should avoid late registration if your stack would be any less than 50 BBs.

Registering Late: Summary

There are certainly pros as well as cons to late registration in online poker tournaments. Here’s a quick summary to consider.

Starting much closer to the money.Less time to play against weaker players and amass chips.
Your opponents have not been able to study your style or spot tells.Fewer opportunities to assess the opponent’s tendencies and find reads.
Less exposure to possible bad beats.Stronger fields on average.
Can conserve energy for later in the tournament.Greater variance is involved.


So, what’s the verdict on late registration in online poker tournaments? Like many spots in poker, the answer is “it depends”. There are certainly some situations where late registration can be profitable and therefore entirely justifiable. But you must always think about the types of tournaments, your own ability, the increased variance, and of course, ICM considerations.

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