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How Poker Tournaments Work: Everything You Need to Know

In a poker tournament, the players start with equal amounts of chips. Tournament play then continues until one player has all of the chips. In a typical tournament, the players are eliminated as they lose all of their chips until only one player is left. That player is the winner of the tournament. There is usually a prize pool that pays out to a certain number of players, where the biggest prize is awarded to first place, the second biggest prize awarded to second place, and so on until the decided prize pool is empty. Usually, the top 10% or so of entrants will be awarded a portion of the prize pool.

Difference between poker tournaments and cash game poker

Poker tournaments are very different from cash games in poker. In a cash game, you buy in for a certain amount of money and then keep playing poker until you either lose all your money or decide to quit. In poker tournaments, everyone starts with the same amount of chips and plays until only one person has chips left. You can start with many tables and slowly work your way down to the final table in a multi-table tournament, and this is what makes it so fun.

The other big difference is that the blinds and antes go up over time in a poker tournament. In a cash game, the blinds stay the same for the entire session. But in a poker tournament, the blinds and antes gradually increase as the tournament goes on. This forces players to take more risks as the tournament progresses because they need to keep up with the increasing blinds and antes.

Understanding Poker Tournament Entry Fees

Most poker tournaments have an entry fee, which goes towards the prize pool. For example, if a tournament has a $100 entry fee and 100 players, then the prize pool would be $10,000. The casino or poker room will usually take a small percentage of the prize pool as a fee for hosting the tournament.

The entry fee usually covers the cost of the tournament, which includes things like the dealer’s salary, rent for the poker room, and other expenses. The prize pool is what is left over after the casino or poker room takes its cut.

The size of the entry fee and the prize pool are two important factors to consider when choosing a poker tournament to play in. You want to make sure that the prize pool is large enough to make it worth your while, but you also don’t want to spend too much on the entry fee.

The different types of poker tournaments

There are many different types of poker tournaments, and they can vary greatly in terms of size, structure, and prize pool. Here are some of the most popular types of poker tournaments:

Sit-and-Go Poker Tournament: This is a small tournament that usually has 9 or 10 players. It typically has a relatively small buy-in and prize pool. These are very often single-table tournaments.

Multi-Table Poker Tournament: This is a larger tournament that can have hundreds or even thousands of players. The buy-in and prize pool are usually much larger than a Sit-and-Go tournament.

Freeroll Poker Tournament: This is a tournament that has no entry fee. They are often used as promotional events to attract new players or reward loyal customers. The prize pool is usually smaller than a paid tournament, but it is still worth winning.

Guaranteed Poker Tournament: This is a tournament where the prize pool is guaranteed by the casino or poker room, regardless of how many players enter. For example, if a tournament has a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool and only 100 players enter, the casino or poker room would still pay out $10,000.

Re-Entry Poker Tournament: This is a tournament where you can buy back in if you lose all your chips. For example, if you have $100 in chips and lose them all, you can buy back in for another $100. This allows you to keep playing even if you make a mistake or have a bad run of luck.

Knockout Poker Tournament: This is a tournament where each player has a bounty on their head. The bounty is usually a cash prize that is put up by the casino or poker room. If you knock a player out of the tournament, you win their bounty. The size of the bounties can vary greatly, but they usually make

up a large part of the prize pool.

Online poker sites run different versions of these tournaments, one might be a freeroll tournament and another might have massive buy-in and prize money.

Poker Tournament Payouts and Prize Structures

The payouts in a poker tournament depend on the size of the prize pool and the number of players. The most common payout structure is known as “top heavy.” This means that the top few finishers will receive a large percentage of the prize pool, while the rest of the players will only receive a small portion.

For example, in a tournament with 100 players and a $10,000 prize pool, the top 3 finishers might receive 50%, 30%, and 20% of the prize pool. This would leave 10% for the rest of the players who finished in 4th place or below.

Large online poker tournaments pay between 10% and 20% of the entrants who enter the tournament. Tournament players will often look for guaranteed tournaments where the online poker site has guaranteed a certain prize pool. If the tournament doesn’t get enough players to cover the cost of the prize pool, this is referred to as an overlay.

The payout structure can vary from tournament to tournament, so it is important to look at the prize pool and payout structure before you enter a tournament.

How prize pools are made up

There are two main ways that prize pools are created in poker tournaments:

  1. The casino or poker room puts up the entire prize pool.
  2. The players contribute to the prize pool with their entry fees.

In most cases, the prize pool is made up of a combination of both. For example, if a tournament has a $5,000 guaranteed prize pool and a $100 entry fee, the casino or poker room would put up $4,900 and the players would contribute $100.

When are prize pools finalized?

Most poker tournaments have a set prize pool that is finalized when the tournament begins. However, some tournaments have a “progressive prize pool.” This means that the prize pool increases as more players enter the tournament.

Poker Tournament Setup

Poker tournaments can be held in either a “live” setting or an “online” setting. Live tournaments are held in physical casinos or poker rooms, while online tournaments are held on poker websites.

The setup of a tournament will vary depending on the type of tournament and the size of the field. However, some common elements are usually present in all tournaments.

Tables: Poker tournaments are usually played on multiple tables. The number of tables depends on the size of the field. For example, a tournament with 100 players might be played on 10 tables, while a tournament with 1,000 players might be played on 100 tables.

Seats: Each table in a poker tournament has a set number of seats. The number of seats per table depends on the type of tournament. For example, most ” Sit and Go” tournaments have 9 or 10 seats per table, while larger field tournaments might have up to 20 seats per table.

Chips: Each player starts with a certain number of chips. The number of chips depends on the buy-in and the type of tournament. For example, most ” Sit and Go” tournaments have 1,500 chips per player, while larger field tournaments might have 5,000 or even 10,000 chips per player.

Blinds: The blinds in a poker tournament increase at regular intervals. The rate at which the blinds increase depends on the type of tournament. For example, most ” Sit and Go” tournaments have 15-minute blind levels, while larger field tournaments might have 30- or 60-minute blind levels.

Ante: In some poker tournaments, an ante is used instead of, or in addition to, the blinds. The ante is a forced bet that all players must pay before each hand is dealt.

Button: The button is a marker that is used to determine which player is the dealer for each hand. The player with the button is considered to be in the “dealer position.” The position of the button rotates around the table after each hand.

Clock: Most poker tournaments use a clock to keep track of the blind levels and other important information. The clock is usually operated by the tournament director or one of the dealers.

Tournament Chips: Poker tournament chips are different from regular casino chips. They cannot be redeemed for cash and can only be used in the tournament.

Tournament chips usually have no cash value, but some high-end tournaments may use chips that can be redeemed for cash.

How is the seating designated?

Random draw

In a random draw tournament, the players are seated at random before the start of the tournament. This is the most common type of seating arrangement.

How does re-seating work?

Re-seating is when players are moved from one table to another during a tournament. This usually happens when a table breaks and the players are redistributed evenly among the remaining tables.

How do they decide what player goes where?

The decision of which player goes where is usually based on chip count. The players with the most chips are typically seated at the table with the least amount of chips to even out the chip distribution. It would be silly if everyone at one table had all the chips, and the other table had a very little amount of chips.

What are the starting stacks?

The starting stack is the number of chips each player begins the tournament with. The starting stack usually depends on the buy-in and the type of tournament.

Deep starting stacks

Deep poker tournaments are when each player begins the tournament with a large number of chips. This gives players a lot of room to make mistakes and still have enough chips to come back and win the tournament.

Shallow stack Tournaments

Shallow starting stack tournaments are when each player begins the tournament with a small number of chips. This puts a premium on every decision and makes it more difficult to recover from mistakes.

Poker Tournament Blind Levels

As the tournament progresses, the blind levels increase at regular intervals. The blind levels are typically increase every 15 minutes in “Sit and Go” tournaments, and every 30 or 60 minutes in larger field tournaments.

The purpose of increasing the blind levels is to keep the tournament moving along at a reasonable pace and to ensure that it doesn’t go on for too long.

Poker Tournament Speed

Tournament speed is the rate at which the blind levels increase. The most common tournament speeds are:

15-minute levels: This is the standard tournament speed for “Sit and Go” tournaments.

30-minute levels: This is a common tournament speed for larger field tournaments.

60-minute levels: This is a common tournament speed for multi-table tournaments.

Tournaments have a wide difference in terms of how long they can last depending on the type of tournament and the number of players that enter. For example, the main event can last 10 days or more, and some tournaments online can last a few minutes.

For online

  • Turbos: 5-10 minutes between levels
  • Hyper-Turbos: 2-5 minutes between levels
  • Slow tournaments: 30-60 minutes between levels
  • Normal speed: 15-30 minutes between levels

Tournament speed for live poker tournaments

Tournament speed for live poker tournaments is a little bit different. The reason for this is that there are more factors to consider when running a live tournament as opposed to an online tournament.

Some of the things that need to be taken into account are:

  • The number of tables
  • The number of dealers
  • The number of breaks
  • The time it takes to color up chips
  • The time it takes to do a seat draw

With all of these factors considered, the typical tournament speed for live poker tournaments is:

30-60 minutes between levels for smaller tournaments (< 500 players)

60-90 minutes between levels for larger tournaments (> 500 players)

Tournament Formats

Bounty tournaments and progressive knockout tournaments (PKO) are extremely popular. In a bounty tournament, each player has a “bounty” on their head. If you knock out a player, you win their bounty. The bounties are a percentage of the buy-in and can vary by the tournament. Some might us 30% toward the bounty, while others might even use 100%.

In a progressive knockout tournament, each player has a “bounty” on their head. The bounty increases each time that player eliminates another player. For example, if Player A eliminates Player B, then Player A’s bounty would increase by $5. If Player A is then eliminated by Player C, then Player C would win the $5 bounty.

Double or nothing tournaments are a type of tournament where the top half of the field wins double their buy-in and the bottom half of the field gets nothing.

Spin and go tournaments are a type of tournament that is becoming increasingly popular. They are similar to lotteries in that the prize pool is determined by chance. They are usually 3 players and a winner-take-all environment.

For example, if you buy in for $5, the prize pool could be anything from 2x to 10,000x your buy-in. The most common prize pool is 3x your buy-in, but you could occasionally see a prize pool of 10,000x your buy-in.

Shootout tournaments are a type of tournament where you play your table until there is a certain amount of players left like a single table tournament. However these have multiple tables and then once you play down to the final 1,2, or 3 of your table, you are then merged with the other players in the tournament and you all play down to the final 1,2, 3 again until you are at the final table.

Satellite tournaments are a type of tournament where the prize is not money, but instead entry into a larger tournament. For example, if you win a satellite tournament for the World Series of Poker Main Event, your prize would be entry into the Main Event.

Freezeout tournaments are a type of tournament where once your chips are gone, you are out of the tournament. There are no re-buys or add-ons in a freezeout tournament.

In this article, we have covered the different types of poker tournaments that are available to players. We have also discussed the different speeds at which these tournaments can be played, as well as the various available formats. If you’re looking to enter a tournament, or just want to learn more about them, then hopefully this article helped you out.