Understanding The Logistics of Poker Tournaments

Tournaments are poker competitions where all of the players play at the same time and continue to play until only one player is left. Tournaments are fun to play in, have a low entry fees and offer a large prize pool to be won. For these reasons they are a very popular. They are inexpensive way for novice poker players to learn how to play the game, as well as a providing a place for more experienced players gain experience.

While there are many different types of poker games played at casinos and online rooms, tournament play is usually reserved for Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and 7-card Stud, because these games have a large following.

Poker tournaments can have as few as 6 players (single table tournaments) to thousands of players for larger events. Large tournaments consist of many tables, each table having 8 to 10 players. The tables are slowly removed from the tourney as players are eliminated, and players are balanced from table to table as needed. (These are known as multi-table tournaments). Finally all but the last table will be removed and these last 8 to 10 players play until only one of them remains.

Tournament Basics

To play in a tournament players have to pay two fees. They have to pay an entry fee to the poker room hosting the tournament to cover the expenses involved. This gives the player an assigned seat and a set quantity of tournament chips with which to play (these chips have no cash value). Players also pay a buy-in fee. The buy-in fee is held and paid out as prizes. The prize payout differs from tournament to tournament but typically it all goes to the few players fortunate enough to make the final table.

The object of a tournament is to win all of the chips. All tournament players start out with the same quantity of chips to play with and all start playing at the same time. Players play until they lose all of their chips and are then removed from the tournament. A tournament continues non-stop, often for several hours, until only one person remains. As playing progresses the stakes rise (Blinds are doubled on a timed interval), making it more and more difficult for players with short stacks to remain in the game.

Players are awarded prize money based on their finishing position in the tournament. The top finishers earn the most money with the 1st place winner usually receiving about 30% of the total prize money, the 2nd place winner about 20% and so on. The number of winners and the size of the payouts depend upon the rules for the tournament being played and the number of people playing.

Re-buys and Add-ons

Some poker tournaments allow players a re-buy option. This re-buy option allows players to purchase more chips if they run out of them at the start of the tournament. A player can purchase the same number of chips that he/she started the tournament with. Some poker tournaments allow unlimited re-buys during the first hour of play, while other tournaments allow only a single re-buy.

An add-on option is similar to the re-buy option. Add-ons differ in that they are usually only offered once at the end of the re-buy period and can be purchased regardless of how many chips you have. As the name implies these chips are added on to your stack of chips.

All proceeds from re-buys and add-ons are added to the prize pool less house fees (if applicable).


Tournament betting is structured with the betting limit increasing regularly. The changes in betting limits occur differently depending on the tournament; some are timed while some increase the limit after a set number of rounds are played.

Balancing and Collapsing Tables

Larger tournaments start out with more than one table, each having 8 to 10 players. As the tournament progresses players will be eliminated and the number of players at each table will not remain the same. For the tournament to be fair the number of players at each table should be the same, so the organizers move players from table to table in an attempt to keep all the tables equally populated.

Balancing is the practice of moving players from full tables to less full tables when the difference is 3 or more players.

Collapsing tables is the practice of removing tables once there are enough empty spaces among the rest of the tables to do so. Thus with 10 player tables when there are 10 empty spaces the players from one table are moved to empty spaces and that table is taken out of play.

Matthew is a frequent poker player who offers reviews and shares his experiences playing tournaments online at http://www.playrealpokeronline.com

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