The Ultimate Poker Tournament Guide
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The Ultimate Guide to Poker Tournaments
Have you been thinking of joining your first ever poker tournament but don’t know how to get started? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll teach you everything you need to know—from signing up all the way to collecting your winnings—in a guide so easy to read it’s practically a cheat sheet.
Let’s dive right in!
What are poker tournaments and how do they work?
Poker tournament rules
Each poker tournament would also, just like any other sports events, have its own clearly laid out rules that all participants are required to observe at all times. Violations, depending on their gravity, may either incur penalties or result in the offending player’s ejection from the event.
What are poker tournament buy-ins?
Poker chip representation in tournaments
Depending on the tournament, participants may either be give a uniform number of chips at the start of the event or offered the option to get more chips buy paying more than the specified buy-in amount.
What does “pot” mean in poker tournaments?
The pot, however, is not the same as the prize pool in poker tournaments—which we’ll cover in the next section.
What are the prizes in poker tournaments?
The size of the prize pool varies from tournament to tournament. It can be any of the following three things:
- The sum total of all the buy-ins
- Made up completely of money (and other prizes) from sponsors in tournaments without buy-ins
- A combination of the two
It is different from the pot in that it is what the winner of the tournament gets to take home after winning the entire competition as opposed to just winning single hands.
Backing out of a poker tournament early
Speaking of winning, the last two tournament participants are allowed, in some cases, to end the final match prematurely rather than risk losing whatever each of them has won up to that point. When this happens, the total prize is divided among the two players based either on the total value of chips each of them holds or some other mutually acceptable arrangement.
How does betting work in poker tournaments?
There are three betting structures used by most standard poker tournaments: structured, semi-structured and unstructured.
- Structured or fixed-limit betting, as the name implies, follows a predetermined scheme for placing bets. For instance, fixed-limit Omaha and Holdem games are always identified by the betting structure they use (e.g., $2/$4, $5/$10 and $10/$20). The small numbers denote the small bets while the larger numbers denote the big bets. The small bets are placed during the pre-flop and flop stages of the game, while the big bets are placed during the turn and the river.
- Semi-structured betting, on the other hand, lays out acceptable betting and raising ranges instead of hard limits. In most cases, this type of betting structure requires each participant to raise an amount that is at least equal to that of the previous player’s. In pot limit games, however, the only rule is that no player can raise more than the current pot amount. Finally, in spread limit games, players are only allowed to bet and raise within a predetermined minimum and maximum amount.
- Unstructured or no-limit betting, as you may have probably guessed, is different from the first two formats in that it allows each player to bet and raise as little or as much as they want. This means that a player can go all-in even before the game reaches the flop. The only things that are fixed in no-limit games are the forced bets (i.e., bring-ins, antes and blinds).
No-limit vs. Fixed-limit Tourneys
By now, you’ve probably already realized that these different betting structures can significantly alter how each game or tournament is played. Let’s take bluffing for instance. It is much easier to psyche your opponents out in no-limit games simply because they allow you to bet as high as you want. In contrast, fixed-limit games force you to be a little more creative.
What is the most common poker tournament structure?
- In freezeout tournaments, once a player is eliminated, they are officially out of the game, making the table shrink in the process. To prevent having active tables with different sizes, tournament officials move players from table to table—closing unused tables as they go along—to balance things out. This process continues until only one table is left. This aptly named “final table” is where all the remaining participants play.
- In contrast, rebuy tournaments allow eliminated players to buy back into the game within a predetermined rebuy period (typically one or two hours into the event). Active players are also allowed to rebuy during this time provided they don’t already have too many chips in hand when they do. Once the rebuy period expires, the tournament proceeds just like its normal freezout counterpart. Players that make it to this point are usually given the option to add more chips to their stack via an add-on that is typically the same value as their starting stack.
- Finally, in shootout tournaments, players are required to beat everyone in their bracket (i.e., table) first before advancing to the next one. The goal is to reach the final table and play against the winners of all the other tables. Places are awarded to eliminated players based on the stage in the tournament where they got knocked out.
In more recent years, however, a fourth tournament structure called mix-max (or mixed max) has emerged. It makes use of different table sizes per stage. Tournaments that employ this play format may, for instance, use nine-handed tables on the first day, six-handed on the second day and one-on-one on the third.
Where can I find tournaments to join?
- Las Vegas Poker Tournaments
- Major Poker Tournaments
- Upcoming Poker Tournaments
- Poker Tournaments in Michigan
- Los Angeles Poker Tournaments
- Tournament Poker Edge
- Poker Tournaments San Diego
- Oklahoma Poker Tournaments
- Poker Tournaments Phoenix
- Colorado Poker Tournaments
- Borgata Poker Tournament
- Poker Tournaments Detroit
- Poker Tournaments Reno
- South Florida Poker Tournaments
- AC Poker Tournaments
- Poker Tournaments St Louis
- Poker Tournaments Seattle
- Poker Tournaments NYC
- Foxwoods Poker Tournament
- Parx Poker Tournaments
- Poker Tournaments Bay Area
- Aria Poker Tournaments
- Texas Holdem Tournament
- Poker Tournaments Sacramento
- Pechanga Poker Tournament
- Delaware Park Poker Tournament
Where can you join online tournaments?
As a general rule, just don’t play real money poker online on dubious poker websites and you should be fine. And if you’re not sure about a particular site, then either do a quick Google search for reviews or ask someone more experienced first before proceeding.
That’s it! We’ve pretty much covered everything you need to get started. Now, if you want to take your game to the next level and up your chances of winning, then click here to access our free poker guides, and don’t forget to sign up for a SafeClub account so you can practice playing real money poker on your computer or smart device with zero risk, thanks to our rock solid security, topnotch anti-cheat systems and 100% human-like card-dealing algorithm. We also don’t take any cuts or split pots so you get to take home all of your winnings—down to the last cent! Give it a shot today!
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