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Break Definition

Poker Break - Breaking Stack

by Jesse Knight
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Tournament Break
Break -
1. A rest period for players between tournament levels.
2. A rest period for dealers between dealer downs.


Tournaments with large fields can take the better part of a day, or even several days, to complete. Because of this, breaks are incorporated in to the structure. Generally, they will take place every 2-3 hours and will be about 10-15 minutes long. Longer tournaments may also have a dinner break of 30-60 minutes. This gives tournament players a chance to use the restroom, make a phone call, get a snack, or otherwise refresh themselves. If you are playing in a tournament, make sure you note the length of the break, so that you can be back in time for the restart. If you are late, your blinds will be posted and your hands will be folded.

Poker dealers will periodically come and go from games following a specific schedule, called a rotation. The rotation is basically a list of games that a particular group of dealers will deal in. Each dealer will deal a game for a specified period of time, called a “down” (usually 20-40 minutes) At the end of the down, all the dealers in the rotation will either go to a new game or go on a break, depending on how the rotation is laid out. Each dealer follows the dealer in front of them in a circular rotation, and does whatever that dealer did on the previous down, either deal or break. When a dealer rotates into a break, instead of going to a table and dealing, they go to the break room. The number of breaks in a rotation is determined by the number of dealers and the number of games available to deal. In large card rooms there can be several rotations and dozens of dealers All of this is coordinated by an employee called the “Dealer Coordinator,” or “DC,” who is responsible for, among other things, balancing breaks and downs in a dealer rotation.

Another way the word "break" is used in poker is when a player "breaks stack." Getting involved in a poker hand requires that you remove chips from your stack and put them in play. This is called “breaking stack.” Much of your tournament life you will only have enough chips to play one or two hands, so the decision to break stack can be a big one. Imagine a Hold’em tournament situation where you have 5k in chips and hold JJ. The blinds are 200/400 and a player makes it 1600 to go in front of you. You have to decide whether or not to break stack. Your decision can make or break your tournament. If you go all in and your opponent has you beat, you tournament will likely be over. On the other hand, if your hand is good and you throw it away instead of pushing in, you may not get another chance. You could also flat call and hope to make a read on the flop. In any case, your decision about whether or not to break stack is critical to your survival.

Similarly, the decision to break stack in a No-Limit or Pot-Limit game can make or break your day. Imagine that you are in a No-Limit Hold’em ring game with $500 in front of you. An opponent makes it $25 to go, and another player re-raises to $100. You are holding KK. If you decide to break stack, you will probably have to re-raise or go all in. If you are up against Aces, you are in bad shape.

Usage: Dinner Break, Smoke Break, Break Room, Breaking Stack

Previous Poker Term: Boxed Card
Next Poker Term: Brick and Mortar

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