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Tournament Poker

Poker Tournaments

by Jesse Knight
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Poker Tournaments
Tournament - An event where players compete for cash and/or prizes.


Poker tournaments are events in which poker players compete for money or prizes from a prize pool. Each player buys in and pays a separate entry fee. Some casinos also add a service charge, which goes to the tournament staff. All the buy-ins go into the prize pool, while the house collects the entry fees. Tournaments vary greatly in both size and buy-in level. Buy-ins can range from nothing (called a freeroll tournament), to extremely high; for example, the World Series of Poker features a $50,000 buy in HORSE tournament. Tournaments can be as small as one table or as large as several hundred tables. A one table tournament, sometimes called a “satellite,” can be over in about an hour. Larger tournaments can take several days to complete. The $10,000 buy in Main Event at the WSOP typically has thousands of entrants and takes over a week to complete.

At the start of the tournament, there will typically be some announcements, and then the Tournament Director will tell the dealers to “Put the cards in the air.” The dealer at each tournament table then begins dealing the specified game to the players. Special non-negotiable “tournament chips” are used for play. Players start with a set amount of chips, and are eliminated if they lose them all. Some tournaments have a rebuy period, during which time players who have gone broke may rebuy the set amount of chips, with the prize money going into the prize pool. As the tournament progresses, the limits and/or blinds increase in set periods of time called “levels.” The levels are increased until the tournament is over. This happens when the last player is eliminated and one player remains with all of the chips. Frequently, tournaments are ended early, when a few remaining players make a deal about the remaining funds in the prize pool. Dealmaking is accepted by the house and commonplace. It is often done by chip count. This means that the remaining prize pool is divided in proportion to each player’s chip stack, so that the player with the most chips, or chip leader, receives the most money.

Most poker tournaments pay out about nine or ten percent of the field, although the actual percentage of players paid out can vary significantly, depending upon the number of players and tournament rules. Sometime after the break, and after any rebuy period has ended, the tournament staff will announce the prize pool, the number of chips in play, the number of players paid out, and how much each paying position stands to receive. All players will either finish “out of the money,” which means that they were eliminated before the paying positions had been reached, or “in the money,” which means the remaining tournament players have all secured some prize money. You will often see the term “In the money” abbreviated “ITM.”

Tournaments have become very popular, and casinos use them to attract groups of players to the casino. Players like them because they can win a large sum of money for a relatively small buy-in, much larger than they could likely win with a similar buy-in to a cash game. Casinos like them because they bring a large group of gamblers into their establishment. Many of these players, in addition to playing in the poker tournament, gamble in the pits or play slot machines, while others shop or eat at a casino restaurant, or benefit the house in other ways.

Casinos count on tournaments to bring players in. Many casinos will run poker tournaments two or three times a day. Morning tournaments usually start sometime between 9:00AM and Noon, and typically have smaller buy-ins and entry fees, and fewer players than tournaments which take place later in the day. Still, these early morning players are a critical group of players for the house. The casino builds business throughout the day, and they need a base of players in the morning to get things started.

Casino tournaments are not limited to poker, though poker tournaments are by far the most popular type of casino tournament. Many different casino games can be played in a tournament format, including, slot machines, blackjack, baccarat, pan 9, and others.

While a large brick and mortar tournament can have several thousand players, online poker tournaments can have far more, with some tournaments attracting tens of thousands of players, with astronomical payouts of a thousand times your buy-in or more. Many sites host daily freerolls, where you can win cash or prizes without ever making a deposit. There are also cash tournaments and super satellites into larger events, with buy-ins starting as low as ten cents. If you want to play higher buy-in tournaments, there is plenty of opportunity for that online as well. Many of the higher buy-in tournaments, with buy-ins of $500 and higher, take place on Saturday and Sunday. There are many different online cardrooms to choose from.

Usage: Tournament Chip, Tournament Director, Tournament Leader Board, Tournament Start Time, Won The Tournament, Bubbled the Tournament

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