Texas Hold'em Tournaments

Playing in Texas Hold’em tournaments has become tremendously popular throughout the poker boom since they allow players to compete across a large field for some pretty serious prizes. With the growing popularity of tournament play particularly online, it’s become pretty standard these days for the major online rooms to offer upwards of $1,000,000 guaranteed tournaments on a weekly basis. When I first started playing online poker in 2003, a tournament with $25,000 in it was a really big deal just to give you an idea of how rapidly the prize pools of tournaments have grown.

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Because these tournaments are extremely lucrative they tend to attract a large number of players so if you are serious about winning a major event expect to spend anywhere from 4 – 10 hours playing if you are lucky enough to make it to the final table. Below I’ve summarized just about everything you need to know about Texas Hold’em tournaments from how they work to detailed info on the big events in both the live poker and online poker market.

How To Play Hold'em Tournaments

The two major types of poker tournaments include Single Table (also known as Sit N Go) as well as Multi-Table Tournaments. As the name suggest, single table tournaments are comprised of one table and usually 6-10 players who compete against each other to win the prize pool. Prizes in this type of tournament tend to be smaller since there are only a limited number of buy-ins that make up the prizes. Multi-table tournaments on the other hand can have hundreds and even thousands of players with extremely large prize pools since there are tons of players contributing their buy-ins towards the prize funds. In both types of tournaments the goal is simple: play as well as you can and try to make the final table and win the tournament.  Although this should always be your goal, some players are happy with simply “making the money” meaning that they survive long enough to be included in the distribution or prize payouts which is explained further down in this article.

Because of the huge demand from players for new and innovative tournaments, there has been a number of branch off variations that have been introduced to offer something a little different to tournament players. Below is a summary of some of the most popular variations of Texas Hold’em tournaments you will find while playing:

Elimination Tournaments – This is the most common form of tournament you will find online and in land based poker rooms. The goal of these is to last as long as you can without losing all of your chips and getting knocked out of the tournament. This tournament progresses until one player has accumulated all of the chips in play and is declared the winner of the event. All players will begin the tournament with the same number of chips in play.

Re-Buy Tournaments – In Re-Buy tournaments, the goal is the same as elimination tournaments in that you want to accumulate all the chips from the other players however in Re-Buy events you are permitted to reload your chip stack should you “bust out” of the tournament during the allotted Re-Buy period. Most Re-Buy tournaments will permit players to Re-Buy the original amount of chips that everyone started with until the first break or some other pre-determined time period. For example in a $100 Re-Buy tournament where players start with $5,000 in chips, you would be able to Re-Buy another $5,000 chips for an additional $100 should you lose your chips before the end of the Re-Buy period. Some Re-Buy tournaments also allow you to add-on or double up your chips at the first break or at any point your chip stack falls below the original level you started out with.

Satellite Tournaments - A Satellite tournament is one where the prize is made up of a ticket or entry into another tournament rather than the standard monetary payout. These are quite common for major events with very expensive buy-ins as a way for players to gain entry without having to pay the entire buy-in amount since it’s split between all players who are entering into the tournament. For example say that a major $10,000 buy-in event was coming to your area – the organizers may run $1,000 Satellite tournaments with 10 players where the winner will win an entry into the major event. These are really great if you are a bankroll conscious player but still want a shot at some of the big money tournaments happening regularly.

Shoot Out Tournaments – With Shoot Out tournaments, the structure is usually comprised of 6 – 10 tables where the goal is to win your table in order to make it to the final table. For example in a Shoot Out with 10 tables the winners of each table will meet to play against each other at the final table. With these tournaments you are usually guaranteed a prize if you can make it to the final table after successfully beating everyone at the first table you started at in the tournament. These types of tournaments are usually mostly used for Satellites however some online poker sites do offer them occasionally run as standard cash prize tournaments.

Tournament Payout Structures

All poker tournaments will use some type of formula to determine how many players are paid out in the event and what each position receives relative to the overall prize fund. This is usually determined based on the overall buy-in of the tournament in conjunction with the number of players and then a percentage scale is used to determine the payouts. For simplicities sake, let’s say you played in a 10 person $100 buy-in Sit N Go, meaning the overall prize pool was $1,000. In this tournament, the split would most likely be 50%, 30%, 20% meaning that 1st place would receive $500, 2nd place would receive $300 and 3rd place would receive $200. This of course can vary quite a bit based on a number of factors however this is the basic premise of how payouts work at most of the major online sites for regular tournaments.