How to run a NL Texas Holdem Poker Tournament
Poker tournaments are the most popular form of home poker games. Here, I will teach you everything about Poker Tournament Structure, various poker tournament styles, and more.
If you haven’t decided whether you should host a poker tournament or poker cash game read the Cash vs. Tournament Poker page.
Home Poker Tournament Setup
To run a poker tournament you should pay attention to many different factors. Following are most important notes to learn.
Before the tournament starts, every player must sign up and pay the entry fee. It’s best to write down the name of players and mark their names off as they pay.
When each player signs up, you should tell him his random assigned seat too. (refer to the Seating Players section)
Before the tournament starts, every player must have poker chips. Since every player will have exact same amount of chips, it doesn’t make much difference as what that amount is. That is because it’s the same for everyone.
The most common starting chips amounts are 100, 1000, 2500, and 10000. This amount can be given in any denominations. However it is good to choose the denominations wisely.
I personally prefer to give 1000 starting chips in my house games. You can give 5 black chips (worth $100 each), 15 green chips(worth $25 each), 25 red chips (worth $5 each).
Any color can be given any value. However certain colors are known to be used for certain values. Almost all casinos follow this color convention as it makes it easier for players to remember the values without any numbers written on the chips. Following is a list of the most common chips colors and their values as well as sample chart for starting chip distribution.
I didn’t suggest “Blue” chips in the above example, because most people don’t have blue chips in their chip cases. However if you have them, you can use them. They are worth 50.
Buy In: is the entry fee that every player must pay in the begriming of the tournament in order to be able to play.
Rebuy: happens when players are allowed to buy chips once they loose their chips.
Different buy-in amounts can affect the tournament. Rebuys also affect the tournament in different ways depending on how it is used. These concepts are all covered in the Buy-in / Rebuy page.
To insure a fair poker tournament players should be seated randomly. This can be accomplished different ways such as using marked cards, numbers and more. Seating & moving players page explains the most common methods and how to use them.
To ensure that the tournament ends in a reasonable time blinds rise every certain number of minutes. For example starting blind might be $10/$20, but after half an hour it will go up to $20/$40. Two factors affect blinds: 1- Blind structure, and 2- Blind Period.
Blind Structure: is the structure that blinds go up based on. Typically the first big blind should be 1/50 of the starting chips amount. Blinds usually double after each blind period. Deeper explanation of this topic can be found in the Tournament Blind Structure page.
Blind Period: This is the time period that blinds are raised at the end of. For example if the blind period is one hour, it means that after each hour through the game blinds should go up based on the blind structure.
In your poker tournament there will be times that players need to be moved from one table to another. Such times arrive when players bust out of the tournament and the tables don’t have the same number of players seating at them. If table A has two, or more players more than table B, a random player has to move from table A to table B.
Check out the Seating & moving players page for more info.
Payout: is the prize paid out to the winning player/players at the end of the poker tournament. A payout structure should be decided before the game begins. The payout structure is mainly decided based on the number of entrants.
The Payout Structure page covers this topic in full and includes a table with the most common payout structures.
- The best form of tournament to use in House Poker Tournaments is rebuy tournament with one or unlimited rebuys.
- You can always hold two smaller/shorter tournaments than two long ones. That would suit a house game better as players don’t have to sit out for a long time and watch other play.
- Use the Tournament Director software. It will make your life much easier.
There are many different forms of poker tournaments. The most common form is the Freezeout tournaments. That is the form of WSOP and most of the tournaments shown on TV. In this form (as you read below), once a player loses his chips, he is out of the tournament. This might not be the most preferred method for a friendly home poker tournament. Read on to find out why.
In a Freezeout tournament, players are eliminated once they loose all their chips. There are no second chances. once hosting a freeze-out tournament you should try to make all tables with approximately same number of seated players players. Refer to the seating/moving players page for instruction to achieve that.
Freezeout tournaments are the most popular home poker tourneys. However you should consider Rebuy tournaments as well as they have great advantages for house games. That is because players can rebuy certain number of times. Therefore once they lose their chips they still have a second chance and don’t have to sit out and wait for everyone else to lose (perhaps for a new tournament to start.
As the name states, a rebuy tournament allows player to rebuy chips. Rebuy happens when a player looses his all of his chips or has less than a certain amount of chips left. In such a case the player can buy chips again (if rebuy is allowed). Refer to the Buy-In/Rebuy page for more info.
In a rebuy tournament:
- The rebuy period has to be limited and specified before the game. For example players might be able to rebuy during the first hour or the first 3 blinds and such.
- Players might be allowed to rebuy if they haven’t lost all their chips but have considerably low amount of chips left. For example if everyone started with 1000 chips and the player has less than 100 or 50 chips.
- A rebuy tournament can allow unlimited rebuys during the rebuy period or a limited number of rebuys for each player.
Shootout tournaments style can be used in multi table tournaments. In a shootout tournament, every table plays until it is down to one player. Then all the players from different tables advance to the final table and compete for the prize.
In a shootout tournament usually all the players who make it to the final table win a prize. This prize can range from the buy-in amount and up.
Freeroll tournaments are free to enter. However, almost all of them have prizes. These tournaments are most common in online poker websites.
Most of the online poker websites offer weekly/daily freerolls, free rolls for the new members, and free rolls for members with certain number of points.
Recently there has also been a rise in free poker tournaments at local bars to attract customers on slow nights.
Guaranteed payout tournaments have guaranteed payouts (if it needed explanation). For example the tournament might have a $109 buy in but guarantees $50,000 prize pool. Therefore, even if there are 250 people playing (meaning $25000 real cash paid for entrance) the prize pool is $50,000. As you might guess, this doesn’t happen very often.
Guaranteed prize pool tournaments are mostly held at online poker websites. While they look very tempting, they mostly end up having more players than what was guaranteed. However, you can find tournaments that doesn’t fill up in less popular online poker rooms.
For example in a $50,000 guaranteed, $109 buy in(the $9 is the tournament fee) tournament there are usually over 500 players. This makes the tournament no different than if it did not have a guaranteed prize.
Heads up tournaments are held between two players at a time. Following are the instruction to host a heads up poker tournament:
- Certain number of players sign up for the tournament.
- Players are divided in groups of 2.
- Heads up games are held between each group of two players.
- The winner advances to a higher level where he paired up with another winner. This continues until the tournament is down to two final players. They play against each other and the winner is determined.
Satellite tournaments offer seats to higher level tournaments. For example, 10 players can play a $20 buy-in satellite tournament where the top two winners get tickets into a $100 buy in tournament.
In a satellite tournament, prizes are usually the same. For example the top 3 players in a satellite tournament might get an entry into tournament “X”. If there is still any money left but it is not enough to pay for another entry to the tournament “X”, that money can be given as a cash prize to the next position (in this example the 4th position).
Some larger satellite tournaments offer seats at higher level tournaments for the let’s say top 3 players and cash for the let’s say fourth and fifth position. However the cash prizes is less than what the higher level tournament tickets are worth for.
A common practice in regular home poker games is having a Bounty. A bounty tournament can be any type tournament mentioned above with the bounty prize.
The bounty is a prize taken out of the the tournament prize pool. It is usually on the winner form the previous week/game. If player A takes out the winner from last week, he would win the bounty. That is regardless of the position that player A ends up at the end of the tournament. So player A could possibly win both the bounty and the first position prize.
In most of the U.S. States it is legal to host a home poker game as long as you don’t take any rake (make any money for the house).
Make sure to check your states’s (or country) gambling laws before hosting or participating in a house poker game.
Poker players are also required to pay tax on their income.