Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Poker tournament

A poker tournament is a tournament at which the winners are decided by playing poker, usually a particular style of poker.

A typical tournament will have an entry fee, with which competitors are given a certain amount of (for lack of a better term) play money in the form of casino chips to play with. Players are required to play every hand. Players play until their supply of chips is exhausted, and the re-buy options, if any, have been exhausted. The last player standing wins.

Table of contents
1 Entry fees
2 Open tournament
3 Closed/Invitational Tournament
4 Satellite Tournament
5 Format
6 Prizes
7 Types of poker
8 Places to play
9 Major Tournaments

Entry fees

The typical tournament will have an entry fee, from which the winners' prizes will be derived. This is not required per se. Closed tournaments are more likely than open tournaments not to have an entry fee, but this is an extremely rare occurrence.

In exchange for the entry fee, the player is given a specific value of ''play money''. For example, an entry fee of $35 will provide a player with $500 in play money. The amount of play money given is typically a significant multiple of the entry fee (in this case, 14:1.) An alternative method is the use of a chip-buy fee in addition to the entry fee. This scenario would be used if the organizers intend for the entry fee portion to cover expenses relating to the event and the chip-buy fee for the prizes.

Some tournaments offer the option of a re-buy. A re-buy allows a player who is low on chips early on in the tournament the option for, at a given price, a boost to his supply of chips or to re-enter the tournament with a fresh supply of chips. There are two types of re-buys: conditional and unconditional. For example, if in the first three rounds of the tournament a player is below his $500 play money, for $15 the player may get increased by another $500 in play money. This is conditional. Between the third and fourth ounds, any player may, for $20, purchase $1,000 in play money. This is unconditional.

This is not always true. In the marquis $10,000 event at the World Series of Poker, a player receives exactly $10,000 in play chips. These are not negotiable; a player in the gutter could not swap his play chips for real money.

Depending on the tournament, the re-buy money will go to either the organizers as a way to defray costs or to the prize pool.

Open tournament

An open tournament is, quite simply, any tournament which is open to any player capable of legally playing and putting up the entry fee. The World Series of Poker is such an example; if you can pony up the $10,000 entry fee, you're in the game.

Closed/Invitational Tournament

A closed or invitational tournament is any tournament to which one must be specifically invited to participate. If, let's say, as a spectacle, Binion's Horseshoe invited all previous winners of the WSOP to play a tournament, this would be a closed tournament since there is a restriction on who may enter.

Satellite Tournament

For large tournaments with high entry fees, there are sometimes satellite tournaments available. A satellite tournament is simply a mini-tournament, for which the winner or winners receive a buy-in for the main tournament. Single table satellites generally consist of ten players, with the final winner receiving a buy-in to the main tournament. Chris Moneymaker, winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker, initially paid only $40 to enter a satellite tournament.


Depending on the game involved, there may be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured betting.

Structured betting involves fixed denomination wagers and raises. For example, many Texas Hold 'em tourneys use a structured raise componant. For example, in a 50-100 round, after the blinds are played, in the forst two rounds of wagering. one may only bet or raise 50, so the first bet is 50, a raise makes it 100, etc. In the final two rounds of betting, the bet or raise amount would be 100.

Semi-structured betting provides a range of potential wagers for the players. Seven-card stud will typically be of this format. At a 50-100 round, each round's minimum wager is 50, though a player may wager any permitted increment to 100. Raises are required to be equal to or exceed the current raise; thus, a player raising a current wager of 75 may not raise it by 50, but may only raise by 75 or 100.

Unstructured games are typified by No Limit Texas Hold 'em. Though there is a regularity to the blinds, there are essentially no restrictions to the wager size. The two most common words in No Limit are all in, meaning that the player is risking the lesser of his stake or any player who calls his bet on the turn of the cards. (If one player has 15,000 and calls "All In", and a player with 5,000 calls, only 5,000 of the first player's chips are at stake.)


Depending on the tournament, most to all the money entered in the form of entry fees, chip-buy fees, or re-buys are placed in a prize pool. This pool will pay out to the top players in the event, as determined by fall-out order, and may vary due to the size of the tournament.

For example, the top ten players are given prizes ranging from 2% to 30% of the prize pool. This means that the ninth-to-last player to lose all his chips will be in 10th place and receive 2% of the pool, the eighth-to-last player will receive (in this case) 3%, etc., until the final player to drop receives 20% and the final survivor of the match receives 30%.

Types of poker

Almost every tournament relies on a form of stud poker or community card poker, with the most common versions consisting seven-card stud, Omaha Hold 'em and Texas Hold 'em.

Places to play

Many casinos with poker rooms offer tournaments. In addition, there may be non-casino venues that offer such games, though with less scrutiny to the games it may be a corrupt game. Online, there are also poker websites that offer tournaments.

Major Tournaments

In the US, the two most significant tournaments are The US Poker Championships, held at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City every December, and the granddaddy of them all, The World Series of Poker held at Binion's Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas.