A poker tournament or competition is an event where the players all contend for a cash prize. As in Late Night Poker and the World Series of Poker, both of which are tournaments, each player pays an initial buy-in and receives a fixed number of tournament chips. The competitors play until all but one are eliminated and the remaining player is the winner of the event. It is usual for the last three finishers in a tournament to receive a prize from the prize pool. The division of prizes in small tournaments is usually something like 60 per cent to the winner, 30 per cent to the second and 10 per cent to the third. In bigger tournaments, the first ten players might receive a prize, perhaps split 45 per cent to the winner, 20 per cent for second, 10 per cent for third, 5 per cent for fourth and so on until all of the prize money has been allocated.
Tournaments are of two types: those that allow re-buys and those that do not. The latter are called ‘freeze-out tournaments’. Late Night Poker is an example of a freeze-out event and once a player has lost all his chips he is out of the tournament. Those tournaments which permit re-buys allow a player who has lost all of his chips to re-join the tournament by paying additional, money into the prize pool. It is usual for re-buys to be limited to the first time period of the tournament (usually the first 1-2 hours).
After the re-buy period has ended, the tournament then becomes a freeze-out and the size of the blinds (and hence the stakes) increase with time to speed the tournament’s end. If the blinds did not increase in this way, tournaments would last for days instead of the usual four to five hours. Often, the blinds increase
regularly every 20 or 30 minutes in a small tournament but it can be slower in bigger events. Typical increases and intervals are:
Time Interval Small Blind Big Blind
0-120 mins 50 100
60 mins 100 200
60 mins 200 400
60 mins 400 800
60 mins 600 1200
60 mins 800 1600
60 mins 1000 2000
60 mins 2000 4000
60 mins 3000 6000
As the tournament progresses, tables are aggregated and seats removed as players are eliminated. This will eventually produce a final table of ten contestants who battle it out for the prize pool.
Sometimes a tournament is too expensive for some players to enter. The entry fee might be £6000 and beyond the pocket of most players. In these cases, it is normal for satellite tournaments to be held with the winner gaining entry to the tournament proper. In this way, it is not unknown for players to invest as little as £50 and end up with a prize of £20,000.