Structure of Online Poker Tournaments

May 2019
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The structure of online poker tournaments differs slightly from site to site. Full Tilt’s structure, for instance, is different from that of PokerStars or UltimateBet. Tournament structure also differs from game to game, with No-Limit Holdem having a different structure than Pot Limit Omaha or Seven Card Stud.

The most popular poker game, No-Limit Texas Hold’em, features ’blinds’ and ’antes’. ’Blinds’ (both the big blind and small blind) are required bets that revolve clockwise around the table and must be posted before the player is dealt the “button”: a white disk indicating the player who is last to act and therefore in the most advantageous position at the table.

A regular multi-table tournament will begin with each player having $2000 in chips, with the blinds at 10(small)-20(big). Every ten minutes, the blinds will increase, the next level being 15-30, 25-50, 30-60, and so forth. This forces the players to be more aggressive in order to avoid being whittled away by the blinds. At around the eighth level, in addition to the blinds, an ’ante’ is introduced to further speed up the poker game. The ante, unlike the blinds that are only posted once-per-round, is required of everyone during EVERY hand. It typically starts small at around $25 and increases with each round.

Limit and Pot-Limit tournaments, however, in both Omaha and Texas Hold em, are unique in that there are no antes. There are blinds, to be sure (else the tournament could go on interminably), but no antes are ever introduced.

In a “deep stack” tournament, the players will begin with $5000 in chips, as opposed to $2000. Typically, tournaments with a buy in of $150 or more will start the players off with $2500 in chips.

There are also special tournaments called re-buys, during which a player, when knocked out of the tournament before the first scheduled break, is allowed to rebuy into the tournament for his initial starting stack, paying the entry-fee yet again. He/she is allowed to do this until the rebuy period ends and play resumes as a normal freezeout tournament, where elimination is permanent. Players in rebuy tournaments are typically given the option, during the break, to ’add-on’, paying to add even more chips to their stack.

Stud poker tournaments have simple structures. As an ante-game, there are no blinds, and so the antes and table-stakes simply increase every ten minutes.