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Poker Tournament Formats

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Poker players will find various types of poker tournaments in live poker settings and in online poker rooms. If you’re a novice player, it is beneficial to be familiar with the various structures that can accompany those tournaments, as well as the formats that they may take. This makes it easier to adjust strategies and goals when the setup and structure are not surprises.

A tournament structure and format are sometimes intertwined, so let’s break it down for a clearer understanding.

Poker Tournament Formats

The format of a tournament is its general makeup or pattern. Setting the format of an event is necessary before determining its structure. The most basic formats are single-table, commonly known as the Sit and Go format in poker, or SNGs, and multi-table tournaments, or MTTs. Most large poker tournaments are MTTs.

Freezeout Tournament

A freezeout poker tournament is one in which there is one entry allowed per player. It means that a player can buy in once, and when he or she runs out of chips and is eliminated, they are out of the tournament. This is how most tournaments played prior to the turn of the century and through most of the 2000s.

Rebuy Tournament

The rebuy tournament is one with a specific rebuy period at the beginning of a tournament. A player who busts from a tournament can rebuy to obtain another stack of chips for the price of another entry. In some cases, though, players can rebuy before they run out of chips. In either situation, the player can retain their seat in the event.

Most rebuy options are limited to one per player, though they can sometimes obtain even more chips with an add-on. Tournaments denoting this are R+A (rebuy plus add-on), a chance for a player to top off his or her stack before the rebuy period ends.

These tournaments are no longer common, especially in live poker, as reentries have taken their place.

Reentry Tournaments

What started as a unique idea turned into something so popular that most tournament series have adopted this format in a majority of events. Reentries are rebuys, but the player must lose all of his or her chips before reentering, and there are no rake exemptions or seat reservations. Players who reenter a tournament must start the process of entering the tournament again.

Reentries can be structured in numerous ways. Some tournaments offer a single reentry per player, and other organizers go so far as to open a tournament to unlimited reentries. Multiple starting days can also play a role, as players can be allowed one entry or one reentry per flight, i.e. one entry on Day 1A, another on Day 1B, etc.

Short-Handed Play

Most tournaments begin with nine or 10 players at a table, though it is becoming more common to offer eight-handed play to keep players from being too tightly seated at the tables. Short-handed play usually refers to six-handed or four-handed tables.

Many people place heads-up poker in the short-handed category as well, though it is its own unique type of tournament. Heads-up play requires specific strategies and skills, even a deeper understanding of the blinds, antes, and button play.

Poker Tournament Structures

The structure of a poker tournament is most closely associated with the blinds, antes, and levels. A fast structure will escalate the blinds and antes more rapidly, played out over shorter levels. Longer levels and a more gradual increase of blinds and antes is said to be a structure that is better for players, giving them more time to make moves, read opponents, and use chips wisely.

The chip stacks for each player at the start of the tournament are also a part of the structure, as are the scheduled color-ups when lower denominations of chips are removed from play.

Structures across the live and online tournament world are as varied as might be expected. But there are some standard structure designations that are fairly standard, at least in the most general sense.

Turbo and Hyper-Turbo Tournaments

A turbo structure is simply an escalated increase of blinds and antes played within shorter levels than normal. Sometimes, a structure can start as a standard one but decrease level duration as the tournament moves forward.

A hyper-turbo tournament is even faster than a turbo. Most often, hyper-turbos take place online and serve as the finale of a series or the last tournament of the night. It moves very quickly and requires a particular level of skill to navigate.

Tournament Guarantees

A guaranteed prize pool is a part of the overall tournament structure. It is a promise by the live or online poker room to offer a certain amount of prize money, no matter the number of players or entries.

Originally, tournament guarantees were somewhat rare, but most events in a series now offer guarantees. If a tournament organizer or operator falls short, the guarantee is a promise that the poker tour or room will add to the prize pool to bring it to the bar they set. If this happens, it is called an overlay, a positive for players, as there is extra money in the prize pool without extra players.

BetMGM Poker Tournaments

BetMGM Poker is legal and live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. There are a large variety of tournaments to choose from, so be sure to register at BetMGM Poker to explore every game.