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What Is a Mystery Bounty and How To Play Them?


Many players consider mystery bounty events a fun way to play online poker. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, given how good it feels to bust a player. But in this format, you gain an additional prize for doing so.

Do you want to learn more about these popular tournaments? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, you’ll discover everything about mystery bounty events. How do they work? How can you improve your strategy? Read on and find out.

What Is a Mystery Bounty?

A mystery bounty is a type of poker tournament in which players collect additional rewards for eliminating their opponents. The reward is randomly selected from a fixed set of prizes.

While some brick-and-mortar casinos offer mystery bounty games, they’re more commonly played as online poker tournaments.

How Does a Mystery Bounty Work?


A mystery bounty is typically split into two parts. It starts with the initial phase, also known as the early stage, followed by a final phase, or late stage. Sometimes, a mystery bounty can be a two-day tournament where the final phase begins on day two. 

Typically, the prize pool is divided into two equal parts. One is distributed among the top finishers in a similar way to regular tournaments. The second part is reserved for bounties. The bounties, however, aren’t divided equally. Instead, there are many different amounts, but you won’t know what you’ve won until it happens.

In the first part of a mystery bounty, there are no bounty rewards. They are only credited in the second phase. Therefore, you’ll notice different play patterns from your opponents in the two stages.

Any mystery bounty event could use a slightly different prize structure. So it’s always smart to check the exact rules whenever you play poker online. That’s necessary if you want to make the most optimal decisions. Here’s a general example of how an event might work. 


Assume there’s a $5,500 mystery bounty event. The entry fee is $500, and the event brought in 200 players, so the prize pool totals $1 million. Half of that goes toward the bounties, and the rest goes into the regular prize pool. The latter will be distributed just as it would be in a regular tournament setting.

The bounty pool on the other hand, could be split into something like this:

  • 1x $200,000.
  • 2x $70,000.
  • 5x $20,000.
  • 8x $5,000.
  • 16x $1,250.

There are only 32 bounties in this hypothetical scenario, which means only 32 players would qualify for the final stage. However, if you do manage to reach this part of the tournament, it can be very rewarding. Knocking just a single player out gives you a chance at the highest $200,000 bounty.

Why Do Recreational Players Like Mystery Bounties?

Mystery bounties are more popular among recreational poker players. Why is that so?

Well, there are multiple reasons. First, many players might consider the rewards in a standard online poker tournament too top-heavy. While they can consistently finish somewhat highly in the tournament, they rarely win. For them, mystery bounty offers a way to potentially collect more prizes than with a regular tournament structure.

Second, it offers a twist to the traditional poker game. You don’t just care about finishing first anymore. Now, you want to eliminate as many players as you can, as the rewards can be lucrative.

Last but most definitely not least, it’s fun. Whenever you manage to knock out an opponent, there’s a possibility of winning the highest prize. Discovering your reward is always exciting.

More seasoned players don’t like this format as much because of the increased variance. You can win consistently if you’re highly skilled, so there’s no need to randomly distribute some rewards. You don’t mind the top-heavy rewards when you’re a favorite to finish high.

Mystery Bounty Strategy

Mystery bounty events are still poker. So, your tactics shouldn’t differ from your traditional no-limit poker strategy, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. The added bounties change your expected value, which brings a slew of consequences.

Additionally, the two stages of the tournament are distinct. Thus, you should approach them differently.

Early Stages


Your main goal in the early stages is to advance to the final phase with a relatively big stack. Imagine you manage to barely scrape into the next stage without many chips.

In that scenario, it will take a lot of work to knock anyone out. Your opponents will be able to leverage their higher chip count and put you in bad spots. Thus, you shouldn’t just settle for advancing. You want to do so with at least a reasonably sized stack.

In the early stage, patience and tight play are key. As you can see, spewing chips can be extremely punishing, preventing you from competing for bounties.

Since many recreational players play these events, you might notice more opponents playing loosely. Take a mental note of that and use it to your advantage. While it might sound weird, talking to yourself can actually help you remember such things.

Late Stages

Once you’re in the bounty stage with a large amount of chips, the most fun part of the tournament is about to begin. If ever there was a time to bluff like a pro, this is it. Here’s the reason. 

If your stack is bigger than your opponent’s, you can call with a wider range of hands when they shove. Even if you aren’t the favorite to win, things change drastically once you account for the bounty.

Suppose the odds that you’ll knock out that opponent with a call are only +400. If the EV of the bounty is extremely high, the play could still have a positive EV. You can calculate the bounty’s EV by summing up all uncollected bounties and dividing them by the total number of remaining players.


What should your preparation for a mystery bounty look like? Improving your general poker strategy is obviously a must. Read articles, consume video content, listen to podcasts — whatever works best for you.

Additionally, you should find out how many players will sit at the upcoming mystery bounty tournament tables. Will you be playing full ring poker? In that case, practicing at the shorthand poker tables doesn’t make much sense and vice versa. 

Enjoy a Bountiful Experience at BetMGM

Poker has its serious side, but ultimately, it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun to play. Mystery bounties bring a different level of entertainment to the table. But there are a whole host of other enjoyable tournament and cash game formats to enjoy, too. Register at BetMGM to find out more.

Besides poker, there’s also a sizable selection of the most popular online casino games, including blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. A number of these are live dealer casino games, available at a wide range of stakes.