Poker tournaments are events at which many poker players compete for a prize that is determined by the player who wins the most chips in a given time or who is the sole remaining player after all others have been unlimited. This is in contrast to regular ring game poker in which play continues constantly at a table and participating players may come and go as they wish.
Players wishing to participate in a poker tournament usually pay a fixed buy-in in return for which they receive a starting pile of chips. Buy-ins can vary from a dollar to thousands of dollars for larger tournaments. Most tournaments also charge a small cover fee in addition to the buy-in that covers the cost of hosting the tournament. The prize money is the total of all the buy-ins and is usually divided between the top three players in proportions of 50%, 30% and 30% for first, second, and third places.
All players receive the same number or chips to start with and then play against each other with 8-10 participants at each table. Only the chips bought with the buy-in may be used and players cannot supplement their chips with cash during play. Players that lose all their chips are eliminated and tables are usually consolidated to keep 8-10 players at each table. However, some tournaments allow play to continue at each table until there is only one or two players left and these players then advance to the next round.
As the tournament progresses the blind bets are raised according to a schedule that is either time-based or depends on the number or rounds played at each table. Blind bets are mandatory bets played in each round. The increased blinds force players to pay more aggressively and so ensures that the tournament progresses.
Some tournaments also offer a re-buy whereby players that have been eliminated can buy more chips and continue playing. Also, participating players may be able to purchase add-on chips even before they are eliminated. Even so, re-buys and add-ons are limited to prevent players buying their way to the final table.
Poker tournaments can be open to the public or invitational only. It is also possible to win entry to a large contest by winning a smaller tournament with a lower buy-in and thereby avoid paying the often expensive buy-in for the main event.
Although poker tournaments can be played with any style of poker the most popular events are Texas Hold’Em, Stud poker styles, and H.O.R.S.E and H.O.S.E tournaments. Poker tournaments have gained enormous popularity in recent years following the televising of some major events in which the first prizes can be millions of dollars. The explosion of internet gambling sites has also fueled the increased interest in poker tournaments and many online casinos offer hourly, daily, and weekly contests. Due to the large number of players that can be hosted on web-based tournament the buy-ins for internet contests can be quite low compared to the prize money available.