Texas Hold'em Tournament Rules

poker rules tournament

Every single day, thousands of poker players try their luck against friends, family and strangers in both online and live Texas Hold'em tournaments.

The idea behind tournament poker is that every player puts up a buy-in and gets tournament chips.

Play goes on as normal with the blinds going up in regular pre-determined intervals and until one player is left with all the chips.

Where you are eliminated is where you finish in the tournament.

In a standard Hold'em tournament, 10% to 20% of the field is paid out with most of the money reserved for the top spots.

Because you can win so much more than your initial buy-in, big tournaments attract both pros and amateurs trying to make a big score.

Each room's rules vary slightly so it's always a good idea to brush up before the tournament starts.

Here are some of the most standard rules for playing a poker tournament.

  1. Entrance Fees - All entrance fees most be paid before play begins. Generally the house takes a 5%-10% fee for providing the tables and dealers and administering the game. This is true both live and online. For example in a $200+$20 tournament, $200 goes to the prize pool and $20 would go to the house.
  2. Seat Assignment- Your seat will randomly be assigned to you. You will usually be given a card with your table and seat number on it. That is your seat until a tournament director tells you otherwise. Unlike in cash games there are no seat changes.
  3. Starting Stacks- When you arrive at the table your starting stack will be at your spot.

    • Tournament chips have no cash value, and you cannot cash out at any point during the tournament.
    • It's always a good idea to double check your chips against the posted starting stack to make sure you have the correct amount of chips.
    • The total amount of your starting stack varies from tournament to tournament.
  4. Blind Levels - The way tournaments differ from cash games is that the blinds increase at regular intervals.
    • This is to force play and get the action going. You can usually get a sheet from a floor person that tells you the schedule of blind increases and what the blinds will be.
    • Online you can find this information in the tournament lobby.
    • It's a good idea to get familiar with the blind structure before playing. If the blinds increase and your dealer has already cut the cards, the blinds will increase on the next hand.
  5. The Deal - The deal proceeds exactly as it does in a cash game. The two players to the left of the button are the small blind and the big blind. After each hand the button moves one seat to the left. The button is determined in the first hand completely randomly.
  6. Absent Players - All players must be dealt into the hand and their blinds/antes forced into the pot whether they are at the table or not. If the player is not present by the time his second card is dealt, his hand will be ruled dead.
  7. Breaking Tables - As players are eliminated the tournament director will start breaking tables in a pre-determined order. If your table breaks, you will be assigned randomly to an empty seat at one of the remaining tables.
  8. All-in Bets - A player who declares himself all in plays for all of the chips in front of him. If the other player has more he is only entitled to an amount equal to his own stack. The same goes for an all-in player that has less than his required blind. He is only entitled to what he put in.
  9. All-in confrontations - When two players are all in and the action is completed, both hands must be exposed face up before the rest of the board is run.
  10. Calling the Clock - A player can request the pit boss to force a player to choose an action in a set amount of time (typically 90 seconds). If the player fails to act in that time, his or her hand is folded. Only a player seated at the table at the time the current hand was dealt can call the clock.
  11. Multiple Busts - If two players go broke on the same hand the player with the greater amount of chips at the start of the hand finishes in the higher position.
  12. Showing Cards - Intentionally exposing a card is illegal in tournament play and a hand can be ruled dead as well as a time penalty issued.
  13. Inappropriate play- Inappropriate play such as swearing and or throwing cards is punishable by a penalty.
  14. Coloring up - The lowest chip denomination in play will be removed from the table when it is no longer needed in the blind or ante structure.

    All lower-denomination chips that are of sufficient quantity for a new chip will be changed up directly. I.E if you have five $25 chips you would get one $100 chip and have one odd chip. The method for removal of odd chips is as follows:
    • Starting at seat 1, (if there is a professional dealer, this will be the player directly to the dealer's left) deal this player one card face up for every odd chip they hold. Continue clockwise around the table until all players have one card for each of their odd chips.
    • Add the $ amount of all odd chips together. You want to replace the odd chips with chips of the next lowest denomination. For example: If there are eight $25 chips, you want to replace them with two $100 chips.
    • If there are an odd number of odd chips on the table: If the amount of the final chips is equal to half, or more, of the value of the next lowest chip, these chips are replaced by the higher value chip. If the total value is less than half, the odd chips are simply removed from the table.
    • Give the first replaced chip to the player with the highest value card by rank. With every player only eligible to receive one chip, continue giving a chip to the player with the highest value card until all chips are gone. This is known as a chip race.
  15. Hand-for-hand play - As play approaches the bubble (when the money starts)play may go hand for hand. This means that all tables will deal a hand and the next hand will not be dealt until all tables have completed their hand.
  16. Heads up- When two players are left you have reached heads up play. In this scenario the small blind is the button and acts first before the flop but last on all ensuing streets.

It is up to you to know the basic poker rules when playing in a tournament.

Not properly educating yourself can cause you to unknowingly commit an infraction and get penalized or even disqualified.

Additional Texas Hold em Rules


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richard 2014-03-14 08:14:28

Tourney question 2 players get busted in an all in hand, who get second and who gets third?? I thought the person who had more chips going into hand gets the better ranking

richard 2014-03-14 07:52:33

Ok tourney question. 3 players left. All 3 players are all in and lose to chips leader. Who get second place and who gets third. I had more chips than player #3 bit they gave player #3 second place. The rules that I read state that if 2 players are busted on same hand the player with more chops going into hand get higher ranking. They told me that since his hand was better than mine he get second.

anthony.b 2014-02-26 13:41:56

When u go all in

don 2014-02-06 21:26:27

in tourament play where best hand for tourament gets prize but hand has to be completed to river My friend Rick and I have different out looks on the completed hand I say if after river is played and one player bets and others fold the hand is not complete Rick say it is because river card has been played Be nice to have the right ruling on this if anyone knows thanks

buck 2013-09-25 03:44:13

Is a allowed to cover his hole cards with his hands cupped over the cards? Cupping and covering the hole cards so that other players cannot tell that he has cards.

joy peters 2013-08-13 15:39:55

if a hand is declared dead do you still have to cover the bet

Emily 2013-07-14 19:54:45

John / Basically once you say raise you are cemmittod to raise. Once you say call you are cemmittod to call and can only call and not raise. Never say the I see your line if you intend to raise as it will just be regarded as a call. You don't really need to say anything if you put your chips in the middle in one continuous motion. If you string chips into the pot its a call. The one exception is if you put one big chip into the middle its treated as a call rather than a raise unless you say raise . So, if you want to raise without saying raise, make sure you at least use two chips to raise.

Richard 2013-07-14 11:16:00

You don't have to worry about being knocked out in cash games. And you don't have to worry about bldnis going up. I would say no-limit cash games are more profitable given the time that you must invest in tournaments. In large, scheduled tournaments there are many variables and you can spend hours playing without even making it to the bubble. Plus you are out your buy-in and tournament fee. With cash games, you can spend a couple hours at a table and sit on a big stack and wait for cards. Of course, this will work if you have the patience and skill to play accordingly. In both games, I'd still recommend playing tight-aggressive. In the early rounds of a tournament, you want to play especially tight. Many bad players feel they need to play loosely because a) the bldnis are small and they can afford to play a lot of hands and b) they think that if they can build a big stack quickly, they have a better chance at playing and c) they'd rather take the chance of being knocked out early than wasting their time without making it to the bubble. In my experience, you'll see a lot of bad beats in the early stages of tournaments because bad players play lots of bad cards, and you'll see a lot of bad poker plays and suckouts. You can become the aggressor in the mid stages, when everyone is trying to make the bubble rather than go deep. This is the time you can buy a lot of pots. In cash games, it's a similar strategy except for that like I mentioned before, there are no blind raises and you aren't playing for 1st or 2nd. You are playing to eat chips. The best way I find to win at cash games is develop a tight table image and try to show down big hands early. This can take a while if you are not getting cards right away.

Jim newell 2013-06-17 21:33:56

What's the penalty for another player touching my cards

Jim 2013-06-17 20:47:42

What's the penalty for one player touching another's cards

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