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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Sean Lind 2010-05-11 19:59:00


There isn't one that I know of. Sorry about that.

Red Contaire 2010-05-11 08:08:39

With regard to Mike's one chip rule question... When the player tossed in (2) 1000 chips against a big blind of 1100, in most places that would be considered a minimum raise only. Because it was more than one chip the one chip rule does not apply. However, because he put in more than half of the required min raise amount, he is required to min raise only.

Now I have a question about the one chip rule. Lets say the blinds are 100 - 200. The small blind has (4) 25 chips out and it is folded around to him. he throws in a 500 chip (no announcement) and does not pull his small blind back, attempting to make it 600. Small blind has all sorts of chip denominations to have made the call with the exact amount if he wanted to just call. Does the 1 chip rule apply?

Marshall 2010-05-01 16:34:12


Where can I find all the texas holdem rules in one place. There must be a bood or something.


Sean Lind 2010-04-23 00:21:22


No, no they do not. I'm not sure why that would ever be the case. When it gets to heads up the two remaining players play for first and second place.

Or they can make a deal.

Darrell 2010-04-22 22:50:37

Hi in poker tourneys when it gets to heads up does the chip leader at this point get to decide what happens with the winnings

Mike S. 2010-04-16 20:01:14

In tournament play, if 2 players are moved to another table and sit down at the dealer button and small blind are they allowed to be dealt in that hand or do they have to wait until the button passes them. Also if you sit at a table as small blind are you allowed to come in as the dealer after that hand is complete.

Sean Lind 2010-04-15 20:57:05


If the player says nothing, it's a call. Here's the deal:

If you throw in one oversized chip (say a $500 chip for a $100 bet), it's just a call if you say nothing. If you throw in two chips (two $500 chips to a $100 bet) it's always a raise.

But in your case, his two chips were not enough to make a legal raise (a raise would need to be $2200), this means, because he said nothing, it's simply a call.

If you don't say anything, and it's one chip, it's always a call. If you don't say anything and it's two chips, it's always a raise (assuming the value is at or above the value of a minimum raise), if the two chips are below the minimum raise, it's always a call.

Mike 2010-04-15 06:14:29

With the one chip rule in effect, a player bets $1100. next player does not say anything and throws in 2 $1000 chips. Is he forced to complete the raise or does his second $1000 chip constitute a call for the last $100 of the initial bet?

Sean Lind 2010-04-12 23:14:30


If you say the word "call" you are bound to calling the current bet, in this case meaning the raise.

The only way you are not bound to this is if the player was not aware of the raise, had waited until the dealer indicated it was his turn to act AND the dealer failed to announce the raise.

If any of those are not true, the call stands. Verbal is binding in poker, no exceptions.

Fred 2010-04-12 21:59:00

In a tourney, if a player moves all in & a player down the line says call not knowing some1 has raised. What happens?


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