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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David Kardes 2016-02-17 14:08:57

A new hold'em rule, if one at all, was just brought to my attention by an opponent while playing in our regional community play group. As our play is generally scheduled at local pool halls we certainly don't have use of casino type tables instead having the folding Texas Hold em table tops.This type of table top has no betting lines reflected on felt which would dictate whether a player has actually made a bet or not.

In my recent situation, my chips were about four inches from the edge of the table which would had been well short of the betting line on the table if there had been one. As I grabed my hole cards and slide them towards the edge so that I could discretely view them, I had. two opponents stated that "Since my hole cards were then located behind my chips that I had initiated an "All In" bet. Of course my response was What!!!". I have never heard of such a rule.

I can't even begin to think that if I went to ANY casino, and had my chips well short of the betting line, that the dealer would state "Your cards just went behind your cards to you have an all in bet, even though they aren't even near a betting line.

Thoughts, Ideas, Etc......thanks

mary 2015-08-08 10:49:26

when everyone folds and you are the only left you win. but if you are playing for a high hand pot on the side. dose that hand also win the high hand. or is the hand dead after everyone fold.

Mitch 2015-06-20 04:26:27

If 2 people both have a queen in hand and a queen in the middle, so a pair of Queens one has an ace the other has a six does the player with an ace high win?

hen 2015-06-14 00:12:11

If two players have queens but 1 has queen and a 2 and the other has a queen and a 6 but theres two 3s in the middle who wins

Anthony 2015-06-07 22:44:43

One player goes all in and then a second player raises and goes all in as well. Can a third player call the second player's all in after the third player has shown a player his both cards?

Larry Goldsmith 2015-06-05 11:56:00

If the big blind is 2 chips and player 3 raises 6 chips to a total of 8 chips can player 4 re-raise to a total of 10 chips? In other words can player 4 match player 3's bet of 8 and raise it just one bet of 2 chips to total 10 chips?

HelsBels 2014-12-30 07:52:24

If playing in a tournament, a player goes all in pre-flop, someone asks their hand and they declare the correct hand, is the players hand then dead?

Lillymac 2014-11-16 16:55:22

When your playing in a tournament is it possible for a player to join in the game once it starts or even 3 hrs into the game? I just played in a tournament where they let people join after almost 3 hrs. I was so pissed that if I had not put up money to play I would have walked out!

dave 2014-09-25 15:17:47

playing holdem after the flop one player goes all in 2nd player called, after the flop an river the 2nd play had 3 cards what the rule?

Devin D 2014-07-08 16:38:26

I am bothered by a local game that seems to have established the practice of allowing absent players to play a hand right up to a raise being made. This practice is not only unethical but constitutes a serious form of cheating that could cause significant loss of money in games to present players being forced to play against players abusing the temporary absence rule to suddenly rejoin just as betting approaches their seat. My bets in a nine-handed game may be significantly different than in a seven-handed game where both blinds are absent from the table following all starting cards being dealt. The odds change significantly in a table with two fewer players and this can encourage a present player to bet or stay in the hand based on the lower number if players at the table and improved odds.

This means clearly, I can gain an advantage by absenting myself right up till the betting hits my position at which time I can suddenly pop in and take advantage of the changed betting scenario.

This is cheating, and tournament directors or games allowing this are potentially cheating present players out of big pots. Roberts Rules of Poker and all reputable games instruct dealers in tournaments to kill all hands where players are not present once all starting cards have been dealt.

The practice of being "lenient" and allowing rejoining a hand after all starting cards have been dealt is both unethical and an abomination - even in friendly non-cash tournaments where players compete for points to earn a free entry to a cash tournament at seasons end.

It does not make the game more fun, enjoyable, or action conducive to allow absent players to rejoin a hand once all starting cards have been dealt. It is cheating plain and simple and teaches bad etiquette and encourages amoral players to exploit an opportunity that would never be allowed in a WSOP or other high-level tournament and could get you a serious beating for trying in a cash game off the grid.

Would you let a player sit down and take cards once a deal has started? Or do they have to wait?


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