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Poker Tournament Rules

By Gary Steele

Poker tournaments have their own set of rules and terminology. This is a basic guide to what you might find when looking for a tournament game. There are typically three variations of tournament buy-ins. A “Rebuy,” a “Freezeout,” and a “Freeroll.”

Rebuy tournaments

A “Rebuy” tournament gives players the chance to buy more chips when they run out. Typically this “Rebuy” period lasts for the first hour and all players are given the chance to buy more chips at the end of the hour. The players in the “Rebuy” period of these tournaments are usually very loose. They are taking chances knowing they can get back in the tournament if they lose. Each time a player uses the “Rebuy,” the money goes towards the ever expanding prize pool. I play tighter than usual in these periods, taking advantage of the suckers when possible. My goal is to double my chips in the first hour.

Freezout tournaments

In a “Freezeout” or “Elimination” tournament players are eliminated when their chips are gone. There is no chance to buy more. The prize pool is usually smaller, but many good players prefer this structure because they do not end up loosing to terrible hands as much. There is no reason to play different early in a “Freezeout” tournament.

Freeroll tournaments

A “Freeroll” tournament does not charge players an entry fee. These tournaments reward players for playing a certain number of raked hands over a period of time. On the Prima Poker Network, any player who plays 50 raked hands in a day may enter their multiple “Freeroll” tournaments the following day.

Satellite tournaments

A Satellite tournament is where players play for an entry into a more expensive tournament. The most well-known Satellite tournament winner is Chris Moneymaker. He spent $40 to win a $10,000 entry into the World Series of Poker in 2003, and then he proceeded to win it. Players in this format often are not playing for a cash prize, but rather are playing for a chance to play for a lot of money.

In the money

Tournaments usually pay more than one winner. A tournament with 150 entrants will pay approximately twenty places. This depends on the tournament structure and the site. Eleventh through twentieth place pays somewhere from 2 to 4 times the buy-in to the player. The winner in these tournaments will typically receive from 80 to 120 times the buy-in. These are only estimates; players sometimes receive much more depending on the tournament structure.


There is usually a small rake paid to the site for running the tournament. This rake is usually about 10% of the buy-in. For example, if you pay $10 into the prize pool for a tournament, you can expect to pay about $1 to the site for the tournament administration.

Deal making

Often, in live games, players will make a deal near the end of the tournament to split the winnings evenly between them. This is not a feature that is available in online tournaments yet, but I will guess it will be in the future.

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