The Basic Rules of Poker Tournaments You Should Know

min read
The words “Tournament Poker” surrounded by playing cards and gold poker chips.
BetMGM Mar 07, 2023, 11:22 AM

Poker is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars in the phenomenal success of online casinos. Each year more players learn the game and take part in the exciting offering of online poker tournaments, and of course, there is always a new name to add to the list of growing poker stars.

You don’t have to be a professional or even a particularly accomplished player to try your hand at a poker tournament. All you need are some pointers that will help you feel at ease with the basic tournament rules so you can compete whenever you choose. Let’s get started. 

Types of popular poker tournaments

The first thing to understand when setting out to play poker online competitively is the different types of tournaments you can participate in. Here are some of the more popular ones.

Bounty tournaments

These tourneys offer players a particular amount of money (a bounty) for knocking out opponents in the course of an event. BetMGM’s Progressive Knockout Bounty Tournaments are as exciting as poker tourneys get! These action-packed events give you an opportunity to win by eliminating your competitors. Poker tournament rules reward you with 50% of the eliminated player’s bounty in cash, and the remaining 50% is added to your bounty each time you take a player out of the competition.

Sit & Go tournaments

This format does not have a scheduled starting time. An event starts once all the seats have been filled, typically by nine to 10 players. This makes Sit & Go tourneys ideal for players who want to participate in a small tournament whenever it suits them. We highly recommend them for beginner players because the single-table tournament means you don’t have to dominate a huge field to win, and they take about an hour to play from start to finish, so you don’t have to overtax your fledgling knowledge while still learning to play poker games online

During these fun, educational events, you’ll be able to pick up poker tournament tips in a relaxed and friendly environment, and you’ll find it easy to learn the importance of position, stack sizes, and selected aggression. It’s also a great way to develop your playing style in 3-handed, 6-handed, and 10-handed environments. Buy-ins are also budget-friendly, ranging from $0.10 to $500, and are available in regular, turbo, and hyper turbo structures.

Re-buy tournaments

This tournament format allows players to re-buy chips a limited number of times within a specified time frame that is set by the hosting online poker site. BetMGM’s popular Mega Tuesday $535 Six-Max No Limit Hold’em Tournament has a guaranteed $12,000s up for grabs, with a 100,000 starting chip stack. As a re-entry tournament, after players bust, they may re-enter the tournament during the registration period (up to level 15.)

Multi-table tournaments

These tourneys have a scheduled time and typically attract a large number of players who participate across several tables. Players are eliminated based on their scores, and when only a few remain, an online browser takes them to the final table. The tournament winner is the player with the largest number of chips at the end. Poker tournament rules often allow the attractive prize pools to be shared by the top scorers, which makes this format a poker tournament favorite. 

Satellite tournaments

These tourneys are often a gateway to the largest macro poker competitions and can be hosted by poker online rooms in the runup to events like the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Winners of these tourneys are given entries to the grand event. Usually, satellite buy-ins are around 5 to 10% of the buy-ins for the main event.

General poker tournaments rules

As we run through the basic rules, one of the most important poker tournament tips we can give you is to avoid unnecessary distractions. It’s easy when playing online in the comfort of your home to have your attention drawn away from a game by friends or phone notifications. It’s particularly important as you get to grips with competitive poker that you remain fully focused on a game while it’s in progress. This will allow you to make the most of each game and help you on your learning path to becoming an accomplished poker player.

The rules of online poker tournaments are similar to the rules that apply to live games. The site you play on will provide you with the rules, and terms and conditions that apply to their tournaments. Take the time to read them so you can play with more confidence. These are some of the most common rules: 

  • Seating is assigned by random draw, and changes are not allowed once play has started, except when assigned by the facilitator. 
  • Starting chips are placed on the table for each paid entrant at the start of an event. Usually, paid players who are not present will be dealt in (if they remain uncontactable after 30 minutes, they may be removed at the facilitator’s discretion at the start of a new betting level.) All the necessary chips for antes and blinds are placed into the pot.
  • At regular intervals, limits and blinds are raised, and once the end of a betting level is indicated, the new limits apply to the next deal, which starts with the first riffle of the shuffle.
  • Starting with the number one seat and working clockwise, the dealer allocates cards to one player before moving to the next player. The participant who has the highest card by suit is given enough odd chips to exchange for one new chip. Then the player with the next highest suit exchanges for the next chip. This continues until all the lower-value chips have been exchanged. A competitor must occupy or be within reach of a seat when the first card is dealt on the initial deal, or they will have a dead hand.
  • As players drop out of a game, remaining opponents are reassigned from broken tables to empty seats at other tables in a predetermined order. The player-to-table ratio is balanced by moving participants where necessary. If a field whittles down to just three tables, a redraw for seating takes place, although this isn’t compulsory in small tournaments that comprise fewer than five tables.
  • In the event that a player lacks sufficient chips for a blind or a forced bet, they may get action on whatever amount of money remains. If a participant posts a short blind and wins, he or she will not need to make up the blind.
  • Once eliminated from a tournament, players must immediately leave their seats.
  • If a player shows any cards during a deal, except when there are just two players remaining, the hand may be declared dead and the competitor penalized.
  • Behavior that is abusive or severely disruptive may incur a penalty, resulting in being dealt out of the game for a specified time or evicted from the tournament. 

Play poker online at BetMGM

We’ve made it easy to play online poker and find a variety of tournaments wherever you happen to be. Our offering includes over 70 tournaments daily and a Network Sunday $35,000 Tournament when you have the opportunity to play in one of the biggest Sunday Majors around! It’s easy to register, and we offer an unbeatable poker experience no matter what your choice may be!

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author


Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.