How to run a community Texas Hold'em Tournament

Shuffle up and deal... it's poker night, and tonight it's a Hold'em tournament...
Shuffle up and deal... it's poker night, and tonight it's a Hold'em tournament...

We've been running a home poker game for years.

When the World Series of Poker started being televised, and Hold'em became a national pastime, we started running our own tournaments,

Once a week, our community center hosts a poker game, on Wednesday evening.

Once a month, we run a tournament. Lately we have been alternating between a Hold'em tournament and an Omaha tournament.

Our Hold'em tournament is open to members and guests. We've added accessories to make the game more professional, and are open to new ideas.

To make the game run smoothly we have developed a format and rules that work very well.



Folding Poker Table

Seats 8-9 comfortably
Seats 8-9 comfortably

Checklist for a community Hold'em tournament


  • Poker tables - we user a large, round poker table for table 1 (see picture) and use 60 inch round folding tables for over flow.
  • Chips - We bought clay chips a few years ago and they are still in fine condition. We have seven racks of green chips (700), four racks of black chips (400), one rack of purple chips (100), one rack of white chips (100). Chip values in our tournaments: green = 25, black = 100, purple = 500 and white = 1000.
  • Cards - one red back deck and one blue back deck on each table.
  • Cut cards - two cards per table
  • Dealer button - one per table
  • Timer - to time each blind level
  • Sign-in sheet - everybody registers and pays for starting stack of chips.
  • Seat assignment cards - we marked up an old deck. 1-10 of spades is table one and seats 1-10, etc.


Running the game

You have to be organized to run an effective home tournament. The setup, sign-up, chip stacks are all done by the players before the game. We also deal with putting all our stuff away so the community room is ready for the next day.

A tournament has a few elements that need to be thought out and easy to implement:

  • Table and equipment setup.
  • Sign-in process including the buy-in collection and starting chip stacks.
  • Blind schedule.
  • Prize pool.
  • House rules.


Schedule for tournament night

We start sign-ups at 6:15.

We try to call for the first deal at 6:30, but sometimes run a few minutes late. If so, we take the time off the first blind round time.

Our blind schedule is structured to allow us to finish around 10 PM.


Buy-in and starting chips

We have a volunteer to sign in players, collect buy-in fee and hand out chips.

Each player buys in for a set amount, and gets a starting stack of chips worth 2,500. Each starting stack includes: 8 green chips, 8 black chips and 3 purple chips.

Pick a buy-in amount that is comfortable for your group of players. Too high and you squeeze out people; too low and it might not attract serious players. Remember that the prize pool builds through all those buy-ins and re-buys.


Chip color
Value
Buy-in stack
Green
25
8 chips, 200
Black
100
8 chips, 800
Purple
500
3 chips, 1,500
White
1,000
Used to color up

Re-buys and add-ons

We allow re-buys for the first couple of hours:

  • Unlimited.
  • Same total chip value, same cost.
  • Player's current chip stack must be 2,000 or less.
  • No re-buy during a hand (after first card is dealt).


Blind schedule

We have developed a blind schedule that solves the needs of a community tournament gsme:

  • Give the players a lot of action in the beginning; low blinds, plenty of chips.
  • Longer rounds at the beginning, shorter rounds at the end.
  • Allow for a couple of breaks.
  • Timed to make sure the evening doesn't run to long.
  • Introduce antes, towards the end so players can't just sit on chip stacks.
  • Accelerating blinds towards the end to be sure we can end on schedule (around 10 PM).

If you want a longer game span, then lower the blinds and antes in the last hour.


Blind and break schedule

Time
Minutes
Blinds
Ante
6:30
25
25/50
--
6:55
25
50/100
--
7:20
25
75/100
--
7:45
15
Break color up green
--
8:00
30
100/200
--
8:30
15
200/400
100
8:45
15
300/600
100
9:00 (end re-buys)
15
400/800
200
9:15
15
500/1000
200
9:30
5
Break, color up black
 
9:35
15
1000/2000
1000
9:50
15
2000/4000
2000
Source

Bonus hands

We pay a bonus for certain premium hands to add a little zip to the evening. The bonus hand must be shown down. If you fold a bonus hand it doesn't count. The hand must play out to a show down. The bonus is paid in tournament chips. Multiple occurrences in a hand get paid (e.g. two different full houses)

  • 1st occurrence of a full house pays 200 in chips.
  • 1st occurrence of quads pays 500 in chips.
  • Any occurrence of a straight flush pays 1000 in chips.
  • Any occurrence of a royal flush pays 2500 in chips.



Prize pool

All buy-ins and re-buys accumulate into a prize pool. There is no rake or cut.

  • 1st place winner gets a prize of 50% of the pool.
  • 2nd place winner gets a prize of 30% of the pool.
  • 3rd place winner gets a prize of 20% of the pool.


General rules and guidelines

To avoid surprises and bad feelings, we publish all of the tournament rules and guidelines and have it available at the sign-in table. It is helpful for newbies.

We include some general guidelines:

  • Blinds are forced bids. The player to the left of the dealer must make an opening bet (small blind); the next player to the left must raise (large blind). Blind bets are made before cards are dealt. Bidding starts with the third player to the left of the dealer.
  • Minimum bet or raise increment is value of big blind or last raise during the round.
  • Chips may be revalued (colored up) to reduce the number of chips in play.
  • An ante (starting bet for each player at the table) may be applied at any time during the evening to accelerate play.
  • Players assigned to a table; may be moved from one table to another to balance play. Typically, the player in cut-off position will move to cut-off at new table.
  • Play at a table may be temporarily paused, to balance blind levels between tables.
  • Blinds move around the table with each new deal. A player may leave his/her seat, but must leave chips at the table and ante/blinds are deducted in rotation.
  • If time runs out (play stopped) before there is one winner, the remaining players will be ranked based on the value of their chip stacks.
  • The prize pool will consist of the total of buy-in and re-buys (less any costs for refreshments and supplies).
  • Tournament director may adjust blinds and schedules to maintain overall schedule.

A good time was had by all...

No question, that it is a great feeling to finish in the money. The neat thing about these tournaments is that every body has a shot. Poker is a great mix of skill and luck. On any given night, anybody can get those magic river cards and knock out a pro.


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