No Limit Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament
This piece is meant to aid those who know little to nothing
about No Limit Texas Hold
‘em (NLHE) poker tournament play but who want to enjoy the occasional
updates of action at the table.
To enter a NLHE tournament a player only needs to “buy-in”
for a set amount in order to qualify to play. Buy-ins can range from
$25-$1,000,000. The larger the buy-in and the more players, the bigger the prize
pool to pay winners. Part of the buy-in is used to pay the host casino and in
some cases part of the fee is used to tip the tournament dealers. For example:
the buy-in is $135 dollars; $25 is paid to the casino, $10 goes to dealer
gratuity and $100 is pooled to pay the tournament winners. One hundred players
creates a total prize value of $10,000 typically to be divided among the last
10% of entrants to survive elimination.
The goal of a poker
tournament player is to survive elimination with her being the last player
remaining with chips. In the scenario described above the prize might be divided
1st $3,500, 2nd $2,500, 3rd
$1,500, 3rd $600, 4th $ 475, 5th
$375, 6th $290, 7th $235, 8th $205, 9th
$175, 10th $145. In this case 10 players are paid. Tenth place pays a
little over the buy in cost while first place pays 26 times the buy-in. One
could play for six hours and earn only $20 for an effective pay rate of $3.33
cents per hour. No minimum wage for poker? Gotta get to first place!
How does a
tournament differ from playing cash poker? The chips in a tournament have no
cash value even though each chip has a dollar denomination associated with it
for the purpose of betting. In a cash game, the value of the chip is what the
player paid for that chip. For example, a $5 chip was purchased by the player
for $5. When the player wins or loses that chip the face value is the actual
amount won or lost by that player. In a cash game, a player may replenish her
chip stack (chips for playing) by buying additional chips to play with up to the
maximum allowed for that particular game. When players in a cash game are done
playing at any time, they take their chips to a cashier and are paid the full
face value of the chips.
have no cash value. Tournament players do not leave the table until they are
eliminated by losing all the chips in their possession. Some tournaments allow
players to “re-enter” into the tournament for a limited time (say two hours
after the tournament starts) as though they were new players entering the
tournament. This increases the prize pool but more important to the casino it’s
an additional fee for the house. It also gives a player additional chances to
win after being eliminated.
NLHE play basics.
There are 9 or 10 players at each
table to begin. Every hand that is dealt includes several components.
The dealer position
rotates clockwise or to the left with each new hand and is designated by a
round, white disk know as the “button” that is placed in front of a different
player each hand. Even though a professional dealer distributes the playing
cards for all hands, the button moves each time a new hand is dealt. This is
important because in Texas Hold ‘em, the virtual dealer position (button) has
significant tactical advantage.
“Big blind” and
“small blind”. These are mandatory
bets that rotate around the table with each new hand. The blinds require each
player to pay into the “pot” (chips bet by players that increase the value of
the winner’s pool with each bet) at least two times each rotation of hands
around the table. Doing this prevents players from just waiting until they have
fantastic hands. The small blind is generally half the value of the big blind.
increase periodically. Typically blinds increase every twenty to sixty
minutes. In a game with blind progressions of 30 minutes, the small blind that
was $25 becomes $50 after the first 30 minutes of play and the big blind
increases from $50 to $100. Increasing blinds encourages players to act rather
than just wait because, in time, the blinds would eat-up their stack of chips
even though they never played hands by voluntarily betting. Shorter blind
progressions favor the lucky while longer blind progressions favor skilled
starts to the left of the big blind. Picture this: The dealer button is in
front of you. To your left is the small blind player who must put a $25 chip on
the table in front of him. To his left is the big blind player who has placed a
$50 chip in front of herself. The professional dealer doles out the first card
in a new hand to the small blind position to your immediate left. The dealer
continues to deal clockwise to each player until he has dealt around the table
twice, giving each player two cards (hole cards) that are not visible to anyone
but the player holding those cards. You get the last card dealt.
The “first to act”
is the player to the left of the big blind (that position is known as
“under-the-gun”.) The first to act person decides if he wants to stay in the
hand by “calling” the value of the big blind, $50, or by “raising”--betting at
least double the value of the big blind or any amount above that with no limit.
The third option for the player is to “fold” their hand and quite without
putting more of their chips in the pot. I call this
FROC: fold, raise or call/check.
The person who folds is out of play until the next round.
The next person to
act is to the left of the previous acting player. She must
FROC by calling the previous bet,
raising or folding. Once this action has progressed around the entire table the
final player to act is the big blind position.
After all action is
done, (no more betting) the dealer puts three cards, face up, on the table.
This round is called the “flop” and these face up community cards can be used by
each player to combine with their hole cards to create the best five card
combination. There will be two additional cards added to the community cards by
the last round of this hand. Each player hopes that his card combination will
have a higher five card poker ranking than other players who have remained in
this hand without folding.
The three flop
cards are dealt face up, betting starts to your left with the player in the
small blind position. This betting sequence will hold true for the remainder of
the hand. The minimum bet must be equal
to or more than the big blind amount. In this round, players have the
opportunity to just “check” and not make a bet as long as another player acting
before them didn’t make a bet.
Since you are last to bet in this round you have the
advantage of seeing how everyone else feels about their hole cards and the flop
cards before you decide what to do. If they check around to you without making a
bet you may decide that even your poor cards can be represented to the other
players as good through you making a bet. This may cause the other players to
fold their mediocre cards, allowing you to win the pot because no one feels they
can beat you. If anyone calls a bet made by you or anyone else, they remain in
the hand until the next card is dealt and betting starts anew.
The “turn card”
round also known as “fourth street” follows the flop round. This is the
fourth card dealt face up and combines with the three flop cards to make four
community cards. Again, betting starts with the next player to the left of the
dealer who has not folded his hand during the previous round.
Finally comes the
“river” card round also known as “fifth street.” This is the final card
dealt and is dealt face up becoming the fifth community card. Players who still
remain in the game will mentally combine the community cards with their private
hole cards to choose the best five card hand based upon poker hand value. A
round of betting ensues. Once the final bets and calls are made hole cards are
exposed to all players revealing the winning hand. The winner takes all the
chips in the pot for that hand. Occasionally there are two hands with the same
poker value in which case the pot is “chopped” or split evenly between the two
continues until one player remains. Players who avoid elimination until they
are “in the money” (qualify for receiving a piece of the prize pool) are paid
based upon their winning position. In the example above, the player eliminated
in the tenth paid position leaves the table and is paid $145 immediately upon
departing the table. Some casinos allow a “chop” of the prize pool whereby
remaining players who survive until only the paid positions remain, or at
anytime thereafter, choose to split
the prize money evenly or by any ratio negotiated and agreed upon by all
There you have No Limit Hold ‘Em tournament play in a nutshell. If you want to
learn more about the game, buy my book! LOL
If this text fails to answer your questions about the
basics of NLHE or if something is unclear, please tell me. That will help me
improve the copy for clarity.
Enjoy the game as a spectator. Play the game for fun and
profit. If you find yourself at my table just nod and wink and prepare for
TJ Western © 2014
with the first card dealt and ends when only one player remains or remaining
players reveal their cards and poker ranking determines the winner of that hand.
betting session that follows cards dealt. The next round begins when additional
cards are dealt that initiates another betting session.
bets that rotate to each player at the table.
three community cards dealt face up.
Turn or 4th
Street—fourth community card dealt face up.
River or 5th
Street—fifth community card dealt face up.
the minimum bet. Value is double the small blind value.
the value of the big blind.
the Gun—Player to the left of the big blind and the first to act pre-flop.
first two cards dealt face down to each player, visible only to the holding
the winnings among qualifying players.
virtual dealer position that rotates to the left after each hand.
available to the player for betting.
a tournament after losing the chips received after the player’s initial buy-in
purchase. The full tournament purchase price is required to re-enter.
In the money—player
has achieved tournament survival until the paid player positions are all that
First to act—the
player who is in the table position that requires him to decide first whether to
fold, raise or call/check after the dealer has dealt the cards for that round.