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The Rules Of Texas Hold'em Tournaments

Article By: RuffPoker.com

Texas Hold'em is the undisputed king of poker.  Poker rooms both online and offline dedicate the majority of their tables to this once unknown game.  Home games too, are popping up all over the country.  It seems everyone fancies themselves the next Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raimer.

It amazes me how many home games play by─ shall we say─ creative rules.  The rules of Texas Hold'em are easy to understand, but for some reason these rules fall apart in the average home poker tournament game.  Here's a quick guide to help you make sure your home tournament is by the book

The Format

Make sure you agree to the tournament format ahead of time.  You need to determine the buy-in, the blind structure, and stack sizes.


The buy-in is the easiest of the three to determine.  Pick a buy-in that everyone is comfortable spending and still creates a prize pool large enough to be exciting.  My home games usually range from $20 to $100 buy-ins for a field of ten people.  The payout is a little more complicated, but I find that the best structure is: 50%(1st), 30%(2nd), and 20%(3rd).  You can change the payout levels as you add more people.

Blind Structure

At what level will your blinds start?  $5/$10?  $10/$20?   The size of your starting blinds should take your stack size into account.  If you're starting with $2000, $5/$10 blinds may be too small.
In addition, you have to decide how often your blinds will go up.  There's a bit of a balance here.  The faster your blinds go up, the more luck becomes a factor in your tournament.  For example, if your blinds go up every 3 minutes, you won't have long before the blinds force you to play mediocre hands and make risky moves.

On the other hand, if your blinds go up too slow, your tournament will take too long to finish and people may lose interest.  I find that raising the blinds every 10 minutes is a good compromise.  Make sure you know what the blinds will raise to after every 10 minute period.

Stack Size

Another way to control the pace of your game is with stack size.  A game that starts with $1000 and blinds of $10/$20 won't last nearly as long as a game that starts with $1500 and blinds of $5/$10.  I tend to prefer the latter so I have some extra chips to splash around with early on.


The issue of what constitutes a “legal” raise is sure to come up in your tournament, so make sure everyone knows your policies.  Here's an example of acceptable raising rules:

  1. You must announce a raise before you bet.
  2. String bets are not allowed.
  3. Your raise must be at least as much as the last bet or raise.  (ex. If someone raises to $100, your minimum re-raise would be to $200)

Deciding these rules beforehand will save you a lot of headaches during your tournament.

Texas Hold'em is a lot like golf in that it takes minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.  Tournament Texas Hold'em is slightly different than cash games.  While the basic rules remain the same, the structure of the tournament can have a profound effect on gameplay.