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Running your own Poker tournament

My roommates and I run a weekly rebuy tournament here at Ohio State. It started last year as a set game time for the guys in our dorm that wanted to play but this year we decided to take it to a new level. Ben helped in the marketing aspect and I worked on the structure.

I’ve played in a lot of live tournaments hosted by charities, VFWs, American Legions, etc, and the one thing that I noticed about them was they were very rushed. The blinds increased every 15 minutes, which isn’t too horrible, but the blind levels themselves almost doubled every time!

First, a few things to think about before hosting your tournament:

1) The buyin. How much money do you want to play for? On another note, will there be rebuy oppurtunities? (Note: A rebuy allows a player who busted to rebuy for the starting amount of chips for a set price). Rebuys can be limited or unlimited, and usually last for a specific amount of time (Mine are the 1st hour).
2) How many people. Do you have space to host 9, 18, 27 people? The number of people has two main side effects. First, more people = more money in the pot. Second, more people = more time spent playing, and if you’re hosting that means if you’re out in the first hour you’ll be waiting until the end.
3) Equipment. Do you have good cards (full decks, not crap paper cards, etc), a poker table, and chips? I guess snacks and drinks could fit into this catagory as well, but I’m not going to tell you what kind of pretzels to buy. (I’ll go over different chips, cards, and tables in later posts).

I’ll outline how Ben and I run our tournament here:
Buyin: $10
Rebuys: $5 (Unlimited)
Add-on: $5 (One at the break)

Players start with $T3000 chips and blinds rise every 15 minutes. I’m not going to post the whole blind schedule because that would be obnoxious, but needless to say it doesn’t double every time. Blinds start at 25-50, 50-100, 75-150, 100-200 in the first hour. At the break players can spend $5 more and receive an extra $T3000 chips. Check out our site, OSUCards.com for more in on the structure.

The game has been spread pretty widely around campus and the players love to play here, so much so that we had to cap the entries at 40 people, we just couldn’t fit everyone. We also run a website in blog format (OSUCards.com) to recount the latest game and give updates. In order to give our game a little something extra we have a TLB (tournament leader board) race for each quarter.

We doll out points using Pokerstars’ TLB calculator and keep a very detailed excel sheet for the quarter for all the games, TLB standings, etc. These are also posted on the website, and at the end of the quarter the top 6 players in the TLB compete for a winner-take-all $100 freeroll (We rake $10 a game for the freeroll).

Obviously, not all of this is necessary to run your own friendly home game with 5 of your friends, but it should give you an idea of how to run a good tournament. The blinds shouldn’t force action too early, the buyin should be comfortable for all parties, and the game shouldn’t overstay it’s welcome.

Lastly, make sure you knows the rules in your state on the legality of hosting your own tournament or home game. Most states turn a blind eye to harmless home games, but be careful if it gets out of hand, and definately do not take a house cut. Once the house makes a profit from the game it is highly illegal and a felony. In our games, we ask the players if we can take some money out of the pot to buy new cards, or take money out for the final freeroll, but that isn’t going into our pockets.

Good luck on the felt!

I've been playing poker for almost four years now (well before it was legal for me, woops!) Besides poker I enjoy playing the guitar and I'm very enthusiastic about pursuing Dentistry as a career. I'm currently at The Ohio State Univeristy studying Microbiology, living with three of my close friends. I'm dating a lovely girl from Australia and am looking forward to the oppurtunity to study abroad over there as well.

3 thoughts on “Running your own Poker tournament

  1. Awesome post Steve. I was only last week thinking of running a charity poker tournament here in Australia this year to help boost my karma points so this info has come in handy. Any extra tips on what you have seen at charity tournaments?

  2. Most every charity tournament I’ve been to has used the limited rebuy in the first hour or hour and a half option because rebuy tournaments generate such huge pots (They give each player 3 tickets to redeem with rebuys so each player has 3 max rebuys). The rake for charity tournaments is usually something like 40% of the main pot, then all the rebuys go into the player’s pot. They have a tournament director who keep the blinds increasing and settles disputes and have volunteer dealers.

    To decrease confusion make sure you go over the rules very clearly at the beginning. Players must say ‘raise’ as the first word when raising, not ‘i call, and raise $$$$’, that is considered a string bet. Check out a site like The Wired Pair, a company that runs charity events, and look at their rules and structures.

    They also like to use tournament director software that counts down blinds and average chips and players left, etc, for them. One such program is reviewed here.

    Hope that helps, glad to see you followed me from thepokerblog Anthony. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for the extra info.

    I follow the posts mate. You could post over at My Space or Live Journal and I’ll still chase them down. Good luck over here at pok.erati.com!

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