Part of the popularity of poker tournaments is due to the cash prizes they promise. Poker tournament prizes can be large or small, depending on a variety of factors such as the type of the tournament played, the casino in which it is played, the online poker room that stages it, the size of the buy-in, and the number of players who have registered for it.
In some varieties of tournaments such as multi table tournaments (MTTs), the prize structure cannot really be known in advance because one never knows how many people will register for it. If a large number of players register for a particular tournament, a larger percentage of the field can receive prizes. In some cases, the survivor or the player who finishes first gets the entire pot. However, in case of all single table tournaments (STTs) with the exception of rebuys the number of players is known in advance and so is the prize structure.
Basic Prize Structure
Most online poker rooms follow the regular or the flat prize structure-2 common varieties. In case of regular prize structures, around 10 percent of the field gets paid with the lion’s share going to the player who finishes first. In case of the flat prize structure, around 15 percent of the field gets paid; so players will find it easier to make a payout.
All poker tournaments follow a basic prize structure with certain modifications. In case of a five-player poker tournament, the winner gets the entire prize pool. The players who finish first and second in a tournament with 6 – 8 players receive 70 percent and 30 percent of the prize pool, respectively. Players who finish first, second, and third in a tournament with 9 – 15 players receive 50 percent, 30 percent, and 20 percent of the prize pool, respectively. In case of a tournament with 16 – 25 players, the players who finish first, second, third, and fourth win 50 percent, 25 percent, 15 percent, and 10 percent of the pot, respectively. Sometimes, the top five players get paid in case of a 25-player tournament, distributed as 40 percent, 25 percent, 20 percent, 10 percent, and 5 percent of the total prize pool.
The prize structure of a tournament also depends on the type of poker tournament.
Most poker sites offer freerolls, which have no real money buy-ins. However, players can win real money prizes. The total prize pool of a freeroll depends on the generosity of the online poker room that organizes it.
Regular buy-in poker tournaments have real money buy-ins, and the total prize pool depends on the number of players. Some of these buy-in tournaments can be guaranteed tournaments with a guaranteed prize pool. This means that players will receive payouts equal to the guaranteed sum irrespective of how many people register for the tournament. If more players register and the buy-in collected exceed the sum guaranteed, players will receive larger prizes.
Qualifiers are organized to give players a chance to win seats to a large buy-in poker tournament. In case of turbos, the blinds rise faster than usual poker tournaments; naturally, larger prizes can be won.
Satellite tournaments are mini tournaments staged to qualify players for a large live poker event such as World Series of Poker (WSOP). The winner usually receives a prize package including buy-in to the Main Event, traveling and accommodation charges, and spending money. The size of the package, however, depends on the poker site that offers it.
Players buy-in to a bounty tournament for real money. The prize size depends on the number of players or a guaranteed prize pool; and players who knock off top poker pros from the table get a bonus prize.
Setting Poker Tournament Prizes
Some poker sites allow players to devise their own prize structures, provided everybody at the table agrees to it. So, players who finish first and second may split the pot between themselves. Or, the top players might want an equal share of the prize pool and set aside a bonus amount for the player who finishes first. Alternatively, players can agree for a particular prize as per the size of their stack of chips at the end of a game.