How to Run a Professional Poker Tournament
Running a poker tournament in a bar or as a home tourney is easy once you know how to do it. Just run it like it is a casino – the only real difference is that you don’t have a paid dealer at the table and instead you peer deal, each player takes turns to shuffle and deal as the button moves around the table.
The most important part of planning it to design a good blind structure. The blind structure is how long the blinds are and what they are raised to at each new level. No amount of beer will make up for a bad blind structure. Find someone who has a blind structure you like and copy them. There are also websites that will create blind structures for you.
Your tournament will end shortly after your blinds become double what each player originally started with. For instance, if you have 4,000 in starting chips, then the tournament will be over soon after completing the 5,000/10,000.set of blinds. You need to choose a blind length. In casinos this is often 20 minutes. Other people prefer 15-minute blinds. If you want a tournament that lasts twice as long, try 60-minute blinds like at the WSOP. The blinds should raise smoothly without large jumps in blind size. Choose what works for you.
Blinding Out Players
So people are coming in, but it’s time to start and not everyone is there. What do you do? The natural tendency is to wait for people. The proper thing to do in a poker tournament is to start at the time you said you will start. This shows you are organized and know what you are doing. If the players are late, blind them out or put them in as alternates. But don’t delay the start of the poker tournament.
If you wait for them you are just inviting them to be a little more late next time. If your players really can’t make it, then you have the wrong starting time. But if you start when you say you will, people will get there on time.
So how late do you bring a late player into the game? In Robert’s Rules of Poker, Bob Ciaffone states to allow players one hour. This is based on the typical 20-minute blind structure in a casino, or three sets of blinds. If your blinds are less, such as 15 minutes, consider making your cutoff time 45 minutes to match the three blinds.
To blind a player out, put a stack of chips at his empty seat and play his blinds (chips) for him, but fold his cards. To bring someone in as an alternate – usually when all starting seats are full, but a player is knocked out – give him a full stack of chips less the chips for each set of blinds that is missed. In a tournament, unlike a cash game, always deal to the stacks of chips, not the players at the table.
Once your poker tournament is under way the most important thing to consider is balancing the tables. If you have seven players at one table and only five players at another table you have to move a person. The proper person to move is the next big blind and seat him as close to the big blind position as possible. A good poker player wants the table to be as full as possible. So if you have four tables each with six players, you may think you have balanced tables, but you need to have three tables of eight, not four tables of six.
Your tournament will run much better and be more professional if you use a blinds timer. There are a number of computer programs that will do this for you. You want a timer that runs continuously, not a kitchen timer that goes off and has to be reset. Particularly if you are running a tournament in a bar you need to time your blinds with a clock, not a timer. In a restaurant you have a specific time you need to be finished by. The clock allows you to do this, the timer allows things to creep out of place. For 20-minute blinds make every blind raise on the 20/40/60 minute of the clock. If you run over into the next blind without raising them, then that new blind just got shorter.
As the players place their bets, there will be arguments about the rules that have to be resolved. That is the duty of the tournament director. The World Series of Poker used to have a rule, the last rule in the list of rules, that said the tournament director’s decision is final, even if it appears he is wrong. By popular demand, of the players, that rule has been moved to be the first rule on the list now. So make a ruling, be fair, and be consistent. But once you rule on an issue that is the end of it.
Run the Poker Tournament
You must run the poker tournament, don’t let the poker tournament run you. Start on time. Have a clear policy for late arrivals. Use a good blind structure. Keep your tables full. Use a blinds timer. Players will look forward to the tournament you run.