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Tournament Hosting Basics

The Basics of Hosting a Poker Tournament

# of Players

The first key question you need to answer when planning yout tournament is how many players will you have?  This sets the stage for determining where you can host your tournament and what kind of supplies you will need.  When using Poker Tournament Manager Deluxe, you enter the expected number of players in the setup wizard.  This will be used to recommend a blind structure, estimate payouts, and determine the supplies you'll need later.

Determine Location

Based largely on the number of players you exect to have, you next need to determine the location.  Normally you can put about 8 people to a typical round poker table, so that's helps to decide how big of a room you need.

Decide on the Type of Tournament

The next question is Determine the basic type of tournament you want to have.  The most popular kind of tournament is Texas Hold'em No Limit with a small and big blind.  That is the type of tournament I almost always use and the rest of this guide will be based on that structure.

Most home and club tournaments have buyins from $20 to $100. Usually one or two rebuys are permitted up to a certain level and then no more after that. Addons can also be used to allow the pot to grow as people can add more chips if they get low. When I have rebuys in my tournaments I always allow people to rebuy up front, because most players who are playing to win will want to buy as many chips as they can. You then permit them to play with only their initial buyin on the table so that they can go all-in but still use their rebuy if they bust out. This saves alot of trouble in larger tournaments where almost everyone will rebuy. When you reach the level where rebuys are no longer permitted, everyone must put all their chips on the table and would be truly "all-in" if they moved "all-in".

I also prefer to use a larger amount of chips than the actual value of the buyin.  So if your buying is $20, you might make that worth $2,000 in chips.  It makes it a little more fun when you are playing for bigger pots - even if they are imaginary.

I typically use 5 total chip colors with the following values:

  • White - $25
  • Red - $50
  • Blue - $100
  • Black - $500
  • Green - $1,000

Goto http://www.homepokertourney.com/poker-chip-calculator.htm to calculate how many chips of each color are needed based on the number of players and the buyin chip value.  One thing to consider is that you don't want the players to have to few chips because people will tend to go "all-in" faster...so it is better to setup your chip distribution so that each player has 20 or more total chips when possible.

I always count out the chips prior to the tournament so that when players arrive and I check them in their initial buyin is ready to go.  This greatly speeds up getting your tournament started.

One of the keys to managing a successful poker tournament is setting up the blinds to that the tournament ends close to the promised time.  Some people like to double the blinds every 30 minutes or so; I prefer to sometimes double and sometimes increase a set amount to keep the blinds at easy to determine amounts.  For example, rather than going from 400/800 to 800/1600, I would jump from 400/800 to 500/1000.  These numbers are easier to work with. 

I always try to payout 3 for the first 10 players, and then one more or so for each 10 players after that. So the top 4 get paid for a 20 person, top 5 for a 30 person, and so on. The amounts can vary widely, but normally you have the 1st place person get the majority, and the lowest place finisher.


There are scores of books available that cover poker rules in great detail.  At a tournament I have found that there are a few "special" rules that it is important to cover up front to avoid arguments.

  • Check raising is permitted
  • Minimum bet or raise is the big blind
  • If a misdeal occurs during the dealing of the hole cards, then the cards must be redealt
  • If a misdeal occurs when dealing the community cards, then the hand continues but the cards must be in the correct order, so if the dealer forgets to burn a card, the correct card should be burned so that the cards remain in the intended order


I recommend keeping it to about 8 people per table and use poker tables tops if possible. They really add to the atmosphere. They usually run about 50 bucks or so so they are not too expensive, and you can even make your own. Click here to see our selection of Poker - Gaming Tables. 


Since putting 8 people around a poker table can be tight, try to use folding chairs or some other type of chair that isn't too big. Have a few extra too because it is very likely that some "extra" friends of friends may show up.  Click here to see our selection of Poker Chairs. 

Table/Chair Labels

To faciliate seating, I always print out large letters to label each table which I hang above the table from the ceiling. Then I print out numbers for each seat from 1 to 8 and tape them to the back of the chairs.

Cards/Dealer Buttons

Bring one deck of cards and one dealer button for each table, and usually one extra just in case. I always use new decks of cards for each tournament. Playing Cards aren't very expensive, it makes the tournament feel more professional, and makes players feel less like the cards could be marked.

Poker Chips

Make sure you have enough chips to cover the buyin and expected rebuys/addons for your tournament. Click to see our selection of Poker Chips, you may also want to look at Poker Chip Sets.


We typically keep 100 bucks from the pot to order pizza and pay for soft drinks. This is a fairly common practice in most home/club poker tournaments.

After setting up the tables and chairs, I tape an 8x11 sheets of paper with a large letter printed on it over each table to signify which table is which (hang from the ceiling).  I then place a small printout of a number on the back of each chair to number the chairs.  So if a player is assigned to seat C7, he or she can very easily get to the right seat.

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