Daily no limit hold’em tournaments have seemingly unlimited structures.  Among the poker rooms and casinos within a 2 hour drive from where I live in Massachusetts there are numerous options.  In a given week I can find a tournament that varies on pretty much any dimension: freeze-out vs. rebuy; add on sizes; blind levels from 15 minutes to an hour; no antes at all to antes that kick in as early as the 4th level; and buy in amounts from $30 to over $200.

However, it’s rare that, despite these infinite combinations, a single existing local tournament meets my personal Platonic ideal. Also, as I sit around a table and ask other players what they like and don’t like about the local tournament options, I hear an incredible range of conflicting preferences.  These differences seem to be dictated by factors such as how much disposable income and time they have, their playing style, their tolerance for rebuys, whether they are attracted to playing cash as well, and their patience for the variety of playing styles that different tournament structures attract.

My current regular tournament is offered several days a week at a card room about an hour from my home. The buy-in is $50, and it has 20 minute blinds (with one 40 minute blind at the 500/1000 level), starts with 15,000 chips with a first level of 25-50, has no rebuys or add-ons, no antes, and usually draws between 50 (on a weeknight) and 150 players (on Saturday night). The blind structures are fairly typical through the 500/1,000 level, but steeply increase after that: 1,000/2,000, 1,500/3,000, 2,000/4,000,  4,000/8,000, 5,000/10,000, 10,000/20,000, 20,000/40,000. By 20k/40k people are begging for a merciful end to the shovefest and trying to work out a chop.  This tournament is usually done within 6-7 hours.

The range of players who frequent this tournament is extreme, from a player dubbed “All-In Freddy” who will push his whole stack forward early and often with a vast range of hands, to several  rocks who fail to get their chips all-in despite having quad Queens (true story). There are players who will chase every gut-shot draw to the river no matter the bet size, and skilled players who vary and disguise their play well.  Fortunately, I like most of the floors and dealers and most players are able to keep in perspective that this is a $50 tournament.

What is your ideal regular tournament structure? Click To Tweet

However, having played a number of daily tournament structures, even this current favorite comes up a bit short for me. I take particular issue with the steeply rising blinds at the end of the tournament which drive almost every game to a chop long before the final three players.

Here’s my personal ideal daily tournament structure:

Buy-In: $100

Starting Chip Stack: 20,000

Rebuy and/or Add On: 1 Rebuy/No Add On

Blind Structure: Start at 25/50, but raise more gradually mid-tournament than my current tournament (i.e., has the 400/800, 600/1,200, 800/1,600, 1,200/2,400 levels).

Antes: None or antes that do not kick in before level 6.  I am torn about this one: antes slow down the dealing in each hand, but push the action mid and late tournament.

Tournament Size: Between 80 and 100 players.

Percent of Players Paid: 10% (the new wave of paying 15% may win me over in time, but I’m staying old school for now)

My personal drivers for my preferred structure are a balance of affordability (2 kids going to college in the next five years keeps me away from higher buy-ins currently) and a prolonged period of solid poker to be played before the all-ins start every other hand.

What is your ideal regular tournament structure? What are the main factors that drive your preferences?

Interested to hear others’ take on this.


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