Tournament Types

PokerStars is the world’s biggest online poker room and home of the biggest tournaments, with the biggest fields and the biggest prize pools. We run the most tournaments, in the most poker variants, in the most tournament types. Follow the links below to read explanations of all of our different tournament options, from Sit & Go’s to Multi-Table Tournaments, to Satellites.

.Sit & Go

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Sit & Go (S&G or SNG) is a tournament which does not have a pre-assigned start time; it simply begins when all the seats are filled. There are many types of Sit & Go, ranging in size from heads-up to 990 players, in both satellite and cash tournament form.  These tournaments can be found by clicking on the ‘Sit & Go’ tab in the main client lobby window.

.Spin & Go

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A Spin & Go tournament is a type of Hyper-Turbo Sit & Go that gives players a chance to play for a prize pool that is much bigger than a tournament buy-in would indicate. Each tournament has only three players, and before a Spin & Go begins, there is a random draw to determine what the prize pool will be. Spin & Go’s are available in a range of different buy-ins. You will find these tournaments under the ‘Spin & Go’ tab in the PokerStars lobby. Learn more about Spin & Go tournaments.

.Fifty50

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‘Fifty50’ is a type of one-table Sit & Go tournament.  In a Fifty50 Sit & Go, the event ends when half of the entrants have been eliminated.  For example, in a 10-player Fifty50 tournament, 5 will be paid.  Half of the prize pool will be distributed equally among the 5 winners, and the other half of the prize pool will be distributed among those same 5 players based on the chip count percentages at the end of the event. The 6th-10th place finishers win nothing. So in a 10-player $10+$1 Fifty50, the prize pool is $100. Each of the final 5 finishers would receive $10 each, plus a percentage of the remaining $50 in the prize pool. You can find Fifty50 tournaments under ‘Sit & Go’ > ‘1-Table’ in the PokerStars lobby.

As a more detailed example, in a $300+$17 tournament with ten entrants, the total prize pool is $3,000.  Each player starts with 1,500 chips.

ExampleChipsChip %Chip Prize+Buy-inTotal Prize
Player 1 4,300 28.67% $430 +$300 $730
Player 2 3,600 24.00% $360 +$300 $660
Player 3 3,100 20.67% $310 +$300 $610
Player 4 2,300 15.33% $230 +$300 $530
Player 5 1,700 11.33% $170 +$300 $470
Total 15,000 100.00% $1,500 +$1,500 $3,000

To calculate the value of Player 1’s chips, multiply half the prize pool ($1500) by Player 1’s portion of the total chips in play (4300/15000), a total of $430. Adding the returned buy-in awarded to each player who cashes results in Player 1’s total prize amount of $730 ($430+$300). As a formula, an individual’s payout would be expresses as:

Tournament Types Formula

The Fifty50 tournament lobby displays the approximate amount per 100 chips to be paid out when the tournament ends. The value displayed in the Fifty50 tournament lobby is rounded down to the nearest cent, but payouts are calculated so that the entire prize pool is paid out. Note that the final payouts may experience small rounding differences in order to ensure that the total payouts equal the prize pool.

Due to their unique payout structure, Fifty50 tournaments are not eligible for any Tournament Leader Board points. You can find Fifty50 tournaments under ‘Sit & Go’ > ‘1-Table’ in the PokerStars lobby.

Please note: Fifty50 tournaments are not eligible for any Tournament Leader Board points. They are also not eligible for the Battle of the Planets promotion.

.Steps

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Steps’ are a special ‘tiered’ type of Sit & Go tournament. By playing in Steps tournaments, you can turn a small investment into a large prize by working your way up from the lowest step to the highest step. Entry to the Steps system starts from just $7.50, €2.20 or 500 Frequent Player Points (FPP), and you work your way up the ladder to win prizes worth thousands!

Even if you don’t advance to the next level in a particular Step tournament, you can win a chance to play again at the same level, or the one below. You can also buy in directly to any Step tournament at any level, or jump off the step ladder into certain regular tournaments using a Step 4 ticket.

To register for Steps tournaments, select the ‘Sit & Go’, ‘Satellite’ and then ‘Steps’ tabs in the PokerStars lobby. Learn more about the Steps system.

.Multi-Table Tournaments

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In a multi-table tournament (MTT), players start with an equal, fixed number of chips. Players at numerous tables compete for one another's chips as the blinds and/or antes increase incrementally. When you run out of chips, you are eliminated from the tournament. As players are eliminated, tables are ‘broken’, meaning players are moved to keep tables full, or evenly ‘balanced’. Eventually, the last few surviving players with chips are brought together at the final table, where the winner is the individual who wins all the chips from his or her opponents. Cash prizes are awarded to top finishers on the basis of number of tournament entries.

.Shootouts

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shootout is a special kind of multi-table tournament. Normally, when you play in a multi-table tournament, players are moved from table to table to balance the number of players at each table. Eventually, the last remaining players end up at the ‘final table.’ In a shootout, no such table balancing is done. You remain at your original table until only one player is left standing. If you win that table, you advance to another table and repeat the process against players who each won their first table.

In a DOUBLE SHOOTOUT, you need to win two tables to win the event, although often there is some money for everybody who reaches the final table. Each starting table is played to its conclusion; the final table is formed of the winners of the first round matches. For example, a full Stud Double Shootout might start with 8 full tables, a total of 64 players, in Round 1.  Each of those 8 tables would play down to one winner, and the 8 winners would then be brought to a second table for Round 2, where they would play until there is one winner.

In a TRIPLE SHOOTOUT, you must win three tables to win the entire event (again, there may well be some prize money distributed along the way). For example, assuming a standard (9 players per table) triple shootout is full, in Round 1 the 729 players will be placed, 9 per table, at 81 tables within the tournament. Each table will play until there is one player remaining with all of the chips from that table. The 81 remaining players will then be moved to 9 tables for Round 2. As in Round 1, each table will play until one player has all of the chips from their table. Finally, the 9 remaining players will advance to the final table for Round 3, where the Champion of the tournament shall be determined.

Note that this whole process could be extended to quadruple shootouts and on up. Also, the tables don't necessarily have to start at nine players each. For instance, in the past we have offered triple shootouts with four-player tables (a total of 64 players in each event).  Also note that if a shootout is not filled to capacity when it begins, some of the tables in Round 1 could have more players than others.  Late registration is not available in shootout tournaments.

.Heads-Up Tournaments

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Another form of a shootout tournament is a Heads-Up tournament, also called a 1-on-1 tournament. This is a tournament where players are matched in pairs, and play a ‘bracket’ tournament until there is only one player left.  Just as in other shootout tournaments late registration is not allowed in Heads-Up tournaments. For most heads-up multi-table tournaments, the time limit for unregistration is five minutes (as opposed to two minutes in most other tournaments).  Please check the Tournament Info window for details regarding unregistration from any one specific tournament.

There may not always be a number divisible by the power of two (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64) registered for a particular Heads-Up tournament, which is necessary to fill a heads-up bracket.  When this happens, not all players will be able to play the first round – they will receive ‘byes’.

For example, if 10 players enter a Heads-Up tournament, there would be more than 8 but fewer than 16 players. In order to play the tournament out properly, the tournament will first need to be brought down to 8 players. In order to get the number down from 10 to 8 players, 4 players will play (thus eliminating two) and 6 players will get a ‘bye’ and are automatically in the quarter-finals.

We offer Heads-Up tournaments with byes and without byes.  This is clearly marked if you click the ‘Tournament Info’ button in the tournament lobby. If a tournament does not allow ‘byes’, the last players to register may have their buy-ins returned in order to get the event to a starting total of players which is a power of two (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 etc). In the above example (with 10 players entered) the last two players to register would not get to play, as 8 is the nearest power of two which is less than 10.

Many Heads-Up tournaments have a ‘Show Bracket’ button in the lobby where you can see a visual representation of how the matches will play out.

.Satellites

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satellite is a tournament in which the prize is an entry into a larger tournament. It can be less expensive to enter a satellite than it would be to enter the main tournament directly. PokerStars runs one-table and multi-table Sit & Go satellites, which you can find under ‘Sit & Go’ and ‘Satellite’ in the PokerStars lobby.  Multi-table satellites also are scheduled as regular tournaments, and the sign-up details and play are identical to other multi-table tournaments, with one important difference – the tournament will only play down to the number required to award all of the equal-value seats. You can find these MTT events under ‘Tourney’ and ‘Satellite’ in the main PokerStars lobby. An example of how a satellite works:

The buy-in for the larger tournament is $200. The buy-in for the satellite is $20. If there are 10 entrants (into the satellite), first place will get a $200 entry to the larger tournament. If there are 20 entrants, then 1st and 2nd places will both receive a $200 entry to the larger tournament. If there is any leftover prize money, it will be distributed to the runners up as per the satellite’s payout structure, which is available through the tournament lobby.

If there is a fee to enter either a tournament or satellite, it will be denoted by stating the buy-in amount and the entry fee. A cost of ‘$30+$3’ indicates that the buy-in is $30, and the entry fee is $3. The $30 goes to the prize pool which the players compete for, while the $3 entry fee is taken as compensation for hosting the tournament.  In most tournaments which are named, the buy-in and fee is combined for the sake of brevity in the title.  For example, the above mentioned tournament, if it is a satellite to the Sunday Million (for example), would likely be named ‘Sunday Million: $33 satellite’.  Detailed information on the breakdown of buy-in plus entry fee is shown in the tournament lobby.

.Phased Tournaments

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Phased tournament is one in which some number of levels at the beginning of the tournament are played non-concurrently from the end of the tournament, for different groups of players. Players can chose from different starting phases that begin at different times. Each starting phase will play the same amount of time, and then all remaining players will later combine in a single, larger tournament. Phased tournaments allow the schedule flexibility normally associated with smaller-field tournaments, while still enjoying the large prize pools associated with larger-field tournaments. Chip counts at the end of Phase 1 will be carried over into the next round.

For example, a tournament might have Phase 1 on Friday at 12:00, another Phase 1 on Saturday at 12:00, and then conclude with a Phase 2 tournament on Sunday at 12:00. Entrants would play for a specified number of levels (or until elimination) on Friday and/or Saturday, and all players that survive would combine to finish the tournament at 12:00 on Sunday.

When you enter a Phased tournament you must ensure that you will be available to play in the future phases, as you cannot unregister from Phase 2 (or beyond) in Phased tournaments.

Phased tournaments allow for multiple entries into the first phases. For example, if you play Phase 1 and are eliminated, you may enter another Phase 1 and start again at the beginning. You cannot qualify for the next round more than once, so if you survive Phase 1, you will then be unable to enter another Phase 1 leading to the same Phase 2. Note that if you survive Phase 1 with even one chip, you will still advance to Phase 2, and will not be able to play another Phase 1.

Most of the high-profile tournaments seen on TV are essentially phased tournaments, with the entry phases usually referred to as Day 1A, Day 1B, Day 1C, etc.

.Rebuy Tournaments

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rebuy tournament is one in which you have the opportunity to buy more chips during the event. In a standard ‘freezeout’ tournament, when you run out of chips, you're out of the tournament. In a rebuy tournament, you can (with some restrictions) buy more chips.

Here are some facts about rebuy tournaments:

  • There is a ‘rebuy period’ at the beginning of the tournament. A typical rebuy period might be the first hour of the event (until the first break starts). Once that period is over, no more rebuys are permitted.
  • During the rebuy period, there may be a fixed number of rebuys available, or an unlimited number.
  • If you run completely out of chips, you will automatically be offered a rebuy (if one is available). At any time when you have chips, you can click on the dealer tray and select the ‘Add More Chips’ option to rebuy. If you're not eligible for a rebuy (because you've reached the maximum number of rebuys, or because there is a maximum number of chips where rebuys are allowed), you'll get a message to that effect. 

    In general, you may rebuy using the ‘Add More Chips’ button in the dealer tray any time your stack is less than or equal to the starting chip stack. This means you can rebuy once before the tournament even starts! 

    The rebuy may cost any amount, but generally costs the same as the original buy-in, and gets you the same number of chips that you got for your original buy-in.
  • There may also be an ‘add-on’ available at the end of the rebuy period. Typically this will be during the first break. An add-on is just one extra rebuy. The add-on will not be automatically offered to you. To take the add-on, wait for the message that ‘Players are now on break’. Click on the dealer tray and select the ‘Add More Chips’ option. In general, the add-on is available no matter how many chips you have.

    The add-on may cost any amount, but generally costs the same as the original buy-in, and gets you the same, or higher number of chips that you got for your original buy-in. Rebuys are not charged a rake. So if a rebuy tournament has a buy-in of $10+$1, then the rebuys will usually be $10 and all $10 of each rebuy will go into the prize pool. The prize pool and payoffs will not be announced until the rebuy period ends, since the prize pool increases with each rebuy.

Note that many of the rules described above are ‘typical’ or ‘normal.’ PokerStars will make every effort to clearly state any deviations from typical rules, but the exact details for each tournament will always be posted in the tournament's lobby or under the ‘Tournament Info’ tab in that lobby.

.Bounty Tournaments

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In bounty tournaments, a special cash prize is awarded to the person who eliminates a particular player. For example, if there is a bounty on the head of ‘KidPoker’, whoever eliminates him wins an extra prize, ranging from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars, depending on the tournament!

PokerStars offers three types of bounty tournament:

  • Fixed: There is a bounty on the head of one or more ‘marked’ players. These players are designated in the tournament lobby with a ‘target’ symbol’. Hover over that target symbol with your mouse to see the amount of the bounty. Eliminate the marked player to win the bounty!
  • Team Pro: There is a bounty on the head of every member of Team Pro who enters the tournament. Eliminate any pro (marked with a red spade symbol at the table and in the tournament lobby) to claim their bounty!
  • Knockout: There is a bounty on the head of every player in the tournament. For more information on knockouts, see below.

You can quickly find bounty tournaments in the PokerStars lobby by looking for the appropriate symbol. Those with a black ‘crosshair’ symbol are knockout tournaments, those with a black ‘target’ are fixed bounty tournaments, and those with a red ‘target’ are Team Pro bounty tournaments.

.Knockouts

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In Knockout tournaments, a cash bounty is placed on every entrant in the tournament. Every time you eliminate somebody, you win a cash prize! The winner of a knockout tournament wins their own bounty.

In a knockout tournament, every player pays an extra buy-in, which serves as that player’s bounty. For example, a knockout tournament might have a total buy-in of $20+$5+$2, of which $20 goes into the regular prize pool, $5 is each player’s bounty, and $2 is the tournament fee.

You can find knockout tournaments in the lobby, marked with a black ‘crosshair’ symbol – or type ‘knockout’ into the tournament filter to quickly find what you’re looking for!

.Progressive Knockouts

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Progressive Knockout tournaments are a more exciting version of regular Knockout tournaments. Eliminate opponents and increase your bounty as you earn cash rewards!.

In a progressive knockout tournament, a percentage of every knockout bounty goes to increasing the bounty of the player who caused the knockout. For example, if a player has a $10 bounty on him and the increase percentage for the tournament is 25%, then the player who knocks him out would win $7.50 and their bounty would increase by $2.50. If a player in the same tournament had increased their own bounty to $20 then the player who knocked them out would get $15 and increase their own bounty by $5.

You can find progressive knockout tournaments in the main lobby - they are marked with a red ‘crosshair’ symbol. Alternatively, type ‘knockout’ into the tournament filter to quickly find what you’re looking for!

.Deep Stacks

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You will often see a tournament in the lobby labelled as a ‘Deep Stacks’ event. This indicates that the tournament structure is designed to provide a great deal of play, and that the tournament will likely take a long time to complete.

Deep Stack tournaments are distinguished by having 5,000 starting chips and 30-minute levels. The normal interval between level changes on PokerStars ranges from six to 15 minutes. More chips and long levels make for a great deal of play, and reduce the degree to which luck factors into the tournament results.

You can find Deep Stacks events in the lobby; the words ‘Deep Stacks’ should be in the name.

.6-Max and 4-Max

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6-Max’ in the tournament's title indicates that at each table there will be 6 seats, instead of the usual 7 to 10 (depending on the game). PokerStars also offers '4-Max' events with 4 seats at each table.

Some poker variations are always played with 6 or fewer seats at the table. Examples are 8-Game Mix and Deuce to Seven (2-7) Triple Draw.

Please note that in 4-Max tournaments, the final table will form when 5 players remain. This is done to remove the inequity of having one table play 3-handed and the other one heads-up.

.ZOOM

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In a Zoom tournament, you can fold your hand and immediately move to a new table with new opponents (selected randomly from the entire pool of players who have entered the tournament). You can even use the ‘Fast Fold’ button to fold before it’s your turn to act. This makes it a fast poker format, as you don’t have to wait around for each hand to play out before playing the next one. See the Zoom page for more on how it works.

Note that in Zoom tournaments, when the player pool gets small, with only the last few tables remaining, the tournament reverts back to a normal freezeout format.

.Turbo

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turbo event is one in which the blind levels increase much faster than in standard play. The length of each round (before the blinds/antes increase) in a turbo tournament is usually 5 minutes (as opposed to the standard 10 or 15), though there are some turbo events with 6-minute rounds.

Turbo rebuy events usually go on break at 30 minutes, as opposed to 60 minutes in a standard rebuy event.

.Hyper-Turbo

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hyper-turbo event is one in which the blind levels increase extremely quickly – even faster than in a turbo tournament. The length of each round (before the blinds/antes increase) in a hyper-turbo tournament is usually 3 minutes and the number of starting chips is typically 500 chips or less - significantly lower than other tournament types.

Hyper-Turbo satellites are a great way to quickly win your seat in an event just a few minutes before it begins!

.2x-Turbo and 3x-Turbo

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2x-turbo tournament is a special kind of turbo rebuy tournament (usually a satellite) in which the levels increase at turbo speed, but the rebuy time is twice as long as it would be in a normal turbo rebuy. Similarly, a 3x-turbo has three times the normal amount of rebuy time. The available chips – including the starting stack, rebuy, and add-on – are tailored to each event.  Be sure to check under the ‘Tournament Info’ button for detailed structure info.

.Time Tourneys

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Time Tourney is a special kind of tournament which has a pre-set duration. The time for the event is indicated in the tournament name and in the tournament lobby. At the end of the set amount of playing time, the event will stop and all remaining players will receive a distribution of the prize pool based on their ending chip count. Time Tourneys are indicated by a ‘clock’ symbol in the tournament lobby.

Time Tourneys are offered throughout the day in durations of 15, 30, 60, 90, 120 and 180 minutes of playing time.

.Guaranteed Tournaments

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In many of our cash tournaments, the prize pool is guaranteed to reach a specific amount. Regular guarantees range from $500 to $1,000,000! To see the full range of these tournaments, visit the ‘Tourney’ and ‘All’ lobby and enter the word ‘guarantee’ in the tournament filter.

.Color Scheme

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The following key describes the colors used to identify different types of tournament on PokerStars.

  • Live Events - Tournaments in purple are generally satellites to a major live poker event, such as a tour stop on the European Poker Tour (EPT).
  • Satellites to Online Tourneys - This dark blue color is used to identify satellites to online tournaments, such as the Sunday Million, Nightly Hundred Grand, etc.
  • Steps – In USD, Steps satellites are identified in dark green.  In Euro, Steps are identified in blue.
  • Championship (*COOP) Events / Satellites - Some major online events, like the World Championship Of Online Poker (WCOOP) and SCOOP, and their satellites, are identified in bright orange.
  • PCA Events / Satellites – Online events for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure are identified in cyan.
  • Women's Events – Events open only to female players are identified in magenta.
  • Freerolls and Play Money - If you're looking for an opportunity to play for free while still having a chance to win something, then look for these brown colors in the PokerStars client.
  • Special Tournaments - Bright, bold red is used to identify special events throughout the week, such as the Sunday MillionSunday Warm-UpThe Daily Bigs, and Nightly Hundred Grand.

The color scheme listed above is for information only and subject to change. Some special tournaments may be identified using other colors specific to that event.

Find out more information on playing in PokerStars tournaments.

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