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Five Tips for Progressive KO Tournaments

September 8, 2021
by Pete Clarke

A Progressive KO (Knockout) tournament is one in which half of your buy-in goes to the overall prize pool to be paid out like a normal tournament, while the other half constitutes your bounty. The progressive element comes in because when you eliminate another player, you only get half of his bounty in winnings. The other half attaches to your own bounty, meaning that: the more players you eliminate, the bigger a target you become.

Survival is Key

Knocking someone out early on will provide a boost to your bankroll in the form of 25% of the tournament buy-in, but this is a microscopic fragment of the overall prize pool. The big money still resides in the deeper stages of the event and survival is still your utmost priority for that reason. Avoid risking large portions of your stack early on without a clearly favorable investment. While the expected value of going all-in early on in a coin-flip situation is a bit higher than in a standard tournament, it is lower in a progressive knockout than in a regular knockout as you win 25% of a buy-in as opposed to 50%. Getting through the bubble into the money remains the number one goal.

Bounties increase in the late game, but beware, so does your risk!

Since bounties are progressive in these events, it is well worth going after them when they have had a chance to ramp up. The tournament is a $44 Progressive KO. Imagine that the field originally contained 1000 runners and you find yourself with a healthy stack with only 100 players left. That is 900 opponents who have been eliminated. Each one has contributed 25% of the buy-in or $10 to the bounty of whoever knocked him out. A whopping $9,000 has, therefore, been added to the bounties of other players since the start of the tournament. As there are 100 players left, each player has, on average, $90 extra on their bounty by this point. You are entitled to half of that if you successfully bust someone, and so, on average, you get $45 now instead of $10 for eliminating an opponent.

But watch out, there is also a big downside to bounty hunting too aggressively in the later stages. As in all MTTs, the very big money resides at the final table, and so jeopardising your chances of a top five finish in order to collect a few tournament buy-ins from a bounty can be a grave mistake. Of course, a large bounty should cause you to take a few extra risks but not to the point that you are sabotaging your chances of making a big cash.

Attack More with a Small Bounty and Less with a Large One

When your bounty is small from having eliminated few opponents, you are more likely to get away with opening hands lighter than usual and 3-Betting as a re-steal. This because there is a minimal extra incentive for your opponents to get involved in pots against you with marginal hands. In poker, we refer to the odds of winning additional chips should we make a big hand compared with the price to try to make that big hand as implied odds. Having a large bounty actually adds implied odds to the situation from your opponent’s point of view since he is not only trying to win your stack by flopping that set, but also a very healthy side income, where he can recoup his buy-in and more. On the flip side, low bounties naturally decrease implied odds; meaning that if Villain is not getting the right price from the pot to play his hand, then he is likely to fold if he is a competent player. Moreover, as the blinds start to ramp up, many players will want to conserve their investments for trying to giant-kill – in other words – they want to hunt the big bounties when they do risk parts of their stack; not the small ones.

Bullying with a Large Stack

When you have a large price tag above your head in the early to middle stages, you probably also have a lot of chips. This means that for most opponents, knocking you out is merely an impossible dream as you have them covered a few times over. Therefore, as far as bounties are concerned, you are free-rolling them. In other words, if you win a huge pot from them it means the end of their tournament life and another scalp for your wallet. If they win that big pot, they do not stand to get a bounty at all. In fact, they are probably just setting up this large bounty for another player by denting your stack. You are therefore incentivized to bully and apply pressure knowing that you have the power to knock out almost every opponent at the table. The other players are forced to avoid you, again wanting to commit their chips to pots containing more killable foes. The upshot is you get to snowball your already big stack to an untouchable point if you can pick your spots wisely.

Playing as The Fallen Giant

The Fallen Giant is a player who had once amassed a huge stack having busted many opponents, but who has since been on the wrong end of proceedings. He has dwindled down to become one of the smaller stacks but has a very large bounty over his head. If you find yourself in this position in the later stages of the tournament, then you will find it impossible to generate folds from your opponents who have you covered. As a result, your mission should be to shove with a wider value range and avoid shoving hands that are underdogs when called such as 87s. Normally you might shove a hand like this in late position because it pushes some equity vs. very strong hands. Playing the fallen giant stack, however, requires substituting such hands for the likes of KJo and A9o. Your more comfortable opponents are likely to take a shot at you with speculative holdings, especially when they get you to themselves, so shove a lot of big cards in late position and hope to hold up.


  • Early on, bounties are small and surviving to the lucrative late stages is paramount.
  • Bounties ramp up a lot in the late game. This is the time to start going after them.
  • With a smaller bounty, you can get away with a bit more aggression in steal situations.
  • With a massive stack, you are not offering anyone the immediate chance of scoring a bounty. Abuse this situation as much as possible.
  • As a former big stack with a large bounty, you must anticipate less fold equity and modify your ranges accordingly.




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