A poker tournament is a tournament where players compete by playing poker. It can feature as few as two players playing on a single table called a “heads-up” tournament, and as many as tens of thousands of players playing on thousands of tables. The winner of the tournament is usually the person who wins every poker chip in the game and the others are awarded places based on the time of their elimination. To facilitate this, in most tournaments, blinds rise over the duration of the tournament. Unlike in a ring game or cash game, a player’s chips in a tournament cannot be cashed out for money and serve only to determine the player’s placing.
To enter a typical tournament, a player pays a fixed buy-in and at the start of play is given a certain quantity of tournament poker chips. Commercial venues may also charge a separate fee, or withhold a small portion of the buy-in, as the cost of running the event. Tournament chips have only notional value; they have no cash value, and only the tournament chips, not cash, may be used during play.
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Typically, the amount of each entrant’s starting tournament chips is an integer multiple of the buy-in. Some tournaments offer the option of a re-buy or buy-back; this gives players the option of purchasing more chips. In some cases, re-buys are conditional for example, offered only to players low on or out of chips but in others they are available to all players called add-ons. When a player has no chips remaining and has exhausted or declined all re-buy options, if any are available he or she is eliminated from the tournament.
In most tournaments, the number of players at each table is kept even by moving players, either by switching one player or as the field shrinks taking an entire table out of play and distributing its players amongst the remaining tables. A few tournaments, called shoot-outs, do not do this; instead, the last player sometimes the last two or more players at a table moves on to a second or third round, akin to a single-elimination tournament found in other games.