In the beginning of poker, the only way to play was in a cash game, where a player buys in for a certain amount and the chips represent that value. However, the invention of poker tournaments in the 1970s quickly changed the game and popularity has eventually been split between the two different ways to play poker. While there have been countless types of poker tournament structures and formats created, the most famous is the freezeout tournament, a style which is used in the majority of major events, such as the World Series of Poker Main Event, where many PokerStars pros play. Before registering to play in a freezeout tournament, a player will need to learn the differences in the cash game and the standard rules that govern the play.
Essentially, a freezeout poker tournament means that a player will only have the opportunity to buy-in one time for a specified price. Each player that registers for the tournament and pays the same entry fee will be given the same number of starting chips. Throughout the normal course of play, some players will end up with none of their original chips remaining. Once this happens, it is considered that the player has been eliminated from the tournament. The goal of a freezeout tournament is to accumulate all of the chips, thereby eliminating all of the other players. Payouts for a freezeout tournament are based on this idea, with the player who lasts the longest getting the highest share of the prize pool. The remainder of the prize pool is usually divided among the top 10% of finishers, with those that are eliminated later getting more money than early eliminations.
As play continues in a freezeout tournament, the natural elimination of players means that the average chip count of the remaining players will continue to rise. To keep the action consistent and ongoing, the tournament will be divided into several levels or stages that are delineated by a specific time period, such as one hour. At the conclusion of each level, a new structure of blinds and antes, or forced bets, will be instituted and the players will be forced to pay more money with each round that they play. In this manner, the average chip size will remain consistent with the amount of blinds being payed, creating a situation where players are forced to play and cannot afford to sit out and wait.
As the line where the payouts start is neared, the freezeout tournament’s organisers will start hand for hand play. This means that one hand will be completed at each poker table before the next hand is dealt. This is a relatively new rule and has been created to make sure that players do not stall and create an unfair advantage in trying to make the money line. This is called the bubble and as soon as it has been crossed, play resumes as normal until there is one final winner. There may also be hand for hand situations as the payouts continue to rise, but there is no hand for hand play at the final table.