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Geoff Fisk

What is a Bounty Poker Tournament?


Poker tournaments are the most popular poker games played throughout the world. That fact is no different at the Lodge, where you can find several different tournaments playing out on a daily basis.

Not all poker tournaments are created equal, however, and good poker players know that they need to understand the specific rules of a particular tournament before they enter the event.

Bounty tournaments (aka knockout tournaments) are a fun and popular take on the poker tournament format.

Knockout poker tournaments use a payout structure like a regular tournament, but also award bounty prizes for each player that you knock out. With the KO tournament realm, you’ll find variations like progressive knockout tournaments, mystery bounty tournaments, and other spins on the bounty event type.

Let’s take a look at some of the different bounty tournaments you’ll find at poker rooms around the world, including at the Lodge.

Types Of Bounty Poker Tournaments

  • Standard Bounty
  • Progressive Bounty (PKO)
  • Mystery Bounty

How Does A Bounty Poker Tournament Work?

We’ll start off this article by going over the standard type of bounty tournaments. The Lodge weekly tournament schedule includes a $2,000 Guaranteed Bounty event that plays out several times per week.

Here’s how the structure of the $2,000 Guaranteed Bounty works:

$2,000 Guaranteed Bounty at the Lodge

  • Buy-In: $100 ($25 to bounty)
  • Starting Stack: 25,000 chips
  • 20-minute levels (late entry and unlimited re-entry allowed through Level 9)
  • $2,000 guaranteed prize pool

For each $100 buy-in, $75 is allotted to the tournament prize pool. The other $25 is allotted to a bounty on each player. If you eliminate a player, you earn $25.

With the knockout format in place, you can earn money in a tournament even if you don’t make it to the payout ladder. The eventual tournament champion gets the first-place prize money, and will also very likely collect a sizable sum in tournament bounties as well.

The $2,000 Guaranteed Bounty uses the same rules that you’ll see in many bounty MTT events across the country. Let’s take a look at a couple of different variations on the knockout tournament format.

Progressive Knockout Tournaments

Progressive KO tournaments (aka PKO) tournaments add another element to the bounty format.

As with standard bounty tournament, each buy-in allots money to the prize pool, as well as a bounty on each player. In a PKO event, however, your earn half of a player’s bounty amount if you eliminate them from the tournament.

The other half of the bounty then goes on your head. If you knock a player out, you earn their original bounty, plus whatever bounties they’ve earned from knocking out other players.

For example, let’s look at hypothetical PKO event structure:

  • Buy-In: $200 ($50 to bounty)
  • Starting Stack: 25,000 chips
  • 20-minute levels $2,000 guaranteed prize pool

In this structure, $150 of every buy-in goes to the tournament prize pool, and the other $50 goes to a bounty on the head of each player.

If you knock out another player, you win $25 from their bounty. That KO also adds $25 to your bounty.

Let’s say you knock out six players in this tournament. You would collect $150 in bounties (half of the $300 total from six $50 bounties), and that money is yours to keep.

The other $150 from those bounties now goes toward your own bounty, so you now have a bounty of $200 ($150 plus your original $50 bounty). If someone KOs you, they earn $100 in bounties, with another $100 added to their bounty.

Optimal poker strategy in progressive bounty tournaments can differ significantly from standard bounty tournaments. If you find yourself at a table with one or more players with a massive bounty on their head, you might want to change your tournament strategy to an aggressive effort to get all-in into big pots with those players.

While that approach is more risky, it can pay off big if you end up collecting big money in bounties. If you can make it to the final table, you can count on most of your opponents arriving there with significant bounty money on their heads.

Mystery Bounty Tournament

Perhaps the most intriguing of all KO tournament formats, the Mystery Bounty offers opportunities to win massive payouts for knocking out other players.

As with other knockout formats, each buy-in contributes some money to the overall prize pool, as well as some money to the bounty prize pool. The way the bounties are awarded, however, differ from other types of knockout tournaments.

The bounty prize pool is split up into different amounts, and each amount is distributed in envelopes that go into a random draw.

Once the bounty portion of the tournament begins, each player you knock out gives you one chance to draw a random bounty amount. The biggest prizes available in mystery bounty tournaments are generally massive.

For example, let’s take a look at a big mystery bounty event that took place at the Lodge in 2022:

$1 Million Guaranteed Lodge Championship Series Mystery Bounty

  • Buy-In: $1,600 ($500 to bounty)
  • Starting Stack: 40,000 chips
  • 40-minute levels on Day 1, 60-minute levels on Day 2
  • $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool
  • Bounties begin on Day 2

This $1 million guaranteed No-Limit Texas Hold’em tournament played out as a two-day event. No bounties are awarded on the first day of the event.

The bounty pool is then redistributed into the following amounts for the start of Day 2:

  • $100,000
  • $75,000
  • $50,000
  • $40,000
  • $30,000
  • $20,000
  • $10,000
  • $5,000
  • $2,500
  • $2,000
  • $1,500
  • $1,000

The mystery bounty drawing contains one envelope for each player left in the tournament at the start of Day 2. Envelopes for the higher prize amounts are much more scarce than for the lower prize amount.

For instance, let’s say 100 players remain going into Day 2 of a mystery bounty. The bounty prize pool would be divided into 100 envelopes.

The biggest prizes, like $100,000, $75,000, $50,000, etc., probably only get one envelope in the drawing. The smaller prizes, like $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, etc., have several envelopes in the drawing.

If you knock a player out on Day 2, you get that player’s bounty chip. Instead of winning a set bounty amount, however, that bounty chip allows you one opportunity to draw an envelope.

With the chance to win a huge cash prize in the drawing, you might encounter opponents that are heavily weighted toward playing a bounty hunter strategy in a mystery bounty tournament. A more aggressive strategy, aiming toward knocking out as many opponents as possible, can lead to opportunities to win some real money.

Final Thoughts On Bounty Tournaments

KO tournaments are a staple of the poker world. You’ll find bounty tournaments in live poker rooms like the Lodge, as well as major tournament series like the WSOP. Online poker rooms like PokerStars and GGpoker also feature a robust selection of bounty tournaments.

The bounty payout aspects of KO events can significantly alter a player’s approach to a tournament. ICM implications are also turned on their head in a bounty event, particularly in the progressive KO format.

Look for plenty of bounty events on the Lodge’s weekly tournament schedule, as well as in special tournament series at the card club.

Check out the following guide from Upswing Poker for more in-depth information about bounty tournaments and strategy:

Stop Punting Away Your Equity in Knockout Tournaments

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