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What Is A Survivor Poker Tournament?


When you check out the schedule for one of the Lodge’s special seasonal tournament series, you might notice a game format called “Survivor” among the event listings.

A survivor poker tournament features a payout structure that pays all players the same amount if they make it into the money. When the tournament money bubble bursts, the event ends, and all remaining players split the prize pool evenly.

Here’s a look at how survivor tournaments work, and what makes survivor events unique among the game formats you’ll find on the tournament schedule at the Lodge.

How Does A Survivor Poker Tournament Work?

While the name “survivor” could seem unfamiliar in the poker tournament circuit, the format is a staple in both live and online poker. If you’ve ever played a satellite tournament, you’ve participated in the survivor poker format.

A satellite tournament generally awards a certain number of seats into a higher buy-in poker tournament. For example, the 2023 World Series of Poker satellite schedule offers an $1,100 buy-in satellite that awards entries into any $10,000 buy-in event at the WSOP, including the WSOP Main Event.

From each $1,100 satellite buy-in, $1,000 goes into the prize pool (the other $100 goes to tournament fees). The prize pool is then divided into $10,000 increments.

All players that reach the money in the tournament win $10,000, while the player that finishes on the bubble wins any leftover prize money outside of those $10,000 increments.

For example, suppose that 55 players register for the $1,100 WSOP satellite. The prize pool for the tournament would be $55,000 ($1,000 for the prize pool from each of the 50 players that enter).

The tournament would pay five money spots, with each of the five in-the-money finishers winning exactly $10,000. The remaining $5,000 in the prize pool would go to the player that finishes sixth, who technically busts out on the bubble but still gets paid.

As soon as the event is down to five players, the tournament ends. The last five players remaining each win $10,000, regardless of their chip stack at the time the bubble bursts.

Survivor/satellite tournaments differ from every other MTT format in that regard. In other poker tournament formats, the final five players would continue competing until only one player remained.

In a survivor or satellite tournament, the tournament is over as soon as the money bubble bursts. 

Note that in the example satellite tournament above, the player that finishes on the bubble only gets a payout because of the $5,000 remaining in the pool after the $10,000 increments are distributed. If exactly 50 players entered, the prize pool would be $50,000, and the bubble player wouldn’t get a payout.

How Do Survivor Tournaments Work At The Lodge?

Survivor tournaments at the Lodge function almost identically to the satellite example from the WSOP above, with a couple of minor differences:

  • Lodge survivor tournaments divide the prize pool equally among the players that make it to the money, with no remainder left over for the player that finishes on the bubble.
  • The payout amount for a Lodge survivor tournament isn’t predetermined and is instead based on the number of players that enter the tournament.

Survivor tournaments at the Lodge generally pay the top ten percent of the field. Let’s take a look at an example from the 2023 Lodge Championship Series:

2023 Lodge Championship Series $300 Survivor 

  • Buy-in: $300 ($252+$48 in tournament fees)
  • Number of Entries: 87
  • Prize Pool: $21,924
  • Number of Players Paid: 9
  • Payout: $2,436

The 2023 LCS Survivor Tournament came at a $300 buy-in, with $252 from each buy-in going to the prize pool. A total of 87 players entered, with the total prize money ending up at $21,924.

The tournament paid the top ten percent of the field. With 87 players registering, the payout ladder ended up with nine players in the money (rounding up from 8.7).

Those nine players equally split the prize pool. So when the tournament money bubble burst, each of the remaining nine players earned a $2,436 payout.

When the tournament ends, it doesn’t matter if a player is sitting on a huge stack, or just a few big blinds. All players that survive into the money earn the same amount.

You’ll usually find at least one survivor event on the schedule whenever the Lodge runs a special or seasonal tournament series. Survivor events occasionally appear on the club’s weekly schedule as well, so check the Lodge tournament schedule often to see if any survivor events are on tap.

Survivor Poker Tournament Strategy

Optimal strategy for a survivor tournament can be vastly different than other tournament formats. Remember, you earn the exact same payout as everyone else if you make it to the money, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the tournament chip leader, or you’ve barely survived with just a couple of big blinds.

Taking big risks at any stage of a survivor event doesn’t really make sense. While you want to accumulate chips, you should place much more emphasis on surviving until the money.

In a standard format MTT, your reward for just barely making it into the money might be 2-3x the tournament buy-in. The goal in most MTTs is to go far beyond that, with the aim of taking one of the top three spots on the money ladder and winning a huge payout.

In a survivor tournament, chasing draws, running big bluffs, and making hero calls really doesn’t make sense in a lot of spots. 

If you’re fortunate enough to build a big stack close to the money bubble, it often makes sense to fold 100% of your starting hands until the bubble bursts. Even pocket aces and pocket kings can hit the muck preflop, as the risk of losing a sure payout outweighs the benefit of gaining more chips.

Because survivor/satellite tournaments are so different from other MTT formats, you’ll often compete against players that don’t understand just how careful you have to be when you get close to the money. If you’re one of the players that does understand the differences in survivor tournament strategy, you’ll enjoy a big edge over the field in virtually every event.

For a more in-depth look at satellite tournament strategy, check out the following guide from Upswing Poker:

Out Of This World Satellite Tournament Strategy

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