Jumping into your first Texas Hold’em poker game is fairly simple. You probably played in a nice cash game and then moved on. If you caught the bug, you started working your poker strategy and even moved onto playing in some poker tournaments.
When you started to get really serious, though, you might have started to look at some of the wilder tournament formats. If you scanned the list and never played in a bounty poker tournament, you are absolutely missing out.
While the bounty poker tournament might not be the most popular format on the circuit, it’s definitely one of the most fun. It’s also one of the best ways to win some serious money, so it’s the type of tournament for which you abandon all of your other plans.
What is a Bounty Poker Tournament?
A bounty poker tournament is a subset of poker tournaments that feature a bounty mechanic. In this type of tournament, players pick up a reward (bounty) when they either eliminate a specific player or in some, when they eliminate any player in the game. Usually when you knock out an opponent you receive a coin that can then be exchanged for the bounty, most bounties are paid out in cash.
Strategy for a Bounty Poker Tournament
As always, you need to get a handle on the poker rules of a given tournament before you start playing. Once you are familiar with how bounties work, you can start working on your overall poker strategy.
When you’re developing your strategy, think in terms of the value of the bounties in the various poker games. What you want to do is not just think of the bounty as cash, but rather as part of the overall pot so you can calculate your odds more efficiently.
The issue with this is always that there are as many types of bounty tournaments as there are poker games in general. As such, you’re going to have to know exactly how the tournament works in order to get the math right. That’s why it’s always good to start your calculations fresh when you enter into a bounty poker tournament.
If you’re playing in a fairly standard bounty poker tournament, the poker rules are going to state that the bounty is around twenty percent of the total buy-in – twenty dollars on a hundred, for example. We can calculate the value of each individual chip in dollars think to this, and also figure out exactly what the bounty is worth in terms of our stack.
In more aggressive tournaments, the bounty might hit fifty percent of the buy in. That means that the value of each of your chips is going to be a little less, and that the overall value of picking up a bounty is going to go up.
In progressive tournaments, you deal with even more complex math. You’ll be looking at bounties that grow over time, so the relationship between your bounty and the value of your chips will be inversely proportional.
In a very real sense, what this means is that bounties involve some pretty heavy math. What you need to figure out is the value of a single chip relative to the value of the bounty so you can determine which plays are mathematically sound. It’s almost as complicated as it sounds, but it’s worth doing.
Calculating Pot Odds in a Bounty Tournament
Why are you bothering to figure out what a bounty is worth in terms of chips? To be honest, you’re trying to figure out your pot odds, just as you do in every other poker game.
Let us take a hypothetical situation in which a player goes in with ten big-blinds before the flop. The bounty is twenty percent, and the bet is the size of the starting stack. If you’re the last person left, you’re going to turn to some math to figure out how you’re going to walk away with the most money.
Remember, your pot odds don’t just rely on what’s in the pot right now. They also rely upon calculating the bounty on your opponent’s head. If he has a bounty that’s worth around twenty-five percent of the starting stake (or his bet, in this case), the amount of money that you’ll be looking as is substantially higher.
What this means practically is that you’re going to see more worthwhile bets on the table and you might want to get a little more aggressive when you’re at the table. Unfortunately, that latter tendency can land you in hot water when you’re not careful.
Avoid Chasing Poker Bounties
One of the biggest mistakes that players make in bounty poker tournaments is chasing after bounties. Yes, it can make sense to go after cash the but only when the math supports your choice.
The problem with this type of play comes down to how people perceive bounty tournaments. They pay attention to the bounty part of things, of course, but they don’t pay attention to the fact that they’re still in a poker tournament.
Honestly, the big difference between a bounty tournament and a regular tournament is that bounties are going to mess with the pot odds when your opponents go all in. This doesn’t mean that you need to chase bounties to make money – instead, it means that you need to play smart poker so you can pick up a bonus from time to time.
Dealing with Bounty Hunters
While you might be playing smart, that doesn’t mean that everyone else is on the same page. There are plenty of players who are going to go after bounties whenever possible, and that means that they’re going to try to stack you whenever they can.
This is a weird kind of all-in situation for the average poker player. Players who have plenty of chips are going to go all-in even when it not the best idea simply because they are trying to vacuum up those bounties whenever they can. You’ve got to adjust the way you think about poker in these situations to account for headhunters to get an accurate table read.
Figuring Out Poker Bounties
The other issue that you’re going to run into in this type of tournament is that you’re going to hit a wall. If you have a short stack, you absolutely are going to hit points at which you can’t grab a bounty. This means that you’re going to be competing for less money, which can actively hurt your bankroll.
Honestly, your best choice here is to look at what’s on the table. If folding is going to leave you in a chip deficit, you’ve got to make another move. You may have to abandon your usual strategies just to keep the possibility of winning money alive.
Do not, however, live in fear of getting a short stack. Make adjustments to game-play, of course, but don’t be stupid. Use your best judgment to decide when it’s a good idea to play with a bad hand. Are you going to lose from time to time? Of course. But you’ll still learn how to get yourself in the right playing position.
Try to ride the line between a healthy respect for your stack’s size and playing smart poker. You don’t want to leave yourself in a position in which you can’t win, but you also don’t want to be taken out by a dumb move. Play smart, and you’ll be fine.
One of the most important things you’re going to learn how to do in a bounty tournament is learning how to bluff and semi-bluff. Players go a little wild for money, so you’d think that you can get yourself in a position to take what they’ve got with some creative moves.
Since going all-in means that things are going to be a little more aggressive than you’d usually see, you’ll actually be dealing with a deficit when it comes to bluffing. Players are going to rush into situations that are untenable just because of the lure of bounties.
Again, your job here is to play smart instead of hard. Don’t go for the all-in bluffs because they won’t work as often as usual. Do, however, play around with pre-flop poker ranges a bit to determine what’s likely to call you.
Your goal here is to be the thinking man’s players. Mathematically, the value of bounties relative to the value of the pot goes down as the game goes on. Most people can’t figure that out, though, so you can take advantage of their lack of mathematical acumen. They’re going to play for bounties, but you are going to play to win.
So, what’s your strategy?
Don’t bluff against people who have giant stacks. They got there by playing and not folding, so they’re going to play against you. If you’re going to play someone who has a lot of money, you better feel confident in the fact that you can beat him or her when it comes to a showdown.
Most players who come to these tournaments aren’t interested in playing normal poker. They are in it for the bounties, and they are going to try to take people out even if it means risking their own stacks. Bluffing or semi-bluffing is only going to work if you’re in a tight spot against someone who is in a position to bust out.
The Final Table
Everything changes when you hit the final table.
Instead of looking at bounty strategy, you’re looking at freezeout strategy. Does the bounty matter? Of course, but it’s a much smaller consideration than it has been in the rest of the game. The math suggests that it’s much smarter for you to shoot for the win.
Remember, the bounty on an individual player won’t usually go up, but the size of the stacks at the final table are bigger than ever. When you get to this spot, the place you in which you finish is going to bring you way more money than any individual bounty. When everyone else at the table is still in bounty hunting mode, you need to be smart enough to go into pot hunting mode.
Honestly, the only time you’re going to really worry about bounties at the last table is when you are dealing with progressive bounties. In progressive games, the bounties at the final table get big and you might be able to take home a quarter of the total prize pool just by forcing the right players out of the game.
Progressive bounties are great for making money. You don’t just grab the pot if you win – you don’t even just grab the bounty of the player you took out. You also grab your own bounty, so you could take home a big tournament prize and a lot of cash all at the same time. Your goal in these tournaments, then, is not to chase the bounties but to play well enough to win the whole tournament.
Bounty poker tournaments are amazing. You can win a ton of money and play the kind of crazy poker that’s you’ve probably dreamed about playing. If you actually understand the math, you can also run roughshod over the bounty hunters who don’t really understand the game.
Pay attention to the math, adjust your strategy to account for bounty value, and play good poker. If you can do all that, you’re going to look fondly at bounty poker tournaments as the places at which you build up your bankroll. Don’t get psyched out by the idea of bounties – in time, you’ll collect enough of them that they don’t even phase you.
If you can learn anything, learn this – a smart player is always in the best position to win. The cards might not always be with you, but you’ll generally do very well against players who don’t understand the format. Whether you are in a bounty tournament or playing a cash game, knowing the smart way to play will usually get you paid. See you at the WSOP!
Bounty Poker Tournament – FAQ
What is a bounty poker tournament?
In a bounty poker tournament, you get money or a prize if you knock out one of the bounties. In some cases, everyone is a bounty.
What does bounty mean in poker?
It means there is a prize on their head. Knock out a bounty and get paid.
What is progressive bounty poker?
Instead of just collecting money by knocking out a player, the bounty on you increases.
Is a knockout tournament the same as a bounty?
A knockout tournament is a form of bounty tournament. It means that everyone is a bounty.