The duration of a poker tournament is mostly based on the tournament structure and rules (e.g., rebuys, time structure, stacks), as well as how many players are engaged in it.
Whilst tournaments offer the opportunity to win large sums of money from a small buy-in, they can take a long time to complete. If time is a factor for you, it's worth knowing how long the average online poker tournament duration is before you start playing which is what we'll be exploring in this article.
An online poker tournament is an event where a collection of players pay an entry fee and compete to win a portion of the gathered prize pool. Each player is given a certain amount of chips to start with and if a player loses all their chips they are eliminated from the tournament.
The size of the blinds increases as the tournament progresses and often antes are introduced after a few levels. The first prizes are given out when roughly 10% of the field remains, though this will depend on the specific tournament. The tournament officially ends when one player has all of the chips in play. That player is then declared the winner.
Poker Tournament Duration
The exact duration of an online poker tournament will heavily depend on the number of players, the tournament structure, and the tournament type.
Sit-and-go tournaments have the fewest number of players and therefore take the least amount of time to complete. They will often take between 20 minutes and 80 minutes to complete depending on the structure.
For example, a 9 handed sit-and-go with 8 minute blind levels will have an average poker tournament duration of 60-70 minutes. Whereas a 6 handed sit-and-go with 3 minute blind levels will have an average poker tournament duration of 20-25 minutes.
If you want to play a tournament but not spend all day on it, sit-and-gos are your best option.
On the other hand, multi-table tournaments take a lot longer and will on average take between 4-8 hours. Some multi-table tournaments will even last over multiple days. This is very common for major tournament series such as SCOOP and WCOOP.
Not only do those events have a larger player pool, they often have a slower tournament structure which means they can take anywhere between 12-20 hours in total.
The fewer players there are in an online poker tournament, the lower the average poker tournament duration will be. This means that if you play at peak times you should expect a tournament to last longer than if you play early in the morning.
Turbo Poker Tournament
Turbo online poker tournaments work the same way as regular online poker tournaments but the length of the blind levels are reduced. This means that turbo tournaments will be completed anywhere from 50-75% faster than a regular tournament, depending on how much faster the blind levels are.
For example, an average tournament has 10 minute blind levels whereas a turbo tournament will have 5 minute blind levels and a hyper-turbo tournament will have 3 minute blind levels. This means that if the average tournament has 1,000 runners and takes 6 hours to complete, then the same tournament with a turbo blind structure will only take 3 hours to complete.
Satellite Poker Tournament
A satellite poker tournament works slightly differently from other tournaments. The top prize in a satellite poker tournament is a ticket into a bigger poker tournament and there is often more than one of these tickets to win. This means that instead of playing down to a winner, the tournament plays down to the number of players equal to the number of tickets available.
You may think this means that the tournament will be finished quicker as the tournament stops sooner, right? Actually, due to the nature of satellite tournaments, they often take longer than regular tournaments as players spend a long time on each hand near the bubble, hoping that other players get knocked out before they have to risk their own stack.
A rebuy tournament allows a player to buy back into a tournament once they've lost all their chips. There is a set amount of time during which rebuys are allowed and during that time a player can rebuy as many times as they'd like. Rebuy tournaments commonly have an option to add-on at the end of the rebuy period, allowing players to buy more chips.
The consequence of people being able to buy back in and add-on chips, is there are a lot more chips in play compared to a regular tournament. This means that they will take longer on average to complete than an online poker tournament without rebuys.
Calculating Poker Tournament Hourly Rate
If you're playing online poker tournaments to make money, it's important to know how much you're making per hour to see if it's a financially viable venture.
The easiest way to calculate your hourly rate as a tournament player is to use a poker tracker such as PockerTracker4 or Hold'em Manager 3. Software such as this will track your winning as well as the amount of time you've spent at the tables. If you have this information you can just divide the amount of money you've won by the amount of time you've spent at the tables to get your hourly rate.
For example, if in the past month you've won $3000 and have played for a total of 100 hours your hourly rate would be equal to $30 an hour:
$3000 / 100 = $30
Therefore we can extrapolate that if the same player plays another 100 hours at the same level, their projected hourly rate will be around $30/hour.
Another way to predict your hourly rate in tournament poker is to take your ROI for a particular tournament buy-in and divide it by your average tournament length.
For example, if you have a 10% ROI in a $100 online poker tournament and in each tournament you play for an average of 4 hours, your hourly rate would be equal to $2.50 an hour:
$100 * 0.1 = $10 $10 / 4 = $2.50
However, tournament poker is subject to extremely high variance and even if you're a winning player, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to profit every week/month/year. The high variance of tournament poker makes it difficult to make accurate predictions of future performance, even with a solid dataset.
Why Poker Tournament Durations Matter to Professionals?
Tournament durations are important to professionals as a professional player is trying to maximize their hourly rate and if a tournament takes too long to complete it may not be worth it for a professional to play.
Let's look at two examples of tournaments a professional player might play in and see which is the better one to play based on how much they can make per day:
The first tournament is a $200 buy-in where the professional player has an ROI of 15% and an average playing time of 5 hours.
$200 * 0.15 = $30 $30 / 5 = $6
From our calculations, we can see that the professional would have an hourly rate of $6 playing in this tournament. If they can play 5 tables at a time for 10 hours a day they would, on average, expect to play 10 of these tournaments.
This means that their expected daily win rate would be $6 * 10 = $60.
The second tournament is a $200 buy-in where the professional player has an ROI of 10% and an average playing time of 2 hours.
$200 * 0.1 = $20 $20 / 2 = $10.
We can see that playing this tournament the professional would have an hourly rate of $10 per hour. If they can play 5 tables at a time for 10 hours a day they would, on average, expect to play 25 of these tournaments.
This means their expected daily win rate would be $10 * 25 = $250.
You can see that even with a lower ROI, the ability to be able to play more tournaments at a faster rate can result in a higher hourly/daily win rate. Certain professional poker players can increase their hourly earnings by doing multi-tabling, the practice of playing more than one tournaments or cash-games at the same time.
Poker Tournament Duration: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions about the average poker tournament duration:
How are poker tournaments different from cash games?
A poker tournament is an event where a group of players buy in for a set amount to compete for a portion of the collected prize pool and ends when one player is remaining. Whereas a cash game is a poker game where each chip has a cash value and the game can last indefinitely.
How long does an average poker tournament last?
This depends on a couple of factors - the number of players, the tournament type, and the tournament structure. A sit-and-go can last anywhere between 15-70 minutes and a multi-table tournament will take around 4-8 hours on average.
Why are satellite tournaments longer?
Satellite tournaments last longer than regular tournaments due to the way the prize pool is structured. When players get close to winning a ticket, the game slows down as players on a short stack take the maximum amount of time per hand to try and outlast other short-stacked players.
How many hands are played per hour in a sit-&-go tournament?
This will depend on the number of players in the tournament. If you are playing a 9 handed sit-and-go you can expect to play around 50-60 hands an hour, if you're playing a 6 handed sit-and-go it's closer to 80 hands an hour, and heads up sit-and-gos can get 100 hands per hour.
Are poker tournaments profitable?
Poker tournaments can be profitable and some professional players exclusively play tournaments. There is the potential to win a large amount of money from a small buy-in which makes them attractive to players, however, there is a large amount of variance in tournament poker which can make it harder to win over the long term.
The number of entries, tournament type, and tournament structure all impact the amount of time an online poker tournament takes, and after reading this article you should be able to use this information to help decide if a tournament is right for you to play.
This article was published on September 24, 2021, and last updated on June 24, 2022.