After first developing my cash game rules, I realized that there was also need for more detailed tournament rules, and specifically a rule sheet that could be printed out and displayed during the tournament. My goal here was to cover the most important rules on one printed page.

You can access a printable version here, or simply view the rules below.

At the bottom of the printout there is a suggested blind structure. You could cut this part off if you don't want to use it. This would be a good structure if you have about 20 players, start with 1000 chips, have 15 minute levels, and would like the tournament to last about 3 hours.

A Few Notable Rules

First, you are going to need a tournament director. This can be someone who plays in the tournament, but it must be agreed upon in advance that this person will make the final decision in any disputes. When the services of the TD are needed, play at their table will pause as a courtesy until they return. (Usually, the TD will be the game host.)

These two rules below are different from what you're used to in cash games:

A player may not show any cards from their hand while the play of the hand is in progress. Sometimes in cash games, when there are only two players remaining, one player will expose his/her hand to intimidate the other player or look for a tell. That isn't allowed in tournaments, because of the possibility of collusion.

All hands will be turned face up when a player is all-in and the betting action is complete. Here's another rule that is enforced just to avoid any disputes or perceived collusion between players. In most cash games you aren't required to turn up your hand. In tournaments you are. Besides, it makes it more fun that way.

[Note about rule 8: If you play live tournament poker, you've probably noticed the new TDA rules now require a player to be at their seat when the dealing begins or their hand is dead. This is being met by some opposition from the players; we'll see how it resolves itself.]

The Complete Rule List

(Printable Version Here)

  1. Players are responsible for protecting their own hands.  Any hand that hits the muck, or has the wrong number of cards, is a dead hand.  No refunds of chips already bet will be given. 
  2. The cards speak.  If a player miscalls their hand at the showdown, those statements are not binding. 
  3. Verbal bets are binding.  A player who declares bet, call, or raise, will be required to complete the action. 
  4. A player may not show any cards from their hand while the play of the hand is in progress.  A player who deliberately exposes their hand may have it declared dead.     
  5. String bets are not allowed.
  6. A bet of a single chip is a call unless otherwise announced.  To be safe, it is always best to verbally announce your intention to raise. 
  7. Dead button rule. No player may miss the big blind due to elimination of another player.  The button may occasionally stay in front of the same player 2 hands in a row.
  8. Absent players. An absent player is always dealt in and will post blinds and antes.  If a player is not at the table when action reaches them, their hand is dead.
  9. All hands will be turned face up when a player is all-in and the betting action is complete.
  10. Once a new hand has begun, no decision can be rendered about a previous hand.
  11. If two (or more) players go broke during the same hand, the player starting the hand with the larger amount of money finishes in the higher tournament place.
  12. Dealmaking. At the final table, all remaining players must be in agreement on any deals, or play will continue.
  13. The decision of the tournament director is final. When not covered by these rules, standard tournament poker rules will be enforced to the best of the ability of the tournament director. 


(Use this structure if you have about 20 players and want the tournament to last about 3 hours)

Starting Chips: 1000 -- No rebuys -- 15 minutes per level

LEVEL 1   5/10 LEVEL 6   40/80 LEVEL 11   250/500
LEVEL 2   10/20 LEVEL 7   50/100 LEVEL 12   400/800
LEVEL 3   15/30 LEVEL 8   75/150 LEVEL 13   500/1000
LEVEL 4   20/40 LEVEL 9   100/200     LEVEL 14   750/1500
LEVEL 5   25/50 LEVEL 10   150/300   LEVEL 15   1000/2000