How to Set Up a Poker Payout Schedule

The tournament payout structure determines how many of the top finishers in the tournament get paid, and what percentage of the prize pool each of those players is awarded. Generally speaking, if you are playing a small one table tournament of five or six, just the top 2 will be paid. If you have 7 – 10 players, then the top 3 will be paid. If you are having a larger tournament with multiple tables, then the number of players that receive a payout will increase.

Typical Payouts

Typically, the payout in most tournaments will be weighted quite heavily towards the winner. The following example is a common payout structure for a 7-10 man tournament.


Position Payout Percentage
1st 50%
2nd 30%
3rd 20%

Flatter Payouts

You may choose to flatten the structure if you prefer – this basically means spreading the winnings out a little more evenly. However, it is usually accepted that the winner of the tournament will win the lion’s share of the prize pool as their reward for taking the first place.


It is worth considering that the payout structure of a tournament could potentially have an impact on the strategies applied by players during the later stages. If the payout is strongly biased towards the winner, than players are likely to be a bit more aggressive as they aim to get first spot. In a flatter structure, players will perhaps focus more on just getting into the payout positions to make sure of at least some return.

Personal Preference

It really is down to individual preferences how tournament payouts are structured. There are no hard and fast rules and it can be tailor made to suit the participants. If you are running a few tournaments during one evening with a group of friends and you want the tournaments to run quite quickly, then a bias towards the winner makes sense.


You could even choose to make a tournament “winner takes all”. If you are just having the one tournament, then a flatter structure would ensure more people have the chance to win a decent payout. Just make sure that everyone understands the payout structure and, ideally, is happy with it.

Side Deals

There are a couple more ground rules that need to be established relating to payouts. Firstly, you need to decide if players will be allowed to make side-deals between themselves. Side deals can be done in many different ways.


A common example would be if two players are left and have similar size chip stacks. If first place pays significantly more than second place, they may decide to split the first two payouts equally between them. Using the payout illustration above, instead of first taking 50% and second taking 30%, they would agree to 40% each. Alternatively, they may choose to take 37.5% each guaranteed, and play for the remaining 5%.


There are not set rules about what is allowed and players can discuss their own deals – providing it has been agreed that side deals can be made.

Si eliminations

The other important rule which needs to be determined prior to the tournament starting is what happens in the event of two – or more – players being eliminated at the same time. There are essentially two options under these circumstances; either base it on the number of chips each player had at the start of the hand, or split any payout(s) due.


For example, there are three players left and two go out on the same hand. You could choose to award second place to the player who had the most chips at the beginning of the hand, or both players could split second and third place money There is no right or wrong way to decide this – as long as the rules have been put in place before the scenario arises.

Automatic Calculations

The pokerclock.com allows you to set your own payout structure and automatically calculates what payout each position will receive, and this will be visible on the poker clock display.

Poker Clock Tournament Strategy