The harsh reality of tournament poker is that only one player can remain standing at the end of it all. Every other person is going to get knocked out at some point. Hopefully, you do more knocking out than getting knocked out, but it’s something we all deal with as tournament players.
Bounty poker tournaments raise the stakes just a bit by giving everyone more incentive to knock each other out and narrow down the field. Not only do you collect your victims’ chips, but you also collect a cash bounty paid instantly to your account. The more people you knock out, the more you get paid.
Best of all, there’s still a normal prize pool up for grabs. So while you’re busy competing and collecting bounties, you’re also moving up through the rankings and closing in on a large payout. A lot of money changes hands over the course of a bounty tournament.
How Bounty Tournaments Work
Bounty poker tournaments work just like any other tournament type with one twist: some or all of the players have additional bounties placed on their heads. Any time you knock out a player with a bounty, that money is credited directly to your account. Bounties are paid no matter how you perform in the overall tournament.
The majority of bounty tournaments place a fixed bounty on the head of every player. This is paid for buy designating a portion of each player’s buyin to the bounty fee. As you knock players out, you collect bounties and get paid. For example, a $20 bounty tournament might allocate $15 of every buyin to the prize pool and set the remaining $5 as the bounty. In this example, you would collect $5 every time you send a player packing.
Some tournaments place bounties on specific players only. This is common in tournaments with poker site representatives or celebrity poker players. In these, the poker site itself usually pays the bounty fee as an incentive for people to join the tournament and attempt to knock out the pros.
How should I adjust my strategy in bounties?
You shouldn’t make any major adjustments to your standard MTT game when playing in bounties because the regular prize pool still accounts for the most money. If you make a deep run in a tournament, the total value of any bounties collected along the way will pale in comparison to the final table prize money.
Generally, I find it best to play a normal game and let the bounties come to me as a normal course of playing poker. If you make it deep into a tournament, you’re going to knock people out as a byproduct of doing what you always do. Most people will find it more profitable to err on the side of caution than to make reckless moves in the hopes of collecting a few additional bounties.
The biggest adjustment worth considering is in how you deal with short-stacked players. There’s more incentive to call last ditch all-in shoves from short stacks if you have position and are confident that it’s not going to be a three or four-way pot. It’s usually a good idea to open your calling range against desperation plays anyways; the bounty adds even more incentive to do so. Just don’t get carried away with it or lose focus of the ultimate goal.
If you’re not sure how to adjust, just stick with your normal tournament strategy. A good number of your opponents will be overcompensating for the bounty structure and end up sending chips your way through loose, poor play. All you need to do is play a smart, tight-aggressive game and the money will come.