Shootout Tournaments

Shootout Tournaments
by Chad Holloway of

Most poker players have experienced a poker tournament in the past, whether from watching it on television or participating in one themselves; however, what many of these players don’t realize is that there are different types of tournaments. These tournaments are often described by their title (i.e. heads-up tournament and sit & go tournament), but there is one sort of tournament that is not explained in name. A shootout tournament is much different, both in structure and strategy, than a traditional tournament. In More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players, Daniel Negreanu explains exactly what a shootout tournament is:

“A shootout might start with 10 tables of 10 players each, but these tables don’t break down as players are eliminated. Instead, each table plays down until one player remains at each of the 10 tables. Those 10 players then move to the final table where each person starts with an equal amount of chips. In my opinion, shootouts require more skill than traditional tournaments.”

The World Series of Poker usually holds a number of events in the shootout format, which makes it a tournament structure played by many professionals. The reason Negreanu, and many other poker pros, believe shootouts require more skill is because they encompass many different poker skills throughout the tournament, which usually apply only at the final table in a regular tournament. Negreanu elaborates:

“To advance in shootouts, players are forced to play well under a variety circumstances: full-table play, short-handed play, three-handed play, and ultimately, heads-up play. In a traditional tournament, just hanging in there and trying to survive can get you all the way to the final table. Not so in a shootout, because all ten players are in a must-win situation and have to play accordingly.”

In other words, Negreanu is saying that in order to win a shootout tournament not only do you have to be successful at the various stages of poker play, but you’ll need to play faster and take more chances than you would in a different format.

For example, in a shootout tournament you might find yourself holding a hand such as 6h 7h and calling the raise of a single opponent. The flop comes 5h 8c 3h, giving you both an open-ended straight and flush draw, and again your opponent bets. Even though you don’t have a made hand, this is a great opportunity to make a big raise. Chances are he’ll fold if he isn’t holding a big pocket pair or better, but even if he does make the call you stand a good chance of making the best hand in the next two cards, a chance that you must be willing to go broke with in a shootout tournament. If you do find yourself in a shootout tournament just remember to “go big or go home,” and don’t make the same mistake Negreanu sees in this type of tournament:

“That’s the biggest mistake I see players make in these event. Their mindset is often on surviving, since that’s their normal approach to traditional tournament play. In a shootout, however, second place through tenth place pay exactly the same amount-zilch!”