If you’re trying to choose what type of poker game to play, the time you have available is a factor. With other commitments to fit around your poker playing, knowing how long an average poker game is will help you schedule.
The average poker game is 1-3 hours if you’re playing a simple cash game, and the average poker tournament can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 12 hours. However, this is highly variable and depends on the number of players, the size of the starting stack, how careful players are, and other factors.
|Poker game||Duration online||Duration in live games|
|Tournament (up to 1000 people)||8-10 hours||8h up to a few days|
|Turbo tournament||4-6hours||5-8 hours|
|Cash game||1-2 hours (but can stand up after a single hand)||1-3 hours (can leave table at any time)|
|Sit & Go (turbo, 9players)||45min||90min|
When you get down to it, there are no definite rules that determine exactly how long the average poker game lasts. Let’s look at the different game types and the factors that influence their duration.
How Long Do Cash Poker Games Last?
Whether you play in a casino, at home, or online, the cash game is the most flexible format.
In a cash game, players bet with cash or cash converted to chips. If playing with chips, those chips have a cash value. When you cash out, you receive that value.
You can join a cash game at any time just by paying the buy-in. This is the money you bring to the table, otherwise known as your stack.
You might have to wait for a seat at the table to become available if you’re playing in a live environment.
The blinds are mandatory bets, and they’re fixed for the duration of the game.
If you lose all of your stack, you can rebuy to stay at the table and continue playing.
There may be a limit on buy-ins for some games, restricting the number of times you can rebuy. But in that case, you can just go and join another table.
As there’s no set finish time for cash games, you’re free to leave when you want.
So, how long is the average cash poker game? Well, that’s entirely up to you. The average game between friends is about 1-3 hours, but your games can easily be shorter or longer than this.
How Long Do Tournament Poker Games Last?
The duration of tournament poker games depends on a few factors. Let’s explore them below.
How Do Tournament Games Work?
Unlike a cash game, a tournament has a specified endpoint at which the match will finish. Usually, that’s when one person has won all the chips. The whole point is to determine a winner.
Also, unlike cash games, the chips you receive in return for your buy-in aren’t of any value outside the tournament. The chips don’t translate directly into cash.
So, the buy-in for a tournament might be $250, in return for which you’d get, say 20,000 chips to play with. All players get the same number of starting chips.
Once you lose your chips, you’re out of the tournament, although some allow rebuys. These are usually only available for a set period. Once that time has expired, you’re knocked out if you lose your chips.
Tournament Structure Helps to Bring a Tournament to an End
A tournament’s structure is usually such that it will end within a particular time. That time is for the organizer to decide when setting it up.
- Number of players
- Size of the starting stack
- How many initial big blinds the starting stack covers
- By how much the blinds increase at each level
- The number and duration of each blind level
As a result of increasing blinds, as the tournament progresses through each level, players with small stacks will have to gamble. They have to win more chips to meet the increasing blinds.
For example, you start with 20,000 chips, with blinds starting at $50 and $100, increasing every forty-five minutes. Your starting stack covers a hundred level one blinds. After four hours, the blinds might have risen to $2,500 and $5,000.
If you’ve only got 10,000 chips left, you only have enough for two more big blinds. So you have to take more risks to increase your stack. But, that could mean you lose it all.
There are different types of tournaments, and their lengths vary, so let’s run through the main formats.
Single-Table Tournaments or Sit-and-Go
As the name suggests, players at single-table tournaments play at a single table. They’re also known as sit-and-go tournaments. That’s because the game gets going as soon as the requisite number of players sit at the table. So, there’s no fixed start time.
You’ll typically find the number of players required is anywhere between two and ten. Six and nine is a popular format.
So, you have to wait for the table to fill up, But, once the tournament starts, the end time depends, like any other tournament, on the game’s structure.
Let’s take a look at the elements of the structure highlighted above.
If you get 300 starting chips and the opening level big blind is $15, you have twenty big blinds in your starting stack. There might be ten levels of only five minutes each. The blinds might increase by $10 for the first five levels, then by $30. This type of setup suggests the game will be over quickly.
You’ll usually find tournaments this fast listed as turbo games. Some are even faster, with levels of two or three minutes.
But, if you have a starting stack of 1500 with the same $15 initial big blind, the starting stack covers a hundred of those big blinds. If there are ten levels of ten minutes with blinds increasing by $10 throughout, that’s a longer game.
Generally, you’ll find sit-and-go tournaments last for anything between twenty minutes to ninety minutes.
So, if you’re scheduling around a sit-and-go tournament, unless it’s a turbo game, allow up to ninety minutes.
In a multi-table tournament, the play takes place on several tables at the same time.
As players get knocked out, surviving players get moved to other tables to even out player numbers. So, the number of tables reduces until there’s one left, the final table.
These tournaments generally have a set start time.
Again, how long it takes to whittle down the numbers to get a winner depends on its structure. Check the poker room’s website for information on approximate duration.
Or, you could just take the number and length of each level and add scheduled breaks to give you a general idea. So, if there are ten levels of forty minutes, with three 30-minute breaks, you need to allow about eight hours.
Structure sheets should be available to view before a game. They should contain all the information mentioned above. If not, ask before you buy-in.
For online tournaments, you should be able to see structured information in the tournament lobby of your poker software.
If the buy-in is small, but there’s a guaranteed prize, the field of players could be substantial. You might find that such a tournament with a large number of entrants could last anything up to 12 hours. So, be prepared.
But, many online providers offer faster multi-table tournaments, with levels of ten minutes. But there may be up to thirty levels, so you’d still be looking at about five hours or so. Again, the blind structure can speed things up.
There are also turbo multi-table tournaments. In the turbo games, the levels are shorter, or the blinds increase by more substantial amounts or both. Some multi-table turbo tournaments could last just a couple of hours.
So, how long the average poker game depends on the type of game you’re playing. But here’s a general guide:
- With a cash game, it’s entirely up to you how long it lasts as you can come and go as you please
- In a sit-and-go single table tournament, allow up to ninety minutes
- For a multi-table tournament, generally allow several hours