Bounty Knockout Tournaments: Explaining the Strategy

Poker Academy
06 Apr 2024
MTT Strategy
06 Apr 2024

In recent years bounty tournaments, also known as 'knockout', have gained popularity. These tournaments offer prizes for eliminating opponents, making them a hit both online and live.

Due to their unique structure, bounty tournaments require distinct strategies compared to regular tournaments. So, this article aims to provide a straightforward calculation method for achieving success in bounty tournaments.

What is a knockout tournament?

A knockout/bounty tournament is a tournament where you can win prizes by defeating opponents. Perhaps one of the most well-known bounty tournaments is the Progressive Knockout (PKO).

In PKO, the bounty-to-prize ratio is 50/50. This means that when you eliminate an opponent, you receive half of their bounty, with the other half added to your own bounty.

Example: If you defeat an opponent with a $100 bounty, you will receive $50 immediately and $50 will be added to your bounty.

In addition, the tournament winner can claim their own bounty, which results in a significantly larger prize compared to regular tournaments.

Expected value and ICM in bounty tournaments

In bounty tournaments, compared to regular tournaments, players tend to call all-ins more frequently due to the better odds they receive.

Before delving into bounty tournaments, let's first discuss the Independent Chip Model (ICM), which is essential knowledge even in regular tournaments.

Unlike cash games, where the amount of chips equals the potential winnings, in tournaments, it's crucial to preserve your stack no matter how small it may be. Opting for choices that never result in losses, even in scenarios where there's a 50% chance of doubling or losing your chips, yields a higher expected value. This concept, known as ICM, is recommended for all tournament players to understand.

ICM is a concept in poker that evaluates the value of chip stacks in tournaments.

Many final table deals are often based on ICM calculations. The need for ICM arises in where the prize pool isn't distributed proportionally but accelerates significantly as players reach higher positions.

ICM essentially calculates the equity value of each player's chip stack based on the payout structure and stack sizes remaining in the tournament.

It takes into account factors such as the current blinds, the payout distribution, and the remaining players' chip stacks.

For example, even if a player has a large chip stack, if they're close to the bubble or if the prize jumps are significant at the final table, their ICM value might be less than what their chip count suggests. Conversely, a player with a smaller chip stack might have a higher ICM value if they're in a position to make it into the money or if the payouts are relatively flat.

Bounty impact in PKO strategy

In bounty tournaments, considering ICM is important, but the impact of bounties becomes even more significant. Since it's possible to calculate the value of bounties as well, justifying wider calls than usual. Let's consider an example of a Super Knockout tournament.

Let's say you start with a 10,000 chip stack, and the blinds are at 500/1000/100. If there's an all-in of 10,000 from the BTN, the SB folds, and you're in the BB covering the opponent's stack, and you hold 67s, should you call?

At this point, let's assume that the BTN's all-in range is 34.24%:

67s hand has 38.15% equity against this range.

When calculating the odds, we find that 9,000 (the amount required to call) divided by 10,000 (the BTN's all-in amount) plus 500 (the SB's amount) plus 1,000 (the BB's amount) plus 100x6 (the total ante amount) plus 9,000 (the amount required to call) equals 42.6%. Therefore, a call is justified if the equity is at least 42.6%.

Hand 67s with 38.15% equity wouldn't be a call in a regular tournament. However, in a bounty tournament, you can consider the value of the bounty in addition to the chip value.

Let's recalculate the pot odds formula with the added value of the bounty:

9,000 (amount required to call) divided by 10,000 (BTN's all-in amount) plus 500 (SB's amount) plus 1,000 (BB's amount) plus 100x6 (total ante amount) plus 9,000 (amount required to call) plus 10,000 (bounty value) equals 28.9%.

Therefore, it's profitable to call with 67s in this situation!

In situations where you can grab a bounty it becomes justified to call looser.

To make a perfect calculation, you'd need to consider the changing value of chips and ICM, which is impossible to do during the game.

Important to know in PKO

Bounty tournaments require special attention due to their differences from regular tournaments.

Some players may go all-in excessively because of the bounties, while others might play as if it were a regular tournament and miss out on grabbing bounties.

When covered by opponents

When you're covered by opponents (meaning their stack is larger than yours), you can't get profit from bounties. Therefore, you shouldn't be too liberal with going all-in or calling all-ins, taking into account the bounty's potential profit.

Be aware of whether your stack is covered by your opponents while playing.

At the final table

In bounty tournaments, only the last player can claim their own bounty. Therefore, there are times when you need a strategy to protect your own bounty rather than solely focusing on hunting opponents' bounties.

In many PKO tournaments, the prize distribution features less drastic differences between places, such as 1st: $1,000, 2nd: $850, 3rd: $700. However, the difference between the 1st and 2nd positions becomes more significant because the 1st place player can grab the bounty of the 2nd place player in addition to their own. Lower-ranked players should aggressively pursue chips, while the 1st place player should strive to increase their own stack under maximum pressure!

Final thoughts

As summary, bounty tournaments are special tournaments where players need to consider the value of bounties.

PKO tournaments, commonly played online, often involve the value of bounties increasing as blinds increase, allowing players to play more aggressively than usual.

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