I have a home poker tournament that has grown beyond a single table (currently at 2 tables). I'm looking to understand how often I should balance the tables. E.g. if there is a 2 person discrepancy should I immediately balance the tables after that hand? What's a good rule of thumb?

When balancing, my understanding is that the most common practice is that the person who would be the next one to have the big blind gets moved and is placed at the other table at the open spot closest to the big blind at that table. Is there value to that method over for example moving small stack or big stack or some other rule? I have a friend who always moves the small stack so as to keep the "chips at the table" as even as possible.


5 Answers 5


If you are playing with two tables of ten, you need a maximum of four movements before you collapse the tables into one:

  • you have to lose a pair of players from one table only, in order to justify a single movement

  • the fourth pair causes the fourth movement, but the fifth pair causes the collapse (because five pairs makes ten players)

Since this is extremely unlikely without some more interesting situations to worry about, you have no reason not to maintain balance wherever possible, and should do it as soon as possible to prevent the negative effects of imbalanced tables.

However, as three or four players is 15 or 20% of your player pool, you should aim to avoid unfairness by requiring one player to move more than once, and by moving them to positions with different advantage.

This leads to three simple rules.

  1. As soon as there is a difference of more than one player, make a movement (since this is the earliest chance to achieve actual balance).

  2. Move the closest eligible player ahead of the blinds to the big blind on the smaller table. This avoids the disadvantage of moving from good position to poor as much as possible, and avoids the lack of knowledge of players on the new table from having much larger detrimental effect relative to the ability to use that knowledge effectively (viz. a lack of knowledge makes a good position much worse, while it doesn't really change much for a bad position)

  3. Never move the same player more than once in a tournament (since this prevents the disruption affecting one player disproportionately, while also preventing them from obtaining knowledge about players on both tables prior to the collapse, and having a disproportionate advantage from their movements).


As far as selecting who moves, I look at who just got knocked out.

If the person that got knocked out would have been the small blind on the next hand, pause that table. Let the other table finish the hand and whoever the next small blind is goes to replace the departed player.

That keeps the blind order the same and negates anyone possibly getting to “skip” a blind.

There are exceptions of course, like if a player has already moved.

Just try to keep it fair. In a home game, always give the host the opportunity and final say to set those kinds of rules.


Usually, the way this is done in live tournaments is that tables are broken when the players at one table can fill up the empty spots in the remaining tables. This will work for balancing if you have a lot of tables, for example if 9 tables were missing a person and one table was full (9-max) you could break the full table to make 9 full tables. If you are at 2-3 tables, I would adjust this to making sure there isnt a difference of 2 or more people at any table. If there is, then move a person from the larger table to the smaller table until you can join the tables together. This should only happen a few times, depending on how fast players at each table are being knocked out.

As far as choosing who gets moved, I am not sure how this is done. I can however confirm that its not done by moving the smallest stack normally. The total number of chips in the tournament wont change if there is no new entries, so having more or less chips at a table doesn't really change much. Explain it to your friend in this way: if there are a lot of short stacks at one table, then they will get knocked out faster than the players at the other table and new players will join the short stacked table with more chips, evening things out.


You should keep the tables balanced as near as possible. Meaning if you can move a player to balance the table you should do so ASAP.

I have seen a couple of ways to decide which player moves.

One is to high card for the player, not my favorite because it takes a little time and a player can get drawn badly, like off the button and into the blinds.

The better way and the one that is most common is to take the player that will get the next blind and move them. It is quick and easy, and the player getting moved never gets moved badly as far as position goes.


i have been tournement director at hundreds of small tournaments, in my experince whenever a dealer calls seat open is when you eveluate your tables, than if possible you move a player. no better timr then the present.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.