I'm running a home game and I want to better design NLHE Tourney Blind Structures.

So far the auto generators I've found either bias slow build up or long tourney times.


The rule of thumb I've always heard is that tournaments tend to end when there are around 10 big blinds left on the table.

You will need to know the number of players you will have, your starting blind level and stack size, and your desired tournament length. Generally, you will not want to start with deep stacks for a short tournament. The final blind level can be calculated by dividing the total chips in play by 10. Finally, you will need to determine how long you want levels to last - longer levels will require bigger increases in blinds at each level.

SS = Starting stack
P = Number of players
BBf = Final Big Blind level

BBf = SS * P / 10

If you are hosting a 9 person tournament, and you want it to run 3 hours, starting with 1000 chip stacks, the big blind 3 hours is in should be (1000 * 9 / 10) = 900. We can approximate this to 500/1000 for ease.

So blinds need to increase to 500/1000 in 180 minutes. With 20 minute levels (with typical 9 handed play, that should be at least an orbit per level), you can either go linearly or exponentially to 500/1000.

The linear method is terrible - starting around 5/10 blinds, the structure would end up looking something like:


The exponential method is better... it looks something like this:

A= some factor that needs to be derived
L = the level
BBL = the big blind at the given level.
x^y represents x to the y'th power, e.g. x^3 = x*x*x = cubed.

BBL = A*(l.5^L)

To solve for A, we plug in our number of levels for L, and our final big blind for BBL

1000 = A*(1.5^9)
26 = A

Next, we run the formula for each level, rounding to the nearest decent chip amount, to find the big blind at that level

BB1 = 40
BB2 = 60
BB3 = 90
BB4 = 130
BB5 = 200
BB6 = 300
BB7 = 450
BB8 = 675
BB9 = 1000

As you can see, this is a pretty solid progression. The 1.5 that is used in the equation is basically a multiplier for each successive level of blinds - the blinds for level X will about about 1.5x the blinds of level X-1. For smaller earlier blinds and faster leveling, adjust the 1.5 number up. I would suggest keeping it below 2 - changing it by .1 can greatly affect the structure. You can also lower it a bit to get a more linear structure.

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  • This is very nicely put together. Thanks for the answer. – Andrei Freeman Jan 14 '12 at 19:42

I've devised this format for some fairly low stakes rebuy tournaments I've been running.

The general principal is that each level of blinds should be between 1/3 and 1/2 higher than the previous level. I.e. the blinds should never double even from level 1 to 2, and no little steps in the blinds either. So for level 1 the big blind should be 4 times the smallest chip value in use.

Players start with stacks of 2000 chips. Rebuys of 2000 chips are available at any time between hands during the first two levels for players that have 1000 or less chips. There is also an optional topup of 2000 chips for all players at end of level 2. Rebuys and topups cost the same as the original buyin.

The first two levels run for twice as long remaining levels - usually 40/20 minutes, with a break after level 2.

I often run tournaments for relative novice players so don't bother with antes as they tend to slow play too much. If you want antes just insert another level repeating 150/300 with antes around 10% of the big blind.

With usually 20-25 players, tournaments last around 5 hours and the total prize pool almost always averages about 3 to 3 1/2 total buyins per person - i.e. the average stack at start of level 3 is about 6000 - 7000 (30-35 big blinds) so a reasonable amount of play without taking forever to finish the game.

Payouts to the top 4 / 5 players.

Level    Blinds
1        50 / 100 
2        75 / 150

3        100 / 200
4        150 / 300
5        250 / 500
6        350 / 700
7        500 / 1000
8        700 / 1500
9        1000 / 2000
10       1500 / 3000
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