During multi-table tournaments, players are re-assigned to other tables in order to keep minimum number of tables and to have them as balanced as possible. Are there any rules as to which table to break down or which player at a particular table to move ?

In online poker moving players is particularly easy, for obvious reasons. From what I've seen, the players are re-arranged in such a way that the difference between the smallest and largest table is 1 player at most. This seems logical. But it doesn't explain which players to re-assign.

In live play, the re-assignments can get very tricky, especially if it's a large field. Are there any usual tricks that the tournament staff uses to achieve this ? The good thing about live tournaments, though, is that they usually take many more hours; this will help with re-assignments.

PS: I played in a live tournament once where the player who was re-assigned was always the one in the cut-off seat. It's good to have a rule about this to avoid problems about who to move, but I doubt it's standard practice to move the guy in the cut-off.

5 Answers 5


In most live tournaments, tables break according to a preset pattern, so that the tables can be reused for other games. For this reason, experienced players often adjust their playing style based on the table they are seated at. If they are at a table that breaks quickly, they know that they do not have time to build strong reads, and must instead take advantage of other factors. Conversely if they are at a table that will not break for a long time, they may work to establish a particular table image, and to build (and exploit) reads on other players. Online tournaments can follow this rule, but definitely do not have to do so.

There is no set rule for how the seat assignments will occur when a player is moved - it varies from one casino to the next. Very seldom are they in any way random though, especially in live events. Instead, they follow whatever rules the casino deems optimal for gameflow and fairness.

  • Its very interesting - Can a player know if the table he currently playing is about to be split (not talking about case of very big tournaments when some tables are placed in a different room due to lack of space)?
    – amigal
    Jun 5, 2012 at 14:42
  • Yes, a player can definitely know. I don't recall ever playing a live tournament in which I did not know. It's often clearly stated, but it is not bad form to ask the tournament organizers which tables will break first. Jun 5, 2012 at 15:57
  • "it varies from from one casino to the next". What about WSOP, WSOPE, WPT, EPT etc. ? I googled it and couldn't find anything... Jun 20, 2012 at 15:41
  • It's been a couple of years since I played in any of those. Honestly, I do not recall what method they followed. Jun 20, 2012 at 19:07

I don't have much experience in that, but as much as I noticed, In both online and live tournaments, the re-assignment process is according to the betting structure in the table that the players should be assigned to.

for example, If a manager want to re-assign player to another table, and in the new table the player will be the big blind, he will choose the player that should be the big blind in the "old" table (or the one after him).

The managers tries to keep on fairness in this case.

of course there are exceptions, but this is (as much as I know), the general idea.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. Fairness does indeed seem important in these cases, I wouldn't want to play a hand in the big blind and then be moved to a table where I'm again in the big blind. Jun 5, 2012 at 11:57
  • Most of the times, when a table is about to be broken, the players are sorted according to the blindwise position, and the tables' free slots are classified according to blindwise position as well. Players are seated there by using a merge-like algorithm. I would pay to see a well-coded algorithm doing that :), although not astonishingly hard to code, it will take some time to rethink the heuristics according to the circumstances. Jun 2, 2016 at 20:14

I doubt that there is such a thing as a "standard practice" when it comes to the reseating process.

I too have played in tourneys in which reseated players always take the cutoff seats. This is certainly fair for the players being reseated, but it does have disadvantages:

  • It's not so fair for the current late-position players. Seating new players at the cutoff position erodes the positional advantage of the former late-position players, especially if more than one player is coming in.
  • Mandating a late-position seat for a reseated player can be a hassle, since it may force several existing players to shift positions. This is particularly bothersome if the tables are packed into a confined space, or if there are players in wheelchairs at the table.

I've not seen a tourney that used an absolute fixed order for collapsing tables. In my tourneys, I usually designate the next table to be broken (at my discretion) so players at that table may act appropriately. I also designate a "feature table" (i.e., where the final table is played) that will not be broken during the tourney.

As for reseating players from a broken table, the most common procedure is to simply assign those players to open seats at random using the seating cards or tags that were used to originally seat the tourney. If a player has the misfortune of getting seated at a blind position, they are still responsible for paying the blind; this is an inviolable rule pretty much everywhere. Tournament directors may or may not adjust the seating to prevent such an inequity; however, this should always be at the director's discretion.


It is mostly a random thing, in the sense that the player being moved and where they are being moved to is mostly based on the random events out of a players control. These random events are players going broke, in ways the a player being moved has no control over, and random seating at the beginning of the tournament.

But there are exceptions, some venues do not do random seating, they let players select from available seating (Bad practice in my book). I have worked as a tournament director, some of the things done on a regular basis that decay randomness that we do are avoid moving some players to balance games, and give some players a particular seat. Now this could be done for corrupt reasons someplace I am sure, like keeping a couple of partners in good position to each other and things like that. They reason we did it involved people with some sort of disabilities. We had a lot of old people. Some people with very poor eye site we would try to get them a middle seat so they could see the flop. One particular regular whom was wheel chair bound would always get a seat at the table we would use as the final table and not have his seat changed. It was not particularly fair always, but doing so did not give much of a advantage or disadvantage to anyone.


I wonder too and it's often disadvantageous moving tables in online poker if you don't have a good stack, hate being thrown into a table with the big fish and their 6digit stacks when you are in the lower 5s, certainly it makes the game far less balanced than if you consistently stay at a table till you clear it, from playing with people who all started together with the starting stack. There is no way someone say with 8000 chips being thrown to a table with lots of people with 10x or more chips is fair. But on the flipside I can't see the big stacked players complaining when put on a table with small stacks!

Still though I'm not seeing any evidence of balance at all judging by the disparity of stack sizes in reformed tables.

  • Hi @whosthewinner, this seems more like a good comment than an answer. Do you have any experience of the rules regarding table balancing in tournaments that would help answer the OP? Thanks.
    – Toby Booth
    Jul 10, 2021 at 13:58

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