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5 Reasons to Try Progressive KO Poker Tournaments

October 25, 2019
by Pete Clarke

For tournament players, the grind can often feel like a volatile rollercoaster of long hours and little downtime. One type of tournament that will definitely spice up your poker calendar is the progressive knockout. In these events, players are rewarded for busting their opponents by earning the bounty of the eliminated player. At first, this bounty is small, representing just half of the buy-in, and eliminating a player only earns you half of this amount. The other half goes straight on to the bounty above your own head. As more and more players get eliminated, the bounties on the remaining players start to become large and provide an exhilarating boost to your bankroll if you manage to kill a giant. For more information on the strategy of these events, check out this article. Today’s focus is on the benefits of playing these events. Here are some incentives to check them out.

Reduced Variance

Most of us who take poker seriously would love it if there was less luck in the game. This would allow all of that hard work to translate more cleanly into winnings. While the luck factor is essential for drawing new players to the game and keeping poker alive, tournaments with less luck promise a more reliable connection between skill and earnings. The reason that progressive KOs are less volatile is that the all or nothing culture of normal tournaments does not apply. It is very possible to bust before the big money of a progressive KO while still earning a healthy income from bounties. This means that your bad runs will be cushioned by taking the scalps of others along the way. As a skilled player, you can also expect a boost to your long-term win-rate as the bounty system spreads the chances to make money in a more even way throughout the tournament, rewarding patient players who pick their spots well.

The result of this reduced variance is the ability to play higher stakes progressive KOs than you could regular tournaments with the same bankroll. Professionals recommend 150-200 buy-ins for regular tournaments. This can be reduced to 100-150 for progressive KOs.

A More Eventful Ride

Conventional tournaments are all about the destination. The journey can be fun, but it is also easy to switch off when nothing much is going on. Progressive KOs solve this problem via the bounty system, which keeps players glued to the action. Who busts who is a crucial part of the game, and so, even when you’re not in a hand, you might well find yourself glued to the action. This heightened focus will make the experience more enjoyable, allowing you to pick up more reads to knock out your opponents later on.


The feeling of having a massive stack that covers every opponent on the table is even more exaggerated in progressive KOs. This is because, while you are threatening to bust your opponents and earn their bounties, they cannot do the same to you. Running up a big stack, therefore, incentivizes you to play a pot with everyone else at the table, while simultaneously discouraging them from messing with you. This leads to the potential for snowballing your stack via stealing pots and gathering bounty after bounty from the desperate, dwindling short stacks around you.

An Exhilarating Late Game

If you are fortunate and/or skilled enough to make it to the final few tables of a large progressive KO tournament, you will find yourself immersed in the frantic action. Not only are your eyes set on that elusive top prize, but as you advance towards it, huge pay-out after huge pay-out is falling into your lap. Tangling with another large stack represents a duel of giants. The winner will earn a massive profit as he becomes poised to take down the event. It can feel like being a kid in a candy store if you manage to rampage through these events with a large stack. The normal reward of increasing your stack is accompanied by the sweet injection of extra cash straight into your bankroll.

Less Painful Bust-Outs

When I was twenty-one I was a little lost in life. Yet to find a job or university degree that I could commit to; I was bouncing around between unsatisfying, low paying jobs. The only thing I felt any real passion for at that point in my life was poker. One night I was playing an MTT and had run deep. The next day, I was due to start my new job as an admin assistant for a student loans company. Dreading the demoralizing grind of another meaningless job, I decided that if I won the tournament or cashed really big, I would not be going to that new job. With about 16 players left and the top prize around $20,000, I was dealt JJ and ended up all in against another large stack. He had AQo and spiked an Ace on the flop to eliminate me and my dreams of not going to work the next day. I had to settle for $1100, which felt like a slap in the face.

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Painful bust-outs like this one are common. The progressive KO offers morphine to soften the blow in the form of a long trail of bounties leading up to the bust-out point. Even bubbling is less agonizing when you have already won four times the buy-in before that point.


If you have never tried progressive knockouts, I highly recommend giving them a whirl. The gameplay is gripping and the extra dynamic to the game can make even card-dead stretches interesting. See you at the tables!


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