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Why have PKO tournaments become so popular?

Why have PKO tournaments become so popular?

From slow structures to hyper turbos, ‘win the buttons’ to mixed game rotations, poker players love dabbling in a variety of different poker tournament formats.

But none have exploded in popularity quite like progressive knockout (PKO) tournaments, in which players win a portion of the prize pool every time they eliminate an opponent, subsequently increasing the size of the bounty on their own head.

So why have PKO tournaments become so popular? Here are four reasons.


With traditional poker tournament formats, players would have to play for a few hours before coming close to winning anything. In regular structures, this can often involve three or four hours of grinding before you reach the money.

This just isn’t the case in PKOs. Players can win money right off the bat and it’s not uncommon to see big multi-way all-ins for hundreds of blinds in the very first orbit, should several strong hands collide.

Be wary of playing enormous pots and risking your entire stack for starting bounties, however. As BBZ coach Jonathan ‘apestyles’ Van Fleet points out in The apestyles guide: how to play PKO tournaments, this will put you at risk of not getting future bounties which will be much larger.

Still, the ability to win money immediately is a huge attraction to both professionals and recreational players alike.

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That ability to profit early also generates a whole lot of action that you wouldn’t see without the added incentive of bounties.

Players widen up their ranges significantly in PKO tournaments in order to go bounty hunting and this creates some very interesting dynamics in which players try to isolate the all-in player(s). This results in enormous pots and massive stacks which can then be utilized to win more bounties moving forward.

Let’s be honest: PKO tournaments are perfect for those who like to gamble.

If you’ve never played a PKO tournament before, don’t be surprised to see some questionable hands turned over at showdown: ‘Did that player really risk 70 big blinds and shove with K9-offsuit to win a starting bounty?’ Yep, these kinds of plays happen all the time.

Are they correct plays? Well, that leads us to our next point.

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There’s no denying that PKO tournaments are massively understudied in the poker world. The addition of bounties forces players to adjust their tournament strategies, their range construction, and their risk tolerance, which many players find hard to do.

Take a look at this tweet from BBZ student ‘DrKamikaze’:

PKO tournaments are now so popular in online lobbies that many players prioritize bounty builders over everything else. As ‘DrKamikaze’ says, there are massive edges to be had against recreational players in these tournaments.

But if you’re a recreational or aspiring professional looking to increase your edges in PKOs, you’re in luck.

“It’s true that there’s some serious math going on [in PKOs], but unsolvable I’d say is a bit of an exaggeration,” says apestyles in his Webinar Bundle.

Introducing PKO Charts…

BBZ Poker has now released PKO charts to help you crush this exciting tournament format. Included in the PKO chart package are 20 charts for four different stack depths. Master your raise first in, calling, 3-betting, and playing vs. 3-bet strategies and start collecting those bounties!

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PKO Charts

  • 20 Different 6-handed Solutions
  • Cancel at any time!


PKO tournaments have not only had a huge impact on online poker, but they’re also encouraging exciting innovations in live poker too.

Live bounty tournaments are popping up on tournament stops around the world, adding new dynamics and–let’s be honest–stirring up some drama (after all, it’s one thing to continuously hunt someone’s bounty behind a computer screen, another thing entirely to do it in person!)

The Wynn Mystery Bounty tournaments have arguably led the way. Players win a mystery bounty each time they eliminate a player, but they don’t know the size of the bounty until they draw a card:

With these events becoming increasingly common, live poker has never been so exciting.

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PKO Charts

  • 20 Different 6-handed Solutions
  • Cancel at any time!

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