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How to host a no-limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament in your home

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Poker Bad Beat Jackpots

A poker bad beat jackpot is an amount of money that is paid to the player (or all the players at the table) who loses a pot even while holding terrific cards. An example of a hand that might win a bad beat jackpot is Aces Full of Eights losing to Aces Full of Nines. The term "bad beat" is used because this jackpot is meant to soften the financial blow to a player who held a very strong hand but lost to an even stronger hand.

To fund your jackpot you can take an amount of money/chips per hand ($1 per hand) or you can take a portion of each player's initial buyin. If you are playing tournament poker, it is much easier to take a portion of the initial buyin than to take a rake from every hand. However if you are playing a cash poker game, you will probably have to take a rake (portion of each hand played). Be warned that it can be a somewhat difficult process to rake pots if you are not a professional poker dealer.

Keep your bad beat jackpot low in dollar value. You don't want your jackpot to be so lucrative that players make crazy decisions to chase a huge jackpot. Having said that, bad beat jackpots in Las Vegas casinos can easily be worth tens of  thousands of dollars.

Best losing hand of the night

The simplest and easiest bad beat jackpot is to take an amount from every player's buyin and award that money to the player with the best losing hand of the night. You can make participation in the bad beat jackpot voluntary - only players who buy in to the bad beat jackpot at the beginning of the game are eligible to win the jackpot. The entire jackpot is awarded to the loser, it is not spread out amongst the table and/or chopped between the winner/loser. Using this method, you would not have a minimum losing hand requirement or else you might not get a payout - the best losing hand of the night wins the entire jackpot.

Hand qualifier

If you are not going to award your bad beat jackpot to the best losing hand of the night, you will probably award your bad beat jackpot to each hand that "qualifies" for the bad beat jackpot. This may result in several bad beat jackpots being awarded, or none at all.

Establish a minimum hand (a qualifier) that is required to win your bad beat jackpot. Common hand qualifiers are something like quads or better being beat or Aces Full of Tens or better being beat. Any player who holds a qualifying hand, but loses the pot, is awarded the bad beat jackpot.

Many poker rooms require that the player collecting the bad beat jackpot use one or both hole cards (down cards) to win the jackpot. This is meant to prevent paying a bad beat jackpot in a situation where the board cards are something like AAAA2 and a player holding a 3 loses the hand to a player holding a 4. Having "cheap" big hands where the board is doing almost all of the work detracts from the "bad beat" aspect. It is quite common to have a requirement that both hole cards be used to collect the bad beat jackpot. It is also common for quads to require a pocket pair as hole cards. In Texas Hold'em it is quite common that both players must play both hole cards in order for the jackpot to be awarded.

Some poker rooms require a minimum of money ($10, $20) in the pot for a bad beat jackpot to be awarded.

Example hand qualifiers

Hold'em jackpot

A jackpot will payout when a full house consisting of three Aces with two tens (or better), known as Aces full, is beaten by four of a kind or a better hand. Each participant must use both hole cards to qualify. To qualify for Aces full, the participant must have at least one ace in the hole.

Stud jackpot

A jackpot will payout when a full house consisting of three Aces with two tens (or better) is beaten by four of a kind or better.

Omaha jackpot

Four of a kind or better must lose to four of a kind or better. Both hole cards must play.


Bad beat jackpots can be awarded to one or more players at the table. The player with the losing hand is considered the main winner and sometimes receives the entire jackpot but the jackpot is often shared with the winner of the hand as well as every other player who was dealt in. Splits are typically 40/30/30 or 50/25/25 between the losing hand/winning hand/remaining players.

Points to consider

  • Keep in mind that collecting a bad beat jackpot might be illegal where you play. You are taking money from each pot (or entry fee) with the intention that the money taken from the pot will eventually be paid out to the players. Paying it out the same night might not be a problem but "holding" it from one poker session to another might be pushing your luck.
  • Asking your players to contribute money to a bad beat jackpot, and bounties, and other "distractions" from the true poker game might be too much. Many players don't want to hear that you are keeping a percentage of the buyins for bounties on each player, and a percentage of the buyins for a bad beat jackpot because it lowers the money paid out to the final winner(s). This is especially true when the jackpot is not necessarily going to be awarded during the current session of poker - you might be collecting money from tonight's players but paying out the jackpot(s) to next week's players.
  • Emotion does not come into play when deciding which hand is awarded a bad beat jackpot. The cards speak for themselves - whichever player had the highest ranking losing hand is awarded the jackpot.
  • Many poker rooms have a rule stating that players may not discuss the possibility or likelihood that the bad beat jackpot will be awarded during the hand currently in progress. This is to prevent collusion against the casino, which often funds the jackpot.

Borgata A.C. - Bad Beat Rules

Here are the Borgata bad beat rules. They are fairly concise and area a good starting point for your own bad beat rules ...

  • The Bad Beat shall apply to the game of Texas Hold’em only. “Bad Beat” means a High Ranking Poker hand that is beat by a higher-ranking hand (e.g., Aces Full of Eights losing to Aces Full of Nines).
  • In order for a hand to be eligible to qualify for a Bad Beat, the pot must meet a minimum of $20.
  • A minimum of five players must be seated and dealt in at the beginning of the hand in order to qualify for the Bad Beat.
  • Both the winning and losing hands must use both of their hole cards to create the highest possible hand.  Player(s) playing Aces Full must have at least one Ace in his/her dealt down cards.
  • If a hand finishes with three qualifying hands, the lowest hand will only receive a player’s share of the jackpot (e.g., Aces Full of Eights, Four Eights and a Queen High Straight Flush are dealt in the same hand. The Bad Beat hand will be the Four Eights and the winning hand will be the Queen High Straight Flush).
  • Players must play their hands independently. Any discussion of the prize during the playing of the hand may void qualification for the prize. If any player, whether directly or indirectly involved in the hand, passes information or instructs another on how to act or reveals his/her hand to other players, the Bad Beat will be disqualified.
  • Management reserves the right to verify eligibility of all qualifying hands. There will be no recourse if the cards are mucked before surveillance was able to verify the hands and the community cards. Poker management will not be permitted to reconstruct the hands in any way.
  • Payouts of the Bad Beat are as follows:
    50% of the Bad Beat prize package will be awarded to the Bad Beat hand (losing hand)
    25% of the Bad Beat prize package will be awarded to the winner of the hand
    25% of the Bad Beat prize package will be awarded equally amongst the balance of the seated players on the game who received cards at the beginning of the hand.

Bad Beat Jackpot links

Commerce Casino bad beat jackpot
Harrah's Las Vegas bad beat jackpot
Wedge Rock bad beat jackpot (pdf)

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