Televised poker is very entertaining and it’s how many people get their first taste of the game. But new fans are often left with many questions after watching a poker show, such as: how does a poker game end?

How a poker game ends depends on the format. Tournaments or Sit And Goes end when a single player has won all the chips in play. Cash games don’t have an official end as a player can always re-buy if they lose their chips – but players will typically agree to stop the game at a certain time.

So, only tournaments have a clearly defined ending. Cash games can keep on going for hours and even days with new players coming in and replacing some of the previous players. Players who had left can come back again at some point and take a seat if one is available, etc.

When Does A Poker Game End For Cash Games And Tournaments?

From the player’s perspective, there are a few different ways to end a poker game. When it comes to tournaments (or sit and goes), you can reach the end of the game by either:

  • Winning the tournament, or
  • Losing all of your chips and busting out.

If you win the tournament, the game is clearly over as there is nothing left to play for. All other players have already been eliminated and you’re the last man or woman standing.

If you lose your entire stack in any given hand, the tournament will continue but the game will be over for you. Once you’re out of chips in a tournament you don’t have an option to keep playing. You will need to leave your seat and let the remaining players continue to fight it out.

Cash games are much different in this regard.

When you lose your entire stack in a cash game, the game isn’t over. You can simply buy more chips and keep on playing as if nothing had happened. You can rebuy as many times as you like and you’ll never be asked to leave.

The only time when you’re really out of a cash game is when you no longer have money to buy more chips. If you can’t cover the minimum required buy-in for the table, you’re out.

Even in this situation, you can ask the floor manager to reserve the seat and not let anyone take your spot if you can get more money and come back within a reasonable time (usually up to a half an hour but this can be negotiated).

You are also free to leave whenever you feel like it regardless of how much money you have in front of you. At any point during a cash game, you can simply get up, collect your chips, and cash them out. There are absolutely no rules that force you to stay in a cash game a minute longer than you’d like.

So, to sum it up, a tournament is over for you when you lose all the chips in front of you. A cash game is only really over if you don’t have the money to buy more chips or you don’t feel like playing anymore.

Rebuy & Reentry Tournaments

Although you’re usually out of a tournament when you lose your entire stack, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Some tournaments will let you buy more chips on the spot or pay a fresh entry into the same event.

Rebuy tournaments are similar to cash games in a sense that you can keep buying more chips every time you lose your stack. As long as you have enough money, the game is never over. However, the rebuy period doesn’t last indefinitely. After a few hours of play, the tournament will be closed for rebuys and from that point on, if you lose your stack, you’re out.

Reentry tournaments are somewhat different. Instead of getting more chips on the spot, you’ll usually have to register again and you’ll be given a seat at a new table. Additionally, the number of reentries is usually limited to two or three per player so it’s not just about how much money you have on you.

How Does A Home Poker Game End?

When you play poker online or at a casino, there are some clear rules you have to follow. For example, a poker room might be closing at 4 AM and when the time comes, the floor will announce the last few hands. Once the last hand is over, there will be no more play regardless of the results.

You can be up or you can be stuck for the session but when the dealer announces the last hand, that’s it. You’ll have to come back tomorrow to keep playing.

Home games can be a bit tricky in this regard.

Since the nature of poker is such that there will usually be some winners and some losers, losers will traditionally want to keep playing to try and get unstuck. Some winners will be looking to call it a night and lock up the profit.

If you were to try and make everyone happy, a home poker game would pretty much last indefinitely.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to let everyone know ahead of time that the game will stop at a certain hour. When that time comes, you can announce it and no one has grounds to complain.

Of course, as a good host, you can always give them an extra hour of play if there is enough interest but make it clear that you’ll be playing for one more hour. If you just agree to keep playing without any time constraints, it will be hard to call it a night later on.

Is There Such A Thing As A Never-ending Poker Game?

You might have heard the stories of players playing for two or three days straight without taking a break. Some of these stories are true but many of them have been exaggerated.

It’s true that some private games can last very long without any real breaks. Dealers and players will rotate, of course, but the game itself never stops. Cards are constantly in the air and chips are flying across the felt.

But even these super-long sessions come to an end eventually.

You won’t find such a thing as a never-ending poker game in a live setting. Even if a casino operates a 24/7 poker room, there won’t be enough players around at all times to keep the games going.

Online is a different matter, though.

If you wanted to play for a month without any breaks, you could do it on any major online poker room of your choosing. Of course, you’d have to switch tables from time to time as players will leave but there are always new players coming in and new games getting started.

Online poker gathers tens of thousands of players from all over the world and from different time zones so it’s always great time to play some poker somewhere.

In fact, you could look at online poker at any particular stake as one big, never-ending game scattered across different tables. Players come to play, leave, and return to take their seats again but virtual cards never stop flying. The game is always on!

If you are considering joining an online poker site, you should check out my article on this topic for the top-ranked sites and some tips for making the most out of your online experience. 

Related Questions

Is there a way I can keep playing when I lose all my chips in a tournament?

No, at least not in most tournaments. When you lose the chips you have in front of you, you’re eliminated from the tournament and you can’t buy more chips or borrow them from one of the other players.

Why do some tournaments allow rebuys?

Some poker tournaments will let you buy more chips when you bust out. This is done to create more action and generate a bigger prize pool to compete for. Rebuy tournaments are also good for players who like to splash around and don’t mind losing some money to have fun.

Is there a limit as to how many times I can rebuy in a cash game?

No. A regular cash game doesn’t put any limits as to how many times you can rebuy. As long as you have enough money available to you, you can rebuy as often as you like. This can only be the case in some private games but it is highly unusual.

Is there a certain amount of time I have to spend playing?

No there isn’t. In a cash game, you’re allowed to get up and leave whenever you like. In theory, you could win one pot, collect your chips, and cash them out. However, playing only a few hands and taking money off the table is known as “hit and run” and is considered bad etiquette.



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