How Long do Poker Games Last?

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I know one of the most common questions for new players is “how long do poker games last?” As someone with a busy schedule, it’s understandable to want to know how much time you’ll need to commit when sitting down at the poker table. The answer isn’t straightforward, however, as poker games can vary greatly in length.

When I first started playing poker, I had no idea what I was getting myself into time-wise. I would enter an online tournament expecting it to be an hour or two and be shattered 6 hours later wondering what time it will end and how will I get up early the next morning! While every poker game is different, it’s important to have realistic expectations before taking a seat in the poker room. As a busy parent with a full time job and part-time coaching, I’ve learned to choose the poker format that best suits my lifestyle and I definitely recommend you do the same. In this article, I’ll break down how long both poker tournaments and cash games generally run.

How long does a poker tournament take?

Poker tournaments are structured events where players compete for a prize pool, with last player standing winning. Tournaments require a buy-in and usually have a pre-determined start time but no guaranteed end time. But just how long does a poker tournament actually last? Generally speaking, a multi-table poker tournament will run anywhere from 2 to 12 hours on average. Here are some factors that influence tournament length:

  • Number of starting players – More players means it will take longer to eliminate players and reach the final table. Large tournaments can last days!
  • Structure – Faster blind levels increase the pace, while slower structures stretch out gameplay. Turbo and hyper-turbo tournaments are designed for quicker completion.
  • Breaks – Tournaments may have scheduled 15-30 minute breaks every few hours. Breaks add time to the event.
  • Skill level – Less experienced players tend to get eliminated quickly versus seasoned players. Skilled final table play can add hours.

I’ve found most local poker tournaments run between 4-8 hours from start to finish. Major poker series events like the World Series of Poker can last several days. Bottom line – make sure your poker schedule allows for unpredictable extended poker tournament hours.

How long does a cash game take?

Cash games, or ring games, have no set end time. Players can buy-in, cash out, and rebuy as they wish while playing for real money the whole time. This flexible structure makes cash games popular for casual play. However, their open-ended nature also makes game length less defined.

Most casino cash games run nonstop 24/7. Players come and go as they please. The game continues indefinitely as long as a minimum number of players fill seats. In home games, cash games may last a predetermined number of hours or hands. But there’s no tournament clock or prize pool at stake.

Ultimately, poker experts recommend having a cut-off time for ending a cash game session, especially for new players. It’s easy to overplay when there’s no natural end point. Setting a routine is helpful for bankroll management and work/life balance. I like to play cash games for 2-4 hours max – enough time to maintain a high standard of concentration and generate a decent return.

Make poker work for you

As you can see, poker game duration can vary widely. Tournaments may take 4+ gruelling hours. Cash games could theoretically never end! My advice is to choose the poker format that best aligns with your lifestyle and personality. It’s important to balance poker and personal life. For working professionals, opt for scheduled tournaments on nights/weekends you have free. If you prefer casual play, join friends for a set-length cash game once a week or month. Don’t be afraid to set ground rules on game length and take breaks when needed – especially as a poker newbie. Most importantly, listen to your body and make smart decisions for bankroll management. Poker will always be available tomorrow.

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Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: