Introduction to Progressive Knockout (PKO) Poker Tournaments

infographic of pko poker explained

Progressive knockout (PKO) tournaments have exploded in popularity in recent years. It provides a completely different twist to regular freezeout tournaments. That’s why in this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about the exciting PKO poker format.

What are PKO Poker Tournaments?

PKO poker, which stands for Progressive Knockout poker, is a variant of poker tournaments where each player has a bounty on their head. When you knock out an opponent, you win their current bounty amount.

How do PKO Tournaments Work?

In a PKO tournament, each player is assigned a starting bounty amount, usually equal to the buy-in. As players progress, their bounty value increases based on a ladder system whereby every time a player knocks out another, they receive half of the bounty on that players head.

This dynamic bounty system creates exciting incentives as you are financially rewarded every time you bust an opponent. Knocking out a bigger stack can net you an even larger payout if they have already picked up lots of bounties.

Example of a $88 PKO Tournament

Here’s an example of how a $88 PKO tourney works:

  • Each player pays $88 entry fee
  • $40 of this goes on your head as a bounty
  • $40 goes to the general prizepool (to be allocated based on finishing position)
  • $8 goes to the platform as a house fee
  • Remaining prizepool distributed by finish position.

Escalating bounties reward eliminations at all stages. Even if you fall short of the final table, you can still profit from small bounty wins.

The Advantages of PKO Tournaments

PKOs have become massively popular for good reason:

More Action and Confrontation – The bounty element incentivizes aggression and risk-taking. This leads to more excitement.

Consistent Payouts – Knocking out several players allows you to steadily build your stack along the way. Minimizes all-or-nothing nature of standard tournaments.

Comeback Potential – Focusing on busting players with large bounties can help you battle back from early deficits.

Overlay Opportunities – Sometimes PKOs don’t fill up, meaning overlays and extra EV for players.

Money without deep runs – Players can break-even or better without even cashing if they knock out enough poker players.

What Types of Players do PKOs Appeal to?

PKO tournaments have wide appeal but are especially attractive for:

  1. Aggressive players who can leverage the bounty element.
  2. Satellite grinders who can accumulate winnings from bounties.
  3. Recreational players who enjoy the action and confrontation.

While PKOs are very popular, there are some potential disadvantages:

High variance – Escalating bounties, especially at final tables, can lead to huge swings.

Less emphasis on survival – Since you can cash without making the money, some players recklessly target bounties.

Less money for higher finishes – Since half the buy-in is a bounty, there is less money for finishing higher i.e. you’ll earn more money coming 1st in a freezeout that is $88 buy-in than a 1st place finish in a progressive knockout.

Progressive Knockout Tournament Strategy Tips

Here are some basic strategy tips to excel in PKO poker tournaments:

  • Play a bit looser and more aggressive early on to build your stack through bounties. But don’t be reckless.
  • Focus on player types who may spew off bounties. Look for weaker players or those playing too loosely.
  • Once bounties escalate, you can play a bit tighter and let the bounties come to you. Avoid marginal situations.
  • Table selection matters. Try to find tables with multiple weak or passive opponents you can target.
  • When short stacked, move all-in wider to either double up or at least collect a bounty if you bust.
  • Be aware of all bounty sizes in play, not just your own. Focus on building bounties, not just surviving.
  • Near the bubble, fit-or-fold play usually works best as busting costs you escalated bounties. Play tight but stay aggressive with strong hands.
  • At final table, leverage large chip stack to apply pressure. Be willing to gamble more with high bounties in play.

Mastering these PKO strategy fundamentals will give you an edge over recreational players attracted to the format. Stay aggressive early, but don’t take unnecessary risks with multiplied bounties at stake.

Where to Play PKO Tournaments

You can find PKO events on most major online poker sites but I recommend GGPoker. Their bounty hunter tournaments have recently moved to a progressive knockout model.

bounty hunters ggpoker


Progressive knockout poker provides escalating bounties that drive action while allowing skilled players to maximize ROI. The exciting PKO format promises to continue growing in popularity. As more recreational players enter the gambling arena, this higher risk and reward format will gain traffic.

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: