New monthly tournament - optional buy in idea?

We just ran our first monthly tournament at a new location in a new city. It went over pretty well with a decent turnout. Due to tournaments being new in this city, I wanted to keep the tournament free to encourage people to give it a try. But I know there are some players who showed up who would like to be playing for some cash. Has anybody ran a tournament with an optional cash buy in with the stipulation being that only those who buy in are eligible to win money? If you’ve done this, how was it received? I’d love your feedback.

Also, what would be the best way of handling a scenario where somebody in the top 3 didn’t buy in?
a. Divide the winnings of the buyer who didn’t buy in among the winners who did buy in?
b. Do normal payouts and roll the winnings of the buyer who didn’t buy in over to increase the 1st place pot for the next month?

Or if this is an absolutely horrible idea, you can just say so.

I run free tournaments. I offer the option for finalists to play for money if they want. So we typically take top 4 after qualifying. I leave it up to them if they want to play for money. Usually they will all throw in 10 bucks. Winner take all.

Unfortunately, at least in its current state, this is a knockout tournament. If we change the format down the road to something that has finals, we could do that as an option.

I’ve seen this before and it seemed to work okay with no weirdness. Option A.

Just have it as an optional buy-in last one standing among those that buy-in wins. $5 or whatever. I have run this format. It was well received.


Pinburgh 2011 (and 2012?) had the SIDEPOT! which is pretty much what you’re talking about.


WA state SCS did this, this year, where sponsors added to a side pot, but to be eligible you had to add 10 or 20 to the side pot as well.

I played in a few events in New York where the buy-in was optional, and the top buy-in winners won the cash.

If you’re playing multiple spots, I would think that the top 3 out of those who bought in get the cash, meanwhile the top 3, regardless of buy-in the status, win the points.

Having attended your tournament in the new location in the new city, I for one wanted to say I appreciated the prize of a choice of various bags of candy for the top three winners in a non-cash tournament. It could even also be the type of thing as a giveaway for the person/people who get knocked out first in a multi-strike tournament. “Did you come in last? You win a bar of chocolate! Please come back next month.”


When I lived in Milwaukee almost all of the tournaments were free tournaments. For those, each tournament usually had a different brewery as the sponsor. Top 3 usually would get a 6 pack. If this tournament was in a bar setting, I would talk to local breweries to try and do the same thing. But since this is an all ages venue, I figured candy would be a decent alternative.

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