The Pros and Cons of PKOs

There are so many various sorts of tournaments available these days. Different structures, blind growths, prize pool distributions, and a slew of other factors make the world of online MTTs both thrilling and perplexing at times.

Progressive knockout tournaments or PKOs for short are gaining popularity in the poker community with each new year. Such events feature increasing bounties on each player, which makes them quite entertaining for many online poker fans. Their main “selling point” is the fact that you don’t need to have a large bankroll or eliminate a bunch of players to be profitable. But, it is important to remember that such tournaments are usually more complex in terms of strategy when compared to regular MTTs. In this article, we have decided to give you a brief overview of the progressive knockout tournaments, outline their pros and cons, and give you some tips that can help you be more successful in these kinds of events. 

PKOs Overview

Before we can dive deeper into the topic of progressive knockout tournaments, we need to outline their main rules and understand what makes them stand out from all other poker tournaments. 

The main idea of PKOs is that every time you knock out a player, you are also rewarded with a portion bounty. In online poker rooms, that amount will be automatically added to your account balance. However, in live events, you will usually receive a special bounty chip after each elimination you perform. After you are finished, these chips can be exchanged for cash at the cashier just like any other chips. That is one of the main reasons why these types of tournaments are so attractive. All bounties are yours to keep, no matter how many players you eliminate and when you get eliminated.

Now let’s dive a little bit deeper. When you knock out a player in PKOs, a portion of their bounty (which is usually 50%) will be awarded to you. However, the other portion of their bounty will be contributed to the bounty on your head. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are in a PKO and have a $100 bounty on you. Then, you knock out a player with a $100 bounty on their head. You will receive $50 straight away. However, the other $50 will go towards your bounty, making it $150. If another player knocks you out, then they will receive $75 straight away and $75 will be credited to their bounty. 

PKOs also differ from normal MTTs in how prize pools are generated. In a progressive knockout tournament, a portion of your buy-in will go towards the main prize pool while the other portion of it will go towards the bounty pool. As an example, in a $100 tournament, around $40 will usually go towards the main prize pool of the event and $50 will go into the bounty pool. The remaining $10 will go into the tournament fee. 

Now that we have outlined the main rules of PKOs, it is time to discuss their pros and cons. 

Pros of PKOs

PKOs are becoming more and more popular in the poker community for a good reason. In this part of the article, we will discuss the pros of progressive knockout tournaments. 

Quite Profitable (With Correct Approach)

One of the biggest motivations for playing PKOs (especially for regular poker players) is their profitability. If a player has an appropriate skill level and strategy, then they can expect to be profitable in a long run. In many cases, these types of tournaments are more profitable than regular MTTs. On top of that, some poker math knowledge can give you a significant advantage over other players. Especially, when we consider the fact that most players in PKOs are newcomers that are still adjusting to the new dynamics. 

They are Action-Packed

Another significant advantage of progressive bounties is the fact that they are usually more action-packed and provide many more gambling opportunities. This is especially advantageous for occasional players that participate for fun. In regular MTTs, you will often find yourself sitting around and waiting for your turn to make a bet or simply fold your hand. Not to mention that even after winning a pot, you will usually go straight back to sitting around. Therefore, it is a perfect opportunity for players looking for immediate monetary rewards. If you manage to knock someone down with a large bounty on their hand, then you will be immediately awarded half of that amount, therefore enjoying the fruits of the play right on the spot. 

They are Easier on Your Bankroll

One of the main reasons why progressive knockout tournaments are so attractive for recreational players is the fact that they are simply easier on their bankrolls. These types of events aren’t as volatile as regular MTTs. It also provides you with more chances to get lucky in a single tournament. 

Cons of PKOs

Even though there are plenty of reasons to like PKOs, there are also some potential downsides of such tournaments. In this part of the article, we will discuss the cons of progressive knockout tournaments. 

Require Strategy Knowledge

Progressive knockout tournaments have a quite steep learning curve if you really want to make them profitable and consistent. In order to be profitable, you will need to have a good strategy. A good PKO player will be able to make adjustments to their strategy on the go based on their understanding of poker and the independent chip model (ICM). In order to be consistent, you will have to spend quite a lot of time learning and understanding the specifics of such tournaments. 

Can be Quite Chaotic

One of the main downsides of progressive knockout tournaments is that they can become quite hectic. PKOs are full of players that enjoy random all-ins with bad hands. Such dynamics can be quite frustrating for players looking for profitability. Especially for less experienced players who are still getting acquainted with the local ecosystem. Therefore, it is recommended for beginners to stay away from PKOs. In many cases, all of the MTTs strategies you have learned will not cut it progressive knockouts. PKO is a very specific format with its own rules and strategies. Before diving into it, you should really learn the fundamentals of regular poker. 

PKOs Strategy

As promised, we will give you some tips on how to become more successful in progressive knockout tournaments. While this guide will not make you a PKO professional, it will give you the main idea of how you should approach your strategy while playing these kinds of tournaments.

In order to be successful in PKOs and make them profitable, it is crucial to understand two important things:

How the bounty pool changes when players get knocked outHow the bounty pool correlates with the main prize pool

If you manage to win a PKO event, then you will get to keep the full amount of the bounty assigned to you. What’s interesting is the fact that your own bounty can be a very significant amount of money and sometimes even larger than the first-place prize. 

In a nutshell, the bounty pool will decrease as the tournament progresses further and further. That is because half of each bounty is going to be removed from play whenever a player is eliminated. Even though the main prize pool is still very significant, it is still very important to “hunt” for those bounties as much as possible. In the sections below we will talk about how you should approach PKOs based on how far you progress in the tournament. 

Early Game Strategy

The early stage of the game is when you will encounter most of the “wild” gamblers. In almost all PKOs you will meet people that will go all-in with trash hands hoping for a miracle. The main idea behind this type of behavior is to accumulate chips and, with enough luck, win some bounties during this process. In other words, many people consider these kinds of events to be “freerolls”. 

However, this approach is quite flawed in its reality. The main reason for that is the fact that you only get half of the bounty whenever you eliminate someone. Not to mention that many players will be taking a more passive approach. There is actually not much value in going after big pots or huge bounties at this stage of the game. Therefore, we recommend that you approach this stage just like you approach any other regular MTT. 

Middle Game Strategy

During the middle stages of the tournament, you will see more and more boosted bounties at your table as more and more players get knocked out. In order to stay in the game and remain profitable, you will have to adjust your strategy. This means that you will have to take some risks as you will have to start accounting for the profitability of your moves rather than just your chip count. It is important to play more aggressively against players you have covered and remain calmer against those players that cover you. The value of players’ bounty is completely irrelevant to your decision-making process if you don’t have them covered. 

However, unfavorable scenarios where you will find yourself under pressure are unavoidable. You will see players that cover you become more aggressive as your bounty gives them more freedom of play. Even though it is impossible to avoid such situations, you can minimize the losses by participating in favorable pots. Meaning that you get involved in pots with the players you have covered. This will greatly boost your expected value. 

You should also be aware of the bounty on your own head. If you were unable to eliminate many players and still have a small bounty, then you can try to steal more pots and bounties of other players. Players will not be incentivized to go up against you as your value does not outweigh the potential risks when compared to playing against bigger bounties. 

However, if you have a big bounty on you then you should avoid bluffing a lot because some players will go after you with weaker hands in order to try and eliminate you, therefore your fold equity will decrease. At the same time, you can go crazy with value hands. Particularly against casual players as they will be decoyed by your huge bounty.

Late Game Strategy

As a rule of thumb, there will be quite a lot of short stacks with valuable bounties at the later stages of the progressive knockout tournament. You need to adjust your strategy accordingly. That means that if you want to go after these short stacks, then you should be ready to put your stack (which can be more than their bank) on the line. For example, if a player with a short stack goes all-in from an early position and you are in a late position, then it is much safer to 3-bet shove a stack of around 30 to 40 big blinds than simply calling. That is because if you call, then you will invite other players to get involved and potentially pressure you to fold if they have you covered as they have a huge incentive to knock you out. 

On the other hand, if you are a short stack and have a large bounty on your head, then many players will try to call you. Therefore, you need to adjust the amounts you shove accordingly. While it does not necessarily mean that you need to stop playing aggressively, it does mean that certain hands will play much less efficiently in progressive knockout tournaments. That is because players with weaker hands will try to eliminate you, putting you at unnecessary risk. 

Final Table Strategy

If you make it to the final table, then you need to understand that regular ICM will come into play once again. In this stage, you are better off making your decisions based on the amount of prize pool rather than losing sight of it and hunting for more huge bounties. In many cases, if there is a possibility of a deal then it is actually better to try and play it safe. Especially if you have a big bounty. However, it depends on how the room distributed the bounties and regular prizes among the top players. It is hard to give any specific advice on playing the final stages of PKOs as they are too situational and there are many factors at play. At the end of the day, if you have managed to get to the final table of the PKO, then you probably know what you are doing and you will be a better judge.

Final Thoughts

Progressive knockout tournaments have plenty of potential benefits. They are usually more affordable, profitable, and more exciting to play than regular MTTs. If you manage to learn how to play them then they are sure to boost your bankroll and make your tournament grind more enjoyable. However, before diving into them, you need to have a solid understanding of regular MTTs and good poker knowledge in general. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to play these tournaments online. For example, GGPoker offers excellent PKOs called Bounty Hunters Daily. Not to mention other poker rooms such as Americas Cardroom that are known for their PKOs. 

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About the Author


Hello, my name is Georgy and I like to write about all of the latest poker news and events. I have always found the game of poker fascinating due to its complexity and action. I also enjoy covering the business side of the pokerworld such as different networks, rooms, and promotions!

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The last changes of the page “The Pros and Cons of PKOs” was made by on October 19, 2021

Author: Shelly Allen