May 27, 2023 Poker News, Poker Strategy John Bradley

Mystery Bounty Tournament Poker Strategy Guide

In our latest poker strategy article, poker coach and long-time tournament crusher John “WhatA298” Bradley explains the strategies you should employ to maximize your profits in Mystery Bounty tournaments.

Mystery Bounty Tournament Strategy Guide

Mystery Bounty Poker Tournaments are a fun, new addition to the poker tournament schedule.

How does a Mystery Bounty tournament work?

In a Mystery Bounty tournament, a percentage of the prize pool (usually 50%) is used to fund mystery bounties.

You draw one of these bounties, whenever you knock an opponent out, in the latter stages of the tournament.

How much you are paid for a bounty is random, from a selection of possible payouts.

What is a Mystery Bounty worth?

The best way to determine the value of a Mystery Bounty is to divide the remaining Mystery prize pool by the remaining number of players.

Mystery Bounty Prize pool Remaining

                            ————————————————      =  Avg Bounty

Players Remaining

Sometimes it will be worth chasing the bounty very aggressively, and at other times it will be less significant.

When the Mystery Bounties are introduced

The point at which the Mystery Bounties are introduced, is the time when the bounty is worth the most, in comparison to the value of the chips you are fighting over.

In a PKO, bounties increase throughout the tournament, as does the value of the chips you are fighting over.

In a Mystery Bounty, this is not the case. If the bounties are introduced when 85% of the field has been eliminated, then the average bounty is worth far more than the equivalent point in a PKO.

Here is an example to help illustrate the point. You have just entered the money (last 15% of the field) in a $100 PKO and a $100 Mystery Bounty, both with 100 entrants.

What are the average bounties worth at this stage?


In a PKO, 50% of each player’s bounty comes out of the prize pool every time a player is knocked out (going to the player who knocked them out).

In this example, there is a total Bounty Prize pool of $5,000 and 85 players have been knocked out.

So, when you knock a player out with 15 players left, you have access to a Bounty Prize pool of $2,875 (of which, 50% goes on your head).

Overall, the average bounty value will be: 50% of $2,875, divided by 15. So, $95.83.

Mystery Bounty

With 15 players left, the average bounty value will be: $5,000 divided by 15. So, $333.33

The Mystery Bounty is worth more than three times as much as the bounty at the equivalent stage in a PKO.

In general, Mystery Bounties are worth more than PKO bounties, but the difference decreases throughout the tournament.

Strategy Adjustments

When the Mystery Bounties are worth so much, as in the period immediately after their introduction, you should fight very aggressively for them.

When you cover your opponent, you should play bigger pots, and you should be involved in more pots, due to the ‘overlay’ of the potential bounty prize that you have access to.

When your opponent covers you, you must be a lot more careful, because your opponent has an incentive to be very ‘sticky’ and aggressive.

Mystery Bounty Tournament Hand Analysis

In a Mystery Bounty I played recently; I encountered this spot:

Mystery Bounty Tournament Poker Strategy Guide

Villain covers me in this spot and therefore I should not 3bet very widely, but should instead proceed by calling often.

I do call in this hand and, with the Big Blind covering both players, it would be advisable for him to rarely fold, and to 3bet aggressively for value and as a bluff.

Mystery Bounty Tournament Poker Strategy Guide1

The Big Blind does call and leads this flop. In most spots, even 3way, out of position players will check to the raiser.

In Mystery Bounties, however, there is an incentive for the covering player (the Big Blind here) to be aggressive and take the lead. The covered players are incentivized to pot control and play more passively.

I think the lead is a good play with a wide range of hands; strong hands, hands which need protection, draws and bluffs.

Banana Fish folds and I call. I should have a very low raise frequency here and should simply fold more marginal hands, such as Ah5h.

Mystery Bounty Tournament Poker Strategy Guide2

The Big Blind then bets the turn and shoves slightly overpot on the river.

Big Blind wins a large Mystery Bounty if he wins the pot and therefore, he will shove more hands here than if this were a regular tournament.

Due to having a wide value range, the covering player can also bluff more, and is more likely to bet flops and turns with draws.

One additional factor to consider is that, if I call and win, I won’t gain a bounty, but will cover almost every player at the table.

This means that in future hands, I will be able to play looser and have access to bounties in every hand.

Given all the factors, I decided to make the call, although it was certainly very close.

Mystery Bounty Tournament Poker Strategy Guide4

Mystery Bounty Tournament Conclusion

Mystery Bounties are growing in popularity, and therefore, becoming well versed in the appropriate strategy is wise.

Remember that the Bounties’ value changes throughout the tournament, and the value is significantly different to the value of a PKO bounty.

When covering other players, you should therefore play substantially more aggressively.

And when they cover you, be a lot more cautious. There is still a lot of value in building a stack though, so do not be afraid to put your chips on the line when presented with a good spot.

Good luck on your poker journey and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them in the poker coaching section of the VIP-Grinders Discord Channel. 

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