How Long Does a Poker Game Last? (Explained)

How Long Does a Poker Game Last

One of the most common questions beginner poker players have is how long does a poker game last. Well, the answer is that it depends on a lot of factors.

Today we will analyze the duration of poker games, and what are the factors that can influence the length of a poker game.

Understanding poker game duration

The length of a poker game is determined by several factors that can influence how long a poker game can last:

  • Type of game
  • Number of players 
  • Number of hands
  • Online or live game

Type of game

The type of poker game you play will be one of the most important factors to determine how long it will last. There are two types of poker games: tournament and cash games

While tournaments can last for days, and it depends on specific characteristics of the tournament, cash games can last as little as 5 minutes.

When you play a cash game you can sit out whenever you want, remove your poker chips and go away

Tournaments are more complex, since there are several factors that affect the length of a tournament, and we will look at them in more detail.

Number of players 

The number of poker players at the table also has a great influence on the length of the game. Fewer players will often mean that the game will be faster, while with more players you have to wait for each one to make their plays, and it can take time for each player to make decisions.

Number of hands

The number of hands played is also going to influence the length of a  poker game. While online poker tends to be faster, and so you play more hands in a shorter period of time, live poker tends to be slower with an average of 25 hands played each hour.

You should also consider that the number of hands played varies depending on the type of game played. While tournaments can have breaks, cash games are known for having no breaks, and for that reason, it has more hands played.

Online or live game

Finally one of the most defining aspects of the length of a poker game is whether you are playing online or live. Live games are far slower than online poker. In fact, in zoom tables played online you can average 250 hands each hour. 

By contrast, a live game often has around 25 hands each hour. This means that playing an hour online is the equivalent of playing 10 live games, at least in zoom tables. 

Additionally, in online poker you are able to play multiple tables, so for example an online game with 4 zoom tables means you can play close to 1,000 hands every hour. That would take 40 hours of live poker to be able to match that exact number of hands. This is one of the reasons online poker is so hard as it requires a lot of concentration.

It should also be said that online poker games are usually timed which means your opponents have a set time to make a decision, which makes the games faster. In a live poker setting, you can have a lot more time to make decisions.

How can you tell how long a poker game will last?

There are a few ways to estimate how much a poker game will last, and it depends mostly on the type of game you are playing.

To start it should be said that you can choose the duration of cash games because you can leave the table at any moment without losing any chips.

When it comes to tournaments there are a few things to consider:

  • Number of players 
  • Antes
  • Frequency of blind raises
  • Additional buy-ins
  • Live or online

Number of players 

The number of players once again is a decisive factor. While some tournaments only have a few hundred players, some tournaments have thousands of players. This obviously affects the length of the tournament.


An ante is a mandatory bet that is common in poker tournaments. Since all players in the table are forced to pay the ante, at a certain point in the tournament when they are implemented, player stacks start to slowly become smaller. This forces more all-ins and aggressive plays from players trying to steal the blinds and antes.

Frequency of blind raises

While some tournaments tend to raise blinds slowly, others are more aggressive. As blinds are raised this forces more action, and players will need to play more pots to maintain their seats at the tournament. This makes it easy for players to lose, which in turn makes the tournament move faster.

Additional buy-ins

Some tournaments allow players to buy in after they lose, and this could prolong the tournament as players are given a second chance to play. Usually, tournaments that allow an additional buy-in can have a period that allows you to buy in again. The longer the period of additional buy-in, the more lengthy the tournament will be.

Live or online

Once again the length of the tournament will also be dependent on whether you are playing a live or online tournament. While live tournaments with thousands of players can last for days, an online poker tournament with thousands of poker players can last 10 to 12 hours.

How long does an online poker tournament last?

An online poker tournament can last anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to over 12 hours, depending on the number of players, the structure of the tournament, and even the action of the tournament. 

How long does an online cash game last?

An online cash game can last anywhere between a few minutes to hours depending on the session the poker player wants. Since there is no penalty or losses for cash game players that decide to leave, cash games are a lot more flexible than tournaments.

How long does a live poker tournament last?

A live poker tournament can last 8 hours to several days, depending on the format, and structure of the tournament as well as the number of players.

How long does a live cash game last?

A live cash game can last anywhere between a few minutes to several hours, depending on how many hours you want to play. Cash games are constantly being played, and the dealers just replace each other when their shifts end. For that reason, you are free to leave whenever you want or you can play for hours on end. 

How long can a poker game last?

A cash games poker game can last indefinitely, as players can choose to leave the game at any time. When it comes to tournaments it can last for 2 or more days depending on the structure and rules of the specific tournament, as well as the number of players.

How long is an average poker session?

The average poker session is about 4 hours long, and usually, professional players will take breaks in between a session. It is difficult to be focused for long periods of time, and especially if you are playing multiple tables online it can be extremely difficult to keep your focus while so much is going on.

This is why although a total session might last 8 or even 10 hours, it needs to be broken up into different parts because you need to take some time to rest.

How do poker games end?

While poker tournaments always end with a player winning the first place, and another player winning the second place. 

When it comes to cash games the game can go indefinitely. As long as there is a dealer and the minimum amount of players to play, the game will go on.

Can you leave a poker game at any time?

Any poker player is allowed to leave the poker table whenever they choose to do so. However, it is important to understand the implications of doing so. While a cash games player can leave the seat at the table without losing any money, or just by placing a sit out and paying the big blind. You can also choose to pick up your poker chips and go away.

Tournament poker players are also allowed to leave the poker table whenever they want. However, there are a few things to consider. If you decide to walk away from a tournament, you may lose your buy-in, and you could be walking away from the first place which most of the time has a hefty payout.

Additionally, if you decide to leave the table for a while you will still have to pay the blinds, and if you are deep into a tournament with raising blinds, it can be a decision that could impair you from reaching the paid places. 

How long do pro poker players play?

The time professional poker players play varies a lot from player to player. While some players tend to focus on cash games, and will often play 8-hour sessions, with at least 4 breaks in between a lot of players choose to focus only on tournaments. Professional poker players will typically have longer sessions either playing live or online since the tournaments tend to stretch for more than 8 hours.

How often should you play poker?

If you want to improve your poker level you should be constantly practicing, and you should play at least every day. This allows you to keep your game sharp, and to constantly work on your skills.

You should also dedicate time to watch poker, replay your hands and study the game. The work you need to do off the table is as important as the hours you are playing.

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