Last updated: December 4, 2023
Mystery bounty poker tournaments — poker tourneys where you win a secret bounty prize when you knock out another player — have taken over the poker world. They featured at every major live poker stop and are becoming an increasingly common option online. And that’s for good reason: The format adds an exciting twist to the standard knockout tournament, while adding another layer of strategy.
Over the last two years, we have seen a dozen online poker rooms add mystery bounty poker (MBP). Whether you’re in the UK or Europe, Canada or the United States, you probably have a choice of a couple of online sites spreading MBP. But should you play the format, and if so, where’s best?
There’s a lot of like about mystery bounties, and if you’re already an avid MTT player, you should certainly think about giving them a spin. For casual poker fans, it adds a fun element to the usual MTT, giving you a chance to win a huge prize without needing a deep run. But whenever there’s a hot new game, it also means a new opportunity for serious players to get ahead of the curve, learn the strategy and play these games at a profit. MBP adds another level of strategic depth.
In this comprehensive guide, we walk through how these tournaments work, where you can play them, and pick out some of the best bounty tournaments spread online, whether it’s small daily tournaments or huge million-dollar guaranteed events.
Mystery bounty poker (MBT), or mystery bounty tournaments (MBT), also referred to as Secret Bounty, is like a typical bounty or knockout tournament — a portion of the prize pool goes towards bounties on every player’s head; knock out a player, and you win their bounty as an immediate cash prize. The twist is that each bounty is different and kept concealed elimination. Bounties can be multiple times the size of the buy-in, and there are often a few very large bounties.
This adds an extra element of fun not present in regular knockout tournaments. It means players can win large prizes without deep runs in a tournament. There is also an extra layer of strategy that skillful players can exploit to gain an edge against the competition.
Mystery bounty poker tournaments comprise two distinct phases. During the first phase, often called the “Early Stage,” the game plays like a regular poker tournament, with no bounties awarded for eliminating opponents. Only when the second phase, or “Final Stage,” is triggered — when “in the money” after a certain number of players are knocked out — do the mystery bounties kick in.
Like a regular knockout or “bounty” tournament, the prize pool is split in two equal parts. One half is allocated as regular prizes and awarded to the top finishers, just like in a regular poker tournament. The other half is reserved for bounties. Every player is randomly assigned a mystery bounty on their head.
The value of this bounty is kept secret from all players, hidden within a sealed envelope (in live events) or a locked chest (in the online version). It is only unveiled when the player is eliminated by another player. And, rather than bounties set as uniform amounts, they are randomized:, most bounties are equal to the tournament’s minimum buy-in, but a few are much more substantial, ranging from 5 times to even 1000 times the buy-in.
From there, tournament organizers and online poker sites will structure the tournament differently. Some are designed as multi-day events, featuring multiple Day 1s (the Early Stage), all culminating in a Final Stage (Day 2). Others can be single-day events, featuring a single flight.
MBTs build on the concept of the popular bounty and progressive knockout (PKO) tournaments. Just like those, half of all buy-ins make up the standard prize pool; the remaining half seeds the bounty prizes.
In standard bounty tournaments, players know the prize amount they will win if they eliminate an opponent. In a regular bounty tournament, these prizes are the same for all players. In a progressive PKO, bounties grow as the tournaments progress. But at any time, a player will know what prize they will win upon elimination.
In Mystery Bounty tournaments, the bounty on each player is random. This is kept concealed from all players until they are eliminated from the tournament.
The other big difference is that, in mystery bounties, the bounty part only comes into play when players reach the “in the money” phase. In PKOs and standard knockout tournaments, bounties are active right from the start of the tournament. But in MBTs, the tournament plays exactly like a traditional tournament during the first phase.
US online poker players looking to play mystery bounties currently have only one option — WSOP.com, which offers the format on its Michigan and Pennsylvania online poker sites.
There’s not an extensive selection of tournaments, but there are four regular, small stakes tournaments plus a bigger $215-buyin tournament on Tuesdays. It’s enough to keep players interested, and keep your eyes out for tournament series, where we expect to see some bigger guarantees on MBTs in the future.
With that said, hopefully more competition will expand these choices in the future. When PokerStars launches the format — we expect it to go live across PokerStars USA in 2024, meaning players in New Jersey, Michigan and PA can all play it — there should be more events on the weekly schedule to choose from.
|$1,000 Mystery Bounty||$10||$1000||12:00|
|$1,500 Mystery Bounty||$20||$1500||16:00|
|$2,000 Mystery Bounty||$30||$2000||18:30|
|$1,500 Mystery Bounty||$10||$1500||19:00|
|$800 Mystery Bounty||$5||$800||20:30|
In Ontario, you have two good choices: 888poker and GGPoker.
888 offers daily mystery bounty tournaments with buy-ins starting from CAD $1 and going up to CAD $109. These all have guarantees, and because traffic on the site is low, you could find spots daily where there’s an overlay.
The site also features MBTs heavily as part of their tournament series and the guarantees are quite juicy ranging from CAD $1000 to CAD $50,000. Plus, it is the only site where you can find Mystery Bounty freebuys — a type of tournament that is free to enter but players can rebuy or add-on if they lose all their chips.
If you want regular MBT action, this is the place to go, and there could be some great offers.
|Tournament||Buy-in (CAD)||Gtd (CAD)||Time (EST)|
|$1 Mystery Bounty||$1||$100||17:30|
|$2.20 Mystery Bounty||$2.20||$150||22:30|
|$5.50 Mystery Bounty||$5.50||$400||19:30|
|$11 Mystery Bounty||$11||$1000||17:15|
|$16.50 Mystery Bounty||$16.50||$1000||21:30|
|$22 Mystery Bounty||$22||$1500||19:00|
|$109 Sunday Mystery Bounty Main Event||$109||$25,000||18:30|
GGPoker.ON, on the other hand, only features MB tournaments as part of its tournament series, so if you want a daily or weekly fix, this isn’t the site for you. But when they do spread MB tournaments, they are massive: guarantees can reach up to CAD $200,000. So it’s worth having an account here to play them when they run special events.
When it comes to finding the best mystery bounty tournaments, 888poker is the top choice in the global dot-com market if you want a regular schedule. They offer a wide variety of mystery bounty events on a daily basis, providing players with multiple opportunities to dive into this format.
Buy-ins start at just $1, and many of these tournaments come with big guarantees. On Sundays, players can look forward to the grand Mystery Bounty Main Event, featuring a $100,000 guarantee with a $109 buy-in.
The site also offers a Pot-Limit version of Mystery Bounty. Mystery bounty is prominently featured in 888’s tournament series, and they even have a dedicated Mystery Bounty festival for enthusiasts.
|$1 Mystery Bounty||$1||$1500|
|$2.20 Mystery Bounty||$2.20||$2000|
|$3.30 Early Mystery Bounty 6-max||$3.30||$300|
|$5.50 Mystery Bounty 6-max||$5.50||$1000|
|$5.50 Mystery Bounty||$5.50||$4000|
|$5.50 Late Mystery Bounty 6-max||$5.50||$1000|
|$8.80 Early Mystery Bounty||$8.80||$1500|
|$8.80 Mystery Bounty||$8.80||$4000|
|$8.80 Late Mystery Bounty||$8.80||$1500|
|$11 Early Mystery Bounty||$11||$1200|
|$11 Mystery Bounty||$11||$8000|
|$11 PLO Mystery Bounty||$11||$1000|
|$11 Mystery Bounty 6-Max||$11||$1000|
|$16.50 Mystery Bounty Turbo||$16.50||$2000|
|$22 Mystery Bounty||$22||$8000|
|$33 Mystery Bounty||$33||$2000|
|$55 Mystery Bounty||$55||$12,000|
|$109 Mystery Bounty Main Event||$109||$100,000|
The tournaments are structured in two phases. The first phase lasts for 16 levels, during which no bounties are awarded. Starting from level 17, mystery bounties come into play. 50% of the buy-in contributes to the standard prize pool, while the other 50% feeds into the mystery pool.
The bigger guaranteed mystery bounty events as part of the tournament series are structured as multi-day events, featuring dozens of Day 1s.
For those seeking massive guaranteed mystery bounties, GGPoker is the better choice. They don’t host a plethora of mystery bounty tournaments daily, but players can find them on the schedule as part of the operator’s special tournament series.
When it does spread them, they are worth taking note. It has hosted the largest-ever Mystery Bounty tournament, and it will likely look to set records in the future. It also offers PLO mystery bounties. At present, GGPoker is running a $5 million guaranteed Mystery Bounty event with a $210 buy-in as part of the ongoing Bounty Hunters Series.
On a weekly basis, the operator runs half a dozen mystery bounty tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $15 to $1050.
|$15 Tuesday Twinkle||$15||$150,000|
|$150 Tuesday Twinkle||$150||$250,000|
|$1050 Tuesday Twinkle HR||$1050||$150,000|
|$15 Saturday Secret KO||$15||$200,000|
|$150 Saturday Secret KO||$150||$300,000|
|$1050 Saturday Secret KO HR||$1050||$150,000|
In Southern Europe, Winamax is the best option for mystery bounties. They host two dozen tournaments daily with a diverse buy-in range on €1 to €250. During tournament series, Winamax spread MBTs with guarantees up to €3 million.
888poker also offers a decent selection of mystery bounty tournaments in these markets, with buy-ins starting at €1. While the buy-ins are more affordable at 888poker, guarantees at Winamax are more generous.
|€8.80 Mystery Bounty||€8.80||€1200|
|€16.50 Mystery Bounty||€16.50||€3000|
|€22 Mystery Bounty||€22||€1500|
|€5.50 Mystery Bounty||€5.50||€1500|
|€33 Mystery Bounty||€33||€3000|
The origin of mystery bounty poker can be traced back to the World Series of Poker (WSOP), which introduced the concept in 2020. It revealed a new bracelet event called “Mystery Bounty” but had to cancel the series due to COVID disruptions. The event never ran.
But the concept of the format intrigued other tournament organizers. In 2021, the Wynn borrowed the concept and organized its own version of the Mystery Bounty tournament, the first of its kind. The event met with immediate success, leading to its adoption by live poker tours worldwide.
While WSOP can be credited for the idea of “Mystery Bounty,” and Wynn spread it live for the first time, the concept of randomized bounties and hidden prizes in online poker predates this by several years.
One intriguing precursor can be found in the United Kingdom in 2016. Virgin Games, a Gamesys-owned brand, launched “Wild Seat Poker,” a sit and go game with hidden prizes. Players only discovered their rewards upon winning or busting out of the tournament. The format seemed highly inspired by the hugely successful “Deal or No Deal” TV series.
Similarly, PokerStars also dabbled in the concept of hidden prizes. Its Spin & Go Max product introduced a level of randomization to the prize pool, with one of three rewards being picked blindly by the game winner.
In April 2020, PokerStars launched “Grand Tour,” incorporating a randomized bounty portion of the prize pool. Players competed with the knowledge that a significant portion of their potential winnings remained concealed until the tournament’s conclusion. The game is still available today, renamed under the football-themed “Kick-Off.”
Another interesting twist on hidden rewards was seen on the Run It Once Poker app’s SNG Select sit and go game, also launched in 2020. In this format, players remained unaware of the prize they were competing for until the tournament’s conclusion or their own elimination. While the site shut down, it is expect to relaunch in the United States in 2024.
The inspiration behind MB reveals that the concept of randomized bounties and hidden rewards has intrigued poker operators for quite some time. Each operator contributed to the evolution of the format in its unique way, ultimately culminating in the resounding success that the format is today.
In short, mystery bounty’s hidden history reveals that while WSOP may have introduced the format concept in 2020, it drew inspiration from a mix of ideas and innovations across various operators.
The very reason why mystery bounty tournaments exist today is due to the limitations faced by live poker operators in replicating the immensely popular Progressive Knockout (PKO) format, which has gained widespread recognition in the online poker world.
In their pursuit to mirror the PKO format, live organizers brainstormed and innovated, eventually giving birth to the Mystery Bounty format. It addresses several key hurdles in bringing the thrill and excitement of PKO to live poker, such as tracking bounties in real time and creating a dynamic and suspenseful atmosphere within the confines of a live poker room.
The Mystery Bounty format was envisioned as a solution to these challenges, allowing live poker tournaments to offer the same level of excitement as PKO tournaments.
The success of the mystery bounty format has been nothing short of extraordinary. It has swiftly establishing itself as a staple in the live poker scene and experiencing burgeoning popularity in the online world. Nearly a dozen online poker sites have embraced this tournament format already.
For international players, GGPoker, 888, and iPoker all offer MBTs. In Southern Europe, Winamax and 888poker spread the format. It’s made its way to North America too. For those in Michigan and Pennsylvania, WSOP USA offer it; in Ontario, players have GGPoker Ontario and 888poker Ontario.
The mystery bounty format made its online debut with PokerMatch, a Ukraine-based platform, unveiling it in February 2022 through the Connective Games platform. GGPoker promptly joined the trend, introducing the format during its WSOP Spring Circuit Online Series in March 2022.
Soon, several other platforms followed suit, including 888poker, Winamax, iPoker and US-facing offshore networks such as WPN and Chico Network. Even the online poker startup 4Poker, led by Bryn Kenney, and the social poker app PokerBros, jumped on the bandwagon.
Online poker stalwart PokerStars has also taken notice of the growing fascination with mystery bounty and is preparing to introduce this growing format very soon.
Unibet, however, has no “immediate plans” to adopt the format as it cites concerns over its impact on the player experience as hold out for a potential launch.
|PokerMatch||Feb 2022 (since closed)|
|WSOP US||Jan 2023|
|Chico Network||Oct 2023|
|PokerStars||Trialing in December 2023; expected early 2024|
One notable absentee from the above list is PokerStars. However, pokerfuse can confirm that PokerStars is also developing its own version of Mystery Bounty, and players can anticipate its introduction in early 2024.
Another notable name missing from this lineup is Partypoker. While this major international operator hasn’t publicly disclosed any immediate plans to launch mystery bounty, its website alludes to the format, suggesting a potential future addition.
For players of real money online poker in Ontario, mystery bounty tournaments are available through two online poker sites:
The other two operators in Ontario, PokerStars and BetMGM Poker, do not currently feature MBTs. However, this may change in the near future: PokerStars is working on its own version of the format, and we expect it to launch in Ontario along with other markets. BetMGM operates on partypoker software, which could following suit next year.
Currently, mystery bounty tournaments in the regulated US online poker market are primarily offered by a single network: WSOP USA. However, they are only available to players on WSOP MI & WSOP PA, as both platforms utilize 888poker’s new software.
WSOP New Jersey and WSOP Nevada, operating on 888’s older software, do not currently support mystery bounty. PokerStars US players may soon join the mystery bounty craze, as the operator has reportedly sought regulatory approval. It is expected in 2024.
The launch of mystery bounty on the BetMGM Poker US network could also be on the horizon, contingent upon whether partypoker, the platform powering BetMGM Poker US software, introduces the format.
In the Southern European regulated markets, mystery bounty tournaments are currently provided by two operators:
888poker offers mystery bounty tournaments on its segregated 888 Italy site and on its shared Iberian liquidity network 888 Europe, which spans Spain and Portugal. Meanwhile, Winamax provides mystery bounty action to players on its sites in Spain and France.
Although they haven’t yet introduced mystery bounty tournaments, PokerStars Europe (with shared liquidity among France, Spain, and Portugal, and a segregated network in Italy) and partypoker Europe (available in France and Spain) are potential candidates for future inclusion.
Another contender in this arena is iPoker Europe, which has already introduced Mystery Bounty tournaments in its global player pool.
A Mystery Bounty tournament is where each player has a bounty on their head, but the value of that bounty remains hidden until they are eliminated.
MBT stands for Mystery Bounty Tournament, a type of poker tournament where you win a mystery prize whenever you knock out an opponent. It is available at many live series and is becoming increasingly popular in online poker as well.
Mystery Bounty poker works by combining the excitement of bounty tournaments with the suspense of concealed bounty values. Players compete as in regular tournaments but don’t know the bounty’s worth until they eliminate an opponent. These tournaments have typically two phases, with bounties coming into play in the final stage when the tournament is “in the money.” The prize pool is split between regular and bounty pools, and players can win bounties that vary in value.
In standard bounty tournaments, players know the fixed or progressive bounty prize they will receive for knocking out an opponent. In Mystery Bounty Tournaments, the value of the bounty remains hidden until they eliminate a player. Furthermore, bounties only come into play once players are in the money phase whereas in PKOs, bounties come into play right at the start.
Ukraine-based PokerMatch was the first operator to introduce Mystery Bounty tournaments in February 2022. GGPoker followed suit in March 2022.
Yes, both 888poker and GGPoker offer the Pot Limit Omaha version of Mystery Bounty tournaments. In GGPoker, players will also find single day PLO edition of MBTs.
PokerStars has yet to launch Mystery Bounty tournaments, but it’s actively developing its version, expected to debut in early 2024. In December, a real money trial ran in some international markets.
Yes, GGPoker was one of the first platforms to introduce the Mystery Bounty format, available since March 2022.
Currently, partypoker does not offer Mystery Bounty tournaments. It might add MBTs in the near future.
Yes, Mystery Bounty tournaments are available on 888poker, one of the early adopters of this format. These tournaments are widely spread on 888poker, with tournaments running around the clock.
Yes, Mystery Bounty tournaments became available on the iPoker network in October 2023. They are usually offered as part of the tournament series, with big guarantees on offer.
GGPoker stands out, offering significant guaranteed Mystery Bounty tournaments on a weekly basis.
888poker offers a diverse selection of Mystery Bounty tournaments at various buy-in levels.
Mystery Bounty tournaments are available in the US markets, with the WSOP US network running these events in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Mystery Bounty tournaments are available in Ontario markets as well, with 888poker Ontario and GGPoker Ontario (formerly WSOP Ontario) running these events.
No, WSOP does not offer Mystery Bounty tournaments to New Jersey and Nevada online poker players, as the software used in these states still relies on 888poker’s old software, which does not yet support the format.
Winamax and 888poker are the two operators offering Mystery Bounty tournaments in Southern European regions. Winamax hosts them for players in France and S[aom, while 888poker provides the format in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Currently, WSOP is the sole operator offering Mystery Bounty tournaments. However, they are available only to players in Michigan and Pennsylvania. US-facing offshore networks WPN and Chico Network also offer them but are not regulated in the country.
The most effective strategy for Mystery Bounty tournaments is to enter the final stage with a substantial stack before the bounties become active. This increases your chances of winning more bounties as you cover more players.