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How do Byes Work in Tournaments?

When Byes are Needed

Any time a single elimination or double elimination tournament is not a "Power of 2", or for those that are not mathematicians, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, or 256 players/teams, byes must be awarded. A bye simply means that a team does not have to participate in the first round of the tournament, but instead gets a free pass to the second round.

Bye Rounds

Byes are always awarded in just the first round of the tournament. To figure out the number of byes in each tournament you simply subtract the number of teams in the tournament from one of the numbers above. You will use the next number in the list that is higher than the number of teams.


3 Teams = 4 minus 3(1 bye)

5 Teams = 8 minus 5(3 byes)

9 Teams = 16 minus 9(7 byes)

20 Teams = 32 minus 20(12 byes)

Positioning the Byes

Of course there is still a certain layout to the brackets, you can't just place byes in the place of your choice. This all revolves around the seeding of teams. We suggest visiting our home page as we already have all bracket layouts pre-designed.

The bracket numbers mentioned at the top are all "perfect brackets" meaning that each subsequent round will have exactly half the teams as the previous round. Tournaments that have byes, will always have one of the perfect bracket numbers remaining in the second round of the tournament. So, from the second round on they become a perfect bracket. This is the reason byes are awarded in the first round and only the first round.

Fairness of Byes

I've received multiple emails that say it is not fair that teams get to skip the first round and they want a bracket that has all teams playing in the first round. If you were to do this, you would just create byes in multiple rounds of the tournament, not to mention you would have one messy looking bracket.


10 Teams in the first round would leave 5 teams in the second round. So 1 team would have a bye. Then in the 3rd round you would have 3 teams left, one of which would get a bye straight to the championship.

If you are running a round robin tournament or a league, byes are only needed when there are an odd number of teams. It is only necessary to have one bye per round. You can use our Round Robin Generator or our League Scheduler to create your schedule.