Each district's escort randomly chooses the name of one male and one female tribute from two separate glass balls. Those picked are then the official tributes for the upcoming Games. Only children 12-18 are reaped.
Once of age, a potential-tribute's name is entered into the reaping one time. The entries are cumulative, so when a possible tribute is thirteen, their name is added one more time. This continues until age 18, when a potential-tribute's name is entered 7 times, or more if they apply for tesserae.
Each age group is contained in roped-off areas in the town square, waiting for someone to be picked. The reapings take place at different times in different districts, so that Capitol citizens can watch them all live on television. Many members of the Capitol often place bets on who will be chosen. Unless someone is on their deathbed, they will be imprisoned for not attending their district's reaping.
After the first rebellion in which every district was defeated by the capitol, the Treaty of Treason was passed. On this treaty was the Hunger Games. The games are held for two reasons; The first is to entertain the wealthy citizens of the capitol and the other is to keep the districts in line and show that the capitol has no mercy against the defiant districts. Some districts, such as District 1, are treated better in the games because they were still loyal to the capitol at a degree. While District 13 was the leader of the first (and second) rebellions, they were allowed to secede from Panem since they had the trump card of nuclear weapons.
If someone so chooses, they may volunteer to take the place of a tribute who is selected. This is often done by Career Tributes who spend their lives training to compete in the Hunger Games. It is sometimes done for other reasons though, such as when Katniss Everdeen volunteered to protect her reaped sister, Prim, but this is not done nearly as often as Careers volunteering.
The volunteering process is simple in most districts, especially the later numbered ones. But in earlier numbered districts, such as the Career districts, (1, 2, and 4) volunteering is a more complicated process since participating in the Games is seen as an honor and victors are highly respected and have great prestige.
For the residents of various districts, any child between the ages of 12 through 18 can apply for tesserae. This supplies them with a year's supply of grain and oil. They can choose to do this for each of their family members as well. However, each tesserae they sign up for puts another slip with their name in the reaping ball. It is also cumulative, so Katniss Everdeen, when she was sixteen, had her name put in the glass ball twenty times. Gale Hawthorne, who has five family members including himself, had his name put in the glass ball forty-two times. The amount of tesserae taken is larger in Panem's poorer districts, such as District 12.
- Main article: Quarter Quell
Every 25 years, the tributes are chosen in an alternate manner. The instructions for that year are specified inside a special envelope read by the president ahead of time. In the 25th Hunger Games, the districts voted on the tributes who got reaped, in the 50th, twice the amount of tributes were sent, and in the 75th Hunger Games, the tributes were reaped from the existing pool of victors (done to force Katniss, District 12's only living female winner, back into the fray after her ploy to end the 74th).
- The reaping proceeds from the east coast to the west coast. In chronological order, the first four districts are 12, 8, 6, and 11.
- For the 10th Hunger Games, the reaping was scheduled on July 4th, which is Independence Day in the United States. It is suggested that this date is the same each year.