Most of the larger online poker rooms offer a wide variety of Texas Holdem and Omaha tournaments a lot of which have big guaranteed prize pools. At the top online poker sites, there is always a good selection of different tourneys you can play.
Online poker rooms offer both single-table tournaments (commonly called Sit N Goes) and multi-table tournaments (MTTs). Some online poker rooms also offer private tourneys in which players can set up their own online tourneys, and this allows the tournament host to invite players of their choice, so it plays much like a home game.
When playing at online poker sites, you can find real money tournaments kicking off at all times of the day or night. And unlike the majority of live poker tournaments, you may have to compete in fields which can consist of literally thousands of players, which creates really big prize pools.
How a Poker Tournament Works
At the beginning of the tournament, every player starts with an equal number of chips and the tournament ends when a player ends up with all of the chips. The blinds increase at the start of each new level to push the action and sometimes there are antes that come into play otherwise it would take a very long time to complete.
While some poker players are proficient at both tournaments and cash games, there is definitely a difference between the two forms of poker. If you’re moving from cash games to tournaments, you’ll have to make some necessary adjustments in your game in order to do well in them.
There are several key factors that make tournament poker significantly different from cash game poker. These key differences relate to the blind structure, the risk of being eliminated, and the pay-out structure.
The Blind Structure
If you’ve watched televised poker shows before you may have heard the commentator say something like, “He can’t afford to be waiting around for pocket aces.” This is due to the pressure of the increasing blinds. In a cash game, especially when you're playing at a full-ring table, you can play tighter and wait around for good hands to play, since the blinds are a relatively small percentage of your stack. But when you're playing in a tournament, the blinds are continually going up and eating into your stack, so continuously adding chips to your stack is very important. The shallower your stack is relative to the blinds, the more hands you will need to play.
The tournament format can have a drastic impact on the rate in which the blinds go up. For example, in a turbo format which is designed to finish much quicker, the blinds will go up every 5-10 minutes. On the other hand, when you’re playing a regular tournament, it would be fairly typical for the blinds to go up every 20 minutes or so.
The Threat of Elimination
In a cash game, if you go all-in and lose the hand, you can easily re-buy for more chips and continue playing in the game until you are done for the session. However, in a regular freezeout tournament, if you lose your chips, you’re finished, so when going all-in in a poker tournament, there is always the possibility of busting out that you need to take into account. This usually results in playing a bit more conservatively.
Pay-out Structure for the Tournament
Unlike a cash game, where you can quit and leave with your winnings at any time, you typically only make it in the money in a multi-table tournament if you finish in the top 10 percent. So in a 30-player tournament the top 3 finishers would get a percentage of the tournament prize pool.
This can change the dynamics of the game fairly drastically because when there are only a few players left until every player is in the money, you may have to adjust by folding even strong pre-flop hands in situations where you may be at risk of elimination, because in all likelihood one of the smaller chip stacks will bust out in the next few hands putting you in the money.
Some poker tournaments have a guaranteed prize pool whereby the online poker site guarantees a certain prize pool and if there aren’t enough entrants they will put up the rest of the prize pool from their own pockets. These “Guaranteed Tournaments” represent a lot of value because if there is a small turnout, the players involved in the tournament get a better chance of making the money!
Best Poker Tournament Sites
If you’re primarily a tournament player, then you’ll want to play at a room that offers a variety of online poker tournaments with guaranteed prize pools that are worth your time playing for. The big money tournaments are typically held on Sundays since that is when the majority of people can dedicate enough time to play a bigger tournament.
The bigger sites like PokerStars tend to have tougher tournament fields because the tournament grinders gravitate towards poker rooms where they can get in decent volume and play lots of tournaments. This is only possible at poker sites where tournaments are starting every few minutes.
For this reason I recommend you choose a mid-size poker room, where the fields are both smaller and considerably easier to beat.
My personal favourite is 888 Poker. Their brand and adverts attract more recreational players, and the tournament fields are usually measured in 100’s instead of 1000’s. They even offer you an incentive of up to $88 to try out their games, with no deposit or credit card information required. If you are looking for a great site to gain tournament experience, and turn a nice profit at the same time, then 888 poker is the place to be.
Check them out now at www.888poker.com