Poker Tournaments – A Guide

A poker tournament is just like a poker cash-game with some distinct differences.

  • First, the goal is to win everyone’s chips and the tournament does not stop until someone does so.
  • You can win a LOT of money for a small initial buy-in. How much you ask? Well that depends on the tournament. It can be in the tens of thousands though. Once all players are registered, the pay off amounts are usually listed somewhere within the games.
  • You don’t win any money unless you “place” in the top prize positions. Each tournament will list out what positions get paid. This varies depending on the type of tournament and the number of players.
  • Everyone starts with the same amount of chips. This is usually $1,000 to $1,500 in chips.
  • The blinds in a tournament change. When playing at a normal poker game, the blinds are constant. No matter how long you play, the blinds stay the same. In tournaments, the blinds increase to force action which eliminates players until there is one lef.
  • Tournaments have a buy-in and an entry fee. In a normal poker game, there are usually a minimum and maximum buy in amount.
    The buy-in is the tournament prize pool, and the entryfee is the “casino” or “host” fee. For example, if you see a tournment with a $5.00 + $.50 buy in, $5.00 will go to the tournament prize pool and $.50 will go to the “casino” or online host hosting the tournament. The average fee the host takes is usually 10% of the prize pool fee.
  • A tournament can be played on a single table or multiple tables at one time. You will only play on one table at a time, but if there are more than 10 players in the tournament they will be playing at the same time on other tables. You may even be moved at random to another table as more players lose all their chips.
  • The great thing about tournaments? For a small buy-in, you can win a LOT of money, but you can only lose your initial buy-in. Try doing that in a normal poker game! Also, if you lose a big hand, you still have a chance to win your chips back. In a real poker game, when you lose chips, you lose real money immediately.

Types of Poker Tournament

Okay, now that we have a good idea of what tournaments are, lets look at the various types of tournaments and what might be the best for you to play in. We’ll start with the least complicated types of tournaments and work our way up.

SIT-N-GO Tournaments

A sit-n-go tournament is the type of tournament where you sit down at the table with a small number of players and play until one person has all the chips.

  1. These are ONE table tournaments.
  2. Usually the top 2 positions pay for 6 player tournaments and top 3 for 10 player.
  3. These are usually quick games lasting no longer than 30-45 minutes.
  4. They are a great way to test your skills and win decent money for as little as $1.00 + $1.0 buy in.

FREEROLL Tournaments

These are a bit more complicated, but they’re FREE*, so it’s worth trying them out and reading the different nuances about them.

  1. Freerolls are almost always multi table tournaments.
  2. Freerolls that do not require a coupon to play usually have between 500-2000 players.
  3. Of course they are free to enter, if you are lucky enough to register in time.
  4. Some freerolls require a coupon to play. Usually if the freeroll prize pool is about $500 or more. You win coupons by playing “raked” hands.
  5. These can be long games lasting 2-4 hours.
  6. Freerolls aren’t the best place to test your skills as much as they test your luck. When people play in a FREE tournament, they tend to play recklessly, but it’s free, so go out there and have some fun!
  7. Some freerolls pay out entries to bigger tournaments! More on that later.
  8. Freerolls are usually free to enter, meaning you do not have to pay any actual money to enter them
  9. Freerolls can require some type of coupon to enter.

GUARANTEED Tournaments

These tournaments are usually multi table tournaments with a GUARANTEED prize pool.

  1. Prize pool is guaranteed to be a set MINIMUM amount. Ex. $500 Guaranteed Tourney means the prize pool will be a minumum of $500.
  2. These tournaments vary in their buy-in structure, but can be as low as $1.00 + $10
  3. They usually have a minimum of 50 players in order for the tournament to start and a maximum of 1000 players
  4. The number of players depends on the number of entries
  5. These tournaments vary in amount of time due to the random number of entries
  6. Rebuys are usually not allowed
  7. These are usually the best tournaments to buy into. Why? Well the prize pool is guaranteed for one. If 50 people buy into a $2.00 + $.20 $500 guaranteed tournament, the prize pool entries will only add up to $100. The host will be responsible for the other $400 in the prize pool.
  8. With fewer players in the game, your chances are much better to win a bigger pay-off! Great for players of all levels for the lower buy-in amounts. Ex. a $500 guaranteed tournament pays $150 for first place which is a great pay-off for a $2.00 + $.20 entry fee.

FREEZEOUT Tournaments

These are tournaments which do not allow re-buys or add-ons. Basically, you can only play with the chips you started with and are out of the tournament when you lose them all. If you see a tournament with a buy in amount only, this means the tournament prize pool is determined exclusively based on the number of entrants.

RE-BUY / ADD-ON Tournaments

A re-buy is an opportunity to buy additional chips. You are only allowed to buy the initial amount of chips you started the tournament with, which is around $1,000 – $1,500. This is only allowed when you’ve lost all your chips. Instead of being out of the tournament permanantly, you can “re-buy” and start again with your initial amount of chips.

A Add-on is the same as a rebuy, occurs while you still have chips. Add-ons will only bring you up to the maximum chip amount you started with. For example, if you started with $1,000 in chips, and were down to $200, and re-buys were allowed, you could pay the tournament entry fee again and be brought up to $1,000 in chips, but nothing more.

  1. The cost of the rebuy is the same amount you paid to start the tournament.
  2. Some tournaments allow you a single rebuy or multiple rebuys.
  3. The ability to rebuy during a tournament is usually limited by how long the tournament has been running. Usually re-buys are not allowed after an hour.
  4. Expect to see players playing recklessly though since they know they can buy additional chips later.
  5. Re-buy tournaments can have big pay offs as many players will take advantage of this option which adds more to the prize pool

SATELLITE Tournaments

These types of tournaments don’t pay any actual money. When you play in a satellite tournament, you are playing for an entry into a larger tournament.

  1. Satellites can be single or multi table tournaments
  2. Entry fees can be free, as small as $1.00 + $.10 or in the hundreds of dollars
  3. The top positions that win are given entries into a larger more expensive tournament.
  4. Satellites are a great way to spend a small amount of money to enter a tournament with a much larger prize pool and entry fee.