Internet poker tournaments are a major aspect of most online poker rooms, especially the real money poker sites where you can regularly find guarantees of $500k to $1.5 million. However, as a new poker beginner, there are a few steps you should take before jumping into costly poker tournaments.
We're going to offer you a complete guide to online poker tournaments, including all tournament types, structures and how to practice for the biggest events.
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A poker tournament is structured based on the number of players and type of tournament. The more players there are, the more cashing positions there will be. The tournament will begin with a pre-set blind level, increasing at specific intervals. By doubling the blind levels every 10 or 15 minutes, players with short stacks are forced to make a move or be eliminated. This keeps the game pace moving as players get closer to the ultimate prize.
To enter a pat-to-play online poker tournament, you will need to pay a Buy-In and a Fee. This is commonly separated by a plus (+) sign. The fee is usually 105 of the buy-in. For instance, a $20 tournament may have a $2 fee, shown as $20+$2.
The tournament buy-in is how the online poker room determines the prize pool. The fee is kept by the online poker room, covering administration and operation fees, as well as the site's profits.
Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) are the largest variety, where hundreds, if not thousands, of players are competing in a single elimination event to take down the top prize, or at least cash. The payout structure can be quite massive, depending on the number of entries. If an MTT has 1,000 players, the money bubble can extend to the top 300 players or so, depending on the online poker room.
Sit'n'Go tournaments (SNGs) are much smaller. Some SNGs are single-table events with a max of 9 or 10 players. Others may include 3 tables, 5 tables or even 9 tables of players. These are not scheduled events, but rather tournaments that start as soon as enough players enter. Though you're competing against less players, you'll have to get pretty far to cash. A single table SNG will only pay the top 2 or 3 finishers.
You'll come across several varieties of online poker tournaments. The most popular are Guaranteed events and Freerolls, but Bounties, Turbos and Heads-Up tournaments are also common.
A guaranteed tournament is one that carries a minimum prize pool. If the buy-in is $50, and the guarantee is $100,000, the tournament would need 2,000 entrants to cover the prize pool (2k x 50 = 100k). However, if only 1,500 players enter, the online poker room makes up the difference and still pays out the $100k prize pool. This is called an “Overlay”. Should more than 2,000 players enter, the guaranteed prize pool will increase beyond the guaranteed amount.
Every online poker player loves freerolls because there is no cost to enter, and they usually pay cash prizes to the top finishers. Some freerolls may require “poker points” to enter, while others may award “poker points” instead of cash. Since there's no risk involved, freerolls are often played very loose, therefore easy for a skilled player to win.
Bounty tournaments are played as regular or guaranteed events, but some players, if not all, will have a bounty on their head. If you knock out a player, you get to collect the bounty. Knocking out several players can actually pay for your buy-in, and then some, meaning you don't necessarily have to finish in the prize bubble to make a profit.
Online poker rooms with sponsored pros will often hold bounty tournaments with a few of their team pros in the mix. These will put the bounties of the heads of pro players. Knock them out to earn a hefty bounty.
Turbo tournaments are also played as regular or guaranteed events, but they tend to run their course much faster. The blind levels increase at a much faster rate, therefore players can get eliminated in a few hands if they fall into short stack positions.
These tournaments are structured completely different. Each table will have only 2 players competing one on one. One player is eliminated, and the other goes on to face another single opponent. Eventually, only two players will remain, competing heads-up for the top prize.
The easiest way to practice for a paid poker tournament is to participate in freeroll tournaments. Freerolls cost nothing to enter, and often have real prizes up for grabs. The competition will be a little weaker, since there's no risk involved. Choose a preferred poker strategy, whether it be loose or tight, passive or aggressive, and test your skills against real players.
Once you find you can read your opponents better and make your way into the prize pool regularly, it may be time to hit the real money poker tournaments. Start with cheaper events and work your way up to minimize losses while increasing your skills against veteran online poker tournament players.
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