Got the urge to play real money online poker tournaments? Well, you’re in the right spot. First, we want to commend you for taming the urge long enough to come here and let us give you some important information to help ensure the quality of your experience. Second, we want to let you know we’re excited you’re interested in trying out online poker tournaments. Whether this is your first poker tournament ever or just going to be your first in the online scene, we’re excited to be a part of your journey.
Sorry for sounding like a proud mom; we just love what we do. Let’s get down to business. In the next few sections, we’re going to try and give you as much information as we can about real money online poker tournaments. We’ll talk about the most important things you need to know right away, the different types of tournaments you’re going to encounter, and the things you need to consider to find the best tournament fit for you.
Consider this the ultimate primer in real money online poker tournaments.
The 5 Things You Need to Know Right Now
Before we dive into the wealth of knowledge we are going to share with you about real money online poker tournaments, we want to share five things that we think are the most important things for you to know up front. These information tidbits are cherry-picked from the other sections below for those of you that might be in a hurry. Hopefully, you have time to stick around, because we have a ton of great information, but this will at least get your mind thinking in the right direction.
1. Different Types of Tournaments Need to Be Approached Differently Strategically
A sit and go tournament should not be treated the same as a multi-table freezeout tournament. A multi-table tournament should not be treated the same as a shootout tournament. Basically, no two online poker tournaments are going to be created equally. This is not just something that makes for a great talking point. You need to approach each different tournament format with a different set of strategies.
While at the end of the day you are still playing poker, the variations are going to have a big impact on the strategies that you use to win. Well, they should, at least. You’ll find that a lot of players don’t know how to adjust and just try to barrel through each tournament with the same strategy. While this will work with one type of tournament, it’s going to put them at a serious disadvantage in other tournaments.
Make sure you are approaching each different tournament type with the right set of strategies.
2. Multi-Table Tournaments Require a Time Commitment, but It Can Be Worth It
A lot of people that are new to multi-table tournaments don’t realize just how long they can take to win. If you end up making the final table, you could be looking at hours and hours of play. Even a tournament with something like 20 or 30 people can take 4 or 5+ hours depending on the blind structure and chip starting stacks. That means when you start getting into tournaments with 500+ people, you’re really looking at an all-day affair.
Why is this important? Well, if you haven’t budgeted the proper amount of time, one of two things is going to happen. One, you’re going to get reckless when you’re out of time and try and force the tournament to be over. This is not going to work. Or two, you’re going to have to leave the tournament running and walk away, meaning that you will just slowly blind away until you are out. This is also not an optimal outcome.
So, if you’re going to play in a real money online poker tournament, make sure you allot the proper amount of time to play it from start to finish. Additionally, make sure you are mentally prepared to stay focused and in the game for that long. One little mistake can end your tournament run, so you have to be on your A-game the entire time.
3. There Is Variance in Multi-Table Tournaments
You should not be expecting to win every single poker tournament you enter online. In fact, you shouldn’t be expecting to cash in every tournament. Some of the best players in the world say that they cash in somewhere between 20%-25% of the tournaments that they play in. These are the guys and gals that are crushing it. That means three out of every four or four out of every five tournaments they play in, they bust out and make zero dollars.
This is the nature of the beast when you’re playing in tournaments with a lot of people. The more people in the tournament, the harder it is going to be to win. It doesn’t matter how good you are. You’re going to experience the evil being known as variance.
What does this mean for you? It means you need to make sure you have proper bankroll management and that you’re not putting too high of a percentage of your bankroll on the line in one tournament. That way, if you really are a winning player, you’ll be around long enough for the variance to come full swing and for you to realize your profit.
4. Tournaments Are Completely Different Than Cash Games
If you’re used to playing cash games, you might be under the impression that poker tournaments are the same beast. This is not the case at all. You see, tournament conditions are always changing. Stack sizes are always changing relative to the blinds, and the implications of each pot change as the tournament progresses through its different stages.
In the early parts of a tournament, it’s very similar to a cash game. But as the stacks become shallower, and the stakes are raised (literally and figuratively), the way you approach it is completely different. How much experience do you have with 10 x the big blind stacks in cash games? Probably not much unless you’re a pesky short-stacker.
You can utilize your cash game skills early, but you’re going to have to alter the way you play later in the tournament if you have hopes of having success.
5. Play Money and Real Money Are a Lot More Different Than You Might Think
Some of you that are here have been playing online for a while but in the play money tournaments. You’ve gotten your feet wet, and you’re ready to try your hand at the real money online poker tournaments. That’s awesome to hear! Before we send you out to try your hand, though, we want to make sure you’re aware of something that you may or may not already know.
Play money tournaments play completely differently than real money tournaments. When people don’t have anything on the line, they are much wilder and play like complete maniacs. Once you put even a few bucks on the line, the play is going to tighten up considerably. Now, we’re not saying people are good at the lower limits. Heck, they’re not even good at the higher limits. But they are going to play differently, and you need to be ready for this.
Types of Real Money Online Poker Tournaments Offered
This is about to feel like a Kentucky family reunion because all of the different online poker tournament variations are somewhat related and intermingled. Okay, we’re sorry, people of Kentucky; we promise we didn’t mean any harm. Each type of online poker tournament is also unique and special in its own way, so we’ll give you those accolades as an apology.
Below, you’re going to find the different types of poker tournaments that you’re going to run into during your time playing online. What we meant with our little joke earlier is that some poker tournaments can be multiple different types. For example, you can have a multi-table tournament that is also a rebuy and a bounty tournament. Or, another example, you can have a freezeout tournament that is also a satellite tournament. We’ll do our best to address all of this in the coming section, but just be aware of this. There really is no good way to separate and categorize the different types of tournaments, so we’re just going to do them one at a time and call it a day.
A multi-table tournament is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a tournament with more than 9 or 10 players that involves more than one table. Multi-table tournaments can be as few 15-20 players or really as big as humanly possible. The WSOP Main Event every year is a multi-table tournament that has over 8,000 people every year.
These are the tournaments that require the longest time commitment, but they also will offer the biggest payouts relative to the buy-in. Keep in mind that a lot of the other tournament types we have listed here can be multi-table tournaments as well. This distinction really only has to do with the number of entrants and nothing else. Heads up tournaments are the only tournaments on this list that cannot be multi-table tournaments.
For those of you that know poker well, you might be looking at sit and go tournaments on the list and glaring at us. Remember, you can have multi-table sit and go tournaments as well. We’ll cover that in that section below.
A freezeout tournament is a poker tournament where players are given a fixed amount of chips and are not able to rebuy or re-enter the tournament. Once they lose all of their chips, they are out of the tournament. This is the most popular and common type of poker tournament both live and online. The only thing getting close to overtaking this is the re-entry tournament, which is basically like a freezeout tournament that allows a busted-out player to come back in as a brand-new player. But, by definition, a re-entry tournament is not a freezeout. You can utilize the same strategies for both, though. We’ll talk about that further down the list.
An online satellite tournament is a poker tournament that is played in outer space. All right, that was a terrible joke. In reality, a satellite poker tournament is one where you play for the chance to win your seat into a larger tournament. For example, let’s say you want to play in a $500 tournament, but you don’t want to pony up $500. An online poker room might run a satellite tournament where the buy-in is $50. They will pool that money and award as many seats to the $500 as they can. So, if 30 people play in that $50 satellite, the prize pool is $1500. They will award the top 3 winners of that tournament with a seat in the $500.
Basically, you can get into a much larger tournament for a smaller dollar amount. You just have to beat out the other people that have the same idea. Any additional prize pool money left over in these tournaments that does not equal a full seat is usually paid out in cash to the next place or places after the seat winners.
Rebuy and Re-Entry Tournaments
Most of the other poker tournament types on this list can also be a rebuy or re-entry tournament. It is important that you know the difference between the two because contrary to a lot of people’s beliefs, they are not the same. A rebuy tournament is one where, for a fixed period of time at the beginning of the tournament, you are able to purchase more chips as soon as you run out of chips or go below a certain threshold. At the end of that rebuy period, you also have the ability to add on chips, which is where anyone regardless of stack size can purchase more chips for a fixed dollar amount (usually the buy-in, but sometimes smaller).
For example, if you start the tournament with 5,000 chips, and the rules say you can rebuy when you are at 5,000 chips or less, you can rebuy once right away or at any point during the rebuy period when you are below 5,000 chips. You’ll have to pay the entry fee again, but you will be given an additional 5,000 chips. The big takeaway here is that during this period, you are not moved from your seat or treated like a new player. You’ll stay in the exact same seat and are just given more chips. Once the rebuy and add-on periods are complete, the tournament operates as a normal freezeout.
The perks of this tournament style are that the prize pool usually gets huge and you have the ability to gamble a little bit early if you want to try and amass a big chip stack. You don’t have to, but the option is there, and this certainly has an effect on strategy.
Re-entry tournaments, on the other hand, are tournaments where, during a designated period at the beginning of the tournament, if you lose 100% of your chips, you have the option to buy back in as a completely new player. You will give up your seat and be treated as a brand-new player who just arrived to the tournament. Occasionally, re-entry tournaments will also have an add-on period, but not always. These tournaments operate like freezeouts except people might be more inclined to gamble on shorter stacks during the re-entry period.
A bounty tournament is a poker tournament where there is additional prize money placed on the heads of certain players. If it is a standard bounty tournament, this money is pulled from the prize pool and placed on the heads of every player in the tournament. If you knock a player out of the tournament, you get their bounty. For example, if a tournament has a $60 + $30 + $10 buy-in, $60 would go towards the main prize pool, $30 would be on each player’s head as a bounty, and $10 would go to the house for the rake. If you knock out a player, you get $30. Knock out 10 players, and you’ve already collected $300 in addition to probably being in a good spot to win some of the prize money as well.
The second format of bounty tournaments that we see online a lot is promotional bounty tournaments. These are tournaments where the full buy-in goes towards the prize pool (minus the rake), but the poker site adds free money to put bounties on certain players or their pros playing in the tournament. This is just free money that you have the chance to win if you bust out one of those players.
Sit and Go Tournaments
A sit and go tournament is a poker tournament that does not have a set start time. Most freezeouts have scheduled start times, and they start no matter how many players are entered (as long as they meet the minimum required, which is usually just a few). A sit and go, on the other hand, starts as soon as a fixed number of entrants is reached.
If it is a single-table sit and go tournament, as soon as 9 people are registered, the tournament will start. This is the most popular format of sit and go. The second most popular would be heads-up sit and go tournaments, which start as soon as two players are registered. Additionally, though, sit and go tournaments can have any number of players. It can be 18, 45, 90, 180…it can be any amount. Usually, though, you will find them in multiples of 9 or 10, as they like to start them with full tables.
We promise we won’t make another stupid joke like we did with the satellite tournaments. Pew, pew, pew! Shots fired. Man, we couldn’t help ourselves. Sorry. A shootout tournament is a bracket-style tournament where you have to win a single table or heads-up sit and go to move on to the next round.
For example, let’s say you are going to play in an 81-person shootout tournament. The tournament would start with 9 different tables of 9 people. Each table would play down to a single winner, leaving 9 players left in the tournament. There is no combining of tables or anything during the first round. Each table plays separately until they have a single winner. Those 9 winners then come together and play in another single-table sit and go to decide the final winner of the tournament.
If you’re in a hurry but still want to get your online poker tournament rush in, you’re going to love turbo tournaments. Any one of the other tournaments on this list could also be a turbo tournament. A turbo is a poker tournament where the blinds go quickly, and usually, the starting chip stacks are smaller than usual. Basically, it’s a normal poker tournament that finishes in a shorter period of time.
That’s it! It is important to note that even though it’s the same as any other type of poker tournament, the strategy to approach it is quite different.
Heads Up, 4-Max, 6-Max, and 8-Max Tournaments
This distinction only has to do with how many people are seated at each table throughout the tournament. If it’s a heads-up tournament, it’s going to be a shootout tournament. The 4-, 6-, and 8-max tournaments could be any of the other options on this list. The difference between all of these formats mainly has to do with strategy.
Finding the Right Tournament for You
If you’re new to playing real money online poker tournaments, you’ll need to make a few decisions. The most important decisions are going to be which real money poker sites you want to play at and which tournament you’re going to choose to play in. In this section, we’d like to talk about some of the criteria that you’ll need to consider when making that second decision.
Your Time Availability
You need to be aware of how long a particular tournament you’re planning on playing in is going to take. You’ll need to look at the starting chip stack size, the blind structure, and how many entrants are in the tournament. Now, there is no formula for calculating how long a tournament is going to take, but with some experience in the field, you should be able to get a rough idea. Also, with many online poker tournaments that run regularly, you can look at prior running of the tournament to see how long they lasted. You can assume that when you play, it’s going to be somewhat similar.
If you don’t have the adequate time to play in a certain tournament, look for something that is shorter. Sit and go tournaments and turbo tournaments are usually much shorter and a better fit if you don’t have a lot of time to commit.
The Buy-In Level
The biggest decision you’ll need to make when selecting a real money online poker tournament to play is the buy-in level. Basically, how much money do you want to risk? It’s important that you remember that there is a lot of variance when it comes to poker tournaments. No matter how amazing you are, you can lose quite a few tournaments in a row. Even the absolute best in the world go on bad runs where the variance of the game bites them in the butt.
The takeaway from that is that you shouldn’t be playing in a poker tournament with a large percentage of your bankroll. On the flip side, though, you don’t want to play in a poker tournament with such a low buy-in that you can’t take it seriously. Find the amount that fits your situation best, and then go for it.
The Type of Tournament
The last thing you’ll need to consider is the type of tournament that you want to play in. This is going to come down to a few different factors. First, consider what format you prefer. What do you enjoy playing? What gets you excited? Second, consider what format you are the best at. Are you a phenomenal turbo tournament player? You should stick to playing turbos, then! If you’re awesome at freezeouts and terrible at sit and go tournaments, why play a sit and go?
Find the format that fits what you’re looking for, and go for it. There are thousands of poker tournaments online every single day. There’s no reason not to find the perfect fit for you.
The Final Word
We’ve covered a lot today, but we’re confident you now have the information and the resources you need to get started playing real money online poker tournaments. The only thing left for you to do is to get out there, pick out a tournament, and get to playing. Good luck!