A poker tournament is different to playing cash games, as players will all start with the same number of chips and when playing regular poker tourneys once you lose all the chips you have in front of you, you can no longer play the tournament to compete for the prize money.
Here is a list of all the common types of poker tournaments you can expect to find at online poker rooms, as well as a brief explanation as to what differentiates each of them.
These tournaments are typically held at the same table with up to 9-10 players per table and usually the top 3 will get a payout. The tournament starts once all seats are filled. This format of tournament poker is so popular because they usually do not last longer than 30-45 minutes making them quick to play. To add to this, sit & go tournaments can be played from as little as $1 and sometimes you can even use poker points to buy in to feature SNGs.
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With a large number of participants and tables since they are free to enter (in the range of 500-2000 players) with cash prizes they can take up to 6 hours to complete. According to many players when playing freerolls luck will help you more than skill, because when a players doesn’t play with his own money, he is prepared to take more risks. It is not uncommon to see freeroll players going all-in preflop. Freerolls can be a great way to relax for an interesting game and learn the ropes when first getting started in online poker tournaments. Some freerolls allow the winners to get a seat into real money poker tournaments with guaranteed prizes.
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Guaranteed tournaments (GTD)
These multi table tournaments feature guaranteed prize pools. Generally, playing these types of tournaments provides a lot more value to players, because there is a good chance to win tournaments with fewer players but you’re still competing for the same prize money.
These tournaments do not allow re-buys or add-ons (rebuys chips). You only use your starting chips, which you receive before the start of the game. Once you lose all the chips there is no way to re-buy back into the tournament.
Re-buy / add-on tournaments
When playing in this kind of poker tournament, you are allowed to buy additional chips that is typically the same amount with which you started the game. So if the starting chip stack was 3000 chips you’d buy in for another 3000 in chips. The rebuy period is usually only when you lose all your chips. So, instead of having to leave the game, you will be able to play your hands a little more aggressively knowing you can rebuy if you lose your original starting stack. Add-on tournaments are similar to re-buys, though you get to add more chips at a predetermined time in the tournament, typically after a break. It’s also worth mentioning that the more players that make additional purchases of chips during the game, the greater the prize money.
Such tournaments have become very popular in the online poker world. In these tournaments, you are fighting for a place in a big tournament (online/live). Satellites can take place in one or several tables. These tournaments provide a good chance to participate in tournaments you wouldn’t normally be able to afford to buy into with your own money with prize money in the tens of thousands of dollars.
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Bounty or knockout tournaments have also become very popular in recent times. They are typically featured at online poker rooms that have widely recognized poker pros that sponsor the site, since many recreational players would be interested in playing in tournaments against these world class players. The “bounty” rules in these tournament will vary from tournament to tournament, but the basic premise of them is you will receive bonus prize money (i.e. a bounty) for knocking out other players in the tournament.
Considerations before playing in poker tournaments
Regardless of the type of tournament you wish to play in, another consideration is the blind structure. A fast blind structure will mean you will be playing short stacked at the final table making it somewhat of a crapshoot as you will need to make good hands in order to win. On the other hand, a tournament that has a good blind structure will progress through blind levels at a slower rate which is advantageous to skilled players, and the late stages and final table of such tournaments will feature deeper stacks so real poker can be played with lots of flop, turn, and river play.