Ultimate Guide to Poker Tournaments For Beginners

Are you interested in playing poker tournaments but feeling overwhelmed and needing help figuring out where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even seasoned players can find the intensity of these fast-paced games, with aggressive opponents and blind levels that increase quickly, to be a lot to handle.

But don’t let that discourage you. Whether you’re playing at your local casino’s weekly tourneys, trying your luck with small stakes at online poker sites, or competing against tough opponents at international live tournaments, you’ve come to the right place.

This guide will help you discover the crucial aspects of poker tournaments, including different types and formats. We’ll also show you how to find online poker tourneys that work for you. So keep reading and get ready to take your poker game to the next level.

What Is An Online Poker Tournament?

An online poker tournament is a contest where several players pay a specific entry fee to get a chance to win a portion of the overall prize pool. At the beginning of the tournament, each player is given a set amount of chips. Players who exhaust all their chips during the game will be eliminated from the tournament.

As the tournament progresses, the size of the blinds increases, and antes are often introduced after a few levels. The prizes are generally awarded when only 10% of the players remain, but this can vary depending on the tournament.

The tournament winner is determined when a single player possesses all the chips in play. The duration of a poker tournament depends on the tournament structure, rules, and number of players participating.


How Do Online Poker Tournaments Work?

If you’re planning to participate in an online poker tournament, first, you have to learn the rules of online poker, then there are some essential things you need to know before you dive in. Poker tournaments can come in various shapes and sizes, but it’s important to determine the details before the tournament begins. These include the buy-in amount, the number of starting chips, the blinds, antes, and time limits.

Players often contribute to the prize pool in tournaments, while the poker room takes a percentage. This is usually indicated as X+Y, with X being the player’s contribution and Y being the poker room’s share. The exact prize pool depends on the number of players and the buy-ins. However, predetermined rules define the number of players winning a prize and how the prizes will be divided.

Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) have a specific start time, both online and in-person. Therefore, you should be present or logged in when the tournament starts. On the other hand, Sit-and-go tournaments (SNGs) don’t have a specific start time. They start as soon as the correct number of players has joined.

Poker tournaments and cash games differ in that tournaments have levels. You’ll start at the lowest blind level, and the size of the blinds will increase every time you reach the end of a level. Each level lasts for a specific time as determined by the tournament rules. Keep an eye on your chip stacks because of tournament levels. If you need more chips to cover the blinds when a new level starts, you’ll be blinded out and lose your place in the tournament.

Although many other poker tournament games exist, like Omaha, 7 Card Stud, and Razz, Texas Hold’em is the most common variant in poker tournaments.

Poker Tournament Formats And Structures

Poker tournaments come in different formats, each with specific details representing that variation. Additionally, certain characteristics or variations must be determined for each tournament, such as the time of the blind levels, starting stacks, and number of players per table, all of which affect the format of poker tournaments.

The most common variations in poker tournaments are the turbo/hyper-turbo, deep stacks/short stacks, and full-ring/short-handed/heads-up tournaments.

Turbo and hyper-turbo tournaments are faster than regular tournaments, with blind levels lasting only 5 minutes in turbo tournaments and 3 minutes in hyper-turbo tournaments. Regular tournaments typically have blind levels lasting ten or more minutes.

In deep stacks tournaments, players start with a much higher number of chips, while in short stacks tournaments, they start with a much lower number. A regular tournament typically offers 100 big blinds as your starting chip amount.

Full-ring tournaments have nine or ten players, while short-handed tournaments typically have six players. Heads-up tournaments are between just two players.

These features can be combined with one of the other types of poker tournaments. For example, you can have a turbo freezeout with a guaranteed prize or join a deep stack bounty tournament.

Adjusting your playing strategies and bankroll management plan based on factors such as variations and how they complement your skill set and playing style before signing up to play is essential.

Types Of Online Poker Tournaments

Poker tournaments offer a wide variety of types to choose from. They are more diverse than one might expect, with numerous tournament formats available. Sometimes, these formats can overlap, making things a bit more complicated.

For instance, there are bounty tournaments that can also be satellite tournaments. Additionally, guaranteed tournaments can be rebuy tournaments. Below, we will delve into the most common online and land-based poker tournament types.

Guaranteed Poker Tournaments

The number of players affects the prize pool in a tournament. It’s hard to know how many players will join, so some players prefer guaranteed tournaments. In a guaranteed tournament, the poker room adds money to the prize pool if there aren’t enough players. This makes it easier to win since there are fewer players to beat. Guaranteed tournaments are popular in online poker because they offer a chance to win big.

Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)

A Multi-Table Tournament (MTT) is a type of tournament played with two or more tables. The games are played until there is a winner, and tables can be merged to combine multiple players.

Freezeout Tournament

A Freezeout Tournament is a straight knockout game. Each player is given a set amount of chips, and games continue until only one player remains. There are no rebuys or add-ons. As soon as a player runs out of chips, they are out of the tournament.

Turbo Poker Tournaments

Turbo tournaments have a faster-paced blind structure than standard tournaments, and the levels increase at a quicker rate. For example, a standard tournament may have a blind increase at 10-minute intervals, while a turbo tournament may have increases between 3 and 5 minutes. These games are faster and more thrilling, especially for those who love action. Poker rooms offer various turbos, including hyper turbos, where blinds increase even faster.

Bounty Tournaments

In bounty tournaments, each player has a bounty on their head, which goes to the player who knocks them out. The bounty winnings do not make up the main prize pool. Players can win the prize pool regardless of whether they win the bounty money. For example, suppose each player has a $10 bounty, and you knock out ten players before being eliminated. In that case, you win $100 in bounty prizes, which is paid in addition to any prize money from the main part of the poker tournament. These tournaments are highly exciting, and players tend to act more aggressively as they try to eliminate their opponents.

Deep Stack Tournaments

In deep stack tournaments, the term “deep stack” refers to the number of chips and the blind structure. Standard tournaments usually start with around 100BB (Big Blinds) and 10-minute blinds, but deep stack tournaments can have a starting stack of over 500BB. Additionally, the blind structure is longer, which means the games take longer to finish. However, players can get more value for their money, and the larger stacks allow more creativity and more hands to play.

Shootout Tournament

In a shootout tournament, players compete at a single table, and the winners progress to the next round until there are only enough players left for a final table. The payouts vary, and some tournaments only pay the final table winners or the winner of each winning round, while others have a larger prize pool on the final table.

Freeroll Poker Tournament

A freeroll tournament is a multi-table tournament that costs nothing to enter. The winners get cash prizes or sometimes a ticket to a larger event. Freerolls are an excellent opportunity for new online players to get familiar with the game and the poker software. Most online poker sites have a series of freerolls that new players can enter as part of a welcome package. If you’re starting with a low bankroll, creating a larger bankroll with no financial risk is ideal.

Sit-and-Go Tournament

A sit-and-go tournament is technically a tournament but played on a single table instead of multiple tables. The number of players is fixed at the start, and then it works down to the winner in a knockout format. The number of players that get paid will depend on how many entrants there are. In a 9-max game, the top 3 get paid, and in a 6-max game, only the top 2 might get paid.

Satellite Tournaments

Satellite tournaments are a great way to play prestigious events, like the WSOP Online series, without paying the massive entry fees. Instead of prize money, satellite tournaments offer the chance to win seats at higher buy-in tournaments. The number of seats you can win depends on the buy-in and the number of players. For example, if you pay $10 entry for your satellite game, you could win a $200 ticket to a larger game. The number of seats offered in the larger game will rely on the number of players, and generally, one seat will be offered for every 20 players.

Why Play Online Poker Tournaments

Tournaments gained popularity rapidly after televised poker shows. Since then, they have become the most sought-after game format in online poker. The reason tournaments are a favorite concept in poker is easy to see. With a relatively small buy-in, players have the chance to earn a massive payday at the final table. Sometimes, it can even be a life-altering amount of money.

A few decades ago, the only option for playing poker tournaments was to drive to the nearest casino and stay there for the duration of the tourney. Fortunately, those days are long gone, thanks to modern technology, the internet, computers, and smartphones. With online tournaments, players can now enjoy the comfort of their homes while wearing their favorite clothes or even pajamas.

Picture yourself playing for several hours in a field of thousands of players. Finally, you make it to the big final table, which is the ultimate goal in poker. The thrill of receiving a big pocket pair when playing for a significant amount of money, the dynamics of the final table that include both big and short stacks, and the opportunity to make a big bluff to take on the chip lead; all these and many other elements make tournaments unique from any other game.

The possibilities for tournament formats and games are endless. Players can win up to $5 million weekly, with options like Bounty Hunters, High Rollers, Daily Guarantees, Omaholic, GGMasters, and more.

Finally, for many adults, taking care of daily responsibilities can result in a lack of fun and playful moments in their lives. Online poker tournaments can bring back the fun and excitement of experiencing thrilling situations, like playing during the bubble or making it to the final table.

Where to Play Poker Tournaments Online

If you want to play tournament poker, you must first find an online poker site to join. Our website offers a list of the best casino sites with live casino hold’em where you can find the one that best suits your preferences for online poker tournaments.

However, several factors affect the quality of online poker sites, just like any other online gambling site. Some online poker rooms are more suitable for SNG (sit-and-go) tournaments, while others offer a lot of satellites or the best guaranteed prizes.

To find the best online poker casinos for the type of tournament you want to play, consider the type of tournament you want to play and choose accordingly.

Additionally, there are other resources available to help you find what you’re looking for, including Poker Sites for Satellite Tournaments, Best Poker Sites for Guaranteed Tournaments, Online Poker Rooms for MTTs, and Top Freeroll Poker Sites.

Recommended Mobile Casinos

How to Select The Best Tournament Online Poker Site

If you’re interested in playing in poker tournaments, we’ve got you covered with a list of the top online poker casinos that we’ve thoroughly tested and reviewed.

However, if you plan to play online poker in the long run, you should learn how to choose the best poker tournaments. Here are things you should take into consideration before joining a tournament poker site:

  • Do they offer the types of tournament formats and game variants you’re interested in playing?
  • Does their tournament schedule match your availability? Will they have tournaments available when you’re free to join them?
  • Do they offer tournaments with stakes that suit you?
  • Is their software compatible with your device(s)?
  • Do they have the specific software features you’re looking for, such as HUD compatibility or anonymous poker games?
  • How popular is the poker site? The tournaments might not be worth your time if it doesn’t have enough traffic.
  • How often do they have overlays (guaranteed prizes that the site has to pay for)?
  • Do they have Sunday majors tournaments or other special events that interest you?
  • Do they offer freerolls, and if so, how do you qualify for them?
  • Do they process payouts for winners quickly and efficiently?
  • Are there any perks or special treatment for winning players, such as priority withdrawals?
  • What kind of poker bonuses and promotions do they offer?

We understand that this is a lengthy list of questions. If you’re new to online poker tournaments, you might not know what to look for in terms of traffic, promotions, and other features.

The more tournaments you play, the more you’ll learn about the different sites and what they offer. Eventually, you’ll become an expert at selecting the best sites to play poker tournaments for real money.

Biggest Live Poker Tournaments

There are opportunities for in-person participation in poker tournaments as well. Casinos and poker rooms host tournaments on a daily or weekly basis, and there are also major events and tournament series that can last for a month or longer.

These series can consist of anywhere from 50 to 200 different events, each with its winner. We will provide an overview of some of the most prestigious tournament series in the world, along with some of the most noteworthy events for each series.

World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker started in 1970 and is the most prestigious poker tournament, with over 100 events yearly. Texas Hold’Em is the focus of more than half of the events. Every winner gets a bracelet and a cash prize. WSOP is held in Las Vegas at the Rio every June and July, with the $10,300 buy-in Main Event being the most popular. Notable events include the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players’ Championship and the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop, which donates 11% to the One Drop Foundation.

European Poker Tour

The European Poker Tour started in 2004 with events worldwide, including the Bahamas. John Duthie founded it, and is now owned by PokerStars. The EPT aimed to attract more players with lower buy-ins, but it resulted in too many players for smaller European casinos. The Main Event buy-in was then raised to €8,000 in 2007. 2017, it was rebranded as PokerStars Championship, but the EPT relaunched in 2018.

Aussie Millions

The biggest poker tournament in the southern lands takes place every January at Melbourne’s Crown Casino and is known as Aussie Millions. It includes 15 events, such as the Main Event, High Roller Challenge, and Super High Roller. The Main Event starts with 8-handed players, switches to 6-handed tables when 36 players are left, and features 90-120 minute blind levels. The High Roller Challenge and Super High Roller are Texas Hold’Em events with buy-ins of $100,500 and $250,000, respectively.

Tips For Playing Online Poker Tournaments

If you want to win a poker tournament, it’s not enough to just know how to join one. Although we’ll provide some tips to help get you started, becoming an expert requires extensive practice and study. One way to do this is by studying different types of poker games, such as Hold’Em and Omaha, and understanding the differences between no-limit and pot-limit formats.

The more you understand poker and its nuances, the better you’ll play, ultimately increasing your chances of winning your next online poker tournament. So, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you play better and teach you how to win at online poker:

Tip 1

When playing poker, it’s a good idea to steal the pot before the flop by raising your bet. This works best when you’re in a late position and can intimidate passive players into folding.

Tip 2

It’s better to call when other players raise to defend your big blinds, even if your hand is weak.

Tip 3

It’s essential to modify your strategy based on the number of big blinds you have. You can play more aggressively if you have a deeper stack, but if you have a short stack, you should play less aggressively.

Tip 4

Always plan your moves ahead of future streets and know your plan before your turn to bet comes around.

Tip 5

It’s also essential to modify your strategy based on the number of players in the game. Short-handed tables require different tactics than full-ring poker, and heads-up games differ entirely. If you make it to the end of the tournament, you’ll need to be prepared for a heads-up battle with the other player to win.


What is a poker tournament?

In poker tournaments, players compete to win chips and avoid elimination. The top players are rewarded with a percentage of the prize pool, which is financed by the entry fees.

What is a starting stack in a poker tournament?

The starting stack is the amount of chips each player receives at the beginning of the tournament. Each player may receive an equal number of chips depending on the rules. Some games also allow players to purchase additional chips through re-buys and add-ons.

How do blinds work in poker tournaments?

Blinds are mandatory bets that increase over time. The small blind is half the big blind and is placed by the player to the dealer’s left.

How do poker tournament payouts work?

Payouts are calculated as a percentage of the prize pool and are paid out incrementally to the top players. As the number of players increases, payouts are often bracketed to include multiple players within the same payout.

What is the bubble in a poker tournament?

The bubble is the last remaining player before the money starts. Once the bubble “bursts,” players are in the money and have made a return on their initial buy-in.

Ahmad Al-Azizi

Greetings, fellow casino enthusiasts! I'm Ahmad Alazizy, a seasoned casino expert deeply passionate about all things related to the thrilling world of gambling. From the time I first stepped into a casino, I knew that my journey would involve delving into the intricacies of games, strategies, and the vibrant casino atmosphere. My mission is to share with you the most effective tips and insights, ranging from understanding the intricacies of various casino games to making informed and successful bets.