Online poker tournaments offer an unprecedented reward for your investment in the poker world. It’s more than possible to pay just a few bucks for a tournament buy in these days and walk away with thousands of dollars and even more.
If you really want to look at the extreme possibilities, just take a look at the now world-famous Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker qualified for the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event on an online poker site for just $40 and as we all know ended up winning $2.5 million when he beat the legendary Sammy Farha heads-up for the World Series title.
After Moneymaker’s big victory, the game of poker has never been the same. It's gone through its most dramatic expansion in history, and online poker tournaments are a huge part of the reason. Massive TV exposure certainly hasn't hurt, either, but poker tournaments online provide unprecedented access to action previously only found in a few casinos around the world.
Today there are thousands of tournaments running daily on the best online poker sites around the world, ranging in size from just two players to well over 50,000 players.
Online poker tournaments are also still fundamentally the best risk/reward scenario possible for rookie poker players. Cash games are great for the long-term grinder, but risking a small amount to win a potentially huge reward when you're starting out is pretty tough to beat.
It helps beginners manage their poker bankrolls easily (you know exactly what you stand to lose each time you play a tournament) and build their skills in a variety of poker situations at very low risk.
There are more tournament options on one online poker site alone than in every casino in the world. Simply put, any tournament you could possibly want to play is available online.
You can buy in for as little as 10 cents or as much as $25,000 if you desire, and formats include the standard freezeout as well as shootout, bounty, turbo and even more obscure variations designed entirely for the online poker environment.
You can also choose between a huge selection of stakes and a diverse selection of poker games including No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, Seven-Card Stud and more.
The most basic, and arguably the most popular, tournament format is the Sit & Go. Sit-and-Go's are tournaments with a predetermined number of players that begin as soon as all the players have been seated. Single-table Sit & Gos are especially popular, but they can come in multi-table formats.
Single Table Tournaments (Sit & Go's)
When online poker exploded, so did a tournament format that required only one table to get the action started. Although occasionally offered in casinos now, usually as satellites to bigger tournaments, Single Table Tournaments found an entirely new customer base online.
Because there were so many players online, Sit & Go's could literally start every minute and many online players preferred the relatively short period of time that it took to find and play these freezeout-style (meaning last one standing with all the chips wins) events.
These days Sit & Gos are so popular that they’ve been expanded to include 45-, 90- and 180-person formats.
These tournaments are obviously faster than standard multi-table tournaments because there is no scheduled start time and they begin as soon as there are enough players.
Some of the most famous online poker sites for their sit-and-go variety and action are 888 Poker and William Hill Poker.
"Multi-table tournaments," or as they are most commonly called "MTTs", naturally involves more players than sit-and-go's - sometimes even tnto the tens of thousands for the very largest on big poker sites like PokerStars.
Multi-table tournaments start at a scheduled point in time and have set time periods, or levels, where the blinds go up. As mentioned above, multi-table sit & gos are a compromise between the two types, starting as soon as all players are in place but accepting from 18 up to 180 players.
Most online tournaments are played as "freezeouts," which means that you're out for good when you're out of chips. However, in "rebuy” tournaments players may buy more chips during the initial stages of play - for example the first hour. After the initial rebuy period, the tournament goes on like a regular freezeout.
As we said, this is the real draw of tournament poker. No matter what kind of tournament you choose to play in, you'll always enjoy the advantage of huge leverage. The most you can lose is the original buy-in, and with a bit of luck you may win very much more than that.
You may have to play a lot of tournaments before you manage to rake in a big win, but the rake you pay averaged per poker hand is extremely low in online tournament poker.
Unless the tournament is winner take all, the top 10 per cent of players also usually receive some kind of prize, with the winner receiving the largest share and each player after receiving successively less.
Like the low-risk aspect of tournaments? Most online poker sites do one better by offering free poker tournaments, or “freerolls” as they are commonly known. These events play out exactly like normal tournaments, except the online poker site pays for the prize pool out of its pocket and there is no buy-in.
While it may seem too good to be true to see a poker site giving away free money, remember the goal for each site is to attract new sign-ups and give new players a chance to experience playing for actual money without risking anything.
These free tournaments are a great way from them to do that at minimal cost. It's similarly a good way for a beginner poker player to start a bankroll just for poker.
Both sides win in this scenario. Although the tournaments are usually not taken very seriously, and play is erratic, there is some real cash on the line and it’s possible to take advantage of very weak players.
Online poker sites also generally provide freerolls as bonuses for players who play a certain amount of hands or tournaments every month. You can always find a free poker tournament online and it’s not a bad way to get some experience without risking anything. You would typically never find a freeroll in a brick-and-mortar casino.
One of the best features of online poker tournaments is that generally, if you’re a good player, you’ll likely make money.
You can play more tournaments overall because they’re much faster than a live casino, and you'll earn more money because rake is smaller and the payouts are usually flatter (meaning spread to more players overall) online.
You’ll also be able to keep track of your performance while playing online as most poker sites give you hand histories that will help you figure out your own weaknesses.
Generally all online poker sites also offer VIP programs for players who play a lot of tournaments and it’s possible to qualify for some potentially fantastic rewards including cash, live tournament tickets and merchandise if you put in enough hands.
Perhaps the best part of poker tournaments online, though, is the instant access. Once you've signed up and registered an account at an online poker site (or several online poker sites), you can be playing a poker tournament online in as little as five minutes or less.
Another big advantage of online poker tournaments is that you can play them from your own home. It’s also worth noting that online poker tournaments generally play out faster than live tournaments and you can keep constant track of your standing in the tournament.
In a live tournament it's nearly impossible for tournament officials to provide a running total of who has how many chips and how many players remain at all stages of play. Online all of this information is easily accessible with the click of a mouse and you can factor this information into your decision making during the game.
All day everyday, you’re only a few clicks away from an online poker tournament of all kinds. No matter what your game preference - Sit-and-Gos, multi-table tournaments, short-handed tourneys or heads-up battles - there are always games to choose from at the top online poker sites.
In the toplist to the left our Poker Junkie editors rate the best poker-tournament sites available and guide you to the best freerolls, largest guaranteed prize pools and easiest-to-beat opponents. Below the toplist find all the info you need to get started playing online tournaments.