Poker Tournament Basics – Beginners Guide!

As a complement to my Beginners guides to poker (hold em), I’ve put together a Poker Tournament guide. Wrote it a while ago as a draft, and now it’s finished! Here it is.

The busiest online poker rooms have fifteen times the number of people you can find in a real-life poker establishment. Due to the sheer quantity of players, you can continuously find thriving tournament scenery, regardless of the time. Your choices start from head’s-up tourneys, where you deal with a single opponent (your entry fee versus his), all the way to immense multi-table tournaments where you’ll be able to win armored cars laden to the gun holes with hard cash.

Technically you won’t see any tournament forms online that you can’t encounter in the real-life poker world. However, the truth that they inhabit the online realm does allow them to mutate slightly.

Any given poker website has tournaments on demand that start in size from ‘two players’ head’s up to some short-handed games (5 or 6 players, depend entirely on the site) to full single-table tournaments. You also come across scheduled tourneys that you can pre-register for and start at a certain time and day. Pre-registration tourneys are always big multi-table affairs. To find any of those tournaments, simply click on the tourney tab of your site’s main screen. In many cases, you buy in (in free-rolls you need to register, without a fee) for a specific entry fee amount, plus a little registration fee that is paid to the house (for example $15 entry fee and $2 registration fee). And in exchange for the fee, the site provides a pre-determined amount of tournament chips (about 1,500) and an open seat in the tourney.

The tournament lobby (where you can register for the tourney) has a great deal of information, including:

  • The time when the tournament begins.
  • The elapsed time (if the tournament has started or already over).
  • The prize pool and the distribution.
  • The names of players playing in the tournament (and the number of players who are currently participating).
  • Your chip rank compared to other players in the tournament.
  • Rules on add-ons and re-buys.
  • The standings of opponents as they fall.

Some poker sites also have a unique wrinkle in their Hold ’Em and Omaha tournaments.

When blinds get quite large (say 300/600), they will add an ante, which is generally ten percent of the small blind (twenty-five percent in some cases), that everyone adds to the pot on each hand. The ante grows as the blinds rise. Sites add up the ante to urge betting actions later in a tourney, partially by raising the pre-flop pot amount and partially by adding extra pressure to the short stack.