Choosing the Right Tournament

John Mehaffey - January 18, 2013

Online poker players have a variety of poker games to play. There are one table sit and gos, multi table sit and gos, scheduled multi table tournaments and a variety of structures to choose.

There are many things to consider when deciding which tournament to play. The major consideration is what your bankroll can cover. If you are playing one table sit and gos then you will need about 40 buyins to play a level. This means that you will need a bankroll of at least $200 to safely play $5 sit and gos. Multi table sit and gos will need about 70 buyins to safely play the limit. A $5 buyin player would need about $350. Multi table tournament players should have a 100 buyin bankroll so a $5 player would need a $500 bankroll.

Variance and Risk Tolerance

As you noticed the need for a bankroll increases when there are more tables in a tournament. The reason for this is that the variance goes up as the number of players increase. The bigger bankroll accounts for the longer times between cashes in bigger tournaments.

The risk tolerance for online poker players varies greatly from one player to another. Those that are risk averse should consider playing sit and gos as opposed to large multi table tournaments. The amount of games between wins will be much shorter. This will help risk averse players stay closer to even and avoid big swings. Players with some gamble in them will enjoy multi table tournaments. There will be long droughts between wins but when the wins come they have the potential of being large.

Length of Tournament Should be Considered

Time can also be a factor for tournaments. Large multi table tournaments may take 12 or more hours. Smaller multi table tournaments will still take several hours if you go deep in them. A sit and go will often be over in an hour or less. It is important to know how much time that you have to play. If you have somewhere to be in a couple of hours then you should not enter a multi table tournament. It can be a tilting experience to build a nice chip stack up only to have to leave to go to work before you cash.

Sit and go players will have several unique options that multi table players do not have. There are sit and gos that only last one hand where the winner takes all. There are also tournaments that pay half the field known as Double Up. There are also many different types of speeds and stack sizes. There are hyper turbos and super turbos where the blinds go up fast and the stack sizes start out small. There are also normal stack and level structures. The faster the blinds are the higher the variance. Less skill is needed to play the faster tournaments and a lot more aggression is needed. Luck is a much bigger faster in turbo structured tournaments.

Tournament Rake

Tournament rake, also known as juice, should also be considered when playing tournaments. It may be tempting to enter a tournament that has a buyin under $1 but the juice can often be prohibitive. Some of these tournaments can have a juice of 20% or more. This can be a disadvantage that is nearly impossible to overcome. Paying an extra dime in rake may seem like nothing but if you are playing several of these a day it can add up. Playing 10 cents too much in rake four times a day will cost a player about $150 more a year. Sometimes it is better to play a little out of your bankroll if it means the percentage of rake is lower.


Satellites are another form of tournament available at all online poker rooms. Satellites are a low buyin tournament that offers tournament tickets to a large tournament to be held later. These are often seats to weekly guaranteed tournaments to be held on Sunday. Players need to make sure that they are available to play in the higher step tournaments before entering a satellite. Some satellites will award a tournament ticket that can be used for many events and may be held for months before using while others are satellites are for a specific event that is only held once and must be played then.

If you cannot play in the event that you win a ticket for it may be lost. If you know in advance that you will miss the main event then some poker rooms will award you a ticket to a different event. If you win a satellite for an event that you have already entered the poker room will substitute the ticket for another event or pay cash.

Some tournaments are freerolls or have a point entry. Free bankroll players are especially interested in these. Some freerolls will be open to all players, some will require a deposit to play, others will have a raked hand requirement to enter and some will require points to enter. Most freerolls award tournament tickets but some will give straight cash that may be used at the tables immediately.

Trial and Error Will Find You the Perfect Tournament

Each player should decide what tournament is right for them. It will take some trial and error to find the perfect fit but once you find it then online poker tournaments will be extremely fun and hopefully profitable. The ability to understand and withstand variance is key to maneuvering tournament fields. Combine this with patience and you will have a winning combination.