By learning the advanced poker tournament strategy and tactics provided here, in our free 12-week course, and especially in the coaching videos entitled Essential Poker Knowledge: The Art of Poker, you’ll be among the theoretical elite at the Texas Holdem poker tables. Practice and experience in online and live poker tournaments will take your game to the next level, and all the optimal game theory will become second-nature for you. Let’s get into it!
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Types of Poker TournamentsPoker tournaments come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find numerous formats with all kinds of quirky “house-rules,” blind phases, stack sizes, and payout structures for all the poker variants covered in the poker-strategy articles for cash-game play: Texas Hold ’em, 7-Card Stud, Omaha and 5-Card Draw & Stud. However, tournaments can be generally summarized as follows:
Betting Structure: no-limit, pot-limit, and fixed limit
Table size and number (i.e., single- or multiple tables)
- Full ring (7+ players per table)
- 6-Max (3-6 players per table)
- Heads-up (“HU” — only two players per table)
- “Freeze-outs” (no re-buy or add-ons allowed)
- Single and multiple re-buys
- Unlimited re-buys with one add-on (so-called “R&A Tournaments”)
- Fast “turbo-tournaments”: ~3-6 minutes per blind level
- “Normal”: 10 minutes per blind level
- Slow: 15 minutes or more per blind level
- Deep-stacked: approximately 150-500+ big-blinds in your starting stack (generally 5,000 in chips, but this is very relative). For example, an initial blinds phase of 5/10 with 5,000 chips gives you 500 big-blinds, as would 50/100 blinds with 50,000 in your stack. The starting stack at the WSOP Main Event is 30,000 in chips (purchased for US$10,000 = $33.333 initial monetary value per $100-chip … i.e., $0.333 monetary value for every $1 in chips); Level 1 blinds are 50/100, 300 big blinds per buy-in. The blinds phases are usually also a bit longer in deep-stacked tournaments at 15-30 minutes (or more) per level; the blinds at the WSOP Main Event only go up every 2 hours!
- Big-stacked: approximately 100 to 150 big-blinds in your starting stack consisting of either 1,500 or 2,000 in chips (5/10 or 10/20 initial blinds)
- Short-stacked: anywhere from a “super-turbo,” where you start with 300 in chips, up to 1,000 in chips — generally 10 to 50 big-blinds total with super short blind phases (3-6 minutes)
The percentage of the “field”—total players registered in the tournament—that is “in the money” (ITM) and how much each respective place of the entire prize pool receives varies greatly depending on the tournament format:
- Sit-and-go tournaments (SnG or S&G) do not have a fixed starting time and begin once the minimum number of players have registered. Note: SnGs can be played as “single-table” or “multi-table” tournaments:
- Heads-up SnG payout: winner take all
- Full-ring SnG payout: 50% for 1st, 30% for 2nd and 20% for 3rd
- 6-max SnG payout: 65% for 1st, 35% for 2nd
- Double or nothing (DoN) payout: 20% to all players remaining after half of the 10-player field has been eliminated
- Multi-table tournaments (MTT) have payouts that vary greatly depending on the card room and the total number of entrants, but in general you’ll find that most providers pay out 10% to 20% of the entire field (generally around 11%-15% of the entire field on average). However, an “ITM finish” in a large MTT is usually only 2-3 times your buy-in … the real money is always on the final table, and more specifically reserved for the final three places.
Again, if you’d like advanced tactics and training for how to place deep in the above specific types of tournaments, you can get FREE access here.
Miscellaneous other formats
- “Shootouts”: an MTT where only the winner of each respective table (or the top 2-3 places) moves to the next round
- “Satellites”: tournaments where ITM finish means that you qualify for a ticket or seat into another tournament
- “Steps”: a very clever concept where you can buy-in at a lower level (generally at a SnG table), and if you finish in the top 1-5 places, you’re rewarded a ticket into the next step tournament. At one point, you can exchange this step-ticket for an entry into a very large buy-in tournament .
- “Guaranteed payouts”: the card room promises to pay out a minimum prize-pool, irrespective of the number of entrants
- “Bounty”: tournaments where you receive “bounty money” from every player you eliminate
… and the list goes on. Just be sure that you are clear on what type of tournament you’re getting yourself into and that you know the optimal strategies pertaining to that format, stakes and respective pool of players. Optimal tactics and strategies can vary greatly for every single type of tournament, and on the following pages and especially in the blogs and coaching videos (in connection with the books and additional online resources provided for you below), I share the “know-how” that will turn you into the dominant force at the majority of home games as well as low- and middle-stakes games both online and live.
See this link for a general overview of tournament play and rules
Note: “House rake”—the amount of money charged by the provider as a tournament-entry fee—is usually 10% of the buy-in, and varies greatly in brick-and-mortar games. For example, a general $50 buy-in for a freeze-out online tournament (without a minimum guaranteed prize pool) will usually be listed as “$50, +$5,” which means that the total prize pool will be $50 multiplied by the total entrants and that the card room will take an additional $5 from your account for providing their services.
Increase Your Win-Rate in Poker Tournaments
Advanced Poker Tournament Strategy Resources
If you’re looking to become a tournament expert in the shortest amount of time, we recommend the following two downloadable products so that you’ll know which hands to play per position and phase of the tournament and how to calculate your odds:
Your chip expected value (cEV) can differ greatly from the monetary expected value ($EV) in tournaments, especially as you approach the bubble or large pay increases. Once you reach the final table and someone proposes a deal, the difference in your payout when using a chip-proportional vs. independent chip modeling can be huge. Independent chip modeling is considered the “fairest” way to determine the relationship between your chips and their actual $€£ value. Click the button below to know which deal is in your favor.
Free Online Poker Resources and Equity Analysis Programs
Equity match-ups for hands and ranges as well as probability calculators:
Pro Poker Tools (free equity analyses for multiple game types)
Poker Stove: Free Texas Hold’em Equity Software and Analysis
Tournament Equity, Optimal Push/Fold “Nash” Ranges and Players’ Online Results
Brilliant ICM calculator for open pushing/shoving ranges, re-stealing and calling all-in based on “chip expected value” (cEV) and the the independent chip-modelling system (ICM) … a must-have in lack of SnG Wizard:
- 2+2 Forum Link for the “PushBot” Excel Workbook from JITxpert
- Direct Download Link (“PushBot”) at Mediafire
- Direct Download Link (“PushBot Instruction Manual”) at Mediafire
Game Theory Overview
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Pro Poker Tracking and Equity Software for Texas Holdem and Omaha: Tournaments (MTTs & SnGs) and Cash Games
We recommend Holdem Manager’s best-value product HM2 Pro Combo for both Texas Holdem and Omaha. If you’re strictly an Omaha player, get the separate Omaha Manager program here (just click “OM2” in their top menu).
We use the Sit-and-Go Wizard (a must-have for all serious SnG players and very useful for MTT pros) that’s directly integrated into the Holdem Manager program. If you’re strictly a SnG or MTT player, you can also purchase it separately by clicking the banner below.