Beginners Guide to Tournament Selection

Lesson #1: Beginner’s Guide To Tournament Poker Selection (Part 1)

Ever wonder why tournament poker is so hyped up, and why it gets more airtime over cash games? MTT’s are, without a doubt, the most exciting form of poker. They provide the only opportunity to turn a minuscule investment into a small fortune, fast.

What Is A Poker Tournament? 

  • A Game With Multiple Competitors

The field size in tournaments is much greater than in cash games and ranges from small scale to large scale (1000+).

  • Fixed Buy-In/Entry Fee
    Players exchanges a buy-in in tournaments, for a set amount of chips. Unlike in cash games, each tournament chip doesn’t reflect the dollar value on that chip. Typically players will get anywhere from 3x-60x the tournament chips per dollar invested in play.
  • Steadily Increasing Blind Structure
    Tournament poker has increasing blinds, and typically, ante’s as well – to drive action by steadily increasing the stakes. Players who choose to wait around for the nuts will be blinded off.
  • Payout Based On Finishing Position
    Your finishing position or bust out order, matters. The payout structure is an important consideration when strategizing. A very steep or top-heavy payout structure encourages risk-taking, while an even one encourages conservative gameplay. Remember, in tournaments it’s not about how many chips you have, it’s about where you finish relative to everyone else that matters.
  • Played Until One Person Has ALL The Chips
    The tournament concludes once a player has all the chips and the prizes are given out to players, based on how long they lasted. The exception is with satellite tournaments. Once a player has all the chips, play stops and all the players receive the same prize money.
  • Once Your Chips Are Gone, Time To Move On
    Your game ends when you’re out of chips. If you aren’t satisfied with your results, examine your mistakes and learn from them.

Reasons Why Tournaments Are So Great

  • Level Playing Field
    Multi-table tournaments offer a level playing field. Once the buy-in is paid, everyone receives the same amount of chips and thus, has an equal opportunity to win.
  • Pure Playing Environment
    Random seating draws create a pure playing environment. Sharks can’t jostle for weaker players, and thus, players are forced to adjust to their playing situation.
  • All-In Actually Means All-In
    It’s relatively easy to put a player into an all-in position. The wrong call means game over. There are no reloads or second chances, so every decision is magnified. The exception being special formats, such as free buys or re-entries, but they shouldn’t be your first choice as they favor players with sizable bankrolls.
  • The Power Of Luck
    Luck can take players far because of the shortstack nature of the game, and many crucial pots come down to coolers and coin flips. This means weaker players will make it through to the end.
  • Simplicity Creates Success
    Having strong fundamentals can get you consistent results. Understanding how to steal effectively and win small pots will give you a shot at winning, because as the stakes increase the significance of those small pots also increases. Thus, each steal brings you closer to the top prize. 
  • The Adrenaline Rush
    You get an adrenaline rush from building your chip stack, making a deep run, and riding the tournament waves. It’s one of the most profound feelings you can experience in poker, which is why every player owes it to themselves to have at least one deep tournament run in their lifetime.
  • The Ultimate Triumph
    Winning a tournament is one of the greatest triumphs in poker, even if it’s only a 10 person sit’n’go. It’s empowering to be the last man standing. The closest feeling for cash game players is breaking the game and being the only person left at the table with chips.
  • Being Pushed To The Limit
    Success in tournaments requires long sessions that’ll push you to your limits and show you what you’re capable of. While it’s not something you want to do every day, occasionally visiting your edge will show you how you react under pressure. Getting comfortable with stressful situations will give you an edge over inexperienced players.
  • The Excitement Of Being All-In
    It’s exhilarating to be all-in. Given the nature of tournaments, you’ll play more all-in pots than in cash games.
  • Most Players Aren’t Prepared For The End Game
    New or casual players aren’t prepared for shorthanded play – which happens late in a tournament. Thus, you’ll be playing more high stakes hands against weaker players than in cash games. And, if you’re lucky enough to make it to shorthanded play, most of your competition will be in over their heads. Factor in high levels of fatigue, anxiety and nerves, and your competition is more prone to making major mistakes. Something you can capitalize on, as opponent mistakes are where the money is made in poker.

Tournament Poker

There is a reason tournament poker is so popular, it’s suitable for everyone, it’s thrilling and it’s easy to turn a small buy-in into a massive payout. All that’s left is to figure out which tournament plays to your edge. Check out Part 2 that addresses how to find your tournament sweet spot!

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