Beginner’s Guide for Playing Texas Hold’em Tournaments
Tournaments are poker contests where a group of participants are playing for a share of the prize pool. With Texas Hold’em being the most commonly played poker game, it goes without saying that Texas Hold’em tournaments are by far the most popular format you can play both online and offline.
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Every participant in a Texas Hold’em tournament must pay a fixed buy-in to enter before the tourney starts. All competitors receive the same amount of playing chips. The number of initial starting chips may vary according to the tournament. If it’s a deep stacked tournament, you will begin with more chips. Everyone in the field continues playing until one player wins all of the chips. Participating in a Texas Hold’em tournament with a large field, you could win a significant amount of money, as each player you outlast in the tourney is contributing to the prize pool.
The rules of the game for tournament players are the same as in the regular game of Texas Hold’em. Texas Hold’em tournaments are played on multiple tables at the same time, unless a very small numbers of players want to participate in the tournament, in which case it will just be played in a single table/SNG format.
When there are a lot of participants (no matter if online or in a land-based casino), players are moved to other tables to keep numbers balanced, as well as to make the play more enjoyable. When there are enough free seats at a table, the remaining players are moved to another table, until only one table full of players remains. This is also known as the final table and one of the players at this table will become the winner and collect the first place prize money up for grabs.
Generally speaking, the top 10% of the field makes it in the money. So if you’re playing in a No Limit Hold’em tournament with 600 participants, for example, 60 players will cash. If you just make it in the money you can expect to win around double your buy-in, but the winnings will go up considerably once you reach the final table and ladder up!
In some of the big online poker sites, you can play online satellite tournaments, which you can find in the Tournaments lobby, to win entry into some of the biggest poker competitions, such as the World Series of Poker. So, even if you can’t front the $10,000 required for the Main Event, there are cheaper options to still be able to compete for the really big money.
Poker Tournament Strategy
As far as strategy is concerned, tournaments are a bit different to playing cash games (also called ring games). Tournaments require players to be aggressive, especially as the blinds increase; otherwise you’ll get blinded down pretty quickly. While playing Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, always look to play the situation and try not to let your ego negatively impact your game.
Knowing your opponents in a tournament will make a huge difference. Every player is like an open book, you should study each opponent's tendencies during the tourney. It makes sense to play conservative early on until you know your opponents better to be able to exploit them. You must observe the frequency with which players see the flop, defend their blinds, call and fold to continuation bets, and so on. Every successful tournament player knows the importance of analyzing each opponent and his/her online poker habits. The players who want to be successful in Texas Hold’em must have not only good mathematical skills. They must be very observant and must have good reading skills.
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