How to Find the Best Online Poker Tournaments (2020)

How to Find the Best Online Poker Tournaments For You
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Lars Kyhnau Hansen.

Because of virus related lock downs all over the world at least twice as many people are currently playing online poker.

In fact BlackRain79 already wrote a huge guide just last week on how to deal with the ultra soft Covid-19 online poker games right now.

Anyways, this means that online poker tournaments are more popular than ever before. But how do you find the perfect online poker tournament?

This is your ultimate guide to the best poker tournaments for 2020.


Bankroll management for tournaments - The 1% rule


As with cash games you need to use bankroll management for tournaments, if you are going to play them regularly. You can read the BlackRain79 guide to bankroll management for cash games right here.

For tournaments a simple system, which will work for most people, is to never use more than 1% of your bankroll on a single tournament.

Unlike with cash games however it is often not very practical to only play one stake. If for example you have a bankroll of 500$, rather than waiting two hours for the next 5$ tournament to start, you are better off jumping into one for 2-4$, which is running already or soon to begin.

In that way you can put in more volume and you also further increase your buffer by making the average price of each tournament less than 1% of your bankroll.

The precise bankroll requirement for tournaments depends on the field size. For small tournaments with 50 or less players you can go somewhat above 1%. If on the other hand you only play tournaments with very large fields of 1.000 or more players, you will need a larger bankroll.

Most people however mix it up, and then the 1% rule will work well. Especially if you remember to move down, if you run bad. A single “shot” now and then it also fine with tournaments. 


Should you play small or large tournaments?


Some online tournaments can have a field of 10,000 or even more players, which you can figure out by comparing the guaranteed prize pool to the tournament fee.

If the poker site promises to pay out at least 75,000 dollars in a 5$ tournament, you should expect, that at least 15,000 people will be playing this tournament.

Such a large field allows for some very big prizes to be paid out to the winner and other final table contestants. If 10% of the prize money goes to the winner, he will take home at least 7500$ or 1500 times his tournament fee.

This "homerun" potential is a huge attraction for many players, but you need to understand, that you must be incredibly lucky to win a tournament this large.

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And when you do not win it, or even reach the final table, you will be paying for those lucky people, who do. Which is fine, if you are playing for fun and willing to consider the tournament fee as money spent.

But if you are looking to build a bankroll, you should mainly play either cash games or smaller tournaments. For me something like 70 to 500 players is ideal. Another problem with very large tournaments is, that they take a long time to complete.

Most players will of course bust far earlier than the end, but there is no point in buying into a tournament, which is going to last 10 hours, if you don’t have time to complete it. Or even if you will not be able to play well, when you have reached the final table.

Especially for new players I strongly recommend playing smaller tournaments. You would probably also not sign up for a marathon, if you are completely new to running.

This can be a bit of a challenge these days, since so many people play online. But you can play on smaller poker sites or play outside the rush hour. Or you can play Sit and Go tournaments.

By the way, you can find BlackRain79's ultimate guide to small stakes poker tournament strategy right here.


What about Sit and Go tournaments?


A Sit and Go or SnG is a poker tournament, which begins, when a certain number of people have registered, rather than on a set time.

SnGs come in many different sizes from 2 and all the way up to 960 players. The most common and traditional SnGs however are those with 6 or 9 players. They are also sometimes called Single Table Tournaments or STTs. As opposed to the more common Multi Table Tournaments or MTTs.

STTs or slightly larger SnGs with 18, 27, 45 or 90 players are the best place for new poker players to start practicing with tournaments.

The reason why is, you will reach the final table on a regular basis, which in many ways is where the real game begins. In an STT you are actually on the final table from the first hand.

SnGs are also ideal, when you don’t have time for larger tournaments. Maybe you finished dinner and want to play for a few hours before going to sleep.

That is easily possible with SnGs, whereas it's pointless to buy into a large tournament, which will last until 5am in the morning.


What's the deal with turbo tournaments?


Another possible solution, if you are short on time, is to play tournaments with a faster structure.  Traditional online tournaments have blinds that go up every 8-12 minutes. Faster tournaments are usually called turbos or even hyper turbos.

A fast tournament structure is great, if you are short on time, because it makes the tournament complete faster. This however also means, you get less time to outplay your opponents, so your winrate will be lower.

A fast tournament structure also reduces the average stack size as the tournament progresses. This is because, when players see less hands per blind level, they get less chances to get involved and bust or increase their stack.

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Short stacks leave less room for postflop play, and for this reason I recommend beginners to avoid turbo tournaments, or at least those that have an overly fast structure.

The reason why is, you learn less, when the game is mostly reduced to either fold or push all-in before the flop. You are also forced to get involved more often, and for beginners it is better to play a tight and aggressive (TAG) style of poker.

For more seasoned players turbo tournaments can be a good way to put in more volume and/or be able to play larger field tournaments, even when time is somewhat short.

Turbos are also getting more and more popular, so avoiding them completely is difficult for a hardcore tournament grinder.


Should you play Spin and Go tournaments? 


Spin and Go tournaments or "Spins" are shorthanded SnGs with typically just 3-4 players, where the size of the prize pool is determined at the start of the tournament by a lottery style spin.

This adds an element of excitement, because there is a small chance to hit a very large prize pool for a small fee. Spins usually play in a very fast format starting with only 25BB and with blinds going up every 2-3 minutes.

In my opinion Spins are mostly good for entertainment. The fast structure leaves little time for true skill edges to show through, and the short stacks does little to develop your poker skills.

On top of that the lottery style prize pools add extra variance, which is great, if you are playing for fun. It is however not great, if you are looking to steadily build a bankroll.

If I am to find anything positive to say about spins, it would be that they are a way to practice your heads-up and 3-handed game.

Which is an important part of poker tournament strategy, because there are always big differences in the payout between the final three.

Normal STTs (which I already discussed above) can give you this practice also though.


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Double or nothing tournaments - Yay or Nay?


A double or nothing or "DON" tournament is a special variety of STTs, where typically 8 or 10 people start, and then half the field gets paid.

There is also a variety called fifty-50, where half the prize money is distributed based on stacks, when the tournament ends.

Because you are essentially just looking to cash, especially in the pure DON format, ICM poker strategy plays a much larger role than in normal tournaments.

For new poker players I think it is better to start with regular tournaments and avoid formats like DONs of fifty-50 that require big adjustments.

If you are very short on time, they are a better solution than spins though.


Should you play Knockout tournaments and Bounty builders? 


In knockout tournaments part of the prize pool is rewarded to players, who eliminate other players. Sometimes this can include famous poker pros like Daniel Negreanu.

In the original format there is a fixed bounty per player, which can be for instance a quarter or half the prize pool.

This means, that the bounty is rather important early on, but in the late stage of a large tournament it becomes insignificant compared to the prize money.

The answer to that is bounty builders, where only part of the bounty is paid out to the player, who eliminate another player.

The rest goes on the winning players own bounty. At the end of the tournament players can then have a very large bounty attached to them, and the size changes from player to player.

Bounties add an extra element of excitement to tournaments, which is good, if regular tournaments have started to become a little boring.

For winning players anything that can get people playing poker for fun, must also be considered good, since it gives more opportunities for profit.

For these reasons I like bounty tournaments and play them frequently. Bounties also add complexity, which is good for players who adjust well.

But if you are new to poker tournaments, or if you play a very large number of tables at the same time, you are better off sticking to regular tournaments to keep your decisions simple.


Rebuy + Add-on tournaments


In a rebuy + add-on or R+A tournament you are typically allowed to make unlimited rebuys and often even double rebuys, which makes this phase of the tournament feel more like a cash game.

More important however is the add-on, because it allows you to purchase additional chips for a lower price than the original chips. On 888 Poker for instance a starting stack in a R+A tournament is 3000 chips, but an add-on is 6000 chips.

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The downside of a R+A tournament is that it might lure you into playing way above your bankroll. If you have a 200$ bankroll, you are good to go for a 2$ tournament, because you have at least 100 times the tournament fee.

But if it is a R+A, you are going to be spending an add-on and sometimes a rebuy in top of the original tournament fee. It really is more like a 5$ tournament, which means, your bankroll for a 2$ R+A should be 500$ and not just 200$.

I recommend new players to avoid R+A tournaments to keep things simple. For experienced players with enough bankroll however, I think, they are great.

And another great thing is that you don't really even need to know a lot of advanced poker strategy in order to beat them.

The field in a 2$ R+A is much softer than in a 5$ normal tournament with similar payouts. On top of that, some R+As only make you pay rake on the initial tournament fee, while rebuys and add-ons are rake-free.

Not a bad deal!


What's better: Early or late registration?


Nearly all online tournaments offer late registration, sometimes for an extended time period like 2-3 hours or more.

This means, that when you open the tournament lobby, you can choose between jumping in a tournament, which is already running, or registering for one which is yet to begin.

For new players I recommend registering to tournaments, which are yet to begin, or have just recently started.

You are paying a fixed fee to participate in the tournament, and why not get as much fun and practice for that money as possible?

If you have a significant skill edge over the field, being there on time also gives you more opportunities to use that advantage.

On top of that many tournament players are incredibly bad at deep stacked play. So especially if you come from a cash game background, you want to be there on time and take advantage of this.

The flip side of that coin is, that if you are unfamiliar with deep stacked play, you can protect yourself by registering late, when the blinds have already gone up.

For me that is not the ideal solution though. I recommend starting with cash games and only begin to play tournaments, once you have learned the fundamentals of poker including deep stacked play.

Then you are ready to crush the fish in the best online poker tournaments. If you are new to cash games by the way, I recommend studying BlackRain79's ultimate guide to NL2 (1c/2c) cash games.

There are some advantages to late registration though. You can play more tournaments, and the ICM-value of your chips is larger, because some players have already busted.

For hardcore tournament grinders, some amount of late registration can be a reasonable part of an overall solid strategy.

In knockout tournaments you should avoid late registration as much as possible. This is because, when players are knocked out, some of the prize money is distributed already.

And if you were not there on time, you did not even contend for that money. This is such an obviously bad deal, that it is incomprehensible to me, why so many people register late for knockout tournaments!

On the flip side registering in the last minute makes a lot of sense in R+A tournaments. Because you make sure you can make it to the add-on without rebuying.

You will be playing “catch-up” to the field, and you will have less time to use your skill edge. But you will have bought your chips as a huge discount compared to what the other players have paid on average.

Go ahead and call me cheap but to me that sound like a brilliant deal!


What about Poker Tournament Satellites - Good or Bad?


A satellite is a poker tournament, where the prize money is paid out in tickets for a target tournament rather than actual cash.

Back in 2003 Chris Moneymaker famously qualified for the WSOP main event via a satellite and ended up taking down the most prestigious title in poker as well as the $2.5 million first place prize.

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This in turn ignited a poker boom, and its importance for poker can hardly be overstated.

It is however important to understand that Chris Moneymaker's achievement was essentially no different from buying a lottery ticket and becoming a millionaire that way.

That also happens to a few lucky people every day around the world. And if you want to spend your money chasing dreams by buying lottery tickets, that is completely fine, if you have extra money to spend.

But if you are a serious poker player looking to build a bankroll, satellites are a trap lurking you into not using proper bankroll management.

If for instance you have a 150$ bankroll, you can play 1.50$ tournaments, because you have at least 100 times the tournament fee. But you cannot play 1.50$ satellites to a 16$ tournament.

If on the other hand you have a 1600$ bankroll, your hourly winrate will almost certainly be higher, if you play more 7$-16$ tournaments rather than 1.50$ satellites to 16$ tournaments. The 1.50$ satellites would need to be incredibly soft or have an overlay to be worth your time.

An overlay by the way is, when the guaranteed prize pool is larger than the sum of the tournament fees paid by players. This will realistically almost never happen these days with so many people playing though.


Final thoughts


There hasn't been a better time to play online poker for at least the past decade than right now, and this includes online poker tournaments. Hopefully this guide has helped you find the best online poker tournament for you.

And the best part about these low limit tournaments in particular is that you don't need to know a lot of highly advanced poker tournament strategy in order to beat in them.

There are several traps to avoid though, and for new players I recommend staying away from satellites, bounties, add-ons, overly fast structures and lottery style spins.

I also recommend staying away from very large tournaments with 10,000 or more players, unless you are purely looking to have some fun and take a shot.

In my opinion the perfect online poker tournament for a new player is one with 6-500 players and no special adjustments to worry about.

You should aim at showing up on time for most tournaments, and if you are completely new to poker, I recommend building your basic skills in cash games first.

Once again, you can just read BlackRain79's ultimate guide to crushing 2NL cash games for much more on that.

Last but not least remember to have fun and always use responsible bankroll management. Make sure you let me know in the comments below what kind of online poker tournaments you like to play.

See you at the tables!


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This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Lars "fundiver199" Kyhnau Hansen. Lars is a part time online poker player from Denmark currently playing 10NL and 25NL. Lars excels at the math side of the game.

Best Online Poker Tournaments

15 comments:

  1. Great articke, thanks! One question though about the following quote: "There hasn't been a better time to play online poker for at least the past decade than right now". Why is this? I thought winning in online poker was way harder now as it was 10 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Psyko,

      It is because of Covid-19. Huge amounts of really bad players are getting back into the game right now. And this in turn means incredibly soft games, like we haven't seen in 10+ years.

      Delete
    2. Full ring on stars is a thing again for sure, many recreationals at the tables along with the regular nits.

      Delete
  2. TX Nathan, would like to see a post of how your doing over there and what it's like now over there. Enjoy your posts thanks again and good luck.......LATE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I will be starting a new YouTube channel soon focused on my life in Thailand, Bali etc. I will still make videos for my poker YouTube channel also though.

      Delete
  3. I didn't see the effect of rake addressed in your article. To me it is a huge consideration. Am I wrong?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mark,

      Rake isn't something I get into on this website. Every poker site sets it's own rake structure and publishes it on it's website. Most of the major sites have a comparable rake structure but yes, it is always a good idea to have a look at this when choosing where to play.

      Delete
    2. I did not include it except for the remark about R+A tournaments, because I wanted the article to be general, and each poker site has its own rake structure. But as Nathan say, of course you should look at, how much you pay, before playing any poker games.

      Delete
  4. What are some good and safe sites to play on

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry but I just teach poker strategy on my website, I don't recommend sites.

      Delete
  5. Which games are softer? Cash games? Zone poker cash games or tournments?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the games are softer across the board right now, it doesn't matter what format you choose. In general tournaments are softer than cash games or Zoom/Zone type games. However there are pros and cons to playing each.

      I wrote more about cash games versus tournaments here:

      https://www.blackrain79.com/2017/09/tournaments-vs-cash-games-what-pros-play.html

      And here is my huge guide to Zoom/Zone type games:

      https://www.blackrain79.com/2015/07/zoom-poker-strategy-essential-guide.html

      Delete
    2. If Pokerstars is an indication of the entire online poker environment, then volume has increased more for regular cash games and tournaments than for Zoom games and SnGs. This should mean, that more of the new and bad players are playing regular cash and tournaments as opposed to Zoom or SnG. And this is also my subjective experience of game quality.

      Delete
  6. Great article like always, thks!!!

    ReplyDelete