ⅈ Disclosure Gamblingngo.com earns revenue through affiliate partnerships with various gambling operators. If you sign up or make a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. This affiliate funding model allows us to provide valuable content and resources to our readers while generating revenue to support our operations.
Close this search box.

Poker Tournaments: Types, Variants & Tips to Play

A poker tournament is a tournament where people compete playing poker. There can be anywhere from two players playing on one table to thousands of poker players playing on hundreds or even thousands of tables. There is one winner in a poker tournament, as the rules typically involve eliminating losing players. It is a simple definition, but there are several important aspects of poker tournaments we will discuss below. Poker tournaments are not a new thing, but they’ve risen in popularity over the years, especially with the rising popularity of online poker. So, read on as we share all you need to know about poker tournaments and where you can try your poker skills online.

Types of Poker Tournaments

Before we talk about the types of poker tournaments, we must state that all have a fixed buy-in. The players pay the buy-in and get a certain amount of poker chips that usually have a notional value that can only be used during play and can’t be cashed out. Depending on the starting format, there are MMT or multi-table tournaments and Sit and Go tournaments.

In multi-table poker (MTT) tournaments, the games start at a specific time, regardless of the number of players who’ve applied to the tournament. In MTT poker tournaments, the games run simultaneously on multiple tables, and the winners of each table continue in the next round until the final. These usually have a lower buy-in, offer Texas Hold ‘em poker, and besides the goal of winning, these are attractive to players who wish to gain access to major poker events. Satellite tournaments are a part of the MTT tournaments, which are high-profile, expensive buy-in poker tournaments.

poker tournaments

Credit: 20Bet

Try your skills at live poker at 20Bet!

Claim your Welcome Bonus Now!

The single-table tournaments, popularly known as Sit and Go (SNG) poker tournaments, only start after a set number of players apply to the tournament. The poker table at these usually has a number of places like four, six, or nine seats, and once the required number of players apply, the chips are distributed, and the game begins. In fact, the SNG poker tournaments usually behave as the final table at an MTT tournament, but here, all the players start with the same number of chips.

During the poker tournament series, there is usually a series leaderboard or ranking system that tracks the progress of each poker player and marks the individual buy-ins and prizes won. The scores are later used to determine the standing of professional poker players.

Poker Tournament Betting Format

There are three betting formats found in poker tournaments.

  • Structured or fixed-limit betting is where the bets can be raised to a specified amount, and these amounts slowly increase as the tournament progresses. One example is stud poker tournaments where the bets are set as a small and big bet, with the initial rounds seeing the rise in the small bet and the latter rounds allowing the big bet to raise.
  • Semi-structured poker betting can be pot limit and spread limit betting. In pot limit betting, the raises can’t be more significant than the current size of the pot, while in spread limit, all the bets and raises must be between a set minimal and maximal amount.
  • Unstructured or no-limit betting is where the game starts with a fixed ante, blinds, or a bring-in, but the players are free to bet as much as they want without any limits. Players are allowed to go all-in, placing all their chips on the bet.

Poker Variants in Tournaments

Poker tournaments can be played in different poker variants; however, the most common poker tournaments played today use the Texas Hold ‘em or the Omaha poker variants. Still, it is also often that poker tournaments offer a mix of games, like H.O.R.S.E.: a combination of Hold ‘em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and a Seven-card Stud hi-low split Eight or better. The H.O.R.S.E. includes a multi-game poker tournament where the players usually play in a limit format and play rounds circling among the different poker variants.

Poker Tournaments vs. Cash Games

There is a significant difference between a poker tournament and a cash game. The poker tournament is played with tournament chips that have nominal values and don’t have any value outside the tournament. Also, to win a prize at a poker tournament, you must place, usually in the top three positions.

On the other hand, cash games are poker games played with real chips that can be cashed out. The cash games don’t have a predetermined end time, and the players can join and leave as they wish. Also, if the player decides to leave the game, they can cash out from the poker game and take their chips.

Karamba poker tournament

Credit: Karamba

Join Karamba and play live poker today!

Claim your Welcome Bonus Now!

These also differ in the possible strategies one can employ; in a cash game, the player can focus on winning every round, while there is a long-term strategy used in poker tournaments. Also, the ante/blinds/bring-in change throughout the tournament, and it remains the same in a cash game. Plus, players can only play the poker variant determined by the poker tournament organizers, but in online cash games, players can select any poker variant.

Famous Poker Tournaments

There are plenty of poker tournaments available worldwide, but there are several that really stand out with their popularity, like:

  • World Series of Poker – the most well-known poker tournament in the USA, this competition takes place every year in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • WSOP Circuit– this is a series of satellite tournament events supported by the World Series of Poker, and are held at various properties across the USA
  • World Poker Tour – an international organization running international poker tournaments that are held at different venues across the world
  • European Poker Tour – this is the largest and most well-known poker tournament in Europe, held in different venues across Europe
  • World Championship of Online Poker – this is one of the largest online poker tournaments sponsored by PokerStars, and it is a series of tournaments where the players compete in different poker games with various buy-ins and prizes

Tips to Play at Poker Tournaments

Playing at a poker tournament is relatively different from playing in a cash game or playing poker with your friends at home. So, it also requires a different poker strategy, and our experts prepared the following tips to help you play at poker tournaments:

  • Protect the big blind – the big blind can be a significant amount at a poker tournament, so don’t discard it frivolously, but play smart and protect your investment.
  • Avoid C-betting in every handc-betting has its merits, but you’ll be playing against professionals who can recognize your tactics and cause you to prematurely show your hand.
  • Engage in fast-play when you have a strong hand – take advantage of your strong hand when you have it, and bank by making more significant bets when you are certain you have a good winning chance and raise the amount of your chips.
  • Play strongly early in the tournament – most poker tournaments have elimination rules, so you need to play strong to remain in the game, and that means playing strong early in the tournament.


Is bluffing a reliable strategy in a poker tournament?

Bluffing is a reliable strategy in a poker tournament, and aggressive players often use it. It is excellent to build the pot and win more chips, but not knowing how to do this correctly may cost you a lot. Only bluff when it makes sense, like when you have a solid hand and bet big to maximize your potential wins.

Can I apply a long-term strategy in a poker tournament?

Ideally, you are playing against other poker professionals in a poker tournament, so a long-term strategy can be only viable if a short-term strategy supports it. The key is to be an adaptable player and adjust your goals as the game progresses. One of the critical things is to fold the poor hands pre-flop, maximize your in-position, and not limp when calling the big blind pre-flop, but raise the stakes when you have a strong hand.

Can a beginner join a poker tournament?

Yes, a poker beginner can join a poker tournament, but we suggest you stay away from the ones that have a significant buy-in to avoid wasting money. Instead, join smaller online poker tournaments with smaller buy-ins and hone your skills, practice poker tournament strategies, and feel the climate before playing for big money. We recommend you try playing poker at online casinos like 20Bet, Karamba, 22Bet, Betway, and Wazamba, as these have excellent online poker offers, and you can test and fine-tune your skills.

What is more profitable: a poker tournament or a cash game?

If you win the poker tournament, you stand to win a good prize, otherwise, you won’t win anything. If you play a high-stakes cash game, you will probably stand to win a more considerable sum. The profitability of poker tournaments is in the long-term, especially if you keep your wins consistent.

Can I win a lot of money in a poker tournament?

Some poker tournaments have a low buy-in and not that significant prizes, but others have larger buy-ins and come with more substantial prizes. For example, most online poker tournaments with a guaranteed prize split the prize among the top two places, with the winner getting 50% of the prize.