Tournaments are basically of two types. Freeze outs and Rebuy. In the freeze out tournament everyone starts out with the same number of chips. The structure warrants a tighter strategy. Once you lose all your chips, you are out of the tournament The rebuy tournament usually has a certain number of levels (usually three, but sometimes more or less) where one can rebuy chips. There is usually a set amount of chips that one has to be below before one can rebuy. Some tournaments have a rebuy that is less than the original buy in. Others have a limited number of rebuy. At the end of a rebuy period there is usually an additional amount of chips that everyone is allowed to buy. This is called an add on.
The advantage of a rebuy tournament is usually more for the house ( casino) then for the player. They are usually used when a guarantee has been made in regards to the total prize money. The players have a looser strategy in this kind of tournament and try to accumulate a large stack before the rebuy period is over. There are different kinds of rebuy tournaments. I suggest you learn about the tournament type before you decide to register.
There are approximately four different tournaments based on the length of the levels. Although the amount of chips one starts with, the number of players in the tourney, and which poker game is involved also dictate the length a tournament lasts, the primary way that tournament directors manage the length of a tournament is by the amount of time for each level. The smaller Casinos tend to have fast structured tournaments that last around four to five hours. Each level of play is less than twenty minutes. The medium length level tourneys usually last around eight hours. Each level last around thirty to forty minutes. The long length tourneys usually take two days to complete. Usually the first day is approximately ten to twelve hours. The final table is played the next day (and occasionally the final two).
The final table will usually have slightly longer levels ( although not always) and will last four to eight hours. The championship tournaments usually have two hour levels. These tournaments usually last from three to seven days. The games of poker that can be used in a tournament varies from casino (or online poker site) to casino. The most popular format for poker tournaments is No Limit Hold em.
This is a fairly recent trend over the past year. Prior to 2004, Limit Hold em was the most popular game. Tournaments are available in Seven Card Stud, Omaha (hi-lo split as well as pot limit) and just about any poker game that is available in a cardroom. Tournaments can be run with a buy in amount with or without an entrance fee ( a.k.a. juice) in addition to the buy in. Smaller tournaments online as well as your local Casino/ Poker room will usually run the tournament for free. These tournaments are basically used as a way to promote their room or site.
The larger tournaments will usually have an entrance fee. This fee is the amount that the Casino (or site) receives for running the tournament. Certain special tournaments are called SNG or single table satellites. They were originally used at major tournaments to allow a player a chance to win a seat in the larger buy in tournament. There is only one winner in these tournaments. The SNG has evolved in recent years with the advent of the online poker sites.
Now the players play for first, second, or third place and receive cash instead of a seat. There are also multi-table satellites and super satellites. In the super satellite format, players vie for a seat in the championship tournament. This allows players a chance to play in the very high buy in tournaments for a fraction of the entrance fee.
At the WSOP the Supers are run twice a day. The buy in is $200 with a $25 entrance fee. There are rebuys for the first three twenty minute levels as well as a double add on. They are quite popular and it is not unusual to see over one hundred players attempting to win a seat. The prize money is split in a way to maximize the number of seats. For example, if the prize money is $50,000, then five seats are available to “give away” for the $10,000 championship tournament. Once the sixth player is eliminated, the tournament is over and the remaining five players win. This type of tournament has obvious differences in strategy compared to the tournament that pays a larger amount for first place.
I hope this article has helped the beginning poker player understand a little more about tournament structures. I am sure there is a tournament available to play that is right for you. There are freeroll tournaments available on a daily basis at the various online poker sites. There are also 1 dollar tournaments available as well. I highly recommend playing in tournaments. The thrill of winning a tournament (especially a major) is beyond description. Good Luck!
By Scott Aigner