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It’s Tournament Time!
Tournament Poker
by Mike Sexton

It’s tournament time. In basketball, March Madness is here. In poker, tournaments are everywhere, including some spectacular events with huge prize money—an exciting time for tournament players. There are six tournaments in the first five months of 2002 with guaranteed prize pools of $1 million or more! This is unheard of in poker. And the World Series of Poker (WSOP), far and away poker’s biggest event, is right around the corner.

Players love tournaments because they are fun, exciting, challenging and affordable. You invest a little to win a lot. As poker legend Amarillo Slim says, “You can take a toothpick and turn it into a lumberyard.” There are numerous types of poker tournaments as well as buy-ins to fit all budgets. There are major and minor tournaments, daily tournaments, guaranteed tournaments, free-roll tournaments, re-buy tournaments, tag-team tournaments, satellites, Super-satellites, shootouts, bounty tournaments, jackpots, and numbers of others.

Major tournaments last from one week to one month. Minor tournaments are usually three-day events. The buy-ins for major tournaments range from $300 to $10,000 and for minor tournaments, generally from $100 to $300. You’ll find professional players and regulars at the major events as well as rookies seeking “fame and fortune” in the poker world.

Most casinos with a poker room have daily tournaments of some sort. These are designed to bring players into the casino. (Actually, all tournaments are designed for that reason.) Daily tournaments are also an excellent way to introduce new players to play for money. They are affordable (from $5 to $40 buy-ins) and are generally structured not to last too long.

A guaranteed tournament means that a certain number of dollars will be in the prize pool, regardless of the number of entries. In most cases, there are larger turnouts for guaranteed tournaments. Re-buy tournaments allow you to obtain more chips for the price of another buy-in. You will find guaranteed tournaments and re-buy tournaments go hand-in-hand. Free-roll tournaments are those in which there is no buy-in or entry fee.

Satellites are one-table tournaments in which the winner earns a buy-in into a larger tournament. These are extremely popular at major tournaments. Super-satellites are tournaments in which the prize is usually a seat in the championship event of a major tournament. Money taken in during a Super is divided into as many entries as possible with any remaining money paid to those who finish next in line. Supers play a very important role in getting a large field in the high buy-in events, especially at the WSOP. Over half the field in the $10,000 buy-in World Championship event, for example, comes from Super-satellites.

Shootout tournaments are basically like one-table satellites. To advance, you must win your table. Those winners then play at the next level. Shootout tournaments are a good way for players to experience playing short-handed poker, something that is critical to winning any tournament.

In addition to various types of live tournaments, online poker tournaments are also quite popular, rapidly contributing to the growth of tournament poker. For example, hosts the finals of the PartyPoker Million (PPM). The PPM is a combination of an online tournament with a mega live championship final held aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Elation.

The PPM allowed players to qualify online at home for $22, win a luxurious cruise for two plus $500 in cash, and have the opportunity to play in a tournament with a guaranteed first prize of $1 million! Due to the uniqueness of this tournament, the Discovery and Travel Channel will televise the event. This type of tournament and exposure could revolutionize tournament poker.

Tournament poker is indeed exciting. Try one. You’ll like it!

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