Tips & How To's

Tournament Poker 101: How To Play

Tournament poker provides players with a structured, competitive format to test their skills against others and vie for prize money on the line.

Unlike cash games, where the sole goal is buying and gambling with chips, tournaments follow an elimination process where participants are progressively removed until one remains, holding the entire pot.

This overview will explore some of the key differences between tournaments and cash games, provide an overview of typical tournament structures and stages, and offer some strategic recommendations focused on how to play tournament poker.

Understanding the Tournament Structure

All poker tournaments adhere to a similar structure that progresses in stages. They begin with a large field of players who each pay a fixed buy-in to enter the competition. Standard tournaments are termed “freezeouts,” meaning you’re out once your starting stack of chips is depleted. As players are eliminated, the field shrinks until one winner emerges with the entire prize pool.

Tournaments are further distinguished by their type. Large multi-table events can take hours to complete, while sit-n-gos only involve three to ten players. No matter the format, the later stages reward tight play as blinds and antes rise to force action from marginal hands.

WPT Poker Online: Playing for Position in Tournaments

One subtlety unique to tournament poker lies in playing for position. In cash games, raising from any position accomplishes the same goal of building the pot. But in tournaments, an early position grants fewer opportunities to see flops cheaply since more players will enter behind you.

Likewise, the button shines as a place to steal blinds due to its advantages. Folds are more likely in tournaments since players are always vying to accumulate chips. Using steals selectively from the cutoff and hijack can help amass a stack without overplaying marginal holdings that may bust you out prematurely.

Managing Your Tournament Chip Stack

Maintaining an appropriate, effective stack relative to the prize pool and current blind levels also factors heavily into tournament strategy. In the beginning, you’ll want to experiment with some by playing multiple hands to evaluate opponents.

As later rounds commence, protecting your stack becomes paramount. Marginal speculative plays that could halve your chips are ill-advised. Instead, focus on exploiting fishy players still in the pot and rebuilding your stack through position by three-betting strong ranges from late positions.


When to Get Aggressive Versus Passive

Another critical consideration in tournaments lies in determining when to shift gears between aggressive and passive approaches. Early on, with 10-20 big blinds, you’ll generally want tight, aggressive play to accrue chips through steals and speculative hands in WPT poker online.

Bluff-raising runs dry when calling stations remain. Instead, wait for premiums on favorable runouts where your hand stands up to multi-way action. This disciplined style frustrates opponents who think you always fold.

Come the final tables, when play slows, it becomes time to exploit timid opponents by floating strong ranges on all streets.

Cashing in Your Tournament Efforts

While taking down the entire tournament prize pool is ideal, consistently “cashing” means finishing in the money. Most multi-table tournaments pay roughly 10-15% of the field. Thus, working methodically through the competition and accumulating chips ranks as an expected outcome through solid, balanced play.

Over time, cashing frequently grows your overall poker earnings. Compared to cash games, tournaments also offer the ability to build your skills against various opponents without risking a major losing session against maniacs.


Final Word

In conclusion, tournament poker offers an exciting avenue for advancing your poker skills and growing your bankroll through prize pools on the line. While the basic rules remain constant across formats, key adjustments emerge in aspects like position, stack management, and aggression timing. Mastering these strategic nuances through diligent study and diverse competition experience sets you up for long-term success in the WPT poker online tournament world.

Brantley Jackson, dad and writer at 'Not in the Kitchen Anymore' is well-known in the parenting world. He writes about his experiences of raising children and provides advice to other fathers. His articles are widely praised for being real and relatable. As well as being an author, he is a full-time dad and loves spending time with his family. His devotion to his kids and love of writing drives him to motivate others.