If you’ve ever watched any of the number of Poker Tournaments on TV you’re probably aware of the excitement these tournaments can generate. There’s really nothing like going “all in” when you’re playing heads up, knowing that the entire prize pool is at stake. Well Tournament Poker is not just for the pros anymore. Your favorite Online Poker Room probably has a tournament going on right now. If you’ve never played in an online tournament here’s some things you ought to know.

Anatomy of an Online Poker Tournament

Most online poker rooms offer tournament play. A quick visit to their website will tell you everything you’ll need to know about their upcoming tournament schedule. Information like the buy-in, type of tournament, starting time is clearly displayed; you simply read the schedule and then make your decision. Here’s what a typical tournament entry looks like:

6:00 PM ET (10:00 PM GMT) 30+3 NL Texas Hold’em

This simply means that the tournament starts at 6PM Eastern Standard Time, it’s a No Limit (NL) Texas Hold’em Game. The 30+3 is the buy-in. These numbers tell you that it will cost you $33 to play in this tournament; it’s listed this way to let you know that you will be paying $30 toward the prize pool and $3 to the pokerroom. To play in this tournament you’ll need to register sometime prior to 6PM. Registration essentially means paying the entry fee ($33).

A few minutes before 6PM you should launch the pokerroom and login. Further details are specific to the pokerroom you’re playing at, but most likely you’ll automatically be taken to the tournament at the appropriate time.

At the start of the tournament, everyone will have the same number of chips (1,500 is a typical number). Play will commence as usual, blinds, the dealer button and betting order will be handled just like in non-tournament play. As hands won and lost and chips are moved around the table, some players will lose all of the chips and be eliminated. The tournament will continue until one player has won all of the chips. That person will be declared the winner and will take home the largest share of the prize pool.

Most tournaments will have more then one winner, some larger tournaments can have five or more. The final player will win the biggest prize; the second, third, forth… place finishers will each win lesser prizes. Any player that wins a prize is said to have finished “in the money”.

But let’s go into detail about the different types of tournaments.

Multi-Table Tournaments

Multi-Table tournaments are big tournaments; some can have 2,000 players or more. In a multi-table tournament, you compete against the players at your table, the winner of that table moves on to another table. This keep going on until there is only one player left. As you can imagine, multi-tables can last for quite a few hours.

Single Table Tournaments Or “Sit and Go” Tournaments

These are reasonably small tournaments, usually nine or ten players. You’re only competing against the other players at your table. These types of tournaments usually start when the required number of players has registered. These tournaments tend to be shorter then mult-table tournaments, often lasting around one hour. These tournaments often have only one winner.

Free Roll Tournaments

These tournaments are free. Pokerrooms periodically hold free rolls. Entry into one of these may be given away as a comp to existing players or as a bonus for making a deposit. In any event, it costs you nothing to enter, and you have a shot at willing real money.

Satellite Tournaments

Satellite Tournaments are smaller tournaments in which the prize is entry into a bigger tournament. At some pokerrooms, you can “satellite” your way all the way up to free entry into the World Series of Poker held in Vegas.

Here’s some additional info

Re-buy or Addons: some tournaments allow you to purchase additional chips after the start. There are usually specific rules about how much and when you can purchase. Also, the ability to purchase additional chips usually ends at a certain point in the tournament.

Blinds: During most tournaments, blinds increase periodically on a specific schedule. This is to help to shorten the length of the tournament, by making it more costly to simply keep folding. Larger blinds force players to play more aggressively.

NL/PL: These stand for No Limit and Pot Limit respectively. No Limit means a player can always bet all of his or her chips. Pot Limit means the maximum bet size can only be equal to the amount of the pot.

Well, I hope these two articles have given you a sufficient intro to online poker tournaments. The next step is up to you, if you think you’re ready for it. Good Luck!