Which Poker Sites Have the Best Poker Tournaments?

There’s nothing quite like winning a poker tournament. The thrill of stacking all your opponents, the rush of calling a fish’s bluff, the pride in knowing you’re #1; you can’t get these feelings from any other form of poker! That’s why online poker tournaments are so popular. There are tens of thousands of tournament players online 24/7, and hundreds of tournament types to be played.

Action, choice, and value – you’ll find all three at the tournament poker sites listed below. The poker rooms featured on this page run tournaments non-stop in a variety of formats, game variations and stakes.

What is a Poker Tournament?

A poker tournament is a game in which you compete for a portion of a prize pool, rather than directly gunning for your opponents’ money. In a poker tournament, you pay a fixed buy-in before the game begins. In return for your buy-in, you receive a stack of tournament chips. These chips don’t have any value outside of the tournament; they are basically monopoly money until the game ends, however it’s still a real money tournament.

Your goal in a poker tournament is always the same: win all the tournament chips in play. When you win all of the chips in a tournament, you win first prize. First prize is always the biggest prize at a tournament poker site; hence why your goal is to win, not just to cash. A tournament’s prize pool consists of every player’s original buy-in. For example if 10 players buy-in to a $100 tournament, the prize pool will be $1000. This money is split among the winning players in accordance with the payout schedule.

Most tournaments are set up such that 10-15% of participants win a prize. Payouts are generally top-heavy; the first-, second-, and third-place players usually take home a collective 75% of the prize pool.

Different Types of Poker Tournaments

Games at tournament poker sites all share the basic features outlined above. But there’s more: tournament structures vary across different tournament poker sites. The most common structures are:

  • Freezeout tournaments
  • Shootout tournaments
  • Rebuy tournaments
  • Bounty tournaments
  • Turbo tournaments
  • Sit-and-go tournaments

Freezeouts – Most of the tournaments you see on television are standard freezeouts. The World Series of Poker Main Event is a freezeout; most World Poker Tour events are freezeouts; and most of the TV tournaments sponsored by poker sites are freezeouts. In a freezeout, you get a fixed number of chips for your buy-in. Once you’ve run out of chips, you’re eliminated from the tournament.

As players are eliminated in a freezeout, tables with empty seats are combined. So you’ll always be playing at a full 8-, 9-, or 10-man table in a freezeout; the only short-handed play occurs on the final table.

Shootouts – In a shootout tournament, you begin seated at a full table like in a freezeout. However rather than tables combining as players are eliminated, each table plays through until only one player remains. Once all tables in a shootout tournament have only 1 player left, tables are combined and the shootout cycle begins once more.

For example, imagine a shootout tournament that begins with 10 tables, 10 players seated at each. Every table plays until only one player remains seated. After each of the 10 tables has played through to a final player, 10 players remain in the tournament. These 10 players are moved to the final table, where the last round of the tournament goes ahead.

Rebuy Tournaments – In a rebuy tournament, you’re allowed to buy in multiple times. Once your stack has been depleted, you’ve got the option to simply pay for a new one. Generally there will be a rebuy period: a set time frame in which you’re allowed to rebuy. At most tournament poker sites, the rebuy period lasts for the first hour of a tournament. If you’re knocked out at any point within the first hour, no worries – just buy in again.

Rebuy tournaments will often allow add-ons. Generally add-ons are available at the first break, right after the re-buy period has ended. An add-on is essentially a rebuy, but you don’t have to be busto to take it. Every player can add-on during the add-on period regardless of how many chips he holds.

Bounty Tournaments – In a bounty tournament, you win extra money if you knock out certain players. For example many tournament poker sites run “pro bounty” tournaments. In these, you win a bonus if you knock out a member of the site’s pro team.

Turbo Tournaments – Tournaments of all kinds can be ‘turbo’; it simply means that tournament levels go by more quickly than in regular-speed games. You can have turbo freezeouts, turbo shootouts, turbo bounties, and so on.

The standard time per level at most tournament poker sites is 15 minutes. In a turbo tournament, this might be cut down to 12 or 10 minutes. And in super-turbo tournaments, levels might be as short as 5 minutes.

Sit-and-Go – Sit-and-go tournaments are games that run around the clock as they are filled. They aren’t scheduled like most other tournaments, which some players find offers a more flexible gaming experience.

You’ll find sit-and-go games at most tournament poker sites in many different varieties. The most popular are single table sit-and-gos, which are 10-player games that pay the top 3 players.180-player sit-and-gos are also popular, They’re great practise for bigger scheduled multi-table tournaments.

Now Enter the Overlay Tournaments

The biggest attraction for most players to playing at some of the biggest poker sites online is the life changing poker tournaments some of these poker rooms provide. With guaranteed tournaments running into the millions, it’s hard to not to test your skill (and luck) in these huge events. Sure you may battle hundreds if not thousands of players in a single event, but a first place payout can award you with more than $200,000 in cold hard cash.

For most players, these life alerting events will fall short from ever becoming a reality. For most players they will be lucky to bubble, let alone make a final table when over 2000 players are also fighting to make that same final table. Of course the payout justifies the game, but for a player who wants to maximize their poker bankroll their best solution is to enter into overlay poker tournaments rather than focusing solely on the big money events.


What is a Poker Tournament Overlay?

Simply put it’s a guaranteed tournament whereby the poker room guarantees the prize pool will meet a minimum amount. Once the player buyins equal the guaranteed amount the prize pool will increase. If a tournament falls short and the buyins do not make up the amount of the guaranteed tournament, the poker room will then kick in the additional funds to match what the tournament originally offered. The amount of money the poker room adds to the prize pool is called the “overlay”.

Advantage of Playing in Poker Tournament Overlays

There are two huge benefits to playing in tournament overlays. First and foremost is the added value the tournament provides players based on the buy in vs. the amount of the prize pool. As an example, let’s say a tournament guarantees a $75,000 prize pool and each buy in costs $125. The tournament would need to draw in at least 600 players in order for the event to pay for itself. If say for example the playing field fell short by 200 entrants, the poker room would need to add a total of $25,000 to the prize pool to offset the guaranteed amount. This means that a $75,000 GP has a value of $187.50 per player, even though each player only paid $125.

Using a real tournament payout structure let’s say a tournament guarantees a $10,000 prize pool with a buy in of $5.50. The tournament draws in 3600 participants, and because of that the prize pool jumps from $10,000 to a whopping $19,500. In order for a player to cash in this event they would need to place in the top 450, and even then, the tournament won’t pay anything significant until 15th place where you see a $50 return on your original investment. Now if we were to look at as an overlay. That same tournament draws in 256 players which generates a total of $1408 in buyins, giving each entry a cash value of $36.06 instead of the original cost of $5.50. The lack of entrants also forces the poker room to kick in an additional $8592 into the prize pool. In this scenario the event would pay a total of 36 places with 15th place receiving 1.35% of the prize pool which amounts to $135. Of course the payouts will differ dramatically since the playing field is significantly smaller but the ROI a player sees on his original buy in this event is that much greater than the other tournament.

The second benefit is of course the playing field. While the major poker tournaments offer millions in cash for their tournaments, these events will draw in thousands and thousands of participants. With the huge play field the average player will rarely ever make a final table. In fact, most poker players will never see a final table playing these big events regardless of how many attempts they make. In an overlay, the playing field is marginally lower than what you would find in the big events and because of this it’s significantly easier to cash in an overlay than it is in a highly populated poker tournament. Think of it this way – how many final table events could you make with a playing field of 85 or 100 players vs. a tournament that attracts 2000 or even 3000 players.

In the end, the overlay poker tournaments give you more bang for your buck and provides players with a better ROI.