Playing a major online poker tournament for the first time can be daunting, and with good reason. These multi-table games are the biggest on the web, with hundreds or thousands of players and prize pools to match. The most prestigious poker games take place on the weekend, but before you go hunting them down read this guide to get the advice you need.
Tournament Structure and Time
Major online tournaments tend to have more generous structures than other poker games. This means that the blind levels go up very slowly, and the stack sizes are large. On top of this, there are often thousands of players. The games will go on for much longer than smaller ‘turbo’ tournaments, and you need to be prepared for that fact.
To give you an example, the Sunday Million, one of the most esteemed and largest tourneys online, takes around 9-10 hours to reach the final table, and may well continue for another hour or two until the tournament concludes and a winner announced. It takes around 4-5 hours just to reach the money, but there’s really no point playing if you know that you can’t dedicate the amount of time it takes to win.
You also need to have the energy to play solid poker all the way to the very end. If you are tired, you will probably make a silly mistake at some point. If you are going to play the biggest of the poker games, rest well the night before and make sure you have plenty of food on hand.
Importantly, just stick to games that you are confident you can finish. There are smaller MTTs that run for a few hours, or single or multi-table SNGs that take an hour or less to play.
Play Within Your Bankroll
It can be tempting to go for an all-or-nothing approach. Attracted by the huge prize pools, inexperienced players can make the mistake of paying in for a major online tournament when they can’t afford it.
You should always stick to the limits of your bankroll. If you are spending greater than 5% of your poker stash on a single game, then you are definitely outside of your comfort zone, and when playing larger MTTs this percentage should be far less.
There are a couple of solutions to this. If you have a humble bankroll, play smaller stakes MTTs. There are plenty of games out there with a micro or low buy-in, but which still offer huge prize pools. You will often have to battle through more players to win, but at least you still get the opportunity, and without going bust.
If the draw of the major weekend tournaments is too much for you, the other option is to play freerolls, or low buy-in satellites that are within your bankroll limits. Satellite tournaments give you the chance to win buy-ins to tournaments you would otherwise not be able to afford.
Winning Isn’t Easy
Hitting the final table in a Sunday major tournament is on the bucket list for any serious poker player, but you have to understand that it doesn’t come easy. As we have discussed, the number of opponents to get through in these games is insane! The prizes are weighted heavily towards the final table, so you have to make it all the way to realise substantial gains.
Imagine you are playing a simple single-table SNG with 9 players. All things equal, your odds of winning are 1/9. If you are better than other players, your odds are more favourable, if you are weaker, then they are less favourable. Now imagine you are playing a game with 100,000 players.
The more prestigious the tournament (and the higher the buy-in), the more pros and semi-pros it is likely to attract. The better players reach the final tables more often than weaker players, which means as the numbers thin out the tournaments can get very tough. The stacks are also deep, and so you have to be comfortable playing with 100bb.
This doesn’t mean you can’t win and that you shouldn’t try, but you should be realistic about your chances and about your own skill level. If you are more used to playing live tournaments, then practice a bit online first to get the hang of the software and the differences online. Whatever your background, constantly improving and practising your game is the way to give yourself the best shot.