Choosing the right poker tournaments

Whether you play poker tournaments online or live, you will need to consider which type of tournament you buy in for. In order to pick the right tournament, it is important to understand your own game and you playing style, because some tournaments simply are better suited for a specific type of player. Granted, ideally a good poker player is able to adapt to any situation, especially since during a tournament, different phases (like low blinds vs high blinds plus ante) require a different approach. But still, in order to maximize your chance for success, you have to pick your tournaments wisely.

What are the important criteria when picking the right tournament

First of course you need to have the right kind of bankroll. You will not end up in the money in every second tournament you play in. The bankroll vs. buy-in ratio should be at least 20 to 1, meaning that in order to play $500 buy-in tournaments, you need $10,000 in your bankroll, unless of course you have a steady income that allows you, for example, to play two tournaments with a $500 buyin per month without any financial problems. 

But this is not what we meant to discuss in this article, although this is the most important choice you make when starting to play tournaments. 

What we want to suggest is that you take a look at the other criteria of the tournament, which are:

  1. Starting stack
  2. Blind structure
  3. Duration of blind levels
  4. Nr. of players per table
  5. Rebuy and/or Add-on possible or not
  6. Expected number of players participating

Let's say you are a player who plays only when you have premium hands pre-flop, and only bet later streets when you are sure that you have the best hand (a player best described as a "rock" or "nit"). Patience is your main weapon. If this is your style, you should be playing tournaments with deep stack, slowly rising blinds (level time of 45 minutes and higher), without rebuys and add-ons and tables of 9 or 10 players. Large player fields are better for you, since you will often outlast the other players.

Another popular poker strategy style is "small ball", which is different from playing like a "rock". You see more flops as long as it is cheap, and you play aggressively post-flop, but you always control the pot size until you are sure you have the best hand. Limiting the amount of chips you risk in any one hand to a small percentage of your pot is what you prefer. Obviously, this works better in tournaments where you start with at least 200 Big Blinds (or more) as a starting stack. Shorter blind times like 30 minute blinds are not a problem for you.

If you are a typical TAG (tight aggressive) player, you will feel at home at almost any tournament, except for very shortstacked tournaments with "Turbo" blinds (with 20 minute blind levels or less).

If you play a loose-aggressive style, Turbo blinds or short stacks, as well as tournaments with tables of 6 are ideal for you. Your game will be high-variance, so tournaments with less participants are better for you. The advantage of this style (which is considered as the most difficult style to master) is that you depend less on your own cards, because you are good at finding good spots where you can steal pots by simply basing your play on perceived weaknesses of the other players.

Your style may not be precisely described above, meaning your game is mixed and you do not fit a 100% into any of the categories. Good for you: you will be a hard one to read to your opponents. Still, the basic principles explaine above should give you a good idea of what kinds of poker games are ideally suited to your own characteristics as a poker player.