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If you want the thrill of playing poker in a casino setting with unknown opponents, but you’re not willing to risk your money on a game you don’t yet have a lot of experience with, poker tournaments might just be the low cost alternative you’re looking for. You’ll get some great real life poker experience for as little as $20 – a deal you won’t find very often in the gambling world.
Here’s how poker tournaments work. Each participant must put up a certain amount of money as an entry fee. This can be anything from $20 to $25,000 for the biggest tournament, the World Series Poker. The number of participants also ranges from tournament to tournament, with anywhere from 10 to 500 players or more.
Most often, tournaments are not winner take all. Most of the time the top 10 spots are awarded some money, with most of the prize going to the top three finishers. The largest tournaments may see over 20 people getting paid out, however, and for smaller ones, only two or three spots may be awarded a prize.
There are also tournaments out there that don’t even have an entry fee. Known as “freeroll” tournaments, they are hosted by casinos that are trying to get traffic to their card room. Make sure to be on the lookout for these ones.
At the beginning of a tournament, players are given a certain amount of tournament chips. Every 20 minutes or half hour, the betting limits will go up. This means that to win a poker tournament, you’ll need to win more and more chips. Despite this fact, if you’re a beginner, you can still get a few hours of play in if you don’t take unreasonable risks.
Even if you do run out of chips, however, some tournaments offer rebuys. That is, you can restock your chips if you get below a certain number of chips. You’ll only be able to restock your chips for the first hour though, as the rebuy period ends after this.
In most poker situations, against most low-limit opponents, you’ll get by decent enough if you remember one simple thing: when you get the goods, bet the goods. Of course, you’ll always want to alter your strategy to make it less obvious that you have a winning hand. In poker tournaments, however, this basic strategy just won’t cut it most of the time.
The rebuy period is one thing that alters the strategy at poker tournaments. Rebuy tournaments tend to encourage loose, wild play for the first hour. Players know that they can’t be eliminated from the tournament yet, so you’ll want to bluff less during this period. Also, be careful yourself not to get a little crazy during the rebuy period. If you find yourself losing all of your chips a few times and rebuying them, you may be putting more money into the tournament than is worth it and you might consider calling it quits.
Most rebuy tournaments offer another option, known as an “add-on” at the end of the rebuy hour. At this point, any player can purchase more chips, no matter how many they have. It would be a good idea to take advantage of this if you think you have a chance or haven’t spent a lot on rebuys yet and want to stay in the game a little longer. Since the limits are going up all the time, it’s a good idea to get as many chips as possible. If, however, you’ve already won so many chips that you don’t need it, or if you’ve already lost so many that you should consider calling it quits, there’s no need to partake in the add-on.
At the end of the rebuy period, the tournament strategy will change completely. Players will be a lot more cautious with their chips, so if you’re brave, you might consider bluffing during this middle phase of the tournament. Don’t get too bold, however, as other players will catch on quick.
During the middle rounds, you’ll want to think very carefully about getting involved in a hand that could cost you all or most of your chips. Bluff against the weaker players with the small stacks, but think twice before going up against a strong player. You may put other players’ stacks of chips into small, medium and large categories, and take these sizes into consideration when betting. If your stack is small, you should avoid confrontations with large stacks. Their chips are less valuable to them than yours are to you.
If your stack is medium, feel free to pick on the little guys a bit, but try to avoid the big stacks. Since you’re not in danger of being eliminated immediately, play only the best hands unless good opportunities arise. But don’t be reckless – you should wait for the good cards to make your move.
If your stack is large, of course, you get to pick on the smaller stacks. You will be able to put up the goods during war between small or medium stacks, as they will be wary of going up against you for fear of elimination. Be especially aggressive and try to bust them out. Make sure to avoid confrontations with other large stack players, however, unless you see a particularly good opportunity. There will be time for this in the final rounds.
If you do manage to get to the final rounds, the only strategy that can help you from that point on is simply good poker playing. To learn more, check out our other sections, including the Winning Poker Hands section and our Poker Odds section.
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