Tournaments add an extra element to poker, namely time pressure. Unlike Cash Games that can in principle go on forever all tournaments will come to an end.
The mechanism by which tournaments reach a conclusion is the progressive virtual increase in the cost to play. This means that to become a winning player in tournaments a slightly different approach is required to that needed to be a winner in cash games.
In most tournaments the chips you use do not have a clear one-to-one correspondence to cash. Typically in a tournament in order to play you must pay an amount known as the buy-in and in exchange you get a seat and a stack of chips.
Everyone pays the same amount at the start and everyone gets the same amount of chips to play with. The aim in a poker tournament is to get all of the chips in play into your own stack. If you lose all of your chips you are out of the game. There are some tournaments that do allow players to get back in by re-buying. The buy-in typically has two components, the first is the contribution to the total amount of money that can be won and the second is the fee to the host. The collected amount of money that can be won by the participants is known as the prize pool.
The fact that tournaments have a fixed buy-in makes it very clear what you have to spend to be in with a chance of winning. This makes them a very good option for anyone just starting out with poker. One important difference to cash games is that you are randomly assigned your starting seat in a tournament and during the course of the tournament you may be automatically moved to another table. This is because as players get knocked out of the tournament the number of tables needed also decreases and the number of players at the remaining tables needs to be balanced so that everyone always has some one to play against. There are two basic types of tournaments, Sit and Go tournaments and Scheduled tournaments.
Sit and Go Tournaments
Sit and Go tournaments begin when a predetermined number of players have registered to play. This makes the Sit and Go format very flexible. You can always find a game and will usually be playing within minutes. As long as enough players have assembled, the game will start. It also means that everyone knows exactly how much they will be playing for once the tournament starts and exactly how many players they need to beat.
The Sit and Go tournaments can all be found in the lobby under the Sit & Go section.
Once you are in the Sit & Go section you can choose which variant of poker to play and filter the available tables to easily find exactly what you are looking for. For those new to Sit and Go tournaments who wish to get used to the software before tackling a real money Sit and Go, there are also play money trial game tables available that can give a small sense of the excitement that can be gained from playing Sit and Go poker for real money stakes.
Scheduled tournaments begin at a fixed time, if you have not paid a buy-in before the start time, you have no way of getting into the tournament. The fact that scheduled tournaments have a fixed start time means that it is easy to plan when to take part.
Scheduled tournaments usually gather a big crowd of players. This is because the tournament is allowed to gradually fill up, sometimes for days in advance. For every new entrant the prize pool grows and grows. At bwin it is not uncommon for scheduled tournaments to contain more than 3,000 players and with this many players the prize pools can get very large. Also to spice things up bwin often guarantees a particular amount of prize money regardless of the number of players who enter the event and sometimes guarantees other prizes such as fully inclusive trips to poker tournaments like the World Series of Poker.
The scheduled tournaments can all be found in the lobby under the Scheduled Tournaments section. Once you are in the Scheduled section, you can use the filters to quickly find the game you want to play from the many available.