Understanding Poker Tournament Play
Thursday, 14. January 2010

A poker tournament is simply an event where the players are trying to compete for a prize pool. The players pay for chips and pay an entry fee in some cases to play in the tournament. Each player plays until they decide to leave the tournament or have no money to continue. At the end of the game, the winners divide the winnings according to the rules of the poker game being played and “cash in” their chips, or get the value of their chips back in money.

The term "ring game" is often used as the opposite of a tournament. Sometimes called a "live game" this game takes place at one table. Players who win in a ring game do not go on to play the winners from other tables. The ring games is pretty self-contained. In ring games, players can come to the table or go as they please, buying into games and cashing out as their fancy strikes them. If you are just starting out at poker, ring games with low stakes and betting limits are often the safest choice - they are most likely to attract other players at your level.

Many poker games - whether played professionally, in a casino, or in homes - are played tournament style. However, it is worthwhile to know that other styles exist. Some players play for points rather than money or chips, for example. Many people who play poker decide on tournament style play, even if they only use pennies and nickels to play. However, there are lost of reasons to choose not to play tournament poker. In some places, gambling, even in a private home, is illegal, so that tournament style play cannot take place. In other cases, people may have a problem with gambling or may wish to include minors in their card games without causing problems. In these cases, playing for points or even for nothing at all can be a good idea.

Poker tournaments vary themselves in rules and customs. In many types of tournament-style play, players are not allowed to buy more chips once they have begun playing. This is standard in casinos, for example. In other tournaments, players are allowed rebuys, or the chance to buy more chips when they run out. Some poker tournaments build in add-on times, a set time in the game when all players can buy more chips for the game.

In most tournament-style poker games, the game continues until only one poker player wins. In many cases, the winner takes the whole pot. In some styles of tournament, several games are played at once, and the winners of each game are allowed to keep their pots or compete with the winners of other games for a chance at a much larger pot.

Tournament play, especially at the professional level, creates many interesting off-shoots. One of these is the idea of the “satellite.” A ‘satellite” is a poker tournament where the prize is entrance to a larger tournament. Often, in a satellite, the cost of entry is much less than the cost of entry into a larger tournament. Winners of the satellite effectively buy their way into the larger, more prestigious, and more expensive tournaments on the strength of their win.

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