Tournament poker is essentially different from regular ring games poker. Although the same general rules apply and a solid understanding of the game is need in both, there are many adjustments that one must make in order to become a triumphant tournament player.
In a poker tournament the player has to act. As the stakes keep rising, players are forced to adjust their strategy and betting structure. In a ring game on the other hand a player can keep playing the same general strategy for lengthy periods. In a poker tournament a player needs to asses his stack and his position, considering the tournament structure and the prize formation. In a ring game your only goal is to make as much money possible in every hand. Also, in most tournaments the game is over the minute you are out of chips (withstanding tournaments that allow re-buys).
Tournaments are built in such way that changing tables and players are shifting from one table to the next as soon as they win. Meaning that in a tournament you will play against much more players than in a standard ring game. In a ring game you are very likely to play against the same opponents for a long time. In a ring game you can also sit on any table, play as much as you want and cash out. In a tournament each single table means nothing unless you win the tournament. There is no weight to good runs or a big pots won, just the final outcome.
Finally and unlike many poker rookies tend to believe, luck plays a much bigger role in tournaments. Although TV shows like the PPT make poker tournaments look like the ultimate battle of skill, it is quite the opposite. In a tournament it is very likely to go all-in even before seeing the cards and many hands are being finished before the flop. The risks taken and decisions made during tournaments are many times wild bluffs and desperate moves. There is much less technical knowledge involved and much more feel to the game.
Article submitted by Alex Chamberlain, 12/12/2005