The most familiar and common tournament structure you can find when it comes to online poker tournaments is that each of the players starts with the same amount of chips. The players are then split up to different tables. As people are eliminated, the remaining players are consolidated so you aren't left with three players on one table. Tournaments of this sort are known as Freezeouts, which means that the moment the player's chips end he is eliminated from the tournament and can not buy-in again. The top places in the tournament win the large portion of the prize pool with about 10% of the total players winning some amount of cash.
Although this form of online poker tournament is without a doubt the most popular among players there are also several other types of tournaments. Most types of tournaments still hold the same basic structure but add several variations and additions which we will now review.
Turbo Tournament - Turbo tournaments, also sometimes referred to as speed tournaments, differ from regular tournaments by the pace the blinds are raised and the time the player has to act. In a turbo tournament the blinds might be increased every 2-5 minutes. A turbo tournament differs significantly from a regular tournament. There is little to no play after the flop as most players are being forced to go all-in or fold before the flop. The luck factor is much more significant in this type of tournament and aggressive play is the order of the day. If you will play too tight the blinds are sure to quickly eat up your stack.
Re-Buy/Add-On Tournament – This type of tournament is gaining more and more popularity among online poker players. As its name implies this type of tournament allows the player to re-buy the initial amount of chips during the tournament play. Meaning that if you have been busted out of the tournament or you are running low on chips you can receive the same amount of chips you started with for the same amount you paid to enter the tournament.
Most of these tournaments allow re-buying only for a predetermined amount of time after which the tournament turns into a normal freezeout tournament. At this point players can add-on more chips to their stack as a final boost. Usually the amount of money allowed to add-on is equal to the amount you started with but it may vary depending on the particular tournament.
Satellite Tournament – The one major difference between a satellite tournament and a regular tournament is very simple – the first prize in not cash but rather a seat at a more expensive and prominent tournament. For instance, there are many online satellite tournaments for both the World Series of Poker and the WPT. Of course there are many satellite tournaments for not as prestigious tournaments with bigger-then-normal prizes and higher buy-ins.
Winner-Takes-All Tournament – In this tournament the first place takes the entire jackpot with no prizes at all for the runners-up. Taking the second place in a 20 player tournament is just as good as taking the last place. Winner-Takes-All tournaments are especially popular among home players and friendlier non-pro environments.
Step Tournament – A step tournament is basically a chain of single table tournaments in which the first prize is a seat in the next step. Each of the steps has an increasingly larger buy-in. The final step usually provides a considerably large first prize due to the sum of the buy-ins paid in the previous steps. Most step tournaments are consisted out of five steps. You can enter the tournament in any step though the buy-in for the upper steps is greatly larger. Many tournaments also provide the opportunity to win a seat at the lower steps or at the same step, though this is generally not recommended (You can end up playing the same steps forever).
Shootout Tournament – These tournaments are very similar to step tournaments. The main difference is that you can not win a seat in a lower step or the same step, it's either victory or a trip back home. You also can not enter the tournament in a different step than the first one. A shootout tournament is a single, consecutive event with much stricter structure. In a step tournament you can play each of the steps whenever you want, whether it's the same day or the same month. All the final table players usually receive substantial piece of the prize pool, with the two first places taking the larger portions. Shootout tournaments have different structures with different qualifications. Sometimes only the first place gets to progress to the next round and sometimes it's the two or three leading places.
For more information about the tournament's variants and their applied strategies, I suggest you go back to All day poker tournaments index page and educate yourself using our descriptive guides.
Article submitted by Alex Chamberlain, 12/12/2005