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Poker tournaments form a major element of online poker, and are widely available for players. You'll see that there's no greater thrill than going heads up having won through to the final stages of an online poker tournament, and ultimately standing victorious. They are open to any player, regardless of experience or skill level - from freeroll tournaments particularly useful for complete beginners, through to multiple types of Sit and Go and Multitable tournaments. Poker tournaments offer you a chance to win big prizes for low entrance fees - you know exactly what prizes are on offer and how much you're risking.
The range of scheduled tournaments offered by the online poker rooms is immense, catering for thousands of players in thousands of games daily. The poker bonuses offered by the online rooms give you a great way to increase the number of tournaments to play in - some bonuses will give you many hundreds of dollars which can pay for multiple tournament entries. With the chance to win some highly valuable prize pools, and play against opponents from all over the world, it's easy to see why the popularity of tournaments is increasing. Your poker skills and knowledge will face the ultimate test in a race against the blinds and a supreme battle of wits.
The basic structure of an online tournament is easy to understand. Each player involved is given an equal number of starting chips, and play continues until only one player remains with all the chips. If you lose all your chips at any point you're eliminated. The blinds are raised at regular predetermined intervals, which makes the pots progressively larger and forces you to play more hands to avoid being wiped out. This acts to intensify the action in any game. You can see from this that psychological strength plays a big part in a poker tournament, as you'll eventually be forced into making larger and more bets than you really want to.
Skill and clever strategic play is important, and to have any chance of success you'll need to have at least studied the basics of how to play poker tournaments. You'll need plenty of luck too, especially in multi table tournaments. When you have 200 opponents, winning your share of marginal hands will be critical to success, along with a firm understanding of basic and tournament poker strategy..
You normally gain entry to a poker tournament by paying a fee, known as a 'buy in', and it begins either at a set time or when the required number of players have joined. Buy in amounts can range from just a few dollars, up to larger amounts where the prizes are often much greater. Of course, the greater the prize, the more likely it is that you'll be facing some tough competition. Prize values vary widely, but generally at least the last 2 or 3 remaining players in a tournament win a share with the winner taking the most, and in the bigger tournaments prizes can be given to the final 10 or even more players.
Free to enter tournaments - known as freerolls - are extremely popular, and are a great way to gain experience. Play in these can often be loose, with opponents going all out to win big pots because they have nothing to lose. Because of this, they're not a good way to prepare for playing where your cash is at stake, but are still entertaining and useful as practice games to understand the structure and get a feeling for how tournaments progress. Freeroll tournament entries are often given to players on joinng a new online poker room, as an addition to any first deposit poker bonuses. They can also be given as loyalty incentives, or as general promotions.
Aside from the chance to win cash prizes, you can also play in tournaments where you'll win through to the finals of major land based or online tournaments with huge prizes. These are known as satellites, and there have been a number of major poker tournaments eventually won by players who qualified online for low buy ins in satellite tournaments.
The World Series of Poker is recognised as the biggest of all poker tournaments - a live, week-long no limit holdem tournament with a massive $10,000 buy in. The competition attracts every top professional, plus celebrity players and online champions. Every top poker player sees this one as the one to win, but this is not just for the poker pros with the 2004 winner qualifying through an online poker satellite tournament with a $250 buy-in.