Tournaments have been a mainstay of the online poker scene for more than a decade. Every weekend, players find their way to marquee final tables with aspirations of adding a significant amount of money to their poker bankroll. And in a few cases, they achieve a life-changing score.
Here are 6 reasons why online poker tournaments are popular. (We’ve included a separate section near the end if you’d like to learn more about the best poker sites for online tournaments.)
#1: Live Streams on Twitch Poker
Online poker tournaments are all the rage on Twitch Poker, where big name personalities compete for huge cash prizes with thousands of viewers watching in real time.
Some of the most popular poker players in the world have entertained fans around the globe on Twitch, including our very own Doug Polk who set the Twitch Poker live stream MTT cash record in 2016 when he finished runner-up in the WCOOP High Roller event on PokerStars for $455,000 USD.
— Twitch (@Twitch) September 20, 2016
Viewers have been able to learn more about online poker tournaments and the poker world in general thanks to the quality, real money poker entertainment provided by live streamers. This has led to more fans signing up for online poker sites and trying out the MTT format, which in turn has made online events a popular choice among casual players.
#2: Potential for Big Return on Small Investment
While many consider successful cash game pros to be at the top of the online poker hierarchy, recreational players are attracted to online tournaments because of the relatively low monetary investment necessary to enter compared to the potentially enormous payoff.
This applies to live tournaments as well, however major online poker sites host flagship events every week that offer players with small bankrolls a chance to ladder up to a meaningful final table — which could result in a prize far exceeding what would be attainable through a similar cash game buy-in.
The allure of outlasting a large field of competitors and suddenly having one’s biggest career poker score is what attracts so many players to online multi-table tournaments (MTTs). If you play Internet poker, there are actually free poker tournaments online — aka “freerolls” — that can help new players with real money bankroll building as they learn the ropes.
#3: Consistent Rake Rates (Tournament Fees)
Online poker tournaments, at least in their traditional format, continue to offer easy-to-understand rake rates that have remained unchanged over the years. This in turn has allowed players of all skill levels to become familiar with the tournament fee percentages charged by poker sites, and easily understand how much of their investment will be allocated to the actual prize pool.
MTTs on many poker sites charge players a 10% fee to enter low stakes events — such as $10+$1 tournaments — and take a smaller percentage as buy-ins increase (for example: $100+$9, $500+$30, and $1,000+$50).
Unfortunately this is not the case when compared to price hikes in online poker cash games, which in many cases have made those formats unattractive as they have become much more expensive in recent years.
Reduction in cashback rewards by sites such as PokerStars have affected tournament players as well, yet the base fees for non-gimmick MTTs have remained largely unchanged since the mid-2000s.
#4: Satellite Tournaments into Live Events
Online poker sites represent a great opportunity for recreational players to qualify for showcase live events that would otherwise be outside their bankroll.
— partypoker (@partypoker) January 9, 2017
A greater focus on televised poker has prompted some sites to offer huge overlays to players in order to boost overall attendance at marquee live tournaments… keeping the dream alive for many aspiring poker players.
Travel and lodging costs are typically covered within the live event packages, and some sites are altering their policies to ensure more casual players have an opportunity to qualify. Although this move has not been popular among some pro MTT grinders, it should in theory make online satellite tournaments more attractive to recreational players.
#5: For-Profit Opportunities
According to a number of longtime poker pros, online MTTs are one of the softest poker formats in existence. Tournaments demand different strategies based on chip counts, approaching bubbles, and escalating cash prizes — which many players do not adjust properly to.
This leads for-profit players to seek out quality strategy content — including poker tips and tricks — here at Upswing Poker from our pros and coaches who have years of experience extracting value while competing in online events.
#6: Online Poker Tournaments Are Convenient
There’s really no replacing the Internet when it comes to convenience, and poker tournaments are no exception. Whereas most live events rely on local attendance to fill seats, poker aficionados can fire up multiple events from their laptop or mobile device and compete for huge prizes from the comfort of their own homes.
Convenience is one of the most important contributing factors to online poker’s popularity throughout the years, especially since many sites accept deposits from online wallets, major credit cards and even virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.
If you’re looking to try out poker tournaments and don’t have time to drive several hours to the nearest land-based casino, then online poker sites are your best option.
Best Sites For Online Poker Tournaments
The three major regulated online poker sites that offer the best online poker tournaments are PokerStars, Partypoker and 888 Poker.
PokerStars has by far the most traffic and offers a weekly flagship tournament called the Sunday Million ($200+$15 buy-in). The event boasts a $1 million guarantee with numerous satellites running throughout the week.
Partypoker has established itself as a competitive online poker tournament force in recent years due to its pro-friendly rakeback rewards and rising popularity through marquee live events. Although the player fields are typically smaller than its main competitor, Partypoker hosts several events on a weekly basis that guarantee six figures USD.
888 Poker has improved its brand recognition among casual poker fans thanks to its presence in televised live events such as the World Series of Poker and Poker Night in America. The big Sunday tournaments at 888 include the $500+$30 buy-in WHALE, $300+$20 BABY WHALE and the $200+$15 “Mega Deep” tournament, which often has a prize pool eclipsing $100,000.
Read more Upswing Poker content from our contributors:
- Poker Cash Games vs. Tournaments Comparison (Sep 13, 2016)
- Doug Polk Sets YouTube Live Stream MTT Cash Record (May 21, 2017)
- 5 Entertaining Tweets from “Texas Dolly” Doyle Brunson (Sep 27, 2017)
- GrindNation: Meet The Online Poker Stream Team (Jul 27, 2017)
David Huber (known as “dhubermex” online) has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade. He currently assists several poker and gaming entities as a researcher, writer, and consultant. Former Editor-in-Chief & Head Moderator of online tournament rankings site PocketFives (2006-2011).