Poker Tournament Strategy: Assessing Prize Structure Correctly

There are many times in an online poker tournament that your opponent makes questionable plays with sub-par hands that leave you asking yourself things like: “What on Earth was he thinking?” Of course in the online poker world that is a very charitable way to rephrase it, but I hope you get the meaning. It’s usually even more astounding when such seemingly poor plays get rewarded, and all of a sudden, donky boy in seat 4 is the tournament chip leader, poised for a nice payout.

The reasoning of this article is not necessarily justification for the all the questionable plays that you see, but to perhaps enlighten you as to why some of the plays are made as a result of certain players really knowing and understanding the payout structure of a tournament.

Let’ take for example the 180 player multi-table sit and go tournaments at Poker Stars. This tournament pays the top 18 players or 10 percent of the field no matter what buy in you select. For the $4 buy in tournaments, first place can win you $216, a whopping ROI of 4800%. If you make the final table in 9th place you make about 300% ROI, nice but paltry compared to first, nonetheless a profit.

Here is where payouts get a little more complicated or for some, more simple, in this tournament. From 18th place to 10th place you earn $8.64 prize money or 100% ROI. All of these positions pay exactly the same.

Now making the money is no simple task, but it can be done on regular basis with a solid strategy behind you and a good hold of your emotions. That’s a good strategy for building your bankroll, but it’s not going to elevate your game level too soon either, by just inching into the money then fading away.

It’s during the in-the-money (ITM) stage that your risk window should be wide open, especially when the payouts for half the field are exactly identical. Shooting for that 4,800% ROI should much more analysis with regard to your poker tournament M and Q, as well as your hole cards. In fact, you can say that sitting in 14th place of 17 players left, while you are in the Orange MZone, your hole cards can actually matter very little compared to other factors.

This is also true if you were actually in 1st of 17 players left with a very healthy Green MZone stack and are faced with an all-in bet from a Red Mzone stack. In this spot should call with a wide array of hands like King-x suited, all kinds of connectors, any ace, any pair, and any two face cards. Some will call with any King or Queen as well. There is a poker calculator called Tournament Indicator that has a very unique feature called Match cards that lets you know how your hand measures up to potential hands your opponent may be pushing with.

The point is, in tournaments, you need to be aware of all of the indicators as well as the payout structure and marry that with your bankroll expectations. If you are able to do that with some precision, you may in fact realize that the donkey knew more than he let on.

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