The great game of poker has never been so popular online or live – now that you can play poker online anytime you like, 24/7. We also have the World Series of Poker to thank; when the second WSOP was held in Las Vegas in 1971, they decided to switch things up, replacing their cash games with a tournament format to decide the winners. Two years later, the first televised WSOP was held, and that was the beginning of modern poker as we know it.

They play lots of different poker games at the WSOP, but the most popular online poker tournaments feature Texas Hold’em, specifically the “No-Limit” variety. Hold’em has been the casino poker game of choice for the past 20 years or so, with the No-Limit betting structure taking center poker stage in the early Aughts. Whatever your preferred casino poker game (or games), the best online poker tournaments are waiting for you right now at Ignition's online poker rooms where you can play for real money. This quick and easy online poker guide will show you how to get your seat at the poker table and play poker games like a true boss.

How Poker Tournaments Work

If you’re more familiar with cash games, making the transition to tournament poker is quite simple. It’s still the same casino poker game, but instead of playing one hand at a time, you play until you either win the poker games or run out of chips. Everyone who enters the games pays a buy-in, as well as an entry fee (usually 10% of the buy-in), and the poker room takes all of those buy-ins and puts them in the prize pool, while collecting the entry fees as their commission. The real money prize pool is then handed out to the players who survive the longest – and of course, the winner gets the biggest real money prize of them all.

Here’s an example to make things a bit clearer. A recent $500 Guaranteed No-Limit Hold’em tournament at Ignition drew 144 entrants, each paying a $5 buy-in and a 50-cent entry fee. The “Guaranteed” part meant that at least $500 would be put in the real money prize pool, even if the poker event hadn’t drawn 100 players. Instead, there were enough entrants to boost the real money prize pool to $720. The Top-27 finishers were then awarded prizes, starting from $8.28 for those who finished 19-27, then gradually increasing as the poker tournament went deeper, until there was just the sole survivor, who earned $151.20 real money.

Where to Find Poker Tournaments at Ignition

You can find the full list of casino poker tournaments at Ignition Poker by entering the poker lobby and selecting Scheduled Tournaments. If you’re using a desktop to play, you’ll need to download the free poker software first and install the poker client; if you’re using your mobile, simply log into our homepage, and our industry-leading web online app will take care of the rest.

Don’t have your Ignition Poker account yet? Just fill out the online form and log in once you’re approved, then make your first deposit when you’re ready to play real money poker. Don’t forget to collect our Welcome Bonus for new players, too. This bonus, and the others you can collect while you play, will help keep you in the playing game while you’re still learning how to play poker like a champ.

Once you’re in the online casino Ignition Poker lobby and you’ve chosen Selected Tournaments, you’ll see a list of online tournament options at the top of your display. At the far right, you’ll see the different buy-in levels from Micro ($5 and under) to High (above $50). You’ll also see the three different games you can play at Ignition – Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo – and the different tournament types on the menu. Selecting these checkboxes will help you browse the tournaments that are on the schedule, and decide which ones you want to play online for real money.

What Type of Poker Tournaments Are Available?

Under “Tournament Type” in the online poker lobby, you’ll see at least five different options: Regular, Special, $100K Guaranteed, Satellites and Private. The two main categories are Regular and Special – any tournament that’s part of a larger series can be considered Special. That includes the weekly $100K Guaranteed tournament, held every Sunday. Private tournaments include our Exclusive series of freerolls, where you have to be issued a tournament ticket to play online for real money.

Satellite tournaments are events where you can win a seat into a tournament with a larger buy-in. This is a great way for newer players to get a taste of the big Main Event tournaments without having to invest too much of their bankroll at once. Speaking of playing with real money, there might also be a sixth option under Tournament Types when you log in. Ignition Poker hosts some of the biggest annual poker festivals you’ll find online, including the Super Millions Poker Open (SMPO). When this festival is running, you’ll see a checkbox for SMPO tournaments. The SMPO Main Event has a $425 buy-in plus a $25 entry fee, but you can “satellite” your way in for as little as $1.

Within these larger category types, you’ll find a number of different tournament structures on the menu at Ignition Poker. Some tournaments (Turbos, Super Turbos and Hyper Turbos) are set up to finish more quickly than others, which we’ll explain shortly. Some tournaments offer you deeper starting stacks, like the 10K Chips events. Knockout tournaments give you an added “bounty” prize every time you eliminate a player; in Progressive Knockout events, those bounties – including the one on your own head – get bigger as more players get eliminated.

There are many other tournament types players can play online at Ignition Poker, each with its own take on the standard tournament structure. Make sure players know which game they're playing before one registers, because each type requires its own online poker strategy if players want to survive as long as possible. More on that in a moment.

Specific Poker Tournament Rules

The common thread with all these poker tournaments is the blinds. In a cash game, the blinds are always the same size; a $1/$2 Hold’em game will always have the small blind at $1 and the big blind at $2. In a poker tournament, the blinds increase every few minutes, in order to keep the action going and bring the event to a conclusion. Remember that $500 Guaranteed tournament we were talking about? The blinds started at 10/20 (tournament chips do not have dollar signs, since they can’t be exchanged directly for money), then went up every 12 minutes after that, to 20/40, 30/60, and so on.

In addition to the blinds, antes will often be introduced into play after a few levels have passed. This is where all the players at the table throws a few chips into the pot before the hand begins; in our example tournament, an ante of 25 chips was introduced at Level 8, then it went up to 30 for Level 9, 40 for Level 10, and on from there. The bigger the real money pot gets with blinds and antes, the more incentive players have to fight for all those chips.

Unlike cash games, where players start playing and can cash out anytime players like, tournaments follow a set schedule and can take several hours to finish. To make this easier on players, a five-minute break is given at 55 minutes to the hour, every hour. Use these breaks wisely to refresh yourself and get ready for the next level of play.

Best Poker Tournament Strategy

The most important piece of tournament poker strategy advice we can give players is this: Emphasize survival over chip accumulation. In a cash game, players would be more than happy to get all one's chips in the middle with a small advantage over one's opponent – say, a 52/48 flip like pocket Deuces versus Ace-King in Hold’em. In a tournament, that edge might not be worth chasing down, since there’s a 48% chance you’ll be knocked out, and tournaments (re-buys notwithstanding) don’t allow you back in once you’re eliminated.

Players still need to scoop up those chips, though. With the blinds and antes going up all the time, players will have to take one's chances every once in a while just to survive. Pay attention to how many chips everyone has in their stacks; when one and one's opponents have at least 40 big blinds each, the tournament plays almost like a cash game, but once stacks get down to 30 big blinds, it gets a lot harder to maneuver. Once you’re down to 10-15 bigs, there are only two good options: Go all-in, or fold.

For more information on tournament poker strategy and how to win real money while playing online, and how to win at all different types of poker, make sure to check out our ever-growing archive of online strategy articles here at Ignition Poker. Playing in tournaments for real money are tons of fun, and who knows, you might win a big real money cash prize, so make the most of them – and best of luck on the felt.