The generally accepted maxim when ranking the best tournament poker sites is that bigger is better. It’s true that large, high traffic poker sites tend to have the most tournament selection. The more active players there are, the easier it is to find large tournaments at any time of day. However, basing your decision entirely on traffic would be to ignore several other important factors that should be considered.
Let’s begin with a quick look at the best poker sites for tournaments and then discuss the details below.
Any page ranking poker tournament sites would be remiss in failing to mention the giant of them all: PokerStars. PokerStars has been the go-to site for tournaments for years now. It is the biggest poker site of them all and is usually home to the largest guaranteed prize pool events on the internet. No other poker site has sent more players to the WSOP or created more overnight millionaires than PokerStars.
The odds are pretty decent that you’ll find yourself at PokerStars are some point or another. It’s just too big a poker site to ignore forever. However, I wouldn’t consider PokerStars to be the end-all, be-all of poker tournaments. There are plenty of other sites with their own competitive advantages. It would be worth your while to look into a couple of alternatives and keep an account open at one or two other sites. At the very least, doing so will give you access to that many more tournaments every week.
Trying to rank anything as “the best” is always going to be a bit of an exercise in subjectivity. Some of it depends on what you are looking for in particular. For example, big prize pools are always nice but they don’t help much if you’re on a strict budget and can’t pony up a $215 entry fee just to take a seat.
If you’re not a high volume player, the other poker sites on this page will treat you just as well. In fact, I like the above poker sites even more than PokerStars as far as software and softness goes. These PokerStars alternatives offer fast, leaner software and are full of inexperienced players. Generally, I’ve found the tournaments at these other sites to be softer and easier to cash in.
Tournaments come in many different shapes and sizes these days. You’ll find tournaments for Texas Holdem, Omaha, 7 Card Stud and many others. Breaking it down even further, you’ll find standard freezeouts, guaranteed tournaments, satellites, rebuys and more for each game type. Some tournaments progress very quickly while others progress slowly, giving you more time to work.
You can read more about the most common tournament formats (and see more suggestions) on the following pages:
- Freerolls: Tournaments that cost nothing to enter but still offer real money prizes
- Satellites: Tournaments that award free entry to larger events
- Sit and Go Tournaments: These are not scheduled; they simply begin once enough players have paid the buyin. SNGs can be hosted as single table tournaments or multi-table events.
- Bounty Tournaments: You get paid for each player you knock out.
There’s an almost endless variety when you consider all possible configurations of tournament rules and payouts. There are even tournaments in which half the field gets paid double their buyin or a third of the field is paid three times their buyin. You can also expect to see frequent satellites tournaments in which the top prize is a paid trip to compete in a major land-based event such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. In fact, I have a page dedicated to just that:
So, one of the factors I consider when ranking the best tournament poker sites is overall variety. It’s nice to have options and switch it up. A poker room with great variety will give you a chance to try new things, find a game-type that complements your skill set and let you expand your horizons as a player.
Level of Competition
Some poker tournament sites are undeniably softer than others in terms of the skill of the average player. In my experience, there is a correlation between the size of the poker site and the level of competition. The larger a poker site, the more likely it is that you will run into skilled players.
The reason for this relationship is simple. Large poker sites are where the grinders go. Imagine you’re a skilled player who relies on poker to pay the bills. You would undoubtedly be drawn to the large sites where a new tournament is kicking off every few seconds. Large sites offer the volume that makes it possible to multi-table tournaments day in and day out.
Dedicated grinders avoid smaller sites and the general level of skill is lower as a result. If you don’t need to be in a new tournament every few minutes, a small-to-medium poker site may actually be the best fit for your needs. Conversely, you’ll want to go with a larger site if you do plan on playing multiple tournaments a day.
However, there eventually comes a point of diminishing returns when we talk about small poker sites. Some poker sites are so small that it’s hard to find enough tournaments to keep even the most casual of players satisfied. You’ll need to balance your desire for soft competition with the frequency of tournaments. You can read more about these topics on the following pages.
- High Traffic Sites: The largest poker sites ranked in order of average traffic numbers
- Small Poker Sites: A ranking of small-to-medium poker sites
- Loose Poker Sites: Poker sites ranked by the general level of competition
The key advantage tournaments have over cash games is that your total risk and potential reward are completely manageable. You know exactly how much money you will risk (the buyin) and how much money you stand to win (the first place prize). You can decide ahead of time how much money you’re willing to risk – once you pay your buyin, that’s it. You can now go focus your efforts on winning cash.
The biggest prize pools are always found at the biggest poker sites. A large player pool results in more people able and willing to pay the buyin and push the prize pool up. If your primary concern is maximizing your potential, a big poker site is the way to go.
The one thing to keep in mind is that large tournaments are significantly more difficult to cash. Just take a look at PokerStars where tournaments sometimes exceed 6,000 players. That’s a crazy number of people you’re going to have to outlast and chips you’re going to have to collect to even get a whiff of the money. While winning a big tournament is a very sweet feeling, it’s not going to happen very often.
By contrast, smaller tournaments are easier to win. The big drawback is that the prizes aren’t as impressive. You will win more often but for less money. Neither format is “better” than the other. Both have their pros and cons. To a point, choosing the best poker tournament site is subjective. The most important thing you can do is only stick with well-known and reputable poker sites.