Tournaments are a very popular form of poker. Instead of paying every time time you want to call or raise a hand, as you would in a normal cash game, you pay a one off entry fee which can range from $1 to $1000, take your pick. You will also have to pay a little to the poker room for staging the tournament. It's normally around 10% of the entry fee but can vary a little. The charges tend to drop in the higher priced tournaments.
There are two main types
These usually consist of ten or six players but this varies slightly at some poker rooms (more details in the reviews).
The vast majority of STT's are No Limit games but you do sometimes see Pot Limit and Limit Tournaments. (Types of betting explained here)
In a ten player tournament the top three will get a prize, normally 50% the prize fund to the winner, 30% for 2nd and 20% for 3rd.
In a six player tournament prizes will go to 1st and 2nd. About 66% and 33% respectively.
The reason they are often called Sit 'n Go's is that the tournament won't usually start at a certain time, just whenever the table is filled. This tends to happen quite quickly with the lower stakes (up to about $25) tournaments.
Once all the seats are filled each player is given an equal amount of chips and play begins.
In a tournament the blinds start of low and increase either after a certain length of time, normally about ten minutes,or a certain number of hands. They keep increasing in this way throughout the tournament.
The style of play can be vastly different to a normal Limit cash game. It's not unusual to see players going all-in before the flop. Intimidation is used a lot by some players to great affect. You will find yourself folding great cards, that you were thinking of making a large raise with, because someone raised before you had a chance.
On the other hand you can sometimes bluff a flush on the river, if a third card of one suit is dealt by going all-in, because your opponent fears you have a flush Ace high. In a normal Limit game your bluff would almost certainly be called but in a No Limit Tournament you can sometimes use FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) to your advantage. That said if your bluff is called, and you were all in, your out. You'll not get many second chances if you love to go all-in.
Some players have another style which is to try and steal small pots frequently and slowly build up their stack without risking it all too often.
Of course the best players vary their play to keep the table constantly guessing.
Your aims in the tournament should make a difference to your playing style as well. If you want to win at all costs then you will probably have to be aggressive at some point. If you simply want to finish in the money then sometimes it pays to just sit back and watch the action. You can find yourself in the last four or five without even trying if the opposition have been playing a loose, aggressive game.
You need to judge the pace and type of players and adjust your play accordingly.
Multi Table Tournaments have much the same format as STT's but on a larger scale. They range in size from small ones with two or three starting tables to huge ones with up to 4000 playersor more. As players are knocked out the survivors will be moved around to different tables to try and keep them full. Eventually the tounament will be reduced to one final table and the last player left will win the tournament.
Most tournaments have a pre-defined start time and you have to register to take part but there are also smaller ones, 20 - 40 players, which just start when the tables are full.
The more players a tournament has, the more places will win a prize. With fifty players the 1st to 6th may get a prize. One hundred players will normally pay anyone who make the final table. Two hundred players plus will pay the last three tables and so on. All poker rooms provide a tournament lobby for the pre-registered tournaments which give all the necessary information on the prizes. The lobby also provdes infomation while the tournament is running on how many chips everyone has and who is at each table.
Some tournaments allow you to 're-buy' chips if you loose all yours or fall below a certain amount. This is only possible up to a certain level or until a pre-determined time from the tournament start. At this point it is also sometimes possible to buy an 'add-on' of chips no matter how many you have. Again the lobby will give details if rebuys are available.