Multi-table Tournament Reviews
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2005-11-27, by TwoGun, Ozone
Online multi-table poker tournaments (MTTs) can be extraordinarily fun and sometimes even profitable. Since MTTs are about the only form of poker broadcast on TV, many new online players seek out these tournaments after becoming intrigued with an episode of poker on ESPN or the Travel Channel. Nearly every major online poker site spreads MTTs, and the differences in quality between each site's tournaments can be quite significant.
The way an online poker site structures a multi-table tournament is very important. Tournament structure determines how much playing time each person will enjoy before feeling the pressure of the increasing blinds on their chip stack. The better tournaments are the ones whose structure allows people to have more time to play poker that isn't just "raise all-in preflop or fold" poker.
Several factors contribute towards the quality of a tournament's structure. Among these include the speed of the poker room's software, size of starting chips, rate of blind increases, and size of blind intervals. When examining these factors, one is able to determine the quality of structure provided by an online site's multi-table tournaments.
Online poker rooms can also be rated based on their selection of tournaments. This is not only the raw number of multi-table tournaments available, but also the different buy-ins available as well as the different games spread (i.e. no-limit hold'em, limit Omaha hi-lo, etc.)
Below are ratings of the multi-table tournament structures of five popular online poker rooms.
PokerStars MTT Review
With respect to multi-table tournaments, PokerStars is the crème de la crème of online poker sites. Both the 2003 and 2004 WSOP Main Event champions won their seats to the WSOP after qualifying through a PokerStars WSOP satellite.
PokerStars has a rich selection of MTTs. More than 60 scheduled MTTs are spread daily on the PokerStars network. These tournaments range from the affordable (and wildly popular) $1+$0.10 tournaments all the way up to their weekly $200+$15 Sunday tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $500,000. Every week, more than 3,000 players participate in this Sunday tournament, and the winner of the tournament often walks away with well over $100,000.
PokerStars is also well renowned for hosting the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). Each summer the WCOOP takes place and holds one tournament per day, every day, for 15 straight days. The buy-in cost for WCOOP tournaments range from $215 up to $2,600. The $2,600 No Limit Hold'em championship event is considered the most important online tournament of the year and has a guaranteed prize pool of $2.5 million. Win a WCOOP event and you'll be shipped a gold bracelet that lets the world know you are a poker champion.
PokerStars is likely the best network for a player looking to specialize in MTTs. The affordable buy-ins, wide selection of unique tournaments, as well as A+ customer service makes PokerStars a clear cut number one in the world of online MTTs. Be careful though, because you never know when you'll be sitting right beside a World Champion when playing a multi-table tournament on PokerStars.
Poker Room MTT Review
PokerRoom has two things going for it: horrible competition and fast software. The combination of these two aspects of Poker Room's MTTs makes their tournaments very profitable for solid players.
While the structure of Poker Room's tournaments in and of itself is nothing special, the speed of the software makes the tournament structure seem quite wonderful. Poker Room's software is known for pumping out hands faster than most other sites. This means that players are dealt more hands per hour in tournaments, which in turn gives good players more opportunities to exploit the weak players out of their chips.
The weakest feature of Poker Room's tournaments is their lack of tournaments with buy-ins above $10. Poker Room is a relatively small online cardroom, so most of their MTTs feature $5 or $10 buy-ins with anywhere from 200-500 players. Compare this with PokerStars who feature buy-ins ranging from $1 to $200 with entries sometimes reaching over 2,000. By spreading mostly $5 and $10 tournaments, Poker Room is protecting the weak players (and they are many in number), by not tempting them with $50 tournaments that will only bring on the sharks to gobble up the sea of weak money on the network. So while $5 and $10 tournaments are great for maintaining a high ease of competition, it tends to make Poker Room an unattractive site for any players looking to make serious money from MTTs.
Party Poker MTT Review
Party Poker's tournaments can be compared to McDonald's hamburgers. Party Poker does not offer the best product, but what they offer is good enough. For whatever reason, people pour in droves.
Since Party Poker is by far the largest online poker room, the raw number of players that enter their MTTs is enormous. Many enjoy Party's tournaments since they tend to have larger prize pools due to the size of the playing field. However, they do not offer as many MTTs as their smaller counterpart, PokerStars.
Party Poker has very solid tournament structure, but only because of an annoying flaw in their tournament system. Unlike virtually all other major poker sites, Party Poker does not add antes to the blind structure towards the end of a multi-table touranment. So as Party's MTTs reach the later stages, the pots are much smaller than pots on other sites, simply because of the lack of antes. The lack of antes keeps the pressure off of the short stacks, thus causing more tight play and stalling. As a competent player, "no antes" can be a frustrating feature as the desire to steal a pot decreases if there are no dead antes in the middle. So due to the effects of not having antes as part of the blind structure, Party's tournaments tend to take longer, and thus appear to have great structure.
For as many people as are logged on to the Party Poker network at any given time, Party's MTT selection is quite poor. They tend to spread a lot of $30 and $50 multi-table tournaments, which don't exactly cater to new players. Also, they charge entry fees on their rebuys and add-ons. R+A tournaments on most sites charge an entry fee up front, and then allow you rebuy and add-on free of fees. This is not the case with Party Poker, and after a while, it starts to add up.
Empire Poker MTT Review
Empire Poker uses the same software and as Party Poker, only with different colors. The differences do not stop there. While Party Poker frequently has tournaments with over 1,500 registrants, Empire Poker tends to have much smaller multi-table tournaments.
Empire Poker features several daily "guaranteed" tournaments, which have a guaranteed minimum prized-pool. These tournaments have increased the popularity of Empire's MTTs, but do not expect to play in an Empire tournament with over 500 players. Most MTTs on Empire feature 50-200 entrants.
The lack of players in Empire's guaranteed prize pool tournaments can sometimes be welcome to a value-oriented player. When the number of entrants is not enough for the buy-ins alone to reach the guarantee, it means Empire has to add money to the prize pool. There are frequently overlays at Empire's MTTs, which gives players a good reason for checking out this site's MTTs.
For a player looking to play freerolls, Empire Poker is also a good site to choose. Once a player has made the minimum deposit on the software ($50), they are eligible to enter as many of the daily freerolls as they wish. On a typical day, Empire will give away roughly $1,000 via multi-table freerolls.
Paradise Poker MTT Review
Paradise Poker is a great site to play MTTs except for one major annoyance, their software speed. The software is painfully slow for multi-table tournaments (this isn't the case with ring games). There are lots of complicated graphics that, while easy on the eyes, don't allow for many hands to be played. In the first hour of an MTT on Paradise, it is not uncommon to be dealt less than 30 hands. Therefore, Paradise is a great site to start on for a new player who really doesn't have a clue how to play tournaments. Sharky players have a much harder time extracting chips from fish when they only see one hand every 2 minutes.
It is not uncommon to see a chipleader in a Paradise tournament have a mere 20-30 big blinds in their stack. This is pretty unacceptable and contributes to an increase in the luck. If everyone, even the chipleader, is feeling heat from the increasing blinds, players are more likely to start pushing all-in preflop with marginal hands rather than taking their time and enjoying smaller pots. This pressure from the blinds will benefit weak players who are often exploited by the fancy play of strong players. The structure on Paradise tends to lessen the edges a strong player has over any weak player.
Paradise is perhaps 2nd to only PokerStars in tournament selection. They run several tournaments featuring non-NL Hold'em games, as well as a lot of fun, low buy-in tournaments.
Recently, Paradise has gained some popularity in the MTT department by holding "The World's First Million Dollar Freeroll". This promotion was well publicized and offered new players a chance to win one million dollars playing a multi-table tournament without ever having to deposit real money on the network.
Paradise Poker is frustrating, because if their software were faster, they could probably rival PokerStars as the best online poker site for MTTs. Their slow software does have the hidden value of being a decent place for new players to start their online MTT journeys.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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