Unique Online Tournaments
Traditionally, casinos have only offered standard multi-table tournaments and sometimes single-table tournament satellites. However, the internet has opened the doors for online cardrooms to get more creative with the tournaments they offer. The following is a commentary on some of the more popular and unique tournaments being offered by online cardrooms.
Noble Poker and Titan Poker offer Jackpot Sit'N'Go (SNG) tournaments. Jackpots of four different prize amounts are available to be won: $100,000, $25,000, $15,000, and $2,000. These jackpot prize amounts are offered through tournaments of various buy-ins. For example, the $25,000 "Rio" Jackpot is awarded to anyone who wins 6 consecutive $20+$3 Jackpot SNGs. The "Rio" as well as the "Fort Knox" (a $50+$7 feeder into $100,000 prize) Jackpot tournaments are played shorthanded with just 6 entrants. The "Maui" Jackpot tournaments are 10-handed and feature a $5+$1 buy-in. One needs to win 5 consecutive "Maui" tournaments to capture the $15,000 prize. Lastly, a "Dirty Dozen" $2,000 Jackpot is available to anyone who wins four consecutive $2+$.40 12-person tournaments.
online poker 468x60
All of these jackpot tournaments contain a higher entry fee compared to non-jackpot tournaments. For example, instead of a standard $2 entry fee for a $20 buy-in tournament, the Rio Jackpot charges a $3 entry fee. The elevated entry fee in the Jackpot tournaments means a player needs a higher level of skill to justify the entry fee.
For example, let's analyze a $25k jackpot for a Rio 6-man SNG tournament. Assuming a player of average skill, with a 1/6 chance to win each Rio SNG, this player's EV from winning the jackpot is $.53. Since the player is paying an extra $1 in entry fees to participate in this tournament, this means the player ends up a net loser from entering this jackpot tournament. However, if the player was very skilled and had a 25% chance of winning each SNG tournament, his EV would be +$.20 for entering this tournament. This would mean the jackpot justifies the added entry fee.
Poker Room recently released their staggeringly complex "Team Tournaments". These tournaments allow players to band together and share a communal bankroll while battling other teams. Teams can compete in leagues where they spar for money and leaderboard points. Each team has a manager that is ultimately responsible for releasing the money from the "Team Wallet" to register in various events. Note that all team tournaments are segregated away from the regular multi-table tournaments on PokerRoom (thankfully).
One of the bright points of the Team Play is that it does not promote collusion. At no point during any team tournaments are two members of the same team seated at the same table. Instead, the tournaments are played shootout-style. One member from each team is put at a table to play a single-table tournament against members of other teams. Currently PokerRoom is trying to jump start the popularity of Team Play by adding freeroll prize pools to Team Tournaments.
PokerStars has gained some notoriety for their new 20-table SNGs. Currently these tournaments are offered at buy-ins of $20+$2 and $4+$.40. Each tournament begins after 180 players have registered. There are two main reasons why these large SNG tournaments are popular. First, they are a great way to allow players to participate in multi-table tournaments with a small field. PokerStars multi-table tourneys generally feature far more than 180 entrants. Secondly, these tournaments cater well to people who are not attracted to any of the upcoming scheduled tournaments. At peak hours, it generally takes less than 15 minutes for one of these SNGs to begin after registration has opened.
There is a significant difference in competition between the $20 and $4 buy-in tournaments. Part of this is due to the Tournament Leaderboard (TLB) Points awarded to the top finishers. The $20+$2 tournaments are very appealing to players trying to amass an impressive finish on the TLB. Therefore the $20+$2s are quite shark-infested and might be hard for intermediate players to beat. Furthermore, the lower buy-in of the $4+$.40s may have distracted many of the casual-playing fish away from the $20+$2 SNG. This has made the $4+$.40 tournaments a great way to build a bankroll from playing small buy-in multi-table tournaments.
At Party Poker , "Shootout Tournaments" are a bit different than the shootout tournaments on most other networks. Generally a shootout tournament is composed of a series of single table tournaments. Only the winners of each single-table tournament advance to the next round and face off against each other at a new table. However, Party Poker has made an amendment to this structure and sends the top 3 finishers from each table on to the next round. Players also retain their chip stacks from round to round. This rewards aggressive play greatly. Anyone who folds to third place isn't likely to have enough chips to compete in the next round.
The payouts in Party Poker's shootout tournaments are very flat, meaning a lot of players win a little money. For example, in a $20+$2 shootout, a player who finishes 3rd in the first round will have something in the ballpark of $24 credited to their account before they continue to round 2. The payouts increase depending on how far along the tournament has progressed. Each shootout tournament is capped at four rounds.
Party Poker's shootouts have proven to be very popular. The $5+$1 tournaments often draw more than 1,000 entrants. In addition to their value as a fun way to play a tournament, they are also a great way to turn a profit. The first round of these tournaments is often full of weak players without much of a clue regarding optimal single-table tournament strategy. A very good player could probably expect to advance to the second round more than 50% of the time.