No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular form of poker in the world. Played in casinos, card-room and at kitchen tables around the world, the ease of learning Hold’em lends to the popularity. Although Hold’em is played in Fixed-Limit format as well [and on rare occasion in Pot-Limit], the popularity of Limit Hold’em has waned while conversely No-Limit has risen. There are a few reasons for this, although these aren’t all of them:
• It’s easier to protect your hand.
• More control over bets and bet-sizing.
• Skill plays a much bigger role.
The popularity of No-Limit Hold’em tournaments has also increased. Part of it is that tournaments offer an added stimulus to the equation of poker: Time constraints. Unlike a cash game, players in tournaments have to weigh their options with regards to where they will be when the next blind increase hits and the antes kick in. In a cash game players can wait for their hands. In a tournament, such players will blind out consistently waiting for those hands to show up.
Another reason No-Limit tournaments are popular is the prizepool. With the exception of the highest buy-in cash games, replete with the best players in the world, players can pursue very large prizepools that might otherwise be unattainable in cash games that they could not afford.
Live tournaments for the most part are somewhat scarce when compared to online. If you live in the United States, you might not find many dependent on where you are located. Even if you do, most casinos and card-rooms can only spread one or two a day. Some only run one a week. If you are a novice, plunking down even $30 in a poker room full of the local sharks might not be a palatable idea. Go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and you’ll be hard pressed to find tournaments with modest or low buy-ins altogether. This is mostly due to:
• Card-rooms have to justify their fees in order to pay for their overhead and dealers. Running a $10 tournament with a $1 fee makes this nearly impossible for them to break even.
• Small prizepools won’t attract players.
• Small prizepools won’t attract big players who are likely to spend more money elsewhere in the casino.
The biggest prizepools in live poker revolve around large buy-in events and series. Venues like the World Series of Poker or European Poker Tour tend to have buy-ins in the $10,000 range for their Main Events. Even just 100 players entered will guarantee a $1,000,000 prizepool.
More importantly, how much are you willing to spend learning the ins and outs of tournament No-Limit Hold’em poker in a live venue, just to learn enough to become a break-even player? More people have played and quit live tournament poker because they either couldn’t afford it or felt it wasn’t worth it to learn than who have actually survived the “tuition” and gone on to become even moderately successful players. This brings up:
Online poker tournaments, and most notably No-Limit Hold’em tournaments, offer such a diverse panorama of opportunity that players of all skill, experience and bankrolls can play at a level within their comfort zone. The “tuition”, as it were, is much less expensive because each tournament only takes up bandwidth on the poker site servers. This allows each poker site to run tournaments catering to all of its customers. Whether that is events like PokerStars’ Sunday Million or Full Tilt Poker’s Daily Dollar, the poker sites can offer a wide variety of tournaments.
With all of this in mind, the main purpose of this series of articles is to show the opportunities for players who have smaller bankrolls. We will be exploring first the sites that cater to the entire internet community, including those in the United States. We’ll be looking at tournaments at Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Bodog Poker, the Cake Poker Network and the Merge Poker Network.
For the purposes of these articles, only No-Limit Hold’em tournaments with buy-ins that fit the Micro and Low Buy-in threshold [under $20] and which offer guarantees will be included. We’ll touch upon non-guarantees for each site/network to show what’s available and to compare versus the guarantees they offer, but the focus will be squarely on the guaranteed.