How to Win an Online Poker Tournament

Poker chips. Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP

There’s only one thing that’s more fun than playing poker: Winning at poker. And the prizes don’t get any bigger than they do when you’re playing a tournament. You can win life-changing money by taking down an online poker tournament; you might even pick up some nice trophies along the way, like shiny gold bracelets and premium watches. 
The tricky thing about winning an online poker tournament is that only one player can win – unless it’s a satellite tournament, but that’s another story for another day. In this article, you’ll be given the road map to victory for standard freeze-out MTTs (Multi-Table Tournaments), still the most common form of poker tournament you’ll find online. Forget about ICM and laddering up and all that: Winning is the only thing we care about here. 


The No. 1 secret to winning poker tournaments is to play as many tournaments as possible. Seriously, though: No matter how skilled you are, it takes a significant amount of luck to survive long enough to win anyone tournament. And if you’re serious about winning, you’ll be taking a lot more of those marginally advantageous 55/45 flips instead of folding and protecting your stack. 
The great thing about online poker tournaments is that you can play more than one at the same time. Multi-tabling MTTs (MTMTTs?) is a lot easier than multi-tabling cash games since you’ll usually be at a full-ring table making fairly automatic plays – especially once your stack is whittled down to push-fold size. Some online poker rooms even let you multi-table upwards of 25 tournaments, while limiting you to four cash tables maximum. 
Playing more tournaments also allows you to diversify your poker portfolio. Instead of risking, say, $1000 on a tournament where you’re about 85% likely not to even finish in the money, you could play 10 tournaments at $100 each, or 100 tourneys at $10 apiece. Spreading the risk around like this is just smart bankroll management. It will prolong your poker career, and give you even more chances to win down the road. 

A Small Victory 

If you think secret No. 1 for winning poker tournaments was a bit obvious, wait ‘til you get a load of secret No. 2: Play the ones with the smallest fields. The more people there are in the tournament, the harder it’s going to be for you to make it through to the end. Why enter a massive MTT with 5,000 players in the field when you can enter one with 50? 
This makes even more sense if you’re hunting down a bracelet at the World Series of Poker, but it applies to online tournaments as well. And once again, taking this approach is actually smart bankroll management. If you only enter the large tournaments hoping to win a gigantic prize, those victories will likely be so few and far between that, your bankroll could dry up before you ever claim that trophy. 
Don’t let this happen to you. Smart, sustainable poker success is a combination of generating a profit and lowering variance; by limiting yourself to mostly small-field tournaments, with the occasional crack at a larger field, you’ll naturally win more often, and those wins – even if they’re smaller than you might prefer – will help fund your continuing poker adventures. 
Of course, it also helps to be a good poker player if you want to win tournaments. But you’d be surprised how many otherwise smart players don’t follow the simple advice we’ve given you here. We’re not necessarily recommending you fire up 25 tournament tables right away, and completely ignore ICM in the pursuit of glory, but if you’re serious about winning, you have the secrets now. Use them wisely.