Single-Table vs. Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

In the previous sections of this guide we’ve talked about the types of poker tournaments you can expect to find online, and also the benefits and drawbacks of playing online poker freerolls. Now we’ll look closer at the real money tournaments, both single-table and multi-table formats – including how they differ, how much you can expect to win, and some valuable bankroll advice.

Single-Table Poker Tournaments (STT)

Quite simply, a single table poker tournament includes only one table of players, and is the most basic type of poker tournament. Single table Sit & Go tournaments (seating 8-10 players) are hugely popular at nearly all online poker rooms. They fill up quick, and if you choose the turbo Sit & Go format, they play quick too. A turbo Sit & Go, seating 9 players, will usually finish within 45 minutes. They’re fast, action packed, and super convenient.

A typical single table tournament (SNG) with 9 players will usually pay out the top three finishers. 1st place usually gets 50% of the prize pool, with 2nd and 3rd receiving 30% and 20% of the money. To finish in the money spots it’s advisable to play tight during the early stages of the tournament. Aggressive play will be required later in the tournament, and you should pick your spots wisely. Your observational skills will be extremely important in a single table tournament; since the players you sit down with initially will be the only players involved in the game.

Bankroll Management for STT

Many recreational poker players make the mistake of depositing money into an online poker room and playing a handful of tournaments, and are then left wondering where their money went? It’s okay to do this if you have enough disposable income and can just reload your online poker account at any time. But if this isn’t the case, and you don’t want to go broke, then proper bankroll management is required.

The following table shows our recommended bankroll requirements for single table SNGs:

These figures are based on bankroll guidelines of 30 to 60 BI (buy-ins) for 9 handed SNGs, and 20 to 40 BI for Double of Nothing and Heads-Up SNGs.

So, if your online poker bankroll is only $50, you should start by playing at buy-ins of $1.10. This might seem really low, but remember that tournament poker involves high variance. Even if you play really well you could still easily go on a losing streak of 10 games or more. You should only consider moving up when you’ve built up enough of a bankroll for the next level.

Multi-Table Poker Tournaments (MTT)

Multi-table poker tournaments can include a significantly large amount of players, with many tournaments having thousands of entrants. However, a multi-table tournament could be just two or more tables. So before we talk about the huge scheduled multi-table tournaments, let’s look at the popular Sit & Go formats.

As you already know, Sit & Go tournaments start as soon as enough players register and take their seats. Due to their popularity, there are a number of multi-table formats to choose from. The most popular are limited to 18, 27, 45, 90, and 180 poker players. Here’s the typical payout structure for these multi-table SNGs:

Bankroll Management for Multi-Table Sit & Go Tournaments

It goes without saying that these tournaments require a larger bankroll than the single-table SNGs. While the payouts are bigger, it’s harder to finish in the money. Here are some guidelines on how large a bankroll you should have:

These figures are based on bankroll guidelines of 45 to 90 BI (buy-ins) for 18 man SNGs, 55 to 110 for 27 man SNGs, 64 to 128 for 45 man SNGs, 75 to 150 for 90 man SNGs, and 100 to 200 BI for 180 man SNGs.

So, once again – if your online poker bankroll is limited to just $50, then you should only be playing the micro limits of $1.10 for 18-man SNGs, and $0.25 buy-in games for 27-man to 180-man SNGs. If you stick to these levels and play solid poker, then you’re much less likely to go broke.

Scheduled Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

If you’re lucky enough to win a 180-man SNG with a buy-in of $5, you’d win a nice payout of $243. These payouts pale into insignificance when it comes to the large scheduled multi-table tournaments you’ll find online. The prize pools can run into the thousands of dollars!

There are scheduled tournaments to suit all budgets, and the money spots are usually given to the poker players who finish in the top 10%. Here are some example payout structures:

There are online multi-table tournaments with even more entrants than those listed in the above table. As you’d expect, the payout structure will be even wider for larger tournaments. You could be well away from the final table yet still make a nice cash. But you’ll have to beat many players to reach these money spots.

Bankroll Requirements for Large Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

The standard bankroll requirements for these large multi-table tournaments is around 100 buy-ins. Serious poker players should double this to 200 buy-ins or more. Remember, to cash in these tournaments requires playing great poker play over many hours, and a good slice of luck. The payouts also tend to be fairly top-heavy, so even if you do make a money finish, it might not be huge. Therefore, if you have a small bankroll then you should stick to Sit & Go tournaments.

Calculating the Length of MTTs

Multi-table tournaments take much longer than single table tournaments. If you’re going to enter tournaments with large fields, then you need to be sure you have the time to play them. Nobody wants to exit a tournament without winning it, but you only want to leave when someone has busted you out, not because you don’t have time and are forced to leave prematurely.

How do you know when an online tournament will finish? Well, you’ll never know for sure – but there are ways of getting a good estimate. The first option is to check the lobby of your online poker room and check out similar events that have already been completed. Or you can do a few calculations….

Most online poker tournaments will finish when there approximately 30 big blinds left in play. If you divide the total number of chips in play by 30, then you’ll know what the big blind will be when the tournament should be finished. Once you know this, you can check to see how long it will take to get to that level. Then you will know roughly when the tournament should finish. Let’s use an example:

Tournament entrants = 250

Starting stack size = 1,500

Total chips in play = 375,000 (250 x 1,500)

Total chips / 30 = 12,500 (375,000 / 30)

Using this example we would then check the tournament lobby to see when the big blind reaches 12,500. Then we can work out what time the tournament might finish. It’s not always accurate, but it gives a good estimate.

Single-Table or Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

We recommend that beginners start out playing single-table Sit & Go tournaments. We understand the attraction of playing multi-table tournaments because of the huge prizes on offer. But playing in single-table tournaments will help you understand the strategies required for winning poker tournaments. The experience you pick up from playing STT will help when you decide to try your luck in larger events. This is because the strategy in a single table tournament is similar to that of the later stages of a multi-table tournament.

Starting out by playing single-table Sit & Go tournaments is particularly important if you have a limited bankroll. Even the best online poker players can go on long streaks without cashing in MTT, and as a beginner you’ll find this too. If you do decide to try your luck at MTT then please follow our bankroll guides and only play in those that are within your limits.