small stakes player looking to grow his bankroll exclusively through tournaments with fields averaging 1000 runners

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To the amateur who does not operate from a bankroll, the deciding factors here will be the amount of money he is comfortable losing and the level at which he is competitive. In general, winning tournaments with higher buy-ins requires defeating more skilled opponents, though there are important exceptions to this rule discussed below.

The key is to play at a level where one’s decision-making will not be clouded by the amount of money at stake even at the final table. The majority of a tournament’s payout is decided at the final table, so even perfect early game play cannot compensate for mistakes made at this crucial stage. Players who cannot trust themselves to make the right decisions when the stakes get high should not enter the tournament at all, or at least should not do so expecting to win anything in the long run.

Given the variance in tournaments, a professional working off of a finite bankroll may actually have to play below his skill level, at least until he has his first big score. Because ROI and standard deviation will vary with the size and difficulty of the field, there are no strict formulae for bankroll requirements. The FAQ for 2+2’s Multi-Table Tournament forum suggests having 50 to 100 buy-ins, but this really depends on how heavily one relies on tournaments and on which events one is playing regularly.

For example, a small stakes player looking to grow his bankroll exclusively through tournaments with fields averaging 1000 runners can expect some severe swings and would need at least 100 buy-ins, preferably more, to pursue this strategy. Although he might finish in the money 15% of the time, he will win primarily small prizes that will not offset his losses. The top-heavy structure of tournament payouts concentrates the vast majority of the money at the final table. An average player will make the final table only once out of every 100 attempts, and even a very strong player will do so only 2-3% of the time. A bad run of luck could result in 100 straight attempts with no final tables and only a handful of small cashes, leaving the player’s bankroll decimated.

If the player were focusing instead on tournaments with an average field size of 100 players, he would likely final table well over 10% of the time. His rewards would be disproportionately smaller, since ROI decreases with field size, but his variance would be lower as well. In other words, he would be much less likely to experience a run of 100 tournaments with a significantly lower than expected number of final tables than would his counterpart playing tournaments with 1000 runners. Ring game professionals need not be so cautious. For example, a player properly bankrolled for 1-2 NL might enjoy playing a weekly $200 tournament that consistently attracts thousands of players. Variance will be extremely high, but since the player is playing it only once a week and presumably making money more consistently from his ring game play, he could safely add this tournament to the mix using whatever bankroll he finds sufficient for 1-2 NL.



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