The presence of antes, especially large ones, makes loose, aggressive play necessary

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The presence of antes, especially large ones, makes loose, aggressive play necessary. Players who are adept at stealing and defending blinds should prefer large antes, whereas tighter players should seek out tournaments with small or no antes. In general, Poker Stars and Party Poker feature smaller antes than those on Full Tilt Poker and Ultimate Bet, and live tournaments tend to have by far the largest antes. Prize Structure

The most important element of a tournament’s prize structure is the cut taken by the house. On the internet, a rake of 10% is standard at smaller stakes, with a slightly lower percentage taken at buy-ins of $100 and above. Smaller live tournaments sometimes charge rakes of 20% or higher and withhold additional money to pay staff. Combined with a shallow blind structure, such a high drop can make these tournaments nearly unbeatable.

The way the prize pool is paid out can be important as well. Given that a player with a positive expectation is more likely than his adversaries to take first place, he will have a slightly higher ROI in an event that awards 35% of the prize pool to the champion than in one that pays only 25% for first. In the second tournament, the additional 10% of the prize pool is distributed more flatly across a larger number of lower places, where the winning player is less likely to finish.

Strong players can often accumulate a lot of chips around the money ‘bubble’ which divides the lowest prize finishes from those that pay nothing at all, as many players will play extremely tight to avoid bubbling. Depending on the payout structure, however, tightening up may actually be correct. The 2006 World Series of Poker main event, for example, awarded $14,957 to the 873rd place finisher and nothing for 874th. After this initial bubble, however, payouts climbed very slowly, without another 15K jump until 81st place. Thus, players who started tightening up when 900 were left weren’t losing much if any equity by doing so. Aggressive players would do better under a steeper payout scheme that punished excessively tight bubble play, whereas tight players or those very concerned about finishing in the money should prefer a structure with a pronounced bubble followed by a relatively flat payout.

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