Single or Multi-Table Tournaments?
Aug 05, 2006  
2006 Randy Saylor  

A recent thread on the BBP Forum discussed the differences between multi-table and single-table tournaments, and which should be played. Here is the way to find the answer.

The correct answer to the “SNG or MTT” question depends on the player. There are several questions you should ask yourself if you prefer tournaments to cash games. The answers (if you are honest with yourself) will help you find your online poker home.

How much time do you have? This seems like a good place to start. Can you truly invest several hours? If you can only spare 30-45 minutes, stick to single-table Turbo sit-and-go tournaments. The fast blind levels make these tournaments fly. Be ready to take a chance, though, with a lesser hand all-in. You cannot afford to wait in these. A player that gets a stack early then bullies the table usually wins them.

If you can play at least an hour, regular-speed single tables are a good choice. Two-table turbos might do as well. Four- or five-table SnGs can be completed in about two hours.

If time is not an issue, you have the full spectrum of online tournaments at your disposal. The fifteen-minute levels offered by most poker sites mean that MTTs take about one hour, plus an hour for every 100 players. This rule of thumb can be used to estimate the playing time for no-limit freezeout tournaments up to about 400 players. The increase in time is smaller as the number of players gets larger than 400. Rebuy tournaments take about an hour longer, since as many as 80 per cent of the players will still be in after the rebuy period.

The type of limit affects the time as well. In a fixed limit tournament, it will take much longer for entrants to bust out. Pot-limit and no-limit tournaments are much faster.

Deep stack tournaments, like those offered at Pokerroom, Party Poker, and Poker Stars, give as many as 5000 starting chips and have 30-minute levels. The increased amount of play in these games makes them take longer. Some fixed-limit deep stacks events can take 8-9 hours to complete!

What is your playing environment? Are you alone, with no distractions from friends, family, or the telephone? If yes, make your decision based on other factors, but if your poker time is subject to interruption, you might lean towards MTTs. You can “sit out” of these games for ten minutes without really missing many opportunities, while missing only two hands in an SnG might cost you a win.

What is the state of your bankroll? The normal recommended bankroll for sit and go tournaments is 20-30 buy-ins at your chosen level. For MTTs, variance suggests that as many as 40-50 buy-ins would be prudent.

MTTs pay approximately 10 per cent of entrants, and the escalating payout structure means that most of the money goes to the final table. It is not uncommon for even experienced tournament players to go ten or more entries without cashing. If you play 20 MTTs and barely finish in the money a few times, you might devastate your bankroll just before you were about to make a big cash.

SNGs, on the other hand, pay prizes to the top 3 players (at single tables). This is 30 or 33 per cent of entrants. If you are above average in skill, but do not have deep pockets, you can play virtually forever before a bad streak will break you. The payout (50%/30%/20% at most poker sites) is flatter in SnGs too, which reduces variance somewhat.

MTTs are about the long term. You must have a long bankroll to survive the long term.

How much experience do you have at short-handed games? Imagine playing in an MTT with one million players and huge starting stacks. It would start with 100,000 tables and you would be virtually assured of always being at a table of nine or ten players. Some players play very well in this situation. In this case, you can essentially sit back and wait for big hands. Let the others make the mistakes. The first half of MTTs essentially plays like this.

You can go a long way in an MTT without facing a short table. Even if you don’t adapt well to shorthanded, if you are lucky enough to have a big stack, you can survive through the final table bubble and get to one a the big prizes.

Sit and Go players have an adjustment to make every time a player busts or the blinds increase. These incremental adjustments add up to a very different game when it’s down to four. You are faced with the choice of playing conservatively to the top three paying spots, or aggressively hoping to win it all.

Can you play heads-up? Two-handed poker is the area where most players overestimate their abilities. Honestly assess your one-on-one poker skills, because you absolutely must play well heads-up to be successful at SnGs. A player can make a very nice living finishing second in MTTs, but you simply must win a proportionate share of SnGs to be successful long term.

What are your poker goals? Are you trying to grind out a steady income or build a bankroll? If so, single table tournaments should serve you well. Playing primarily for entertainment with the hope of an occasional big score leads players to MTTs. (Note that “entertainment” does not mean, “reckless gambling.” If you want to gamble in that fashion, the craps or roulette tables would serve you better.)

Finding the right game is a must for maximizing enjoyment and profits. Consider the factors above and try several games to find the one that’s best for you.

Full Tilt Poker Logo
Carbon Poker
100% up to $600
Doyles Room Logo
Aced Poker
150% up to $750
BetUS Logo
PDC Poker
100% up to $600