Tournaments at Poker Stars
© 2006, Randy Saylor  
Poker Stars is the premier online site for poker tournaments, period. This is not saying that other sites do not have good tournaments; they certainly do. Poker Stars, however, is the 800 pound gorilla.

Poker Stars has been a strong tournament site since its inception, and Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP win cemented this reputation for the site. Moneymaker’s $5 Million win started with a $40 Poker Stars satellite entry. Greg Raymer’s 2004 WSOP win after qualifying at Stars was another shining moment for manager Lee Jones and his team.

Poker Stars offers tournaments in every possible configuration of game, limit, and stack size. Holdem, Omaha High, Omaha Hi-Lo, Stud, and Stud Hi-Lo are on the weekly schedule multiple times. HORSE games (a mixed game format including Holdem, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz - seven stud played for low hand, Stud - seven card, and stud hi-lo Eight or better) are being beta tested now, and will be offered in the near future.

Players interested in learning or improving their skills in a certain game should consider tournaments as a learning tool. A player could bust out quickly in a cash game, but can see many hands played for a limited risk in a tournament. The occasional money finish is nice, but this is done primarily for experience. A player using this method to learn a game must also understand that the similarities to cash games start to disappear after the first few levels because of the increasing blinds. Late tournament play is almost nothing like a cash game.

Common Tournament Information

Poker Stars tournaments are accessed from the main lobby by clicking the “Tourney” tab. This brings up a listing of all tournaments available to be accessed. By clicking “Show registering/upcoming only”, you can hide the completed and running tournaments, to see only upcoming events.

Double-clicking on a tournament name opens the lobby for each individual tournament. Once the tournament begins, this is where to find information about the prizes, number of remaining players, the leaders, and the stack sizes.

Clicking the “Tournament Info” button in the individual tournament lobby opens the window shown below. This contains information about the game’s blind structure, length of level, starting chips, breaks, and payout structure. Most tournaments at Stars use this structure - 1500 starting chips, 10/20 blinds, and 15-minute levels. The exceptions are:

Turbo tournaments - These tournaments are specifically designed to run much faster than normal. Luck plays a much bigger factor here.

Deep Stacks - These events start the players with 5000 chips, which allows for much more play. These structures benefit the more skilled players.

Larger Buy-ins - Tournaments with buy-ins over $150 usually start with 2500 chips.


Poker Stars Tournament Types

Freezeout Standard tournament setup. No rebuys.
Rebuy & Addon Allows Player with less than starting chips to rebuy during the first hour. At the completion of the hour, a player can add on a certain amount of chips, regardless of stack size.
Guaranteed A special rebuy tournament with a guaranteed amount in the prize pool.
Shootout An 81-player Double Shootout consists of nine tables with nine players each. Each table is played as a separate tournament. The nine individual winners then face off at the final table.
Short-Handed A tournament that will never have more than six players at each table.
Heads Up A single-elimination tournament where two players face off. The winner advances to the next round.
Satellite A tournament that awards entries into a higher buy-in tournament rather than cash prizes.

No Limit Holdem

In tournament play, no limit holdem is king. More than 60% of Stars tournaments are NLHE. Buy-ins range from $1 to $1000, and freerolls are also listed. Over three hundred NLHE tournaments are scheduled weekly, including five daily guaranteed tournaments, two daily double shootouts, short-handed events four days a week, two daily heads up matches, and seven weekly deep stacks.

The two NLHE highlights at Stars are the Sunday Million, a $200 tournament with a guaranteed $1 Million prize pool, and the daily $150 evening tournaments.

Limit Holdem

Thirty-nine regular weekly tournaments are played in fixed limit Holdem. These include a double shootout, a deep stacks, and a short-handed game on Friday nights, and a double shootout on Saturdays.

Pot Limit Holdem

There are 42 pot limit holdem tournaments weekly. Among these are two short-handed and a heads up match on Sundays and a deep stacks on Tuesdays.

Other Poker Games

More than 150 tournaments are run weekly in the various formats of stud and Omaha games. Fans of these games can check the tournament schedule at the Poker Stars tournament schedule page. Special tournaments including short-handed, heads up, and deep stacks are available in these games as well.


Poker Stars has a tremendous number of satellites running around the clock. These allow a player to enter a large buy-in event with a small investment. For example, the Sunday Million can be qualified for with as little as $3. Most satellites are NLHE.

One feature that sets Stars apart from the pack is the ability to exchange an entry for tournament dollars (T$). If you win a satellite, but don’t want to play in the event, you can go to the lobby for that tournament and unregister yourself. Your account will be credited with T$ in the amount of a direct buy-in. You can then use the T$ to enter any tournament you wish. T$ can even be sold for cash (usually for a slight discount) to other players. The Stars client software has a facility to make these exchanges between players without risk to either player.

A special type of tournament dollars are called W$. These work just like T$, but can only be won and used in World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour, and World Championship of Online Poker events.

Have fun exploring the many tournament options at the premier site for tournaments. See you at the tables!

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