7 Tips for Your First Online Poker Tournament

Pile of Poker Cards, Laptop Computer
So, you’ve decided that playing poker with your buddies in the garage every other Wednesday night isn’t enough. You want to explore some online alternatives.

Online betting can seem like another world to folks who have no experience in it. You might find that an online poker tournament is different from what you’re used to, but some simple advice will make you feel a lot more comfortable if this is your first time.

Here are my seven best strategy tips for your first online poker tournament.

1 – Research

This one may seem like a dead giveaway, but many people just go online, punch their card info in on some website, and enter whatever online poker tournament they see first. Take some serious time and do solid research.

Become familiar with different poker variants and terminology. Make sure that you have a basic understanding, not only of the game but also how the website that you are using works.  There will be a multitude of new terms, rules, and features you are unfamiliar with.

Buy books, read blog posts (like this one), and constantly seek to improve your knowledge of poker and gambling in general.

You should definitely read “Tournament Poker for Advanced Players” and the entire “Harrington on Holdem” series. “The Theory of Poker” is another essential poker book you should read.

2 – The Fewer Opponents, the Better

While this is a simple concept, it’s often overlooked in the world of poker tournaments. Sure, if more people are playing, the prize pool is likely going to be larger, but the odds of you winning are dramatically decreased.

If you’re playing against fewer people, you have a higher chance of actually winning. What good is having a $100,000 pot if you have no chance of taking that money home?

My uncle, who enjoys playing lottery games, often uses this logic and has managed to win two fairly decent jackpots. He always buys the more expensive scratch tickets because fewer people buy them and the rewards are usually better.

He also only plays the smallest state lottery using the same idea.

3 – Start With Low-Stakes

Playing online poker is different from playing cash games. When first beginning to play online, you should play games with lower stakes, even if you’re used to playing for large sums of money at a table. The main reason for this is to familiarize yourself with online poker and gambling platforms.

As a beginner, this allows you the opportunity to play online with a relatively small bankroll. A smaller bankroll offers less reward but also causes less stress.

Poker Cards Spread Out, Casino Chips, Guy Typing on Laptop

Think about longevity here. You want to continue to play online poker for years and continue to get better right? Getting turned off to playing online can happen fast if you blow a ton of money in your first tournament.

Start small and work your way up. Just because you’ve played your buddies for a ton of cash before or won a large pot at a casino doesn’t mean you should get in over your head. Take your time, and soak up all the knowledge you can and always practice bankroll management.

4 – No Distractions

In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by stimulation from outside sources. Think of the following scenario, and tell yourself honestly how many times this has happened to you.

You’re working on a project on your computer or reading. You’re trying to focus, and *ding* you get a text message. You pick up your phone and respond to the text. Then, you go to the home screen of your phone and open some form of social media like Instagram or Facebook. You scroll and “like” for a few minutes and *ding* the person you texted has now responded.

You reply again, then go back to Instagram or Facebook, scroll and like, then *ding*… You repeat the process until the next thing you know, it’s 40 minutes later, and you have absolutely no clue how you just burned through the better half of an hour, but you did.

Playing online poker takes time and concentration. If you’re serious about it, you will make sure that your learning space is free of distractions.

Don’t have any other tabs open, leave your phone in the kitchen, turn off the TV, and tell your family that you can’t be bothered until you’re finished.

This advice can be applied to any other time in your life where you need to have absolute and total focus. Cut out the distractions and get better.

5 – Don’t Play Drunk

This may not be an issue for many of you, but I’ll still address it. Gambling and drinking often go hand in hand, no matter how badly they shouldn’t.

They just do. I’m not your doctor. I will not dive into the multitude of issues that overconsumption of alcohol brings, but I will tell you that gambling drunk is a bad idea. Getting too loaded at a casino and stumbling over to a blackjack table or even slot machines can end in catastrophe.

Hands Typing on Laptop, Women Smiling Having a Drink

The same goes for playing poker in the comfort of your own home. I can think of a time or two where one too many beers caused me to wake up embarrassed of a silly purchase I made online. I cannot imagine waking in the morning hungover, checking my bank account, and seeing that I blew thousands of dollars playing in an online poker tournament.

If you enjoy having a drink while playing online, that’s fine. But try to limit yourself to one or two drinks. You will not only be more fiscally responsible, but you will make better calls while playing.

6 – Avoid Tilt

Tilt is just as real in the online poker world as it is at a brick and mortar casino. This is the mental or emotional confusion and frustration that will completely throw you off your game. Players will toss all strategy out the window and start becoming overly aggressive.

While the signs that someone is experiencing tilt may be less obvious online than face-to-face, your ravenous actions and playing style will be noticed by other players who can capitalize on it.

Stay calm, breathe, and don’t let a loss ruin your time. Luckily, dealing with tilt behind your computer screen is easier than at a physical table.

7 – Play Tight, Not Aggressive

This one goes hand in hand with avoiding tilt. It’s your first online poker tournament. You need to be testing the waters and getting the hang of all of the new aspects of playing online.

Taking caution and playing fewer hands than you normally would can guarantee that your first time will not be a total bust and that you’ll learn a thing or two.

Making big bets against people who have been at this a while may end in disaster. You will have plenty of time in your life to enter more tournaments and play as aggressive as you want, but for now, let’s just take it easy and play it safe. There are instances when aggressive play is less profitable, so be careful.


Now that you’ve got a few different suggestions for what to do or NOT to do, get out there and do your research. Immerse yourself in learning for a week or so before you even enter a tournament. Learn all there is to know about online poker, then get out there and win big!