Tournament – PokerStars Verses Full Tilt

I've played a lot of tournaments at both sites and have had relative success at both, at least as far as cashing goes. Pros will tell you that if you can cash in 15% of the tournaments you play in than you're doing pretty well. When I do get to play, my stats at both sites have me cashing 20-27% of the time. Even when you do cash though, there has to be some bigger ones in there, some deep runs to pay for the ones you did not cash. In live tournaments it's even more important because you have expenses to pay for as well. For those that tour the various circuits playing tournaments they have to try and make enough that cover their hotel, travel, food, and any extra-curricular activities they may partake in while not playing.

Online, it can be just as important. You still want to be able to make up for your non cashes of course. If you're doing it for a living, then yes you want to be able to pay your rent / mortgage, bills, food, etc. I like playing tournaments online when I can. Lately it's been much harder to do with my busy work schedule and I do not play them when I have my son. I find that between the two sites I play tournaments on, PokerStars is slightly better than Full Tilt. Full Tilt is better in some categories as well and below are some of the things I like:

1) Number of Available Tournaments – This one easily belongs to PokerStars. They are not the biggest tournament site online for nothing. There are literally hundreds of tournaments at every level starting every few minutes and you can play a bunch at a time if you're adept at multi-tabling. At Full Tilt, if you can only afford to play at a certain level you may have to wait for a bit. There is more variety in all those tournaments you can sign up for at Stars too. More turbos, rebuys, 1 rebuy 1 addon, hyper-turbos, deep stack tournies, super stacked tournies … its goes on and on.

2) "Guarantee" tournaments – I like playing these ones and at Stars there are a LOT of them. Basically, a guarantee tournament is one where they list how big the prize pool is and no matter how many entrants there are, that number is the minimum that will be paid out. If there's a $ 10K Guarantee for a $ 10 + 1 (the "plus one" is the extra a site takes for themselves. The $ 10 goes into the prize pool) buy in tournament and only 100 people register? Then that $ 10K will be divided amongst those that cash. If more people than the minimum required to make a $ 10K prize pool register, then the prize pool goes up. So, if 2000 people register for that same tournament than the prize pool will be $ 20K. If it's not a guarantee tournament, they may require a minimum amount of people to be registered to run the tourney. I definitely prefer the guarantees

3) Structure – This one is actually pretty close now. It used to be that the structures on PokerStars were far superior. Full Tilt now seems to have tweaked there's a bit. Generally you start with 1500 in tournament chips and the blinds start at 10/20 with the rounds going 10 minutes. Tilt used to start you at 15/30 but they've dropped down to 10/20 as well which is a good thing. The lower the blinds are in relation to your starting stack, the more play you get and usually the longer you play the more the skilled player has an advantage. Skilled players always have the advantage of the non-skilled players in the long run. I may take a pot or two off Phil Ivey but in the long run he's going to kick my ass. lol The structures change depending on how big the buy in is too though.

For example, at PokerStars you buy in to a $ 10 + 1 tourney and the structures are as I've listed above. Antes start to kick in on the 7th level which is 50/100 and the blinds go up every ten minutes. In a bigger buy in tournament or in a lot of the guarantee tournaments they run, they may start you with 2000 or even 3000 in chips while keeping the blinds starting at 10/20. In their famous Sunday Million tournament the blinds start at 25/50 but you get 10K in tournament chips! And the blinds go up every 15 minutes instead of 10. Five minutes in the online world is huge. With not having to worry about shuffling and chips being pushed to players, you get to play so many more hands. I've played this one 3 times and cashed twice. I'd love to be able to play it every weekend, plus a lot of their other bigger tournaments they have on weekends. One day. 😉

4) Time Clock – This one, for me, belongs to Stars as well and it's the same for their ring games. PokerStars just gives you more time to make a decision while sometimes it seems like Tilt is trying to rush you to get more hands in. When you're deep in a tournament and you're being put to the test for your tournament life, you should have more than 30 seconds to make that decision. I know the time banks build up the deeper you get into a tournament but even in the beginning levels you sometimes need time to think, run the hand over in your mind, etc. If you're rushed into the wrong decision it could influence the rest of your tournament. Now you're either incredibly shortstacked cuz you made a call you should not have or you have less cuz you folded when you should have called and won a big pot. That is not fair. PokerStars gives you 90 seconds right from the beginning. Not on every decision though. If you use 30 seconds on one, you're down to 60 seconds next time the clock starts on you. But, if you do not use the clock for awhile, time gets added back on.

5) Quality of Player – I think this one is Stars also. It probably has to do with the fact that with there being so many more tournaments to play, it's easier for people to hone their games here. Full Tilt seems to be the place where the better cash game players are, probably driven by the nosebleed games and big names that are playing them at any given time. If you do not offer a lot of tournaments than you're going to go to the place where they ARE being offered. Pretty simple really. Now, this could make it tougher to go deep because there are so many more tournament savvy players but I find that it's also sometimes easier to play them. Fancy plays are lost on the lesser skilled player (another post for another time) but more skilled players understand that what you're trying to do, may not in fact be a bluff and that you do actually have the goods and fold. On the flip side, a more skilled player may be better able to sniff out that play, call you and take your chips. That's what makes it such a great game, that competitiveness and one upsmanship vs. your opponents.

6) Payouts – Here's where I think Full Tilt is better. They generally pay out to the top 10% of the field. If 1000 people are in the tournament, than 100 people are getting paid. Stars, for whatever reason, pays out to more people. Using the same example, Stars might pay out 150 or even 200 people. I'm guessing it's to get more people to play them because you have a better chance of making your money back. I disagree with that mentality. I think those that get paid should be earning it a bit more. Sometimes you'll see that even though you're getting paid, it might only be slightly more than what you paid to get in. Let's say they pay out the top 175 out of 1000 people and using the $ 10 + 1 buy in.

The next pay level might not be for another 30 people, meaning anyone who finishes from 175th-145th will get paid the same and that amount might be $ 11.75. The next pay level pays another 24 people (144th-120th) and the total is $ 11.76! It's true, and I've seen so many like this. I mean, what's the point? You've played this long to profit .75? (Do not forget about the $ 1 rake) I say keep it at 10% and use $ 1.75 / 1.76 that you're paying out to pay those that got that much deeper and they earn a little more. Now when you finish 100th they'd probably pay you more like $ 15 for the 100th-85th place finishers for example. I'd rather take that chance and win that little bit more for that bigger percentage pay out. I know it does not sound like much because I'm using lower limits for my examples, but in relation to the buy ins it's actually a fair bit.

So, there you have it. Both sites have their pros and cons but overall PokerStars is the clear winner here