Saturday, November 11, 2006

Where to Play now.....

As you all know by now many sites have pulled out of the US market because of the recent legislation prohibiting online transfers related to gambling sites.

The loss of both Partypoker and Ongaming Network (Pokerroom) from the US market were particularly painful for tournament players because they were both sites had a high number of players and a robust tournament schedule.

With the loss of these sites, it is a good time to reassess the tournament offerings of the remaining sites serving the US market.

The New "Final Four"
Ultimatebet - UB has always had the best tournament structure in my mind, however there were never enough players to build the juicy prize pools. Well that has all changed now. with the exit of Party and Pokerroom, the Final Four have all gained significant tourney traffic. UB has benefited greatly from this increase in traffic and all of its tourneys now get between 150 and 400 players. With its slow blind structure (allowing for lots of post-flop play), this is excellent site for tournament players. To entice players from the exiting sites, they have been running double guarantee weekends -- with big overlays (money added by the site beyond the amount contributed by players entered in the tourney). UB offers freezeouts, rebuys and qualifiers to land-based tourneys.

Bodog - Bodog's tourney structure is nearly identical to UB's structure although it gets more extreme in the later stages of a large tournament. Their traffic of tourney players also continues to rise and they have a long history of seeding tournaments with large guarantees that carry overlays. They have recently added rebuy tourneys to round out their offerings. This is an excellent site for tourney players. Check out the nightly $30k guaranteed tourney, it is an excellent value for the $44 entry cost. Bodog offers freezeouts, rebuys and satellites to land-based tourneys.

Pokerstars - Stars has been the #1 site for tournament players for a long time, however with the exit of Party from the US market, it is now the biggest poker site overall. Their weekend tournament get huge numbers of participants at all level of buyins. They are great tournaments to play because the prize pools are huge relative to your buyin. However, with 700 to 3,000 entrants in most tournaments it is very difficult to make it to final table. You definitely want to play some of the tournaments at PS, but I would not suggest you play here exclusively or your confidence will be shot. The variation in tourneys with 700+ players is huge. Stars offers the widest selection of tournaments on the web, including freezeouts, rebuys and a multitude of satellites to land-based tourneys.

FullTilt - FTP is a great overall site with great graphics and a wide selection of cash games and tournaments. Their tournaments schedule is a good but a bit limited. They only offer one $24 NLHE tournament once very two hours so it gets very big fields. They do not offer rebuys yet no rebuys yet, which is also a negative. But it should definitely be one of your staple of tournament sites. They have added several of the larger buyin tournaments to their schedule which has brought in a lot of the top online players. Of the Final Four, their structure is probably the most extreme (least play after the flop), but it is fairly similar to Stars. One very cool differntiating feature at FTP is the final table. Unlike other sites, FTP has a unique graphic background for final tables that resembles the set of a WPT event. So if you can slog your way through the tourney field and make it to the promised land, you can feel like a star in their cool final table setting. FTP offers freezeouts and satellites to land-based events.

Others
Bugsy's - I would love to see Bugsy's benefit from Party's exit as they have an excellent tournament structure in which players start with a 200:1 stack to big blind ratio at the outset. That is the highest ratio for a normal stack tourney of any of the sites I have seen. However, the tourney fields are very small and usually range between 70 and 150 players. If they can get the field sizes up this will be an excellent site. Bugsy's offers freezeouts, rebuys and a few satellites to land-based tourneys.

Mansion - Mansion is a relatively new poker site that is growing very quickly. They have some unique promotions like PokerDome that have garnered a lot of publicity. The PokerDome was a series of freeroll tounaments that landed several qualifiers into a televised final table event. The number of tourney players at the site is still relatively small though. To try to beef up that tourney traffic, they are offering a huge promotion of high guarantee tournaments in December. These guarantee events should all have overlays and offer excellent values for tournament players. I plan to spend a lot of time at Mansion in December. Mansion offers freezeouts, rebuys and a few satellites to land-based tourneys.

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