How Much Do Players Make in Poker Tournaments?

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How Much Can I Make From Poker Tournaments?

Lots of prospective poker players are always bugging me about how much an online MTT player can make. Firstly, how you make in tournaments not only depends on how good you are, but also how often you play, the stakes  and the fields etc.  Each of these has a big impact on your ROI in multi-table tournaments and most of it stems from the variance of final table finishes in the first place.  The only way to guarantee a modest income from playing tournaments is to zoop up on your MTT strategy by signing up to poker training sites, play at the right stakes for your bankroll and avoid massive fields that need a huge volume of games to payoff.

Sample Size Needed

We suggest you need to haved played at least 200 tournaments before you see some stable long-term ROI results. Overall, a recreational player who plays 4 tournaments every night with an average buy-in of $20 and 30% ROI will make roughly:

Per week: $ 170
Per month: $ 750
Per year: $ 8,750
Factors to Take into Account for Making Profit in Poker Tournaments
Big Fields = Tournament Variance
The size of the field in a tournament is an important factor for analysing your ROI potential.  The larger the field is, the larger the variance, so the more games you’ll have to play to see a stable ROI. 
The top online tournament player in the UK (according to PocketFive rankings) is Chris ‘Moorman1’ Moorman.  According to his PokerStars statistics in the course of over 3,300 games his longest non-cashing streak is 34 games (his ITM percentage is 16% and ROI percentage is 37%).  Clearly there is nothing technically wrong with playing large field tournaments with over 500 players (especially added-value events such as the the overlay poker tournaments at Carbon Poker). They appear profitable for experienced winning players. 
However, for small bankroll players the variance can become an issue, and there is a larger risk of going broke too early.
Low Stakes vs High Stakes

You earn more in total playing high stakes rather than micro-stakes poker tournaments.  Earning the same 30% ROI in high stakes games will turn up greater profit overall than in micro-mtts.  The tournament payoffs are higher in these games so when you make the final table you’ll earn a greater amount.  

Bluntman is one of the top ranked MTT players for $1 – $10 MTTs.  We can  see that over 10,000 tournaments his stats are very similar to Moorman’s.  His ITM is 16% (the same as Moorman’s) however his ROI is 17%.

If you’re interested in how much professional online tournament players make, Shaub Deen (winner of the PokerStars tournament leader board 2007+2008) has a lifetime MTT ROI of 62%.  However this is nothing in comparison to JhonnyBax’s 88%. 

Interestingly, none of the professional players above have an ITM above 17%.  This shows juat how important final table finishes are – rather than just focusing on ITM percentages.

Advantages of Earning Money in Poker Tournaments Over Cash Games and SNGs
Making money playing  pokertournaments (as opposed to cash games or SNGs ) has multiple benefits.  Firstly, big tournament wins can be massive money and you can earn hundreds of times more money in a single tournament than in weeks of cash table grinding (look at Peter Eastgate’s $9 million WSOP 2009 victory).   The PokerStars Sunday Million also pays $100,000 to the winner, which is far more than you could dream to earn in a month of cash table grinding at NL100. 
Secondly, you are never going to “lose big” in poker tournaments.  Unlike cash games, the maximum you can lose in tournaments is your registration fee.  Lastly, many guaranteed prizepool tournaments provide tournament overlays, which give greater value for your money than cash games.
Disadvantages of Multi-table tourneys
Tournament variance makes them harder to earn a stable return of money on in the short-term.  The large field events with a short a number of payoff spots are very hard to win.  Another disadvantage is that tournaments are played over a number of hours, and unlike cash games (when you can sit down and leave when you want), tournament players have to abide by poker room schedules.

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