Online Real Money Tournaments – Advanced Guide To Competitive Online Contests For Real Money
Table Of Contents
Playing Online Real Money Tournaments To Win Cash
We’ve come a long way since the days of the types of tournaments described in the famous novel Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, and less so – but still a fair few years – since one of the most famous books Ken Warren Teaches Texas Hold’em on poker tournament play.
In recent years, online real money tournaments have grown from those popular games of poker, slots, or chess to include the fast growing area of video gaming competitions, or eSports. The reality is that changes in the options to play online are presenting ever more opportunities to win real money, and tournaments offer the biggest chances of success.
On this page we’ll take a detailed look at the different types of tournaments you can play online for real money. You’ll find fairly exhaustive lists of where you can play these contests on the pages dedicated to each type, but here we’ll look at how easy it is to play, what skills you’ll need and how you might improve your winning chances, whether it’s legal to play and if the contests are fair, and consider some additional resources that will help.
At the end of our analysis you’ll have a clear guide to the different aspects of cash prize tournament play, and be able to identify some opportunities to get involved in some of the competitions where you may have the best chance of success.
It’s also worth noting that playing in contests is not the only way to make money, you can also bet on tournament events with the biggest tennis competitions such as the WTA Premier tournaments being a prime example. You can read more on the WTA here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WTA_Premier_tournaments
Upcoming/New Major Tournaments & Tournament News
In the early months of 2021 most of the general news around online tournaments was focused on what happened the previous year, particularly around eSports. One of the most interesting emerging stories has been around prize money, specifically how much it dropped for some popular games during the year.
This article from Forbes examines what happened. It’s interesting to note that a large chunk of the collective money across all forms of contests went to chess players.
January 2021 – WSOP Championship Tournament To Go Fully Online For 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic looks sure to have a continuing impact on live tournaments throughout at least the first half of 2021, and the WSOP organizers are clearly recognizing that fact with their decision to put the 2021 championship fully online.
There will be 12 contests throughout the year with the finals making it 13 in all.
The Best Types Of Online Tournaments
Before we start an intensive guide to tournament play, and in case you just want to know the main types of cash contests, here are the 3 great types of competition you’d want to see on any ‘best of’ list:
- Online Slots – great for fun value and low cost entertainment.
- Video Games – skill based and appealing to anyone who has a leaning towards console video gaming
- Online Poker – the ultimate skill based game which calls for clever strategic play
For more info on these and others see the post on why online tournaments are the best real money games
For more on poker specifically you can do a lot worse than read up on one of the famous poker rooms – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Tilt_Poker
What Are Real Money Tournaments
If you’ve ever been involved in – or even just watched – any number of league-based or single player competitive sporting events then you’ll know what tournaments are. Everyone will have had some experience of a contest where one player or team navigates the knock out rounds and ends up as the victor.
In online tournaments for real money the winner – and sometimes runners up from 2nd place onward – gets to walk away with the cash prize.
Online tournaments are organised events either played out during the same day or over the course of more than a day. In a tournament your entry will see you dueling against other participants (or teams if a team event). They can be knockouts, qualifier, group, or staged events.
The way that draws are made, who you’ll play, and what the criteria are for winning a prize depends on the number of entries, specific rules of the tournament, and to some extent the game type of tournament.
The winner will be crowned depending on specific rules. Normally to win you’d have to beat opponents in a number of rounds and eventually a final match between the last two players standing. Some contests might involve building up points or virtual money over a series of matches or games, with the winner being the one with the most points or money once all matches are played.
Playing in many online cash prize tournaments is easily one of the most taxing of ways to enjoy real money gaming, although equally one of the potentially most rewarding. There are some great options for a cool-headed player who can function well under pressure, with most game types sitting firmly in the bracket of real money skill gaming.
They’ll give you low cost, value for money entertainment. Sometimes completely free. They’re easy to play and you’ll get guided through most steps you need to take. Plus you can duel with opponents whether you’re in the USA, Canada, India, UK, or Australia. Pretty much anywhere in fact provided you can get online.
While not easy to win – since by their nature you’ll normally be up against significant competition – if you can make it to the tournament end stages you’ll probably get a buzz like no other. That’s partially true whether you’re in a free to enter event, a low tier one where you’ve paid an entry fee, or even a championship contest.
Clearly one where you’ve paid to enter is likely to have bigger cash prizes. More money at stake = more adrenaline, right!
How To Enter
Specific ways to enter cash tournaments will vary from event to event and will be detailed in the event rules (which you should always read carefully), but generally (with online tournaments) there are 4 ways of gaining entry:
- Buy your entry : You’ll pay a fee – known as a buy-in – which will place you in the list of entrants
- Gain a free entry : Most often as a bonus or promotion, but might be a loyalty gift
- Get invited : Either for a freeroll or for a paid competition
- Win an entry : for example this may be a prize in another competition of some type (or even another tournament, often referred to as a feeder tournament).
How To Win
As we mentioned before, in a contest where you have to beat other players in rounds means you’ll win by winning every individual match.
Tournaments which involve building a virtual money pot or a points total are different from other types of real money games. In these you’re playing with a virtual wagering balance rather than real money you’ve got in an account. So you’re not using cash and not placing single wagers. The player with the most virtual credits, points, coins, or chips at the end will win.
With the options of playing a number of different types of tournaments, it won’t be surprising to learn that most of the FAQs around the subject are more focused on those types of games. For example ‘where can I play poker tournaments’ or ‘who runs the best casino game contests’. So those types of FAQs are clearly better answered on our specific pages devoted to those types of games.
So at high level there are very few FAQs evident. What tournaments are, how to enter, how to win, and where to find them are all covered in other sections on this page. If you do have a question that you believe would best be answered on this page (and isn’t already) please feel free to contact me and I’ll arrange for it to be covered.
Free Or Paid
At high level, there are basically two main types of tournaments – those that are free to enter (freerolls) and those where you’ll need to pay an entry fee.
Fees for entries can vary wildly. For most events you’ll find online they can range from a dollar up to 10 or 20. Obviously the higher the entry fee, the bigger the prizes are likely to be.
For some major tournaments you might see entry fees of $50 and upwards.
Free to enter means exactly what it says – entirely free events. These are normally run by the operators to either reward existing signed up players for their loyalty, or equally reward new depositing players as a kind of bonus.
The main thing to note with freerolls is that they’re often played differently (by players) than they would if an entry fee was involved. It’s an interesting psychological aspect, but when there’s no entry fee many players can play much more recklessly since they’ve nothing to lose. This can of course work for or against you – either they become more easy to beat because you’ll be playing with the strongest strategy, or they can become more dangerous if getting lucky.
It’s also worth noting that while freerolls are free to enter, there are some which offer rebuys (a chance to buy back in if you’re knocked out). In these cases there are often fees payable to buy back in.
There’s a specific type of tournament known as a feeder. This will be a contest where the winner (or players filling a number of top positions) will progress to a much bigger contest. This bigger event will in turn often be referred to as a splash tournament. The splash event may have players who’ve won their feeders mixed in with other players who have paid for entry.
There’s an interesting aspect to tournaments in that playing them falls into all three of our main real money games categories – they can either be free, need skills to do well, or rely on luck (although as we’ll see, some strategic play can complement the luck you might get). You’ll regularly encounter combinations of all three.
That of course means we’re looking at a fairly wide range of game types with the list including……..
Video Game Tournaments | Poker | Casino Games | Online Slots | Social Games | Arcade & Puzzle | Trivia | Blackjack | Video Poker | Chess | Rummy | Backgammon | Bridge | Solitaire
Video Game Tournaments
We’ve got a whole list of real money video game sites here on RealMoney.games, and many of them run competitive gaming tournaments for players. Clearly if you’re adept at handling a game controller these types of contests are going to be appealing. You might find the odd free one, but normally there’s going to be an entry fee.
Those based on sports are particularly popular – football, pool, snooker, basketball, and golf. EA/Electronic Arts sports titles like Madden, NBA 2K20, Golf Clash, and FIFA are all included of course. The sport-based game of Rocket League too. But games that will attract the biggest numbers of players are the AAA console game titles involving battles and shooting. Fortnite, Minecraft, Warzone, PUBG, and a handful more are the big titles you’ll know well.
There are some differences to be aware of between the online video game contests where you’re up against other players and the big multiplayer events you’ll find in Esports competitions. We look into the subject of Esports deeper here.
Playing poker in any form calls for a strong strategic approach. That’s definitely true in poker tournaments too.
One thing’s for sure, if you can navigate your way to the end stages of a poker tournament you’ll have very good reason to be very pleased with yourself. Depending on the prize fund, you could be in line for a big money payout.
To get there you’ll have needed a deep understanding of the game, applied correct strategies for playing specific hands, and been able to keep a cool head and stay calm under pressure.
If you can become strong enough at the game to play multiple tournaments at the same time, so much the better!
Texas Holdem is the best known poker variant but there are dozens of others. The subject of poker tourneys is a massive one and is covered in some depth on our poker tournaments page., but two main resources to be aware of in the poker field are Full Tilt Poker and The Hendon Mob.
Casino Game Tournaments
We all know that playing casino games is unlikely to end up in a situation where you walk away from a session with more money than you started with. That’s why playing in an online casino is best approached from the perspective of having fun with a set amount of money to lose, rather than going in with the belief that you’re going to win a pile of cash. Of course it’s possible to win big in a one on one situation against the dealer or a slot machine, but one of the best ways to get the most enjoyment for your money is by playing in real money casino tournaments.
You’ll find these are held by online casino operators regularly, mainly for slots and occasionally for video poker or blackjack games.
Playing in online slots tournaments is one of the best ways to enjoy the excitement of the casino – with big cash prizes on offer for often a small initial outlay. If you take advantage of sign up bonuses, you can often get a big enough bankroll to enter dozens of tournaments.
Slot tournaments played online are contests between two or more players where one player ends up taking the crown and the prize or prizes that go with it. The tournament winner clearly takes the highest value prize, with runners up normally getting in the money but collecting considerably lesser amounts.
In a tournament you’re not playing against the house, so the house edge which normally ensures the casino comes out on top is not relevant.
All that matters is understanding the structure of the tournament you’re playing, working the slots to the best of your ability, making use of any of the strategies and tips that tend to help, and finishing with a higher score on the leaderboard than all of your opponents.
Tournaments can be done and dusted within a day or a few hours but it’s common to see them run over the course of a weekend, a week, or even a whole month.
Social Game Tournaments
There are a number social gaming operators or apps that offer gambling type games which are free to play but also present chances to win real money. Many of these are designed so that you’re playing against the ‘house’ in a one against one game, but it won’t be a surprise to learn that there are social game tournaments too.
These contests can be either poker or casino games. You can read more about social gambling games here on realmoney.games, but if you just want to get some practice in head over to livecasino.social. They run some big events, but note not for real money.
Arcade – Puzzle – Word Games
Opportunities to play in tournaments involving these genres are fairly limited, but given they rely heavily on skill, fast reflexes, ability to apply logic, and strong hand-eye co-ordination if you can find one (and you have those attributes in abundance) then it may well offer a good chance to do well.
We’re talking here about games like Bejeweled and Tetris, Scrabble, Wordscapes, and of course many of the trivia contests in the section below work on a tournament-type structure.
Trivia – Quiz
Cash trivia contests have been maintaining their popularity for some time now. There really are very few barriers to entry since they’re easily found and often have no entry fee. For a player with a high degree of general knowledge – or even in depth knowledge on a specific subject – they can be fairly easily winnable.
You will only find a small number of online casinos offering the chance of taking part in blackjack tournaments – sadly the actual numbers of these types of competitions are not as large as the number of slot game tournaments – but if you can find one they’re well worth a try.
Blackjack is an interesting game where correct strategic play of hands can give you some advantage. As we saw with our analysis of online slots tournaments, playing in these types of contests does offer good value chances of winning.
Video poker tourneys work in a very similar format to the slots contests we’ve already covered. But if you’re new to casino gaming and haven’t come across tournaments before, here’s a basic definition:
A video poker tournament is one in which you play against multiple opponents, all with the same allotted time and starting bankroll, on the same type of machine, and with a target of getting a high score which will either put you at the head of the leader-board or at least in the top positions.
You might be forgiven that believing chess is a game only played by a select few, but the numbers of players who enjoy online games doesn’t support that way of thinking.
You only have to visit the main online Chess site Chess.com to get an idea for how passionate chess players are about their game. The site hosts one million chess games every day, with some of those involved including world class players and other professionals.
It’s certainly a game you can get addicted to, and playing in tournaments will be a great idea to get practice and meet other players. The perfect way to increase your chess skills and strategy in fact. Luck definitely has no part to play in a chess tournament.
Interest in online Rummy games shows no sign of shrinking, with the game being particularly highly played in Asian countries. Variations such as India Rummy are still experiencing huge growth. There are upwards of 2 million members at some online sites.
You won’t find Rummy on the list of games in a casino, at least not for now. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed in future though as it becomes widely known that the game can be played online.
To play online rummy tournaments you’ll need to understand the basic goal of the game which is to build melds (or sets of cards) which contain sets or runs. Sets are hands where you hold three or four of a kind of the same rank (example three 3s), Runs are three or more cards in sequential order of the same suit (example 345).
Backgammon is one of the world’s oldest skill games – stronger players consistently win over less experienced opponents – and is growing in popularity with dedicated backgammon sites now available. Online Backgammon sites offer safe, fun and secure playing environments, with 24/7 live support available to all players through live chat, email and telephone. Touurnaments, big prizes and enhanced backgammon gaming software are all available. Choose from single games, matches against an opponent for an agreed stake, Sit & Go knock-out tournaments; or backgammon Chouette, where players are paired randomly with each other.
Bridge tournaments are widespread in the ‘real world’. Fans of the game become totally entrenched, and the level of skill needed to play well is off the charts. Of all the card games we’ve talked about, it’s surely the most complex.
Don’t let that put you off getting involved though. If you can get to understand the rules and build up a sufficient skill level, there are plenty of options for playing in online bridge tournaments.
Solitaire is one of those timeless card games that virtually everyone has played at some point. Anyone with a computer will recognize it as one of the free games that always came with the software. But you may not know that it’s possible to play solitaire in tournaments with cash prizes on offer.
For those who don’t know, the objective is to build four stacks of cards, one for each suit in a standard cards deck, and get them in ascending order from ace to king.
Money games of solitaire can be played at many skill game sites, as well as in the mini games sections of some big sports-betting operators like 5Dimes.
Who Can Play
As long as you’re of the specified legal age, and living in a country or region where playing in online cash prize tournaments is allowed, then you should be able to play. The best way of being sure is to check the terms and conditions of any operator you want to sign up with – those that are respectable will make it clear who can and who can’t play.
Other than that, anyone who has a method of depositing can enjoy playing tourneys. Of course, if it’s a free event you’re interested in then you don’t even need that as long as you don’t need to deposit to get that free entry.
Are Cash Tournaments Legal?
In general skill games fall outside of many regulatory rulings. That’s to say they’re often legal where other types of gambling games are banned. So since many types of tournaments do require good skills in order to do well, you might be thinking they’re going to be legal where you live.
It’s not that cut and dried. The reality is that some of our listed tournament types will be allowed, and some won’t. There are lots of grey areas.
In the US you should be OK but still need to be cautious. Tournament websites that are owned by US-based companies are subject to US federal laws and the laws of the particular state the website owner is registered in as a business. Skill games do often fall outside of any bans.
Throughout the rest of the world, laws and regulations vary from country to country. Generally the regulations around gambling are much more tolerant when it’s known that there is an element of skill involved.
Wherever you are, before playing you should check any website’s Terms and Conditions page for specific details and be aware of the regulations of the country that you reside in. Be aware that some websites may accept players from countries that other sites don’t, especially where the regulations are not fully clear.
What Can You Win
Prizes vary wildly. They can range from a few $/£/€s up to many thousands, and it’s not always just the winner that gets the cash. Sometimes there are prizes for runners up and even lower positions.
The prize pool – and how it’s distributed – will always be clearly spelled out in the event rules or conditions.
Where To Play
If you enter the term “real money tournaments” into a search engine, you will find that there are dozens of websites that offer them. So there are plenty of places to play, as you’d expect just from reading through our list of tournament game types.
In each of the pages dedicated to tournaments in a specific game type you’ll find a list of places to play, but here are three worth noting.
Use your skill to play for cash prizes or Skillz Z credits in head to head matches and 4 player tournaments against other players around the world.
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For cash prize tournaments based on classic games like backgammon, GameColony is a long standing site you’ll want to check out. The site has been online since 1999, and promises ”tournaments of skill in a secure online environment and a thriving online community where players from all over the world are engaged in healthy skill-based competitions”.
Tournament participants are rewarded with cash prizes for displaying their skills in organised online competitions. Players enter online tournaments by buying entry tickets from GameColony.com, with the winners collecting prizes based on a percentage of the overall tournament prize pot.
Arguably the leader in competitive esports contests for cash prizes, Worldgaming was born out of the old Virgin Gaming and offers a good alternative to sites like Gamersaloon.
At Worldgaming you can enjoy ”Competitive daily video game tournaments and head-to-head challenges for gamers of every skill level on Playstation, Xbox and PC”.
That means playing against other gamers in titles like Madden 17, FIFA 17, NBA2K 17, and NHL 17.
How Easy Is It To Play?
The answer to this question varies of course, depending on the game involved.
Getting set up to play is normally easy. Just pick the website you want to play at and follow the registration process. The vast majority of tournament websites make this process as easy as possible to follow.
Most games themselves are generally straightforward to understand and involve just learning a few simple rules, though when you start getting into more complex strategic card games – such as poker – things do get a little tougher. Even poker itself though is easy to learn from a ‘how to play’ perspective. It’s the strategy elements take some effort to master.
Are The Contests Fair?
It’s one of the perennial questions…..”If I’m going to be risking my own money playing tournaments against opponents, how do I now it’s going to be fair?”
To answer that question we need to consider a couple of angles:
1. Has the organiser made it fair? – Game operators normally have this covered, and it’ll be extremely rare that any platform you’re playing on could be directly manipulated by an external party. Plus the operator has no incentive to manipulate results since they’re making money from entry fees as opposed to individual bets.
Where re-buys are involved you could argue that an operator could benefit from somehow ensuring a participant loses, but this would be highly unlikely.
As far as trusting the games operators goes, the sites I’ve listed on this page should not pose any concerns. They’re well respected, long running firms that wouldn’t take any risks of being labelled as untrustworthy.
2. Are participants cheating? – This is a little more difficult to be sure of and depends on the type of contest. Whenever you’re playing online you don’t actually know what your opponent is doing. There are some types of games where they could be using software to give an unfair advantage, but normally the operators have algorithms built into the platform software to prevent or detect use.
A good example of this may be in poker, where some players can use robots to play hands to their optimum potential.
Is It Gambling?
Gambling is a far reaching term that can be applied to any form of contest where you’re wagering money to win more of it. Based on this definition, you’d have to say that playing tournaments for cash prizes does fit into the category of gambling.
However it’s not quite that simple to place the gambling label on tournaments, since they normally fall into the classification of skill-gaming. In the eyes of most countries where real money skill gaming is legal, the fact that it is legal often rests on regulatory bodies making the distinction between games of luck and games of skill…and that one key differentiator between them is that winning at skill based gaming calls on a competitor’s proficiency to influence the outcome.
Pros & Cons
It’s fairly easy to label the pros of competitive cash tourneys, and we can do it in half a dozen bullet points:
- Low cost, value for money entertainment
- Easy to learn – Easy to play
- Good for gaming beginners & regulars alike
- Free to enter options
- Valuable cash prizes
- Games using high quality latest technology graphics
- Based on skill, if you’re good you can win
There really are very few negatives. Clearly if you don’t have the necessary skills, you’re going to struggle. Very likely you’ll lose any fees you’ve paid.
You’ll see from the number of websites and apps that real money tournaments are a highly competitive industry. Operators will constantly be looking to position themselves as one of the best and innovations in gaming might be the main differentiator.
It’s difficult to determine in advance what innovations these might be, but we’ll keep a lookout and detail here if any come to light.
There are a couple of recent technological developments which will have an impact.
5g introduction is set to make some changes to gaming in general, particularly in the improved capability of mobile phones. The 5g speeds should erase some known problems with network speed which can interfere with the experience in resource-hungry games, and this should encourage higher use of mobiles to play tournaments.
Virtual Reality is another technology that could have a positive impact. It’s currently close to a breakthrough into mainstream acceptance as an entertainment medium. When headsets come down in price and/or someone gets a headset to market that’s ultra high quality at an affordable price, there’s likely to be an explosion in interest.
It’s not hard to see real money contests taking place in virtual reality, and the experience will be one worth watching for.
Playing in tournaments online for real money offers a simple, low cost form of entertainment. It’s an ideal way for anyone to enjoy a range of different games. You’ll get possibilities to win cash prizes without risking large amounts of money, and the thrill of competition.
More and more game operators are running cash prize events, and this means there are plenty of easily-found opportunities for anyone with the ideal combinations of fast reactions, dexterity, and agility skills.