A Look at the World of Casino Game Tournaments

By in Casino & Gaming on
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Casino tournament chips

Welcome to the fabulous world of casino game tournaments.

These are competitions between casino players to win prizes and money from the casino.

Generally, casino games don’t feature competition between the players.

When you play blackjack, for example, it’s you versus the dealer. How the other players do doesn’t matter.

When you play slot machines, it’s you against the machine. Your odds and winnings don’t change based on what happens with the player next to you.

When you’re shooting craps, you’re betting for or against the shooter, but it doesn’t matter what the other players are doing at the table.

But in a casino game tournament, you ARE competing with the other players. This might or might not involve a skill element, depending on which casino you’re playing at and what the rules of the tournament are.

This post is meant to offer a complete guide to casino game tournaments.

The Perks of Online Casino Tournaments

Real money online casinos have jumped on the casino game tournament bandwagon in a big way. Most online casinos have a robust schedule of tournaments where the average player can quickly get involved in hours of game-play without risking a lot of money.

The most popular casino game tournament online is the same game that’s most popular in a land-based casino. It’s also the most popular gambling game period – the venerable slot machine.

But that’s not the only kind of casino game tournament available online. You can also find tournaments for the following casino games:

You can even find sites which offer live casino tournament game feeds.

The prizes for these online casino game tournaments can vary widely. When I checked out one popular live casino game tournament feed today, I found one slots tournament with a $25 prize that only had a nickel as the entry fee.

But I also found several free tournaments with prizes between $50 and $250.

And I found tournaments where you could get in for an entry fee of $5 or less and compete for between $300 and $500.

How Do Casino Tournaments Work?

That’s all well and nice, you’re probably thinking, but how do these tournaments actually work?

It’s easier than you think.

You pay your entry fee for the tournament. The casino provides you with a specific number of chips to start the game with. You then try to parlay those chips into the biggest stack of chips among your competitor.

Casino tournaments are always focused on a single game – you’ll play in a blackjack tournament or a slots tournament, but you won’t get to switch from game to game during the tournament. In fact, if you’re playing in a slots tournament, you’ll even be limited to which slot machine game you can play

Casino tournaments that lack an entry fee are called freerolls. These are more common online than in land-based casinos, but you can find both.

The Pros and Cons of Casino Game Tournaments

There are several advantages and disadvantages to play casino games in a tournament format. I’ll try to cover them all here.

The first pro is that casino game tournaments generally don’t cost much money to play in. You can get in an hour or more of game-play for less than $5 at most online casino tournaments. Even in land-based casinos, the entry fees for tournaments are still lower than what you’d lose just sitting down at a casino game and playing at the lowest stakes for an hour.

The first con, though, is that a tournament is an all-or-nothing gig. You’ll either win money or you’ll lose.

Another pro is that you’re competing on a level playing field. Casino game tournaments aren’t like poker tournaments or fantasy sports contests. There’s no huge skill element involved in most of them.

When you’re dealing with online tournaments, you can even show up late for the tournament a lot of the time and still not be at a disadvantage compared to the other competitors.

Free Slot Machine Tournaments and Slots Tournaments with an Entry Fee

Slot machines are the most popular games in the casino, so it shouldn’t surprise you that slot machine tournaments are the most popular tournament game. I like to use slots tournaments to mix things up and preserve some of my bankroll while staying in action.

After all, the cost of playing a slot machine adds up fast. I like to play dollar slots with a single payline and a 3-bet max, so I put $3 per spin into action. At 600 spins per hour, I’m gambling $1800 per hour.

On an “average” slot machine – if there is such a thing – I’ll lose 5% of my hourly action, or $90 – on average, in the long run.

On the other hand, I can enter a slot machine tournament for free or just trade in some of my comp points on my player’s club card to enter. I can get in an hour’s worth of action for next to no money.

And at a lot of online casinos, I can play in FREE slot machine tournaments.

  • These tournaments might last an hour or so. Your goal during such a tournament is easy enough, too. You just spin the reels as fast and as often as you can to try to build up your chip stack and win the tournament.
  • The rules for any slot machine tournament vary based on the format. They usually work in a similar manner, though.
  • You sign up. You get a specific number of credits on a slot machine. You have a time limit for how long you can play. Your goal is to accumulate more credits than the other players.
  • These chips are “play money chips,” by the way. They have about as much value as Monopoly money. The difference is that if you have more play money chips than anyone else at the game by the end of the tournament, you win a prize – usually cash.

The goal is simple. Make as many spins as possible in the hopes of winning multiple small (or large) jackpots. In some tournaments, there’s only one winner, but in larger tournaments, there’s a payout schedule.

For Example:

First place might win $500, 2nd place, $250, and 3rd place, $100.

Most slot machine tournaments have prizes for players who land in the top 10% or top 20%.

There’s no skill element, really, other than the ability to spin the reels more often than your opponents in the tournament.

Slot Machine Tournament Entry Fees

How much does it cost to play in a slot machine tournament?

The entry fees are entirely up to the casino. Some online casinos offer free tournaments, and so do some land-based casinos. Others charge a nominal amount, and still others expect you to put some real cash on the line.

The casinos’ goals are simple. They want players to get comfortable and excited about playing their games. If they can do that by giving them a huge discount (which is effectively what a slots tournament is) while their players get “hooked,” they’re happy to do it.

The prizes are commensurate with the entry fee. In other words, with a free tournament, don’t expect to win a lot of money. The higher the buy-in, the higher the prizes become.

The prizes aren’t based on how many credits you have on the machine other than how that total compares to your opponents’ totals.

Slot Machine Tournament Strategy

Slot machine tournament strategy is less complicated than poker or blackjack tournament strategy.

Your goal is to just spin the reels as fast as you can and as many times as you can. The players who look like they’re having a conniption fit are the players who are using the right strategy on a slot machine tournament.

You can find slot machine tournaments with different time frames. In some tournaments, you’ll play for 20 or 30 minutes. You can even find tournaments which last for an hour, but that’s less likely.

You’ll be surprised, though, at how long half an hour can seem when you’re playing in a slot machine tournament.

You should always bet the maximum amount allowed on the maximum number of paylines, though.

It’s impossible to end up with the biggest chip stack if you don’t give yourself opportunities to win jackpots.

Table Game Tournaments

Table game tournaments, like blackjack tournaments, are a lot more involved – especially depending on the rules involved.

For Example:

“Elimination Blackjack” became a popular blackjack tournament a few years ago, and if you tried to use the same strategy on it as you did on a slot machine tournament, you’d be in real trouble.

A good place to get some insights into strategy for table game tournaments is from the book How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth.


The world of casino game tournaments is a fun world where you can get in a lot of time playing casino games without investing a lot of money. If you know how to do it right, you can even make these tournaments into a positive expectation bet.

What’s your experience with casino game tournaments been like?

I’d enjoy reading about that in the comments section.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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