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Tournament poker, especially in the live arena, at times can seem to be a real-life Groundhog Day. Many feel that they have to play in as many tournaments as possible so they can maximize their ROI.

While there’s a bit of logic behind this concept, there are times that a player should probably skip playing in a particular poker tournament. Here are five of those reasons.

The Prize Pool Isn’t Worth Your Time

Time is money and there are times that some tournaments really aren’t going to be worth the effort compared to the effort you need to win. A number of daily casino tournaments will fit this category.

Many of us play poker tournaments because we can earn a large ROI. When a live tournament is only paying about 2 to 5x your initial investment, it usually isn’t worth fooling with if your goal is to maximize your ROI. Your time would be better suited playing in cash games or in a different tournament.

You Pull a Kessler

On Sunday, Allen Kessler tweeted that he hit a Royal Flush on a $1 Progressive video poker machine. For those not familiar with what that mean, it means that certain hands on the machine will build a progressive jackpot in addition to the normal payout.

A Royal Flush normally pays 4,000 credits or $4,000 in the case of this machine. The progressive jackpot had built up to $1087.21 for the Royal, making Kessler’s hit worth $5088. (The .21 was rounded up.)

Kessler commented that he hit this while waiting for a 2 p.m. turbo tournament. Personally, I would have either unregistered from the event or skipped entering altogether. I’m guessing that the event wouldn’t have paid much more than $6k for first place, so I would have taken the evening off.

I’ve actually done this on a couple of occasions. One of the most memorable was a Royal that I hit at the Tuscany prior to the start of their daily tournament. Looking at the size of the field that day, first place was less than I made in Video Poker so I took the evening off. Ok, I lie. I actually went back and played a little video poker first and quit after winning another $40ish.

Your Game is Off and You Know It

Have you ever went to play in a tournament and knew that you weren’t feeling it? Maybe you weren’t motivated to play the game. Regardless of the reason, your game is off that day and you know it before even registering for the tournament.

This is one time where you shouldn’t bother to even register to play. Odds are that you’re going to simply donate to the game. Your time would be better served in other pursuits.


There’s a large number of players out there that would much rather enter a juicy cash game than play a tournament any day of the week as they can control their variance better. Finding those games can sometimes be a challenge but a number of you out there are like bloodhounds that can sniff out a good game.

Read More: Tournaments vs. Cash Games: Which One Is Right For You?

Other times, you luckbox into some information on a good game in the poker room either from someone in the game, someone on the rail, one of the floor staff or maybe you recognize a known megafish in a game.

If you run across this type of game, odds are you will be better suited to try and get in this game than play in that day’s tournament. Granted, there might be a waiting list a mile long for said game, but it can’t hurt to try to get a seat.

Family / Relationship Problems

How many of us have gone to play a poker tournament after getting into a fight with our significant other or while in the middle of some personal family problems. While there are some people out there that can use poker as an escape from their problems, the average person isn’t able to simply “switch off” their problems.

Family or relationship issues tend to creep into our thoughts while playing poker whether we want them to or not. It isn’t an issue of “focus” or concentration but rather a natural result of the human condition.

If you are having family or relationship problems, then you might want to reconsider playing in that poker tournament. Even if you believe you’re able to play your “A game,” those problems are likely going to creep back in and take your game down a few notches.

Take care of your problems outside of the game so that you can completely commit to the game.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.