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PSO Skill League Strategy
The PokerStars School Skill League offers the opportunity to play tournaments for free, to practice and to measure your skill against others. You can also win huge prizes if you make it to the top.

If you want to be successful you need to adjust your strategy compared with the way you might play normal multi-table tournaments. This is because the points awarded in the Skill League are distributed very differently from the way prize-money is allocated in most tournaments.

Skill League points distribution

In order to play the Skill League tournaments well, you need to know how the points are distributed. The precise formula is complicated, but even a rough picture will help.

For this discussion, let's assume that there are 1,150 players and your skill ranking is about average.

Let's start at the very bottom. If you manage to finish last in the tournament - ie, you bust first of everyone - you will lose about 16 points. But that is pretty difficult to achieve. You would almost certainly need to get knocked out on the first hand.

From there, the only way is up. Points increase incrementally as finishing places improve - but the increase is gradual at first. You would reach 0 points at place 434. There is no point in aiming at that threshold though. If you happen to bust out 435th you will lose only 0.03 points, which is not exactly a major loss.

The points continue to go up relatively slowly, until you reach the bubble. The best place that doesn't win money (145th) gains 18 points. On the bubble there is a huge jump in points: the 144th place finisher will gain 37 points.

After the bubble the structure is very flat for a long time. The ninth placed finisher only wins 40 points, which represents no significant difference compared with 144th. Only the top three spots get quite a bit more: 92, 60 and 51 points. See the following chart for the full break down:

Skill Points gained and lost

(Assumes 1150 players in the tournament and player has an average skill rating.)

Place Points
1 92
2 60
3 51
9 40
144 37
434 0 (no bubble)
435 -0.03
1150 -16

Correct Strategy

Play very tight early on

In a normal tournament with 1,150 players it doesn't matter if you finish 1,150th or 200th. You won't get any money in either case. In the skill league, however, it makes a huge difference. Busting out early is punished very hard and surviving for a while is rewarded. Therefore you should take as few risks as possible early on. Only invest a meaningful amount of chips if you think you are most likely a clear favorite. If you aren't so sure, or if you think you'll often end up in a coin flip, fold before you commit too many chips.

Here are some example hands.

Survive the bubble!

If you manage to avoid busting out early, and maybe even accumulate some chips, the bubble is the next milestone. In a normal MTT the bubble is overrated. Many players are scared even though they shouldn't be. In the Skill League the situation is very different. The bubble is huge. The goal to maximize your chances to survive has absolute priority. Gaining chips is not important at all.

Here is an example to illustrate the idea:

After the bubble: Aim for first place

Congratulations, you survived the bubble. You should now aim for the top three spots as that is where the majority of the points can be earned. Normal poker tournament strategy will work just fine.

Recap: Keys to success in the Skill League

  • This advice is for the PSO Skill League only. Please don't use it in normal tournaments.
  • In the early game it is important to avoid risks. Don't get your chips in if you aren't very confident that your hand is best.
  • It is OK to get the money in with monster hands like aces or kings pre-flop or a set on a harmless board.
  • Surviving the bubble is the top priority. Don't do anything that endangers that goal. Even aces pre-flop is an easy fold if a big stack raised in front of you.
  • The play after the bubble is not too important until you reach the final table. Just play normal tournament poker and aim for the top three spots.
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