Cash Games or Tournaments what should I choose? This is a question every poker player will consider at some point. Whether you’re someone who has never played poker or a seasoned pro, this question is going to come up. This article is going to help guide you through which type of format is right for you, cash games or tournaments?
Let’s take a look at the mindset of 2 different players who have decided which format they prefer, as well as the pros and cons of cash games vs tournaments.
Cash Game Player
I love playing cash games. I want every pot I win to be cold, hard cash. I can play as long or as little as I like. The blinds stay the same, I can take the optimal line in every hand and I never have to worry about losing my chips or my seat. I can always rebuy and keep playing.
Pros of Cash Games
Master of Time
You are the master of your own time, you can plan your schedule and lifestyle to anything that suits you. Cash games are running around the world 24/7. You can sit in at any time and cash out whenever you want.
10 minute session?
48 Hour session?
Cash games are pure freedom. There are no restrictions…
Except all your life obligations, your sanity and your bankroll.
More room for plays in cash games
Cash games generally run deeper, meaning you will have more big blinds in front of you than most tournaments. Cash game strategies with deep stack sizes allow more room for betting, raising, re-raising and bluffing. You can top up your stack size to whatever size you feel confident in.
Tournaments can force you to play with stack sizes you may not be so comfortable with. In a tournament, if your bluff goes wrong, you’re out. No money. You can just rebuy in a cash game.
In tournaments, you’re always being forced to move tables. Found a juicy seat in a cash game? Stay all night.
If you’re a winning cash game player, your downswings won’t be that bad, or that long. Professional tournament players can go on huge downswings.
A winning cash game player may have a losing month here and there, but if they pump out the volume, they can’t be losing for very long.
To avoid being cheated at cash games read this guide.
Cons to Cash Games
Tough Player Pool
If you’ve found some juicy cash games in 2019, great! For the vast majority of us, we will be facing a line-up of tough regs. Most of these tough players have put a ton of work into their game, likely with the assistance of special poker software.
Not only that, but these regs will be multi-tabling, so most of the seats are filled with those same players.
No huge scores
In cash games, you are never going to have a huge score in comparison to tournaments. Let’s look at an example:
A pro poker player playing a 1$/2$ cash game, buying in for $200, is never going to win $50k in a single day. They might have a fantastic day and win 10-20 buy-ins, but that’s in the $2000-4000 range.
A player that buys into a big field online tournament, with a buy-in of $200, CAN win $50k on that same day.
You will be playing the same blind level, stack sizes and players over and over again. This can cause some players to burn out, as it will become a repetitive grind that can get really boring.
Burning out is a huge problem if you’re someone looking to go pro. You’re never going to want to do something professionally if you keep getting bored.
I love playing tournaments. I have the opportunity to win a life-changing amount of money every single day. I enjoy the thrill of running deep in a tournament and with every minute I survive, I am guaranteed more money. I enjoy playing long hours on my work days and taking whole days off when I’m not playing tournaments. I Work hard, I play harder.
Pros of Tournaments
HUGE Pay Days
When you win or run deep in a tournament. You truly felt like you’ve won, you’ve beat the system and you’re just loving life.
Big tournament scores are life-changing sums of money to most of us. This is what entering tournaments is all about, these huge paydays!
Now you can buy that car, that holiday getaway, maybe that fancy watch or…
Greater variety of formats
You have a greater variety of game formats than cash games. You can pick turbo, hyper or deep stacked. This basically means how fast the blinds and ante levels will go up and how deep you will start the tournament.
This drastically changes the tournament strategy and gameplay from tournament to tournament, even though you are buying in for the same amount in each format.
There are also the options for bounties in poker tournaments. A bounty is where you are rewarded upon knocking out a player in a tournament, usually with extra chips or cash prizes!
Huge fishy player pools
Poker tournaments generally have bigger player pools than cash games and the player pool will almost always have more recreational players.
This is where tournaments can become super alluring. You can find yourself playing for BIG amounts of money against a load of donks, who are just giving their chips away.
Cons of Tournaments
Shallow stacked play
The vast majority of tournaments will inevitably play shallower due to the blind and ante increases at each level. This means poker tournaments can end up playing a lot different than a cash game.
Basically, players playing tight, just trying to wait for premiums and trying to survive.
Some tournament players wouldn’t see this as a con, however this style of action can become boring or tedious in comparison to cash games.
While some players enjoy the long days, not everyone wants to commit 6-12 hours on a tournament. Not everyone has that kind of time or they might get bored. Most people can’t concentrate for that amount of time and feel mentally fatigued.
Depending on whether you play live or online tournaments, you won’t always get to pick when you would like to start playing.
Is there a juicy tournament that starts at 6pm that you would like to play?
You have to start at 6pm.
How about if you play online poker and you are located in an unfavorable time zone? Tournament starts at 2am?
You start at 2am.
You can go on huge swings in either direction. However, with big field tournaments, you can go a very, very long time before running deep in one. This can cause HUGE downswings.
Great tournament players can go on a year-long downswing. A year! This means you will need to have a big enough bankroll to withstand these potential downswings.
Some players, such as myself, have never won a tournament and only final tabled a few times. Tournament players are playing the long game for that big pay day.
What to take away from this article?
There are pros and cons to cash games vs tournaments and you won’t really know for certain which one is going to be a better for you, until you actually play.
This list of pros and cons should steer you in the right direction and give you a better idea of where your time and energy spent playing and learning should go into.
Cash game vs tournament strategy is going to be extremely different, but remember, you are still playing the same game. Whether it be No Limit Hold’em Or Pot Limit Omaha, you still get dealt the same number of cards, there are still big blinds, you’re still trying to win as many pots as you possibly can.
Which one are you? A cash game or tournament player? What’s the biggest reason you prefer one to the other? Let me know in the comments below!
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