Most of the popularity that the game of poker has earned is perhaps due to the media exposure that the game receives, especially television exposure during the World Series of Poker or the European Poker Tour. These are televised poker tournaments and you’d find many new poker players being influenced by the tournament style of play. It is a fact that the bulk of poker played everywhere involves playing cash games. Many new players start by learning to play tournament poker, and apart from a few who can grasp the game quickly, for the rest of them it is a pretty long learning process. There are many reasons why it is better to learn to play with cash games rather than beginning the learning process directly with tournaments.
Although the basic rules and structure for cash games may be similar to those of tournaments, you would need a special kind of tactical thought process, different types of action and preparation to play a poker tournament. You’ll find that using the same strategy to play both cash games and poker tournaments is not the right approach if you want to succeed. Often, poker players who win at cash games lose badly at poker tournaments. This happens because they do not see the differences in both types of games and fail modify their play strategy accordingly. A successful cash game player may be playing the poker tournament the same way he plays at a normal game he will not be too successful at the tournament because of his inability to adjust his playing strategy to the changed situation.
Before discussing how to approach a poker tournament and cash game, let us first look at the difference between a poker tournament and a normal game of poker. A Poker tournament is a structured competition wherein the players will compete against each other to collect all the chips. In a tournament, the play will continue till there is a definite winner; players cannot cash out their chips before that happens. A cash game on the other hand is a regular game at the casino where the hands are unrelated to each other. The player can quit the game as and when he chooses to.
Poker Cash Games Bring in the Money
It is said that the game of poker is all about the money. A cash game player who is usually successful at the game will rake in the money quite often. A good session will show a quick increase in the bankroll. When you compare that to a poker tournament player’s bankroll, you might find that he has nothing much to show for his efforts even though he has had a good run at the tournament. For most poker players, cash games are the best way to bring in the money. That is not to say that tournament players don’t make money. When a successful tournament player wins, he wins big. But the key here is to be an exceptional player with a solid gaming background.
Defining Poker Success
In tournament poker, the pay structure is such that only 10% of the total number of players will take away the money. This means that the balance 90% of the players will lose, no matter how well they played. So, in a poker tournament, if you are playing against 10 players, you have to outlast 9 of them to be the winner. And, if you are in the bottom 90% most of the time, your interest in the game begins to wane. This is not the case with a normal cash game. To win at a cash game, you have to beat just one single player with a single hand. A stroke of good luck on a single hand often does the trick. The quick success keeps up your interest in the game and you are more likely to continue with your hobby. Of course, to win consistently at the game of poker you need to religiously study and practice your gaming strategy.
Poker is a game of skill with a large dose of luck thrown in. But your poker playing skills stand in good stead if you want to make a living out of it. Tournament poker tests your skill as well as your ability to change the strategy to suit the game requirement. If you are poker player who has years of practice and are willing to change your usual approach to suit the changing circumstances, you stand a good chance to be successful at the tournament tables.
Advantages of Cash Games
Perhaps the biggest advantage for a cash game player is to be able to leave the table whenever he or she wants to. In a tournament, the players can only leave the table if they are eliminated. This means investing a lot of your time to play the tournament leading to adjustment of your daily schedules and so on. In cash games there is no rule stopping you from calling it quits when you want. A seasoned poker player may be willing to invest a lot of time in poker tournaments. But, beginners tend to get bored with long hours and therefore lose focus on the game. Cash games are hence more suitable for beginners as they hold up the interest and also help them make some money.
Variations in Cash Games and Tournaments
Your playing style makes for a lot of variation in cash games. Aggressive players will find a lot of fluctuations in the bankroll while players with a tight playing style will not. In case of tournaments, there are different variations like a sit-and-go tournament or a multi table tournament. Your winnings depend on the type of tournament you play. The payout in case of sit-and-go tourneys is not much and multi-table tournaments only pay the top ten players. However, multi table winners often make huge profits if they are lucky enough to be within the top slots.
Before the advent of the televised events of the WSOP or WPT, cash games were the poker game of choice. With the ability to cash out or buy-in anytime, cash games have their own appeal. Poker tournaments on the other hand, lend themselves to a large number of players and tend to be competitive. The lure of a challenge can be irresistible to some poker enthusiasts. Hence, it is difficult to compare one against the other.