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How to choose between cash games and tournaments Poker
Nitya Jain
Posted on 20 May, 2020
By Nitya Jain
On 20 May, 2020
By Nitya Jain
On 20 May, 2020

How to choose between cash games and tournaments

Many players do not think about this too much, but deciding where to play poker and which format to play can be one of the most critical decisions in your career. On the one hand, finding best places both live and online will help you add extra money to your pocket, but on the other hand, finding a format that suits you the most can not only do that but also give you more enjoyment and fulfillment, which is a vital part if you want to succeed in the long run.

I would even say that you should carefully consider the pros and cons of both formats before choosing what you want to play for the rest of your life. So if you ever been wondering how to do that, I will try to answer this question once and for all. If you are in doubt, just ask yourself these questions:

What do you enjoy more?

I do believe that this is an essential thing to consider when selecting between cash games and MTTs. Some players love the changing environment of tournaments, and it gives them a lot of excitement. The adrenaline rush that you feel after reaching the final table can’t be compared to anything else, and many players choose this option just because of the thrill.

However, some get very nervous in such situations and do not want to deal with the pressure, so choose cash games as a result. With this option, you will mostly be playing in a controlled environment with around 100bb deep stacks, and no one will put extended pressure on you so you can simply play your game.

On the other hand, in MTTs, you will always need to adjust your ranges based on the stack depth and player number at the table, which can be both exciting and exhausting, depending just on the way you view things. While you will hear many poker discussions with players trying to convince that their choice is better, the truth is that none of the formats is better than the other, it just depends on your needs. Thus, choose what you enjoy the most and stick with it for the most part.

How to choose between cash games and tournaments

Do you choose peace of mind or huge wins?

It is also crucial to think about your bankroll and possible variance in advance. First off, you need to have a much bigger bankroll if you want to play tournaments since you will experience more variance in this format. Secondly, you will experience much more pressure because finishing 1st, and finishing 8th means a vast difference in your payout, so it could be hard to take necessary risks if that bother you even a bit.

If you do not want to experience money pressure and huge swings, cash games could be a better option. If you learn how to play it, improve your GTO play, and advanced strategies, your graph is likely to go straight up without huge long-term swings.

However, even if you are one of the best MTTs players, you can easily lose a lot of money in a couple of months without hitting anything good. It can be explained since most cash is paid for top 3 places in tournaments, and if you play ones with big fields, you will not be able to hit those very often no matter how good you are. Even more so, if you are playing tournaments in a live setting, you can be on a downswing even for the full year or more since you play way fewer events, and short term-variance really kicks in. Of course, when you win a big MTT, you will get a huge payday, which can even be your whole year’s profit, so it is something you should consider before making your choice.

How to choose between cash games and tournaments

Do you want to be recognized?

While the goal for many poker players is to make money while playing the game they enjoy, it is a proven fact that the human brain wants recognition, and there is no shame in acknowledging it. If you want to recognized as an expert in your field, MTTs are your best option. You can continuously be winning a ton of money in cash games, and no one will even know it. However, this can also be a benefit for a number of reasons, so it breaks down to what you prefer.

On the other hand, if you take down a huge live tournament or even main event of online series, you can become known overnight and enjoy your fame and success. To be honest, it also can open some additional doors and get you in the games that you would not be able to join otherwise. Just as with cash games, there are pros and cons, but if you want to be known for what you do, you should stick with playing tournaments.

How to choose between cash games and tournaments

When and how much do you want to play?

It was one of the reasons why I moved from playing MTTs to cash games and stayed there for almost ten years. If you decide to play tournaments, you will need to play when they are running and not when you feel like playing. On top of that, most of the events start in late hours and last over the night, so it could be very exhausting.

On the other hand, when you play cash games, you can play whenever you want. Of course, it is worth mentioning that you will still need to adjust your playing times based on when the best games are running, but you have way more freedom with this option.

The most important part is that you can quit your session whenever you want, which gives you plenty of benefits on its own. If you start tilting or lose your focus in the middle of the tournament, you will still need to keep playing even when you know that you are not making decent decisions. The same could be said about getting tired, losing focus, or getting distracted from the game. Either way, you will need to continue playing if you are in the tournament. This is where cash games players get the upper hand since you can control not only when you play, but also how long you want to play, and that gives the ultimate freedom.

How to choose between cash games and tournaments

Do you enjoy competition or weaker games?

If you enjoy the fierce competition and want to prove you can beat even the best, then cash games will likely give you that thrill since you will be competing against stronger opponents. However, tournaments attract more recreational players since they simply enjoy this format more because of the chance to win big, and bin big at once. Therefore, even high stakes tournaments have a lot of weak players who are looking to have some fun and gamble their money. This could not be said about high-stakes cash games where you will face very tough competition. So what do you want more?


All in all, I do think that MTTs are a more profitable option in most situations, so if you are fine with a big variance, spending a lot of time playing overnight and are looking to feel that excitement of huge winnings, MTTs is your best bet. However, if freedom and being able to plan poker around your day as well as having a steady income for the peace of your mind is more vital for you, then go with cash games.

– Tadas Peckaitis, coach at MyPokerCoaching

For more updates on the top online poker tournaments around the world and for similar strategy articles from top coaches from across the world, stay tuned to GutshotMagazine.com.

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