The Difference between Poker Tournaments and Poker Cash Games

May 8, 2013

After a player has played cash poker games for a while he or she would like to take part in a tournament. This is because a poker tournament is designed to test the level of skill of a player. But there are many more things that distinguish a poker tournament from regular cash games. If a player wants to take part in a professional poker tournament it is better if he or she understands these differences between a tournament and poker cash games.

The difference in return and investment

The primary differences between a poker tournament and cash poker games is the level of investment that a player has to make, and the kind of returns that he or she receives. In a tournament, all the players start off with the same amount. Leaving bad beats aside, many players only have to make an investment of their initial buy-in. But in cash poker games, the player might have to make continuous investments and there is no limit to the kind of loss the player might have to incur.

Even though a poker tournament is designed to test how skilled a poker player is weak poker players prefer playing poker tournaments over cash poker games, as they have assigned maximum loss limit. In addition to this, if a player experiences a good day in a tournament, he or she will be able to make lot more money in comparison to a good cash game.

The value of chips in the game

Another major difference between cash poker games and tournaments is the value of the chips in both these formats. In a cash game, players can be very liberal in their usage of chips. This is because players have the option of rebuilding their stack during the game. But in a tournament format, chips are a player’s lifeline, and there are very few opportunities where a player can build his or her stack. As a matter of fact, toward the last few rounds of the tournament players needs to defend whatever stack is left with them.

So it is better if a player does not play excessive bluff moves in a tournament, as they can cost the player a lot of chips. In many cases, only inexperienced players or beginners are found using bluff in their tournament. Many experienced players also tend to play a very tight-aggressive game during poker tournaments.

The level of competition

Even though poker tournaments are designed to test the skill of poker players on a larger scale, majority of players playing in the tournament are not very experienced. Since all the players in a poker tournament start off with the same amount of buy-in, even the weak or less experienced players manage to clear one or two rounds of the tournament. But many poker tournaments have a handful of experienced players that have a well-designed game play and are very hard to read.

Another major difference between poker tournaments and cash games is the pattern in which the players are seated. In many cash poker games, the players play with opponents who are on the same level as them. But in a tournament, players are seated in a mixed format. So a weak player could be sitting on a table with only experienced players, or one experienced player could be sitting on a table with all beginners. So, luck plays a major role in deciding a player’s success in a poker tournament as well.

The difference in bankroll

An experienced poker player knows the importance of playing the game within his or her bankroll. The bankroll of a player depends on the format that he or she is playing in, and a poker tournament requires a player to have a larger bankroll than a cash game. This is because poker tournaments involve larger stakes, and the winners of the tournaments win a large amount of money. On the other hand, since cash poker games have smaller bankrolls, the players can only win minimal amounts of money through them.

So, if a player is talented enough, he or she can make large amounts of money by taking part in a poker tournament. But tournaments have proved to be beneficial for weaker players on most occasions as well.

The playing style of the players

As mentioned earlier, a player needs to defend his or her chips in a tournament rather than being liberal with them. In a poker tournament many players play in a conservative fashion, and they are not very negligent with their chips. Playing in either a tight-aggressive way or a weak-tight way is best for a tournament format.

Using the bubble play option

Another significant difference between cash poker games and a poker tournament is the usage of bubble play. In a tournament, a player is likely to use bubble play when he or she has to bust only one opponent. In a tournament, majority of the players will do anything possible to avoid a coin flip during a bubble. The only possibility when a player might willingly take a coin flip during a bubble is when he or she will be eliminated otherwise. In such cases, experienced players make sure that they take as many blinds as possible before the bubble bursts. Using this strategy can help a player to increase his or her stack.