Cash Games vs Tournaments?

    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      So lately I've been learning a lot about poker. I've been playing as much as I can, reading through whatever book I can get my hands on, watching a couple videos, and trying to analyze my weaknesses so I can turn losing habits into winning habits. But I'm still facing a big decision: where do I invest my time, effort, and money into? Cash Games, Tournaments, Sit n Go, or maybe something else like Omaha?

      I know there are some things that might apply to all different types of play (like maybe a 2,7 offsuit is a terrible hand no matter what you play). But the more you play the game, the more you realize there are some things that might work for one type, and not as well for another type of game. A minor example would be possibly playing a little looser when there are less players at the table.

      I started out playing 6 table cash games. I quickly lost all of my money. I reasoned that I could get better, and start making cash as long as I'm consistent with my training, learning and playing. Thing is though, I knew I would fall into the exact same trap if I just invested back into my bankroll and jump right back into cash games.

      So instead, I did a couple freeroll tournaments. I don't know why, but I did SUBSTANTIALLY better. No it wasn't anything noteworthy, but there were like a thousand entrants or so and I got in like 248th place. I don't know what it is about tournaments. Perhaps because with freeroll tournaments I'm not really putting any money on the line and there isn't as much anxiety and I keep a clearer head and play more aggressively when it makes sense. Maybe it's because there is a goal in the end instead of: "Let's just see how much money I can win today". Maybe it's because the blinds constantly increasing puts intense pressure on ALL the players, and I just feel like I intuitively know how to deal with that because playing loose and aggressive just seems natural to me.

      Or maybe when someone goes all in, and I'm feeling super confident about my hand what goes through my mind is: "I KNOW I've got the best hand. And if I don't.. What am I REALLY losing?".

      But in the end, what matters most is what the most lucrative option is. So my question I am asking is from your experience, which path seems more profitable? Cash games, tournaments, or maybe something else?
  • 7 replies
    • Harrier88
      Harrier88
      Bronze
      Joined: 01.05.2012 Posts: 1,971
      Hi Ascension,

      Basically, it's all about which format you enjoy the most, because every game can potentially be played profitably. I recently posted the following list of pros and cons for each format in another thread:


      Cash games
      + Less variance than most other formats
      + Sessions can be ended or interrupted any time
      - Tilt issues can severely impact your bankroll if you're not careful
      - Difficult to master due to its complex and dynamic play

      SNGs (Single table)
      + Your losses are capped, meaning that tilt has less of an impact
      + Relatively easy to learn
      - Your winnings are capped as well
      - You can't end your session prematurely
      - Moderately high variance

      MTTs
      + Fantastic risk to reward ratio
      + Very exciting if you run deep
      - Huge variance
      - Very time consuming, sessions can't be ended prematurely

      MTSNGs
      Middle ground between single table SNGs and MTTs

      HUSNGs
      + Less variance than in other SNGs (but still more than in cash games)
      + Easy to play a big volume
      + Easier to exploit your edge over weaker opponents than on full tables
      - Very dynamic game, tough to learn
      - Can be very tilt-inducing if you take your defeats too personally
      - Tough to beat the rake at the lowest stakes


      Personally, I'd recommend sticking to either cash games or SNGs at this time, I don't think MTTs would be a good option for you right now because you'd need a relatively big bankroll to grind them consistently. I wouldn't pick Omaha at this time either, since it's a very complex game, but you can try playing a few freerolls to get a feel for it if you like.

      If you decide that SNGs could be for you, I'd advise you to do some reading on them first, because this format is quite a bit different compared to "normal" poker. Here is an overview of our SNG lessons, you should at least be familiar with the articles on chip value. You can also find a quick guide to this format here.

      I'd also highly recommend downloading the ICM Trainer and practicing with it until you can consistently score above 90%, or better yet 95% over 100 hands (remember to reduce the Hero Edge to 0% before you start each time). Just keep in mind that many poker rooms like Pokerstars prohibit you from using this program while your client is running.

      So the choice is yours, let me know what you think works best for you. But whatever you pick, make sure that you always stick to correct bankroll management, this is really important.
    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      Harrier88,

      Cool pros/cons chart you have there! Very informative. For now I'm mostly just sticking to freeroll tourneys at the moment until I'm comfortable with my skill level in poker to start throwing money into regular games.

      I downloaded ICM Trainer and I'm looking at about 75%-80% at the moment. I'm going to keep training until I get up to 95%.
    • tightfish19
      tightfish19
      Bronze
      Joined: 20.05.2013 Posts: 76
      FWIW I think cash games are the best way to learn to play poker properly.

      SNGs are quite a limited format with not so much emphasis on post flop play. I started off playing SNGs but quickly became frustrated with the boring push or fold aspect of the format.

      MTTs are high variance so I mainly play them for fun. By the way Freerolls are not a good way to learn the game as there is no risk/reward involved.

      Starting off with cash games at the lowest stakes and working your way up with good BRM is the best way to learn an all round game IMO.
    • Harrier88
      Harrier88
      Bronze
      Joined: 01.05.2012 Posts: 1,971
      Originally posted by Ascension9000
      I downloaded ICM Trainer and I'm looking at about 75%-80% at the moment. I'm going to keep training until I get up to 95%.
      Not a bad result at all for the start, keep practicing. I'd still recommend reading the articles on chip value that I showed you, so you don't only understand which action is correct, but also why it is correct.

      Originally posted by tightfish19
      SNGs are quite a limited format with not so much emphasis on post flop play. I started off playing SNGs but quickly became frustrated with the boring push or fold aspect of the format.
      That's true, but that also makes SNGs easier to learn. Postflop play is a quite complex subject and it can take a while for a beginner to get the hang of it.

      Originally posted by tightfish19
      By the way Freerolls are not a good way to learn the game as there is no risk/reward involved.
      Yeah, freeroll players often behave quite differently to regular players, so not everything in this format can be applied to normal MTTs or other real money games. It is still a good way to get acquainted with the game, not so much for mastering it.
    • Ascension9000
      Ascension9000
      Basic
      Joined: 23.08.2014 Posts: 14
      I'm able to consistently get 90-95% now. The only issues I'm facing at the moment are underestimating the value of Jacks, overestimating the value of 10s, and when to push to when there is only one opposing player. When there are 4 or 5 other players on the table, the decisions I make are fairly easy. I have a bunch of different card groups I've memorized as good enough to push with when there are this many players, but it seems like everything COMPLETELY changes when there is only one other player.

      For instance, I wouldn't push with an A2 offsuit, but the software basically suggests to ALWAYS push with A2 offsuit (assuming there is only one other player). I say this because out of the thousand or so hands I've played, an A2 was only "wrong" once in that particular scenario.

      I'm beginning to figure out position is as important, if not more important than the hand itself. There are so many other factors to consider as well such as the players style, the blinds, and so on. That's why I may be looking into getting some tracking software soon. I don't know if there are any compatible with BetOnline though.
    • jawoftheox
      jawoftheox
      Bronze
      Joined: 11.09.2013 Posts: 216
      Keep in mind that you can't leave tourney whenever you want. That's the biggest reason why I play cash games.
    • Harrier88
      Harrier88
      Bronze
      Joined: 01.05.2012 Posts: 1,971
      Originally posted by Ascension9000
      I'm beginning to figure out position is as important, if not more important than the hand itself.
      Yes, that's definitely true, in pretty much every form of poker. Keep in mind that there is effectively no postflop play in the push-or-fold phase of a SNG, which is also the reason why you can push with such a wide range in the SB, even though it is not a great position in cash games (except for stealing) because you'd always have to play out of position after the flop.

      It can seem counter-intuitive at first to go all-in and possibly risk your tournament life with that many hands in these situations, but in the end, it is just the most profitable solution. You can read about the mathematical reasoning behind this in the related article. Basically, you calculate the monetary value of your stack after a fold and compare it with the monetary value of your stack considering all the possible outcomes ([call&win + call&lose] + opponent folds). These calculations are impossible to do at the tables, which is why you use programs like the ICM Trainer instead to get an intuitive feel for these situations.

      You may have also noticed that you need much better hands to call an all-in compared to when you are the first player to enter the pot. This is precisely the reason why you can get away with so much in the SB; there is only one player left, and he'd need a pretty good reason to get involved in the pot.

      Anyway, if you decide that you're serious about poker, tracking software is definitely worth the investment, even though it is arguably more useful for cash games. As far as I know, however, HM2 and PT4 are not compatible yet to BetOnline, but I could be wrong about that.

      In the long run, it would be pretty useful anyway if you could join one of our partner rooms, so you can earn StrategyPoints and get a higher status and access to more videos and strategy articles. The problem is that I don't know which poker rooms are available to US players...
      I'd suggest going to this thread and explaining your situation. Maybe one of our expert could then point you to a US-friendly partner room, if that's possible.