One of the age-old questions in poker will always be, ‘should I play cash-games or tournaments?’ While there is no easy answer for this question, one answer, the notion that they don’t differ all that much and you can therefore learn both, is potentially harmful. While it’s true that an experienced poker player can jump back and forth between tournaments and cash games, new or struggling players are far better off focusing on just one of these games.
In this article I will take a look at how these two formats differ, and which strategies and player types compliment both tournaments and cash games –which will help you decide which of these two formats is better suited to your individual style of play, or just has more appeal for you than the other..
Playing tournament poker requires a strong, diverse, knowledge base. A tournament player must be proficient playing under a number of different circumstances to excel, since conditions are constantly changing in tournaments. Solid tournament players are adept at each phase of the game, and rely on their lesser skilled brethren to be deficient during certain periods of the tournament; whether it’s the beginning stages, bubble play, or when the tournament becomes short-handed. –In this way tournament players are very similar to mixed-game specialists who simply cannot have a glaring hole in their game.
Additionally, tournaments require a larger bankroll, and some serious mental toughness, since players can have extremely long cold-spells in between big scores. BUT, when a player does make a big tournament score, it’s a big number –tournaments are the “Hare” in the Tortoise and the Hare race.
Unlike tournament players who need to be well-rounded, cash-game players are able to excel at a particular game or format, so instead of being able to seamlessly transition between very different stages of a tournament, and hoping that their opponents are not as malleable, cash-game players seek out lesser skilled opponents and use their long-term edge to make their money.
Since a cash-game player can re-buy at any point, and is never “eliminated” from the game, the situation that a cash-game player faces on hand number 1 of his session, is just as important as hand number 1,000 (provided the stacks at the table haven’t changed drastically).
Both groups (titan poker tournament players and cash-game players) feel that their chosen path is the more skillful than the other groups, and the point will likely be argued for decades to come. What can be agreed upon is that tournaments and cash-games both require a tremendous amount of skill in order for a player to be successful, but both also require a different skill set than the other –although some core principles will obviously be the same.
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