Cash Games vs. Tournaments - Part I
Overall, poker is poker. Granted there are multiple variations of poker, and there are different forms of each variation. Sometimes things get crazy and the different forms include multiple variations and it can all get very confusing. In the end though, the final goal is to win the chips in the middle of the table.
This day in age, No Limit Hold ‘em dominates the poker world and splits its existence between the cash games and the tournament world. Despite the fact that all the rules are essentially the same and the hand values don’t change, tournaments and cash games are a world apart. There has been some discussion whether cash game skills automatically translate into tournament skills and vice-versa. A closer look at some of the top players in the tournament world gives us a better look at the answer to that debate.
While Chris Ferguson may have won over $7,000,000 in tournament play, he openly admits to not feeling as comfortable in cash game play. Scotty Nguyen has close to $10,000,000 and is rarely seen at cash game tables. Even though Freddy Deeb has won multiple tournaments and close to $6,000,000 in tournaments, he hasn’t quite found the same success on the ring game circuit. Phil Hellmuth has won over $10,000,000 and claims a record 11 World Series of Poker bracelets, yet waitlists form around him for cash games.
There are multiple accounts of top tourney earners not being able to recreate their reputation in the side game world, and the same is true on the flip side. One thing about tournaments is it takes a very large sample to show true results. Some of the mathematically inclined have claimed it’s almost impossible to tell a tournament players true return on investment level in just one lifetime.
Much smaller than the number of players that haven’t been to the top of both the tournament and cash worlds is the group that has been there. Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Daniel Negreanu are a few of the living players that come to mind as far as that club goes. So, where do you stand? Let’s figure that out.
Depending on your playing style, pain threshold, and overall interests, you may favor cash over tournaments, tournaments over cash, or you might find yourself at home in both arenas. Here are a few of the main differences between the two:
When you buy into a standard tournament, you can't lose any more money than you're initial investment. For some players, this is a big advantage if they have a propensity to tilt. If you take a few beats in a tourney, the most you can lose is the chip stack in front of you, after that you're out of the tournament. In cash games, though, you can take a few beats, lose your stack, and keep on playing as long as you have more money to put on the table. So, if you have a tendency to lose financial control when you take a few beats, it's probably best you stick to tournaments.
Cash games: 0 - Tournaments: 1
Sure, the variance in cash games can be pretty crazy at times, but it is nothing compared to the tournament scene. Sure, there are plenty of tournament players out there that have won dozens of tournaments and millions of dollars. One thing to remember though is players like Phil Hellmuth and JC Tran are playing pretty much every tournament they can get to. If you're a casual player, just playing for fun once in a while, you're also going to have to remember not to get down on yourself if you go 7 tournaments in a row without a cash, not to mention a win. Plenty of top pros go through longer dry streaks than that, you just don't hear about the dry streaks. You can't let that get you down though if you insist on specializing in tournaments. Also, when a player like Jamie Gold or Jerry Yang wins the Main Event, don't be quick to assume they are the best players in the world. One or two wins are basically meaningless in the tournament world, and it's going to take quite a few to really impress some people. That is unless you win the right tournaments, which brings us to the next point.
Cash Games: 1 - Tournaments: 1
You're not going to see Full Tilt or Pokerstars sponsoring the best player in the $50-$100 NLHE game at the Commerce. It doesn't matter if that player is making $1,000 an hour and has been around the game for years without going broke. You are going to see (and already have seen) both top poker sites slapping a patch on every player that comes out of nowhere and makes a big score at a World Series event. If you are lucky enough to win the right tournaments or go deep at the right time, you could find yourself with a sponsorship deal that puts you into every $10,000 buy in for the next calendar year. And, with the huge overhead involved on the tournament circuit, that really adds up and could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to your bankroll.
Cash games aren't without their perks however. If you put in the hours and pay your dues in the poker rooms, you could find yourself being comped with things that tournament sponsorships can't buy you. The big casinos take good care of their biggest players, even outside of the pit, and most of the payoffs are more impressive than the $50 buffet comps the tourney guys throw away.
Cash Games: 2 - Tournaments: 1
.......stay tuned for the next installment