Cash Game or Tourney? A Beginner's Guide to Making Money at the Table!


Anyone who has played professional poker or even casual poker will know that the differences between cash games and tournaments are substantial. Because each one requires certain skills, it is important to determine which one best suits your specific playing style in order to be successful. This guide is for beginners, but experienced players may read this as well and discover something that may help them out on the felt.

Now, which game you play depends solely on how much money you are willing to spend, how patient you are at the table, and how much time you wish to play. Moving forward, it will be easier to discuss each game type individually.


Cash Game

Are you willing to play dollar for dollar? Chip for chip? In this game type, every move that you make is important, as your chips directly represent your buy-in. For some people this is good because it makes them feel more focused and concerned about their play style. For others, the opposite is true.

Let us imagine a number scale, with the center of the scale being 0. On the left side of the scale are the negative numbers, while on the right are the positives. The 0 represents your earnings from when you first sat at the table, and the scale will slide either to left if you lose any chips or to the right if you win any. This scale is or should be constantly in your head while playing a cash game, as you must be constantly keeping track of your earnings. Doing this may end up leaving you emotional however, which may result in you going on tilt and betting more or less than you should in certain situations; and this is why some people choose to stay away from this game type. However, it is essential for the scale to land on the right after a session, or else you will be losing your bankroll.

For cash games, it is important to play more loose than normal, while also being tight in certain spots. You are going to be sitting at the same table with the same people for a long time, so you better start to learn their strategies because they will be learning yours. Try to create a table image of yourself that prevents your opponents from bluffing you at every turn, and try to represent as many good hands as possible, while also throwing in a few bluffs every once in awhile. This is a battle, and you need to fight for every chip on the table!



Tournaments are quite different however, as they require more patience than cash games. Let's say you bought into a tourney for $50 dollars and you played for 3 hours and suddenly you lose 90% of you stack. Now you are left with only 4 big blinds. If this was a cash game, you would only have about $2 (depending on the blinds), but in a tourney the value of your chips is still $50. As the greats always say, all you need is a chip and a chair, so as long as you are sitting at the table and playing poker, you have a chance to win.

In this game type you must play very tight and very aggressive. Tournaments, most of the time, will open with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people. How are you going to possibly beat all of them and place number one? Well, the only way to do that is to double your stack, then double it again. Sure, there is a chance that you will be able to slowly build your stack one chip at a time, but at a competitive level, the best way to win is to put most or all of your chips on the line when you have the nuts. This means that you should be folding most hands and raising only the best in hopes that your opponents will call and eventually lose to you. Remember, the blinds will eventually go up in this game type, so you must play eventually or else you will be wittled down to nothing. But hey, a chip and a chair, right?


So, between playing loose and playing tight, these two game types are quite different. When setting up a home game, the go-to game type is cash, but if you have more than one table then a tourney may be justified. Try out each game style to see which one better suits you: are you better at waiting for the nuts or are you better at setting up a compelling table image?

Let us know down below which one best suits you!

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