Understanding The Difference Between Cash Game And Tournament Poker

The differences between these two types of poker games may be subtle to some, but others might tell you otherwise. Although the game is the same in both of these situations you will see some different strategies and opportunities depending on what you’re playing. If you want to be a good player then you need to understand what’s going on.

The first thing I’d say is that you should always be studying the game if you want to get better. Just because you saw someone do something on TV doesn’t mean you should be doing it. It might not work in your situation or it might not fit into your style of play.

For the sake of this article I’m going to stick to No Limit Hold’em poker since that’s still the most popular poker around. Going over some cash game and tournament poker similarities and differences should shed some light on the subject.

When is tournament poker most like a cash game?

Tournament poker is never 100% like a cash game. Why? Because you’re playing with chips, not real value money chips but tournament chips. In cash games you can rebuy until you’ve cleaned yourself out of all your money. In a poker tournament you have to follow the rules, and sometimes you can only buy in the one time.

With that being said the beginning of tournaments are most favorable for cash game players because everyone has a larger amount of big blinds in their stacks. When you sit at a cash game you should try to sit with at least 100 big blinds, and if you’re a great player then you should go for a higher number of big blinds. The big blinds will give you more to work with.

Early in a tournament you’ll have a lot of big blinds. In the good structured tourneys you can have well over 100 big blinds to start. However, as the tournament progresses you’ll see that lots of players will fall in the 20-50 big blind range of stacks. This makes your strategy a little different against them verson someone that has over 100 big blinds in their stack. It might not be as wise to call a 3 bet if you can’t win that many more chips because they are short stacked.

What type of betting sizing is going on in tournament poker and cash games in 2017?

This is a great question. Understanding that these things change is also just as important. Back in the early 2000s it was normal for people to 3X the big blind when opening. In 2017 you don’t really see that as much anymore. Standard opening raises these days are around 2.25-2.5X the big blind.

I should note that’s for tournament poker. In a cash game you’re going to see more of the 3-3.5X range for opening raises. In a cash game you want to try to put some more money in the pot so you can get full value from your winning hands. With a good amount of big blinds in your stack you can afford to raise more preflop. In a tourney you need to be more careful with your chips. You shouldn’t play as many speculative hands when you’re low on chips. In a cash game you should just top yourself off and play those suited connectors for value.

3betting in cash games versus tournament poker

You’ll also notice higher bettering in the 3 betting comparison. In a tournament you could see 2.5X-3.5X the previous bet when 3 betting. However, in a cash game you can easily see much more than that. Once again the cash game 3bet multiplier is higher than the tourney. You can see anything from 3X up to 5X the previous bet as standard.

Depending on the table you’re at and the players things may be a bit skewed, but if you play enough poker (Or watch live tables on Twitch) then you’ll notice that these trends are currently valid. That’s not to say that things won’t change in a year or two. In fact, I’d expect them to.

One thing that has remained consistent is the larger multipliers in the cash games when compared to tourneys. If you can learn one thing from reading this then just know that you have to raise with a higher multiplier in cash games if you want to get the same effect as a tourney.

This info is leaving out lots of tournament strategy info that you just wouldn’t do in a cash game, like opening all in with a 15 big blind stack for example. In a cash game you can do that too, but if you want your skills and smarts to earn you those chips then you’d do better just topping up your stack and playing from there.

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