A poker game is a poker game right...not necessarily! If you go from playing in your local £50 freeze out tournament in your local casino to playing $1-$2 no limit Hold'em online then the differences are obvious or at least they should be. But the differences between playing cash games and tournament poker have other differences which are far more subtle in nature.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS ON THE LINE?
It's a fact that many tournament poker players much prefer the feeling of going after a large sum of prize money than the thought of possibly grinding out an hourly wage in some cash game. They would rather play a $250,000 event than a $1-$2 ring game. I guarantee you that the losing player who plays in the flashy tournament has far bigger bragging rights than the cash game player who is earning twenty bucks an hour even though when it comes to being a winning player, in most cases it is the cash game player.
But when reality gets merged with fiction by the stories that people tell then it is impossible for anyone to tell the difference sometimes of just who is a winning player from those that aren't But some people simply need to feel that they are chasing a big score and these people are not suited to cash games. Many tournament players who drift into cash games get restless and especially when they are playing full ring.
DISCIPLINE…..DO YOU HAVE IT?
This restlessness leads us into the next issue and that is one of discipline. Tournament players are used to making risky moves which are forced on them by the ever increasing blinds and in some cases antes as well. You simply have to be aggressive far more in tournament poker and this can be the perfect remedy for players who crave action and being in action.
But the flip side to this is rather obvious in that cash games require a much higher level of discipline in order to be successful. You can actually do very well in a poker tournament playing undisciplined poker and even win the thing. This has led to many technically weak poker players winning big events and then getting an awful lot of exposure because of it.
But you are really only going to be a successful cash game player if you have discipline and a good sound technical game.
DO YOU JUST TURN UP TO PLAY POKER?
Of course we all do, whenever we log on to an online card room then we are doing so with the intention of playing poker. But if you want to be a cash game player and a successful one at that then you are simply going to have to take the time to get the finer details in place like a rake back scheme for instance.
One of the first things that I did when I started to play full time was to get myself a rake back deal set up as soon as possible.
Most people are so eager to play poker and so keen to jump in and be a part of it that they don't stop to think about the little nuances that will go into making them a winning player. Another critical aspect of playing successful cash game poker these days is in the area of tracking software.
There are so many players online now using software like Poker Tracker or Poker Office that you either have to do one of two things. You either have to join the masses and start using it yourself, or you have to defend against it by either developing a style of play to combat it or by concealing your identity somehow.
My sponsors offer a valuable feature in which any player can change their on screen identity every week so as to disguise who they really are and to prevent opponents from taking notes on them for any meaningful length of time.
IS YOUR GAME STRONG ENOUGH?
Forget what you hear on television or online, the best players on average are cash game players. There are many reasons for this but one of them is to do with the fact that cash game players must have a sound technical game, whereas a tournament player can get by with a good working knowledge and plenty of guts and guile. This simply will not cut it in cash games and especially online.
There are many successful tournament players who can play cash games very well and vice versa of course but it can be difficult to play both forms of the game very well and especially in a very short compressed time frame. I recall reading Todd Brunson in Daniel Negreanu's latest book on how he struggles to switch his mindset from one form of poker to another.
Many of the qualities which go into the making of a cash game player have nothing to do with the actual play of the hands or involve strategies. Patience can be a virtue in many cash games but that quality does not always sit easily with many people. People who have rash impulsive tendencies may be better suited to tournament poker or better still SNG's that can be started and finished in under an hour. Multi-tabling when playing online can be one way to alleviate this problem of course, but live players don't have that option and this also assumes that your game and the quality of your opponents can handle multi-tabling in the first place.
HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO RISK!
Depending on the mindset of the individual the actual buy-ins can be a contributing factor as to why certain people choose poker tournaments over their cash game counterparts! Some people much prefer the mental cushion of knowing just how much they will be potentially losing and prefer tournament poker for this very reason.
I know that you can set the maximum potential loss in a cash game as well but there is always the capacity to re-load with a cash game unlike a tournament. I know a few people who possess this very mindset and much prefer knowing their total possible loss before playing poker.
It is somewhat different in live poker in that you can really only lose what you have about your person. Although having said this, you can still get access to further supplies by way of borrowing money from people who you know or from ATM's.
But online the situation is far different and has far more potential risk for people who have no financial discipline. You can easily re-load and play with your entire bankroll if you so wish and even buy back in electronically in a matter of a couple of minutes. Many people don't like this and much prefer the safety net of knowing the total known loss.
So before you think about which form of poker you want to play, read this article and remember it well and try to ascertain if you are really cut out to play cash game poker or if tournament poker is where you should be concentrating your time and effort.