Are Online Poker Tournaments and Cash Games similar?
Or do they require a different approach?
With the rise of online poker in recent years, plenty of new players are introduced to No-Limit Texas Hold'em Poker through online poker tournaments.
It has been a natural progression for many novice players to learned tournament poker from professionals and strong amateur players on countless televised events. Many new players even immersed themselves in no-limit poker books to develop their skills. Some of them may have become quite successful at sit'n go and multi-table tournaments.
However, many of these players are moving into the no-limit cash games offered at online poker rooms, but fail to make the necessary adjustments to their playing style. While it is often said that in poker most of the money is made in so-called ring games or cash games, a lot of players make crucial mistakes when trying to transition to the cash game format.
One simple but important thing to note about ring games is that tournaments have a different "structure". In No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker Tournaments, players pay a specific buy-in against an arbitrary amount of chips. The chips have no real cash value per say, and they can only be exchanged for money by reaching the bubble and finishing in one of the top places. Alternatively, any player can lose his entire buy-in, i.e. all the money he invested in the tournament.
On the other hand, playing in cash games means playing with real money. The chips on the table correspond to an exact amount of cash and can be exchange at that rate at all time. They are not to be treated like a tournament buy-in. Any player can be losing his real money really fast, and nobody will step in to stop you from continuing to rebuy many times if he is hoping to recoup his losses.
Another common ring game mistake made by tournament players is to play too aggressively too frequently. They also bluff more often than regular cash game players, trying to use relentless aggression, as this worked very well for them in tournaments. This playing style is simply inappropriate in cash games, as the blinds remain at one unique level and nobody is concerned with getting knocked out.
It is effective to play more aggressively and to bluff more systematically in poker tournaments because your competitors tend to be more careful and more willing to fold their hands in order to defend their stacks and their survival.
Seasoned cash game specialists will wait for a premium hand or seek opportunities to set up as trap for their opponents when they have the best of it. There find not need in playing too many hands or in combatting the blinds in a cash game.
By simply winning one single large pot with pocket aces or kings, you can get enough chips to make you a winner for a given session. The great thing about online poker is that you do not need to be worried about the berating of the other players at the table if you double-up and quickly leave the table.
Nowadays a tournament playing style has become commonplace in no-limit cash games in many online poker sites. Many inexperienced players fall in love with an allin attitude coming from loose tournament play. You will often see hands like AK versus JJ or AQ versus 88, where players bet their entire stack pre flop.
This is bad play showing a lack of patience, a dangerous leak in cash games poker. As none of these hands are a favorite, it shows that these players are willing to bet their entire stack on a coin flip. This type of play only makes sense in the context of a tournament, as you have to continually battle the blinds. You might be short stacked in the orange or red m-zone needing in need to double-up. Or you may be trying to put as much pressure as possible on your opponents in a very aggressive playing style designed to build a large stack early.
In a cash game, it is strongly suggested to wait for a better spot before getting in allin. Instead of risking to go broke when you have got medium pair, why not make a standard raise of 4 times the big blind and reevaluate the situation on the flop?
Patience is one of the most rewarded quality in No-Limit Texas Hold'em cash games. Few people have it, and this is why there are few excellent poker players. There is no pressure to gain chips for maintaining a relative stack size.
The difference with a sit'n go or multi-table tournament is that in a ring game you do not need to play until you either go broke or get all chips at the tables. The blinds are simply a fixed cost for staying at the table, not a rising burden that may force your actions. If you are new to online poker, play tight and wait for a top hand in position before comitting your entire stack.
As you gain more experience, you can start loosening up your starting hands requirements to some extent. In a ring games, you can take all your chips off the table at any time and just walk away. Playing a patient, tight, straightforward and consistent game is normally the best strategy to crush no-limit online cash games.
As the leader of online poker, PokerStars offers plenty of action and choice, both in tournaments and cash games. They do not have PokerStars rakeback, but their VIP Club is as good if not better than rakeback, potentially putting back thousands of dollars in your pocket.