Differences between tournament and cash games
One of the fundamental differences between tourneys and cash games lies in the value of a chip. In cash play, a chip is worth exactly as much as its nominal value. In a tournament, it has a symbolic meaning instead. The question is: are tournament or cash chips more valuable?
In a cash game, you can pretty much turn your chips around every which way you want, in your quest to win some more. You can always add more chips if you hit a losing streak, and recover your losses on the positive upswing of the variation. In a tournament however, the problem is a different one. Even though tourney chips don’t really have a direct real-money value, they are the key to your survival and possibly to some pretty fabulous returns on your buy-in. Therefore, you can’t just handle them as loosely as you would in a cash game. As soon as they run out, you experience ultimate failure: you bust out of the game, without the possibility to recover your losses.
In short handed cash games it is usually a good call to see the flop on a small pair. The implied odds say, that while you’ll spend a lot of money trying to make your hand, the one time that you do make your trips will more than make up for all your previous losses. In tournament play, this reasoning will not stand its ground. You may not last long enough in the game (due to the ever-escalating blinds) to cash in on the implied odds.
Solid play in relation to the blinds is a constant requirement in a cash game. While acknowledging that everyone loses money when in the blinds, you’ll have to find a way to attack them successfully enough to offset that setback. In a tournament, the blinds change all the time, and therefore, your behaviour in relation to them has to mould accordingly.
Another huge difference between tournament and cash play comes into play when we’re dealing with coin-flip situations. Since you have to protect your stack much better when you’re in a tourney, such situations are to be avoided especially if they involve going all-in.
In a cash-game, an all-in could mean a temporary setback, in a tournament, it means you risk busting out altogether. The repercussions of an all-in gone bad in tournament play will far exceed those of one lost in a cash game. In this respect, yes, you should play tighter in a tourney than in a cash game, but be careful not to turn into a weak-tight player, and always remember that the good-old tight-aggressive attitude is what works best in tournaments and cash games alike.
As I stated above when detailing the differences between play in relation to the blinds in tournaments and in cash games, flexibility is something that will be called upon much more often in tournament poker . One has to be connected to the flow of the game when playing in a tourney. When nearing the bubble for instance, the game suddenly freezes. Nobody wants to be that unlucky guy who busts out 1 position short of the money, so play tightens up, and coin-flip situations shall be avoided even more than under normal circumstances. That gives a savvy player the opportunity to boost his/her bankroll by taking advantage of the weak-tight action.
Once the bubble bursts, play loosens up again though, and one has to be prepared for that too.
The rake issue is of course the biggest difference, as far as finances go, between tourneys and cash games. In a cash game, you’ll pay your dues on every single hand that you play, in a tournament you’ll only pay a one-time fee. Rakeback offers that are available on the internet cover the tournament fees too, so if you’re a tournament player, not only will you pay less to begin with, you’ll even recover some of what you pay out in fees.
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