POKER BASICSLESSON 4
Cash versus tournament
Cash game poker and tournament poker are different in a couple of things. Not only rules are different for both games, but they are also separate game formats. In this lesson we create clarity about the two formats.
In a cash game you sit at a poker table and exchange your money for the same amount in chips. You can sit at the table at any given moment and if you want to stop you can easily do that. When you stop you can simply trade your chips back for money.
Maximum amount of players
You play a cash game at one single table. In a casino or live poker room can be multiple cash game tables. But don’t be mistaken: all of these tables operate separately.
In a cash game you play with fixed blinds. The blinds won’t go up, they are always the same.
In most of the cases there is a minimum- and maximum value for which you can buy-in. A good standard is a minimum of 40 big blinds and a maximum of 100 big blinds. When you want to seat at a table with blinds € 1 – € 2 you’ll have to buy-in for at least € 80 and maximum € 200.
When you lose your chips at a cash game table you can simply buy-in again and continue playing with a new stack.
Cash game is probably the poker format that most players come into contact with first. You can easily play cash game formats among friends. It’s a format that allows you to play for an entire evening because players can purchase chips when they’re out. On top of that you can choose your own stakes. Among friends you can play for an entire night without having to spend a lot of money or without anyone feeling uncomfortable about the amount of money that is spent. Online you can also start with very low stakes. The lowest stakes online start at € 0,01 – € 0,02. If you’re doing well you can step up your game.
Tournament poker is a little different from a cash game.
Everyone is equal before the law
In tournament poker all players start on equal terms: everyone pays a fixed buy-in to participate. You receive a start stack that is determined by the casino/the club. For example: in clubs you can play a tournament for € 20 per person where every player receives a stack of 20.000 in chips. These chips have no cash value, so they can’t be traded for cash.
A poker tournament always works with a blind structure. A blind structure means that the small and big blind will rise every x minutes. The blinds can go up every 20 minutes for example. You could start at blinds 50 – 100. After 20 minutes the blinds would be 75 – 150. After another 20 minutes the blinds will go op to 100 – 200, and so on. A blind structure makes sure that the tournament is working towards an end. In most cases in a tournament you play until only one player, the winner, remains.
No maximum in amount of players
A tournament is playable in different ways: you can play a tournament with 2 players or with a couple of hundreds or thousands players. There is no maximum on the amount of players in a tournament, unless when the casino or the poker room has a maximum capacity.
The prize pool is built up depending on the amount of players participating. Like this a pay-out table is made up. A standard example: you play with 10 players, the tourney’s buy-in is 20 euros per person. There is € 200 in the pot. The top 3 of the tournament is paid out in a division € 100 – € 60 – € 40. The winner receives € 100, the runner-up € 60 and the third player € 40. The remaining 7 players of the final table don’t win any prizes.
When more than one table is used for a tournament we call this a multi-table tournament or mtt. In this case a tournament director will balance the tables. The director will try to seat an equal amount of players at every table. When enough open seats are available a table is emptied. The players at that table will be divided among the other tables. At the end of the tournament only one table remains.
Buy-ins big and small
Tourneys come in all shapes and sizes. You can play online tournaments from a couple of cents up to buy-ins of € 10.000 and up. You can find live tournaments from € 20. There’s not really a maximum buy-in. Live tournaments with buy-ins from over 1 million have been played before. The buy-ins at casinos vary between € 200 and € 1.100.
What’s the best option: cash game or tournament?
One player will prefer playing tournaments, while the other sticks to cash games. Technically speaking it’s impossible to say that the one is better than the other. The format you like to play is a matter of preference. When you enjoy calculating with cash money and want to sit & go whenever you like, you’re most likely to prefer cash games. If on the other hand you want to know in advance what you’re going to spend and if you want to have the opportunity to win a multiple of that amount with a lot of players then a tournament will be more your thing. Both formats have their own strategies. You’ll have to find out for yourself what you like to play, and in which format you excel.