This is one of the toughest questions in poker. And it all depends really. Cash game poker and tournament poker are two completely different worlds. The world of cash game poker consists of your money on the table, and you betting money with the opportunity to win or lose it at any point; while tournament poker consists of players buying in to a tournament, and their money going into a prize pool which they could potentially win a percentage of, or end up busting out early with nothing. So what it comes down to, is the type of poker player that you are. For players who tilt easily, cash games aren’t the way to go (honestly, poker in general probably isn’t the way to go if you go on tilt easily). I’m going to break down both sides here and give the pros and cons of both types of play, and this way YOU as the player can decide which is best for you.
Cash games are the way that most online poker pros make their living. You just have to know the stakes that you play, and be able to deal with the swings of the game. These are also the easiest types of games to find when playing online poker.
One pro right off the bat, is what was previously mentioned; that cash games are always running. Tournaments may run throughout the day and night, but you won’t get the guaranteed and big time tournaments on every site all the time. Almost all sites have cash games that always have traffic. Another pro is that if you’re good at cash game poker, you can make a lot. I’ve heard of players who play at stakes like $1/$2 and $2/$4 blinds making $10,000 a day. Cash games also give you more options on bluffing, and the options to play more hands and see more flops (as long as you’re careful). Another side thought, is that online poker sites reward cash game players quite a bit at their sites, and even give away bonuses sometimes.
One con right off the bat, is that while I’ve heard of players making that $10,000 a day at those $1/$2 limits; I’ve also heard of players losing $10k at those limits. You’re going to go on the swings, and you need to make sure that you have the bankroll management and the ability to control yourself while playing. Another con is that while you can play some very high limits, some players can’t manage their bankrolls, and really shouldn’t be playing the high limits.
Tournament games have some huge payouts. If you can hit big in one of these then you will be set for a long time. A lot of sites have some excellent guaranteed tournaments that will make the prize pools huge as well.
Big prize pools. Everyone loves the thought of taking home that $5,000 first place prize for just a $10 buy-in tournament. If you are good at tournaments, and have a strong “in the money” percentage, then you can make a lot of money playing poker tournaments. Another pro is that you can only lose a certain amount of money in a worst case scenario. So if you buy-in to a tournament for $10, the most you are losing is that $10, no more. You can even multi-table tournaments and have quite a few of them going at the same time in order to put you into multiple prize pools.
You could outlast 5,000 other players, and still not make the money; and that does happen. Another con is that the odds of you winning multiple tournaments, or even advancing deep in tournaments multiple times daily are very, very low. Online poker sites also don’t give much in terms of bonuses or prizes to tournament players, due to the fact that they bring in smaller amounts of money for the site than cash game players do. Another con, is that downswings do happen in tournaments. You could potentially lose 10 or 15 tournaments in a row outside of the money if you run bad.
Both have their pros and cons in the end. And as I said before, it depends on the type of player that you are. If you can control your level of tilt, deal with the swings, and have good bankroll management; then I think cash games are right for you.
On the other hand, if you aren’t so great with tilt, give tournament play a shot. If you can make one fairly big score, or even can get into the money consistently; you’ll be very profitable, and won’t have to risk a ton of money to do it.
What type of player do you fall under?