How to choose between Cash Games and MTT-tournaments personally for you

Francesco Campioni
07 Mar 2024
Holdem Strategy
07 Mar 2024

Hello everybody.

Today I'm going to give you an answer to one of the biggest questions players ask themselves in the very beginning of their career typically, which is should they play cash games or tournaments.

Your spare time and energy level

Let's start from the which is probably the main reason most players play poker, which is money. So are there more money to be won in cash games or in tournaments? Well if you speak about world-class level, to be honest, I don't think there is a huge difference. If you take a world-class tournament player, he's probably going to win millions. If you take a world-class cash game player, he's going to win millions too.

So if your plan is to play poker in the long term with passion and study and putting all the effort which is needed, then I don't think money should be one of the metric to choose cash games or tournaments.

If instead you are a recreational player and you just want the chance to win a lot of money in a very short amount of time, the best option for you to try to win maximum money in a very short term is to play tournaments.

Although, don't get surprised - it takes to be insanely lucky to run very deep in a multitable tournament and win a huge prize money.

Tournaments have very high variance and if you're lucky of course you can win a lot of money in a small amount of time. It's enough just tournament to become literally rich, so if you're lucky enough you can get that.

But again if you are a regular and you plan to play in the long run and study the game, it really doesn't matter much.

A factor which is probably much more important to consider is how much time you have to dedicate to poker during your day.

Because if you have a full-time job which will take 8+ hours away from your day, you don't have much time left during your average day to perform at a high level. You can say if I only work 8 hours and sleep other 8 hours, I still have 8 hours when I can play poker. But what i said is high performance time meaning that in this extra time you have you should be able to perform as best as you can if you want to succeed in nowadays poker.

Decision-Making in Poker: Strategies for Success

And I think that if you have a full-time job it's going to be difficult for you to become a profitable tournament player simply because you will not have enough energy to perform well for like 5-6 and up to even 12 hours in a row every day.

Choose cash games if you have less than 8+ free hours to play at your best.

So in that case my suggestion is - definitely focus on cash games if you have few time to dedicate to poker. Your chances are higher if you play cash games where you can anyway keep a good game even if you have less time than tournaments require. MTT with decent blind growth structure run at least 6 hours till the end, so what's the point to enter one if you aren't ready to play for the victory? You can play turbos, but the faster blinds grow, the more important is the factor of variance and vice versa.

Do not underevaluate these aspects because having playing too much or when our energy level is not decent is something that will definitely prevent you from winning. It's something a lot of players get wrong. It's not like if you have 5 hours, then you can play poker for 5 hours. No, you are a human and not a robot, and this depends on the energy you have.

Your Chronotype

Another interesting thing that most players are not even aware of is your chronotype. What is it and why does it matter for poker?

This is all about your circadian rhythms, which are something we can call our inner clock that every human being has.

And this inner clock tells us typically when it's time to stay awake and when it's time to go to sleep. Most humans are tend to be awake during daytime and sleepy during night time but there are for evolutionary reasons some of us have a circadian rhythm which is a bit shifted and some of us naturally and for genetic reasons tend to be awake later than others (or the opposite of course).

So if your chronotype is the kind of makes you awake later and you have more energy than the average human being at night, then playing tournaments is certainly something which you are you will have an easier time to do since most of tournaments are running during night time.

While if you have on the other hand chronotype which will make you tired earlier in the evening then it's going to be tougher for you to be a successful tournament player. This is something you should consider because this gives you a real edge on your opponent and it's something which it's again just about genetics. And there is nothing you can do to to change your nature. So if you're one of those guys who really gets tired early in the night, I strongly suggest you don't play tournaments because you will have a tougher time than the average player to succeed in those games - go for cash games instead.

However, you should be prepared for them too. Read this article then: Expert Cash Game Poker Coaching in 2024 

On the other hand, if you have one of tthose chronotypes which help you stay awake later at night, I think you might consider tournaments because you will have an edge that nobody can gain - it's just about your genetics and it can help you perform the best while other people are performing worse.

Variance manifestation and how you are prone to tilt

Last but not least I would say, it's important to consider your passions, your preferences and your strengths - especially the way you resist to tilt and so on.

Variance is very high in poker in general: both in cash games and tournaments, but it manifests in different ways.

How variance manifests in MTT

Typically variance in tournaments is pretty obvious - when you are running bad in tournaments it's typically easy to understand because you get many types of those situations with a short stack in which you're forced to do an action and dont't have time to wait for safer / better spots. And you know that probably this is the best play, but you get coolered again or even busted from the tournament. You know that you just were unlucky and there is nothing to do with it.

How variance manifests in cash games

In cash games this doesn't happen this way and that much. In cash games of course there are still coolers which you cannot avoid or overcome like AA vs KK preflop. You cannot do anything about these situations. But tthere are many more small spots which we may even not notice when we are running bad.

Due to the stacks depth the variance in cash games manifests itself in a much more “invisible” way.

In cash games typically you really feel like a loser when you are running bad. In such periods you have the feeling that you forgot how to play at all.

So you have to choose the poker variant depending on what is easier for you to accept. Is it easier for you to overcome just random variance and to be unlucky or you are confident enough to survive those cash game bad sessions in which you will see how nothing works and you need to be confident in yourself to keep playing your A-game.

If you have trouble in accepting variance, tournaments are probably not the best. But on the other hand, if you have trouble being confident in  your skills and what you're doing, then cash games might not be the best because you will tilt much easier and this state of tilt will be going to be much heavier for you. This is something to consider.

Your passions, preferences and strenghths

And for the last but not least - the passion or the preferences you have for one format or the other.

Poker nowadays is a very tough game. There is more competition than ever and if you want to emerge in this fields, you need to put in a lot of work and you will need to fall and stand up hundreds of times.

And you can only do it if you like what you're doing

So if you do not like tournaments but you only like the idea to win a tournament and so on, but you don't like the gameplay of tournaments or the study of tournaments, then this format is not for you. Go for cash games instead, as it will probably be much better.

By the way, you can always select the games you want to / should play: tables, players, positions, etc.
On the other hand, if you really don't like cash games: they feel too slow or whatever you feel like, consider tournaments. But always keep in mind that the work to be done to be successful in this game is huge and you better like it from the start because there is no way around.

This article is made from Which is better: CASH GAMES or MTT? | Poker Tips video by Vladimir «ABIVPlus».

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