Cash Games vs. Tournaments

With such an increase in both online and land based poker playing, there has been a debate over which is better, simply playing cash games or enrolling in poker tournaments. Most poker professionals give credit to the cash games, since that is where they started at and gained experience from. However, most big time poker professionals are always playing in tournaments, and not so much playing in individual cash games. Both aspects of poker have advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the player to determine which one to pick, and most players decide to do both.

Cash Games

Having, and playing, poker cash games is a double-edged sword, it has some good aspects, as well as some that may not be favorable for some players. Some of the good points cash games have are its flexibility, and consistency of currency. While some of the negative points that cash games may have are the level of difficulty, and losing.

Pro: Flexibility

Many players that enjoy poker matches usually do not force themselves to play at a scheduled time; this is why playing cash games is so great, it gives the players more freedom when picking, and playing. They can choose what table to sit at, how long they want to sit and play for, and they do not have to go to where the tournament is being held, even less if they play in online cash games. There are so many cash games going on, which usually run 24/7, this allows players to set their own schedule.

Pro: Currency Consistency

Players looking for a big win should not get their hopes up in cash games, however they are a very good source of consistent earnings. By playing cash games there is a higher chance of coming out on top since players do not need to beat a whole lot of people, just the table in order to show a profit. Even if a player can make a million in one tournament, in the long run cash games prove to show more of a constant profit. The tough process is that if a player joins and is able to make a profit of $50 or $100 profit per hour, then that is a pretty good payout.

Con: Level of Difficulty

This is one of the toughest aspects of playing in cash games. The best poker players do not join small time tournaments; instead they join high wielding cash games; this makes the gameplay that much harder. Experienced players, with a bankroll to back them up, are not scared to bet it all on a bluff which puts a player’s mettle to the test. Players need to gain experience quickly or they will not be able to succeed in such a tough scenario.

Con: Losing

When a player loses during a tournament all that they lose is the entry fee; sometimes it can be a high number. However, when playing cash games these numbers can sky rocket in terms of losing money. Players need to be prepared that losing is part of the game and that winning all the time is not possible. Strong mental ability is required, or losing will get to the player.


Playing in tournaments can be a fun and exhilarating experience, however it is not always so peachy. There are many professional poker players that would say that playing in a tough tournament is only for those that have a winning mentality and the endurance to stick with it. There are a few pro’s and con’s concerning tournament play.

Pro: Fame and Fortune

Winning a big time tournament will bring a player all sorts of attention, not to mention the cash that comes from winning a high stakes tournament. This is a great way of attracting sponsors, fans, and other great perks of being famous. When winning a tournament, players can feel like they have just hit the jackpot or won the lottery since the cash winnings can be life altering.

Pro: Competition

For those players looking for the thrill of the ride should play in tournaments. Not knowing whether or not you will pass to the next table can be a fearful yet exciting feeling. Being able to play against top poker players, and beat them, there is no better feeling than that of victory. Apart from the emotion, players also get a chance to learn from other more experienced players.

Cons: Inconsistency

Professional poker players, that make poker their lifeline, can probably play in 50 – 100 events in a given year. Taking into account the buy-ins for each event, as well as the fact that players do not win on a regular basis, the players need a strong capital backing. Most can go without winning, or even making it to the final tables where even losers get a payout, and this can bring a lot of pressure down on a player.

Cons: Mental Toll

As stated above, tournaments can cause players to feel tremendous pressure to win, or at least make enough money to cover their expenses and buy-in. Many poker players burn out due to, not only mental, but physical toll as well. Even if players make it to the final table, or even second place, they can feel the dissatisfaction and regret in what they could have done better to get the win. Players must be fully prepared to take this on, create the proper mind set and take deserved rest regardless of a win or a loss.


In the end, playing in cash games or in tournaments has its advantages and disadvantages, but it all depends on the player. Players that seek fame and fortune but have time and money to kill, tournaments are the way to go. For those players that want the freedom to pick when and where, and wish to make a few bucks here and there should play in the cash games. It all depends on the player.