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Poker tournaments vs cash games



A hand holding a deck of cards Description automatically generated
A hand holding a deck of cards

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Playing poker is one of the more complex casino games to choose. Not everyone is a fan as there are a lot more rules and regulations to remember while you play.

You also have to keep an eye on other players to see whether you think they’re being truthful about the cards they have.

But there are other elements to consider when playing poker too – such as whether you want to play a cash game or a poker tournament. These can seem confusing if you’re a beginner, but we’re going to lay out the differences, so you know which one to choose.

What is a poker tournament?

At a poker tournament, there is a set amount to buy in. Most of that money will go towards the prize at the end, and the rest goes to the running of the tournament itself. This will always be laid out before you start playing.

The blinds are a bit higher in a tournament than a cash game, so there’s more at stake. These will also increase as time goes on in the game, so the intensity increases as you go. For this reason, it might not be a good idea for beginners.

One main difference in a tournament is how you decide who wins. It’s not always about what cards you have at the end, but about how you place in comparison to other players.

It’s not about the number of chips you have at the end of the game, but how well you’ve done throughout the tournament. If a tournament has 50 players, only people placed from places 1 – 5 will get a look at the prize money.

Tournaments can be confusing so making sure you’re all clued up on the rules beforehand is imperative. As with any casino game, you have to ensure you read everything carefully before getting stuck in.

What is a cash game in poker?

A person placing cards on a poker table

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Cash games are typically how people start playing poker. It could be at a land-based casino, or just at a friend’s kitchen table. Sometimes cash isn’t even what everyone is using to bet! Or if they are, it’s very small amounts like pennies.

At a cash game, the buy-in is whatever the house decides. This is typically a small number, enough to get people interested but nothing too crazy. And if you’re playing at someone’s house, there might not be a buy in at all.

Different tables will have different limits when it comes to buy-ins. A lot of the time, the buy-in will be some kind of multiple of the minimum bet. However, as this is chosen so frequently, you need to make sure you’re aware of the differences before you start playing.

Paying online can be easier in this case as all of the information is available on the game before you start. You’ll also have to deposit a certain amount, so you know what to expect.

At a cash game, the bets stay the same for each hand and are typically very small. This is different from tournaments which see an increase every 15 minutes or so. This is another reason that cash games are better for the less experienced players, the pressure is a lot less.

Which game should you choose?

The type of game you choose depends on what you’re looking for in a game. How confident you are as a player also determines which you might prefer playing.

Tournaments tend to be for the more experienced players. This is because you have to be sure of what you’re doing to play a big number of games. You have to be confident in your poker-playing abilities, and that you’ll make sensible decisions.

The buy-in at a poker tournament is a lot higher than in a cash game. Therefore, there is a lot more at stake during each game. The more games you lose, the bigger the financial implications.

If you enjoy playing for fun and don’t have a lot of experience, cash games are probably the better option. The buy-in is a lot smaller so there’s a lot less to lose.

Of course, there might always come a time when a tournament is tempting for a less experienced player. It’s not always a bad idea, especially if you’re looking for an extra challenge. However, a tournament that is a lower profile might be the best option.

Often your local casino will host smaller tournaments where there is a small buy-in. It’s a great way to meet other poker players as well as practice your tournament skills.

Now you have all the information about cash games and tournaments, the only question is, which one do you want to play?

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