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Published: 16th March 2016 Written by Poker Tips
Updated: 11th December 2023

cash games vs tournamentsCash Games vs Tournaments & SNG what are the differences and which poker format best suits your poker needs? Specializing in one of the formats could be beneficial instead of learning the complexities of both formats.

Three major factors determine which poker format you should be focusing on: how much time you have to invest, poker variance and your poker skill level.

See the pros and cons of cash games and tournaments and differences which make each format unique for both live and online poker games.

Cash Games, Tournaments & SNG

Here are some differences between cash games vs tournaments and SNG poker games:

Cash Games Poker

  • Sit down, Sit-out or leave whenever you like.
  • Purchase chips and top-up chip stack each round at monetary value.
  • No Blind level increases, blinds consistent with stake level.

Poker Tournaments Online

  • Seated from the tournament start with breaks every hour.
  • Can only leave the tournament once your chips are all finished.
  • Rebuys and reentries only available for some tournaments.
  • Increasing blind levels at regular intervals.

Time Investment

888 poker cash games vs tournamentsCash games are better if you’re limited to how much time you can spend playing poker online as you are able to sit down, sit-out or leave the table whenever you like. With poker tournaments once you have registered and the tournament has started you’ll have to wait till your chips are finished before you can leave the game.

With poker tournaments online and even more so with live poker tournaments you’ll need to spend a few hours to reach paying position. Tournament with large fields of players can often exceed more than eight hours.

SNG poker tournaments are the exception to the long hours needed for tournament play as you can choose the amount of players you’ll be up against thus reducing the playing time.

Poker Variance

Poker Variance – One of the biggest reason why playing cash games can be more profitable for most players. Cash games have substantially less variance than multi-table tournaments although SNG games with smaller fields of players will reduce the variance.

You’ll need more patience when playing tournaments only the top 10-15% of the playing field reach the money. Decent cashes are normally only paid out to the final table players, you’ll need consistent final table finishes to be a successful player.

Poker Skills

The difference in poker skills required for cash games vs tournaments is quite unique to the structures of both formats.

With cash games you can keep adding to your chip stack for the monetary value and you can at maximum win double the amount of chips in your stack. Skills required would be looking for opportunities to bet with the best possible hand and managing your chip stack.

With tournaments you have to play more strategically at different stages of the tournament, the ever increasing blind levels puts pressure on players to survive. Once your chips are done you’re out of the tournament, you’ll need to use equal survival tactics and correct plays in the final stages of the tournament to be successful.

Cash Games vs Tournaments

The pros and cons of cash games and tournaments most poker pros which choose to specialize in one specific poker format.

Cash Games Poker

  • No time limits sit down, sit-out or leave whenever
  • More poker skills required
  • Less Poker Variance
  • Repetitive poker format

Poker Tournaments

  • Lots of time required to reach final table
  • Less poker skills required
  • High Poker Variance
  • Final tables places have decent payouts