Poker Tournaments or Cash Games: What to Play?

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BetMGM Mar 08, 2023, 11:01 AM

Whether you decide to play online poker cash games or poker tournaments, you should get to enjoy all the excitement and challenges you’d expect of this iconic casino card game. But the format you choose will impact what you hope to get out of the game, and whether you play for rewards or simply the fun of it. Take a look at our easy guide to help you make an informed decision.

What are poker cash games?

Close-up of a man looking at his poker hand with three stacks of casino chips in front of him.

Poker, like all classic casino table games, has moved into the digital era, offering greater convenience and more flexibility to players who can take part in an online game from any location and at any time, day or night.

Poker is available both as a normal casino table game and in the live dealer casino games format. Both are played for real money on casino websites. In a live dealer game, players are connected to a game with a real-life dealer in a studio setting that has been designed to look like a poker table game in a brick-and-mortar casino. It’s the closest you can get to playing for real in the flesh.

Players simply exchange their money for chips, and can choose between the minimum and maximum buy-in limits on offer for cash games. One of the attractions of playing poker cash games is that you can buy in, opt out and exchange your chips for real money whenever it suits you.

What are poker tournaments?

A number of players compete against each other in online poker tournaments such as the partypoker US Network Online Series for a prize pool that has been offered by the casino website. Play takes place at several tables and players purchase a buy-in to participate. Once you’ve lost all your chips, you’re out of the game. Players continue to be eliminated from the tournament until there is an eventual winner or winners.

Here’s how to choose between the two formats depending on what you want from your gambling experience.

Learn the game

If you’re a beginner and want to ease into the game, the straightforward gameplay in tournaments is a great place to start – as long as you’re prepared that you might lose. It’s easier for a novice to pick up the workings of a tournament than the machinations of a cash game.

You’ll see as a tournament progresses through several levels, that blinds increase and fewer hands are played. As you approach “the river” or a winner comes out on top, the stack sizes of most players would have thinned out and this will help you to make straightforward decisions.

Cash games, on the other hand, can attract players with more significant stacks that allow them to try other moves, which could place a beginner without an effective strategy at a disadvantage.

Broaden your poker skills

If you’re a regular player and want to widen your poker skills, live poker cash games will give you plenty of opportunities to develop your technique. This format offers more scope for analytical play because when you aren’t concerned with pay jumps and blind level increases, you can concentrate on your deep-stack post-flop game and manipulate your opponents.

Play for the fun of it

If you’re a recreational player who plays purely for the fun of it, tournaments attract the type of player who appreciates these events more for their entertainment value than the profits that might be had.Also, keep in mind that the variance and crazy swings in tournament play are easier to handle, financially and mentally, when you’re in it for kicks instead of trying to win hard cash. This is the main reason why playing online poker tournaments such as the Daily $10K attract more recreational players than cash games do.

A tight budget

If you’re on a tight budget, cash games suit every pocket because you aren’t tied to a particular buy-in value, as you’d be at tournaments. Cash games offer a wide range of buy-in levels with a minimum and maximum betting limit, with stakes typically grouped as micro, low, medium, and high. A player can quit a game whenever they choose and can convert their chips to cash. Tournaments, conversely, end with a winner in possession of all the chips, and players are rewarded according to their finishing position.

Tournaments typically demand large bankrolls and, because the downswings can at times be significant, you’ll need a pocket that’s deep enough to absorb the inevitable losses that come with the territory.

Limited play time

Something all casino game enthusiasts love about playing online is the convenience and flexibility it provides. Cash games are a clear favorite over tournaments when it comes to playing anywhere and at any time. These games are as simple as opting in and opting out whenever you want to, without affecting your cash-out. And because cash games are available around the clock, it’s up to you to decide when you want to participate. Tournaments, on the other hand, have no time limit (they’ll keep going until there’s a winner) and you can only leave when it’s over without potentially being disqualified and forfeiting your chips.

Smaller, action-packed games

When you play poker online, you can take part in cash games that feature smaller tables (often a maximum of six players). These “6-max cash games” allow gamblers to play more hands and play them more aggressively since, as the blinds come around far more quickly, players can’t wait around for premium cards. It’s a hard and fast style of poker that has a growing fan base. If you enjoy action-packed games, jump into a Sit & Go Tournament to try out some fast-play poker.

A chance at the big money

A man plays an online casino poker game on a laptop.

One of the enduring attractions of poker tournaments is the chance to win big. It doesn’t happen often, but finishing in the top spot (or top three spots) will increase your buy-in by a significant amount. It’s pretty much impossible to get the same result when you take part in a few cash game sessions. Of course, there’s also the fame that accompanies winning a major poker tournament. But if you prefer the chance at smaller, steadier wins, cash games are the way to go.

Get your fill of daily tournaments and exciting cash games at BetMGM

BetMGM has made it easy to enjoy both formats of the game. It’s easy to register and play casino games that offer a wide variety and authentic experiences, whether you choose a game of Texas Hold’em poker online, the Omaha variations, or even Spins and FastForward. We also host daily and monthly tournaments plus a number of live dealer poker games, so you have the full gamut of options at your disposal!

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.