Tournaments may be good for winning big piles of cash at one time, but cash games are where the real money comes for most skilled players. Where tournaments are difficult to win and require a significant time investment, cash games let you come and go as you please. Anything you win is yours to keep as actual, spendable cash. It’s hard to beat taking a seat at a table and walking away an hour later with an extra $600 to your name.
You can log on to any of the best cash game poker sites and find games running at all levels any time of the day or night. At the largest poker sites, you can log on at 2 in the morning and get all the action you could ever want. It’s worth your while to take a few seconds and make sure you only get started at reputable poker sites with real money ring games.
Safety is of paramount importance for cash game players because of the bankroll you have to carry from site to site. If you play according to standard bankroll recommendations, you should have at least 20 buyins for your no-limit stakes and 300 big bets for fixed limit games. That’s a lot of money to stash all at one poker site. This is why you should only play at sites with 100% perfect reputations for safety and fast withdrawals.
How Real Money Cash Games Work
The cash game is the most “casual” form of poker. You’re not obligated to buy in for a certain amount and you don’t have to quit as soon as you run low on chips. The blinds always stay the same size so you’re under no pressure to make big moves if you hit a slow run of cards. All you do is play poker and try to win cash from your opponents.
Every chip that you win in a cash game corresponds to an exact amount of real money. If you get it all in with someone and win a $200 pot, that is your money to keep. You can immediately leave the table or cash out or play on for as long as you want. It’s all up to you.
The stakes in cash games give you a pretty good idea of how “big” the game is. The vast majority of cash game poker sites set the stakes in no-limit games to be equal to 1/100th of the maximum buyin. For example, a game of £0.5/£1 no-limit Holdem will usually have a max buyin of £100.
It’s called “no limit” because there is literally no limit on how much you can bet at any time. If you want to throw your full stack in before the flop, that’s completely acceptable. If you only want to bet the minimum, you’re more than welcome. Psychology plays a bigger role in no limit than in fixed limit because there is always a threat that anyone can place a huge bet at any time.
No limit is the most popular type of cash game on the internet because it’s exciting and allows you to punish your opponents severely when they make mistakes. If you catch a monster hand and get someone willing to go all in, you can take them for everything they have all at once. There are few feelings better than taking someone’s entire stack in one fell swoop.
Fixed limit cash games don’t have a max buyin but the stakes still provide a reasonable expectation of how much money you’ll have at risk at any one time. For example, a ring game with stakes of £1/£2 has a maximum bet of £1 during the first two betting rounds and a maximum bet or raise of £4 during the last two betting rounds.
This is why it’s called “fixed limit.” Every bet and raise is restricted to the exact limit specified by the game rules. Fairly large pots can develop if you get multiple people betting and raising one another, but it is impossible to just toss your whole stack in all at once.
Cash Games vs. Tournaments
The rules of Texas Holdem are identical in cash games and tournaments, but these are two completely different forms of poker. Some people do well in both formats while others specialize in one or the other. It’s best to focus your attention on one first so you can optimize your strategy without distraction.
Here are a few of the most obvious differences between the two formats:
The chips in cash games represent actual cash.
Every chip in a cash game directly correlates to the underlying cash it represents. What this means is when you toss a $5 chip in the middle, someone will eventually cash in that chip for exactly $5.
The chips in tournaments do not relate directly relate to cash values; they are only used to keep score. As you move through the late stages of a tournament, you’ll find yourself with hundreds of thousands of chips and sometimes even millions. Sadly, this doesn’t mean you’re going to win a hundred thousand or a million dollars… unless that’s what the first place prize happens to be.
Cash games do not have a scheduled start or end time.
Cash games run indefinitely as long as there are at least two people willing to play some poker. You can join a table any time you want, stay as long as you want and leave whenever you want. Any money that you happen to collect along the way is yours to keep and cash out as you see fit.
Standard tournaments start either on a timed schedule or once X players have signed up and paid the buyin. Once you join a tournament, you’re in it until you either win first place or get knocked out. You can’t just get up and leave once you feel like you’ve accumulated enough chips. Well, you can leave whenever you want, but you’re not going to get paid anything.
The blinds never change in cash games.
If you join a £1/£2 cash game, it will stay that way for as long as the table runs. The blinds aren’t going to suddenly jump up to £2/£4 while you scramble to play catchup. There is absolutely no pressure to build a stack or keep up with the ever-increasing blinds.
It’s a whole different story in tournaments. There, the blinds increase slowly but surely and put increasing pressure on all remaining players. It is a constant struggle to keep up with the blinds, but that’s how tournaments keep things moving so you can eventually log off and have supper.
But can’t I win a lot more money in tournaments?
Tournaments do provide the biggest one-time payouts in all of poker. Just take a look at any of the major online or live events with $1,000,000+ prize pools. Taking first place in some of these is good for a six figure payout. Taking down a huge live event may even turn you into a millionaire.
Those are definitely impressive numbers, but the problem is in how rare it is to achieve a big score. If you’re good and play long enough, you’ll probably hit a few big wins over your lifetime. However, you have to remember how much time, effort and money goes into playing tournaments. It’s not free to play in all those tournaments in between big wins.
Estimates have it that the best MTT players achieve a 30% ROI over the long term. What that means is that for every $100 paid in tournament fees, they profit roughly $30. That’s a great number for any investment, but it shows that these people are putting in some serious work. MTTs are not free money by any stretch.
Cash games don’t give you those same big wins that you get with MTTs, but you clock winning days way more often. If you get to know enough poker players, you’ll see that the majority of the big winners earn most of their money at the cash game tables. In cash games, it’s easier to take your time and punish your opponents for every mistake they make. Cash games are the best way forward unless you have a special knack for tournament play.