Poker Tournaments or Cash Games – What Should I Play? [Pros and Cons]

Rafael Rafael An awesome hybrid of a pro poker player and a content writer
Updated Updated: January 5, 2021
online poker games

When it comes to deciding what we should play when it comes to online poker, most of us usually say tournaments. 

Why? People say it’s because it gives you more popularity, you invest more time in your game, and it gives you a great feeling of accomplishment when winning.

When you’re about to make a decision and choose which one to play, you should have in mind some factors: the time you want to spend playing, your game style and strategy, what’s your bankroll, and how familiar you are with poker.

Poker Tournaments

Every player wants to win a big prize and a major tournament. Playing for hours and at the end having the greatest feeling after all the effort.

But is it that easy? Should you really start playing tournaments before having a good experience and knowledge of the game? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of poker tournaments!

Pros – What are my advantages?

  1. Wins are big

    Playing in a tournament can give a huge amount of money, especially finishing on the final table.

    The prize pool varies according to the number of players and the cash to buy-in: tournaments with more players will also translate to more players winning since the prize pool spreads more.

  2. Same starting stack for every player

    When you start a tournament every player on the table has the same number of chips. That number isn’t always the same, depending on which tournament you are playing, the starting stack can be 500 or even 20.000. 

    This rule makes the game even for everyone, all on the same line.

  3. A lot of “fish to fish”

    Because tournaments are more popular on television or live streams on youtube, it attracts much more recreational players that play poker mostly for fun or have an experience, and not for profit or lifestyle.

    We can translate this as an opportunity for the good players to take advantage of them and be able to increase their stacks faster.

Cons – What are my disadvantages? 

  1. A lot of time needed

    Hours, hours, and more hours… This can be one of the main problems.

    To make a good amount of money you need to play for a considerable big number of hours and not only 2 or 3 because even if you manage to finish ITM (in the money), the result can be disappointing, like playing for 5 hours and winning 5 dollars or nothing.

    Playing all these hours also requires a big focus and that might be a problem for some players if they got distracted easily.

  2. Position changes

    As we all know, your position at the table determines how you play each hand, and you also start having an idea about your opponent’s play style. 

    Well, in most of the tournaments you change tables a few times, meaning that you need to restart learning how your opponent’s play, and you can stay trapped between two big sharks.

  3. Blinds are always increasing

    Blinds aren’t always the same during the whole tournament. 

    The increase varies according to the rules and can change every 30 minutes or every 1 hour. 

    This is to force players to play and not keep folding and waiting for eliminations or huge hands. At a certain point if you don’t play you are just eliminated due to blinds.

Cash Games

Maybe you were first introduced to poker cash games playing with friends for fun. It sounds good to win $50 or $100 in 20 minutes, but how can you do it? Is it as easy as it sounds?

Here are some of the pros and cons of poker cash games.

Pros – What’s best?

  1. You can play with a small bankroll

    Going on a cash game allows you to play with a small bankroll since there are a lot of different tables to get in, with different blinds size, from $0.01/$0.02 to $5/$10.

    You can also be more consistent with your winnings without risking a big part of your bankroll. Going step by step and determining limits for your daily goals is always a good idea.

  2. Leave the table when you want

    Unlike tournaments, on cash games, you can leave the table any time you want, independently if you plan to play 5 minutes or 5 hours. 

    Let’s say that in the first hands you played the result was amazing for your perspective of the day, might be a good idea to stop and continue another day, or set up a different goal.

  3. Always the same blind level

    Blinds don’t increase, if you enter a table with $1/$2 stacks, it will remain the same all time. You don’t need to worry about losing more money on blinds while time goes on.

Cons – What’s worst?

  1. Stronger players

    Cash games require a bit more experience of the game. There’s also a lot of recreational players, but more regulars than in tournaments. 

    The game style is also different because you are playing with real money every hand instead of getting an initial amount of chips to work with.

  2. Grind over pay jump

    Sometimes the results can look tough. Usually, you don’t have a big win like 10 or 50k, cash games are more about grinding and being patient.  

    With the right mindset, you can get money in a more consistent way, but if you tilt and start to lose focus it can be rough for your bankroll.

  3. Different initial stacks

    The beginning of the game is different for everyone joining the table. You can enter a table with $10 and there’s a player there with a stack of $150 because he’s playing there for a while.

    With this huge difference, the higher stacks can explore the lower ones, playing more aggressively and wide.


It’s up to each one of you to choose what kind of variant you want to play. The most important thing is to choose wisely and bear in mind the major differences between poker cash games and poker tournaments. Both require a different strategy and time to play, so choose the best for your needs and kill whatever game you play!