Asia’s largest poker room is celebrating its partnership with the industry’s most prestigious brand, World Series of Poker, this August with a six-week schedule and 33 official bracelet events to match. The second online edition of the WSOP festivities held in Natural8 is geared to award over $53 million in total, making it definitely worthwhile for every player joining in on the rare occasion. With a month-long line up of events left to play through, a bulk of the 33 coveted bracelets is still up for grabs, along with its juicy top prizes and hefty prize pools waiting to be claimed.

Why Play Cash Games & Tournaments?

The crazy action stands to be highly inviting for many online poker grinders yet a chunk of cash game regulars find themselves indifferent to the special events happening right under their noses. Cash game and tournament poker, whilst the same game, pose notable differences in gameplay and strategy which might make players think twice of getting out of what they are accustomed to. Given that being a regular winning player on cash game tables may be profitable, outlasting hundreds or even thousands of players in a single tournament is an impressive feat above all. The opportunity and goal to turn a minor investment into a million dollar one may be the most exhilarating achievement the game of poker may offer.

So for those looking to dip their toes in the water, you may find the highlighted notes below beneficial in jumpstarting that tournament career that has always been in your mind. Natural8 is here to guide you on some key differences in cash game strategy vs tournament play, as well as additional tips that can push you in the right direction towards possibly an official gold bracelet and even a seven-figure score.

Cash Games vs Tournaments

Cash games or otherwise known as ring games, are poker games where there is no predetermined start or end time, basically meaning a player can jump in or leave anytime they see fit. Cash game players also have the freedom to likely choose what stakes, which table and seat they wish to play, as well as how much they want to buy-in with. These are all unique aspects of cash game play while tournament poker is a whole different ordeal. 

Tournament poker requires each player joining in to post a required minimal entry fee to partake in the action and only a specific period for registration at the beginning. Often times, a guaranteed prize pool is set to be awarded while there are also some which are dependent on the number of runners garnered for the event. The number of players to be ‘in the money’ or those entitled for a payout is usually determined by the recorded total number of entries. Aside from prize pool distribution, the key difference remains to be the increasing blinds for a predetermined duration which puts pressure on gameplay and affects strategy such as fold equity, steals and so on, not evident in cash game experiences.

Switching Strategies

While you may find some moves to work on both fields, switching overall strategy for a specific type of poker game – cash game or tournament, may be best in the long run. Cash game regulars may firstly find tournament poker overwhelming. However after a few practice sessions, many realize that they are quick to adjust and at an advantage in terms of post-flop play. Mentioned here are key strategies to take note of to keep your tournament poker career on track.

  • Increasing Blinds and Changing Conditions

Depending on which format of tournament you decide to play, the blinds can increase in varying times as dictated in the event structure and time schedule. This means you have to account for your stack size along with everyone else’s continuously as the blinds go up. Deepstack play, for example with a hundred big blinds may be significantly different from handling a shorter stack of 25 big blinds in addition to the varying stages in the tournament. Being aware of the effective stack size in relation to the blinds will push you to evaluate the appropriate value of your hand at a certain situation and aid in determining the correct action to go with.

Conditions in a tournament also change throughout unlike that of a cash game setting. The early, middle and late stages note different hand playabilities which can differentiate a successful tournament player from a losing one. Finding added pressure on the bubble period or final table play may also require you to choose spots more carefully as these decisions directly affect your monetary winnings. Preserving your tournament life as you go deeper in a tournament is a necessary skill unknown to cash game play.

  • Starting Hand Selection

Having basic knowledge of what a good range of starting hands looks like depending on position, may be ideal for tournament poker play. Cash game players usually have a wider range of starting hands as they rely more on implied odds and have the option to rebuy or top up should they lose all their chips in one hand. Playing fairly tight at the beginning is most recommended as no one wishes to risk busting out in a marginal spot very early on, while opening up more as you go deeper in the game can matter greatly on your overall standing.

Stealing blinds during mid to late stages in a tournament is another skill necessary in surviving the constantly increasing blinds. Observing your opponents’ strategy whether it be tight or aggressive is another way of determining which action would be best to take. Reshoving marginal hands for example, against a player who frequently opens in late position can be profitable in the long run given the scenario.

  • Smaller Bet Sizing

Bet sizing in cash games is generally larger than that evident in tournament poker, considering that stack sizes in tournaments are finite with each big blind carefully accounted for. Putting in a bet of 40% of the pot or even less can sometimes be equally threatening as a 70% pot bet would entail. Late stage gameplay would lean more towards only preflop and flop bets, with turn and rivers usually requiring players to be all-in given that everyone is sitting with more or less 40 big blinds. Additionally, smaller bet sizes could mean less risk for the hero should you be running a bluff while equally putting in the same amount of pressure you would for a value hand. 

While there are a lot more strategies up for discussion, investigating for yourself on which works best for your personal style is an experience unmatched by those uncomfortable to give tournament poker a shot. Natural8 is a great starting ground to explore this whole other arena with the client’s user base catering mainly to recreational players. Sure enough, all players of different levels of bankroll will be able to find a thrilling game fit for their budget judging from the site’s wide range of games and unparalleled action across the virtual felt.