Poker Tournaments versus Cash Games: Advantages and Disadvantages

Poker Tournaments versus Cash Games: Advantages and Disadvantages

Poker has several game formats, among the most prominent of which are tournaments and cash games. Each of these formats has unique characteristics that appeal to different types of players and playing styles. Poker tournaments, with their competitive structure and format, allow players to participate and compete for significant prizes with a relatively small initial investment. Cash games, on the other hand, provide a flexibility that many players find attractive, as they can enter and exit the game at any time.

The advantages and disadvantages of both formats are crucial to understanding which is the most suitable format according to the preferences and objectives of each player.  Below are the main advantages and disadvantages of each format:

Cash games

Cash games predate tournaments. In this format, chips have a real monetary value and participants have the possibility to withdraw money whenever they wish, with very few exceptions. The stakes and blinds generally remain stable throughout the game.

Advantages of cash games

The following are the main advantages of cash games:


The player can join a game when the poker session starts and leave it when he/she reaches his/her loss limit, in case of exhaustion, or simply whenever he/she wants to. This option is ideal if the player desires flexibility or has a busy schedule.

Lower medium-term variation

Cash games tend to offer less variance than long-term tournaments, providing something closer to a “steady income” for winning players who bet big. Cash games allow for more flexible bankroll management and less variability in results.

More room for games of skill

With larger stacks and consistent blind sizes, there are fewer hands where the stack is all-in, and the outcome depends on the cards. This allows for more situations where each player’s skills can be highlighted. 

Poker Tournaments versus Cash Games: Advantages and Disadvantages

Fund management

The lower volatility and greater control over ticket sizes provide the player with more options when managing their funds.

Disadvantages of cash games

The following are some of the disadvantages of cash games:

Lower potential benefits

While cash games may generate a more stable income, the potential benefits may be less eye-catching compared to the benefits of a large tournament.

It may not be as satisfactory.

Winning a hand in a cash game does not provide the same sense of accomplishment or satisfaction as winning in a tournament. This can be unsatisfying for some highly competitive players.

Fewer emotions All-In

The rising blinds of a tournament promote frantic all-in play, something that is lacking in most cash games.


In a tournament, the objective is to outlast our competitors, collect enough chips, and have a chance to win the trophy. The stakes and blinds are constantly increasing, and there is a payout structure at the end of the game.

Advantages of tournaments

The following are the main advantages of the tournaments:

Increased earnings and significant rewards

Tournaments can offer large prizes for the top finishers, allowing the winner to win life-changing amounts with a small investment.

Exciting hands

Tournaments offer the excitement of competing against a large number of opponents, with the possibility of winning substantial prizes. Tournament structures force players to bet, bluff, and risk, creating many important hands and exciting showdowns.

A greater combination of luck and skill 

Tournaments have a major component of luck and skill, and the winners usually have to overcome multiple high-stakes situations.

Prestige and satisfaction

Tournaments come with titles, player of the year points, trophies, and rankings, providing a level of status and tangible recognition that cash games do not offer. All of this makes for more motivated participants and a higher degree of satisfaction for the winners. 

Disadvantages of tournaments

The following are some of the disadvantages of tournaments:

Inflexible programming

Tournaments require time, planning, and consistency. In this type of competition, we cannot choose when to start or finish, as this will depend on the conditions and development of the tournament. 

Increased risk

Tournament players may go long periods without cashing out, offset by occasional large spikes. This pattern of variation is not suitable for all players. While Deals can be made in many tournaments in the final stages, it is important to keep in mind that in tournaments there is a high risk of being eliminated without winning anything.


Tournaments generally require a higher level of preparation and discipline, which may not be to the liking of some players who are beginners, inconsistent, or lacking in commitment.

Which format is better?

Choosing between playing poker tournaments or cash games is a crucial decision that should be based on personal preferences, skills, and objectives. Cash games offer flexibility, less medium-term variance, and more room for skill play, making them ideal for those seeking a more stable and controlled source of income. 

For many players, a hybrid approach that combines both formats may be the best strategy, taking advantage of the unique benefits of each format. At the end of the day, the key is to enjoy the game and find the format that best suits our lifestyle and goals. By considering factors such as the need for consistent revenue, flexibility in scheduling and tolerance for variation, we will be able to make an informed decision and maximize both performance and enjoyment in our poker games.

Do you know any other advantages of poker tournaments or cash games?

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