Poker Cash Games vs MTTs
The Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)
The Good Stuff
MTTs are filled with recreational players. If you’re not au fait with poker terminology and arriving fresh to poker, tournaments are the first stop. See, the most famous poker tournaments attract players who see poker as an experience more than a profit-seeking venture. The very idea of playing a big tournament with pro players and the chance of a huge cash at the end is the full spectrum of poker experience to a rec. This is great news for your bankroll. If you’re looking for a keen mix of fishy sorts and Jaws-like sharks right to the end, the MTT is what you’re looking for. One for the pro pile (my dad sells pro pile and pro pile accessories).
If I had a little money
Picture the scene; you’re playing $2/$5 cash games, your player notes muzzleflash to indicate your opponent is a weak player, someone you’ve beaten before, and most certainly a lower-ranked aquatic beasty on the Fish Buffet scale. In MTTs this is the ideal scenario. High variance in short-stack tournaments means you can meet these relatively-green players while playing for huge pots. Encountering these sorts in cash games, while satisfying and probably good for the poker ego, will always amount to a lower net cash.
When a bomb goes off in the byre, the steaks are thrown high. Jokes aside, MTTs are incredible for injecting some much needed love into your bankroll. Winning a big tournament for literally thousands of dollars while encountering players above or below your skill level is a godsend. Sure, there’s always the risk a shark will suddenly gnaw through your boat and chomp your legs Quint-style, but that’s a risk you have to take. Pearlless is he who refuses to enter the water. I really can’t state enough how much money can be made at MTTs tables in the endless battle of Reg vs Rec.
It’s very rare that you’ll reach the highest-levels without encountering a few end-level bosses along the way, but that doesn’t mean a trip down the MTT highway can’t result in huge cashes, net profit and a host of gutted fish left in your wake, if you’ll pardon the gruesome imagery.
The Bad Stuff
Cons – Variance
The variance, oh the variance, the humanity! This same variance that acts like a golden carrot for the pros is what drives people away from the game. One minute you’re up and suddenly you’re plummeting faster than Enron, damaging you both psychologically and monetarily. Not exactly a glowing indictment for the game but I feel if you’re a seasoned player with a well-managed bankroll and some rhyme to your reason, this variance is more than offset by the pros list above, especially the one about more money. Give me more money.
Time is the fire in which we burn. Never more apparent than when you slog through a poker tournament and bust anywhere outside the money, without a cent to show for your labour. Anyone who wasted a Saturday night will tell you the frustration is real. If you want those larger prizes, you gotta stick around to the bitter end for a cherry. If you’re impatient or liable to rage, consider this the number one con.
Unlike cash games, where you can just arrive and start playing to success or failure without much bankroll bruising, MTTs require careful bankroll management in order to be successful. With downswings and much higher variance, your bankroll needs to be strong enough to take a clean hit, typically off-set over time by larger cashes as your proficiency in long-form tournaments grows. Rome was a greater empire than any that came before or existed simultaneously in the proposed ‘barbarous lands’ by the simple fact that they could take a punch, where other empires often toppled after a single decisive loss. Be Rome before you take the plunge.
So, there’s your MTTs warts and all. If any of the pros appeal more than the cons dissuade, this might be the format for you. Plus if you’re a streamer these long, intense tournaments can be powerful content sources, with more viewers arriving as the tournament deepens.
Poker Cash Games
Written like that, poker cash games look like the title of a Seinfeld episode. Like Seinfeld, cash games is where the money is at.
The Good Stuff
Time as currency
Basically the complete opposite of the MTT Chronoprisons listed above, poker cash games allow you to jump in and out as you like without much adverse effect. You’re not bound a strict registration period, or stuck for the evening once you’ve started unless you’re willing to split from a tourney empty-handed. This ideal of the poker player as a jet-setting, play-by-your-own-rules lifestyle is a cash-game archetype.
More room for results-based changes
Put all that time you’re saving by not thinking about blind level increases back into your deep stack post-flop game, or soldering up any weaknesses or bad tendencies. Lots of room for improvement with less on the table, literally.
Provided you’re putting in enough volume and a half-decent player, cash games are always giving something back – they’re nice guys like that. Any veteran tournament player worth his pasteboards will tell you, run bad in tournaments for long enough and it could pan out a losing year, which at cash tables is rarer than a mint Radioactive Man issue 1.
The Bad Stuff
Less variance and more freedom means more regs willing to put in the time and the work to manifest their dreamselves in the physical plane. Stronger players tend to frequent these waters so beware of sharks. Didn’t you hear about that hoo-ha on Amity Island?
Part and parcel of the cash game hustle, if you want those huge paydays it’s tournament time for you. Even the most profitable cash sessions will net +2-3 buy-ins at most.
The infamous grind, the kind not practiced by Pig Destroyer and Extreme Noise Terror. To some people, this is poker at its purest; good players putting in the hours in the sweatbox to fulfill their dreams. If it was easy, it’d be called the MarshMallow Gauntlet or Mr. Freedom Follie’s Easygoing Massage Castle. Practice makes perfect, you’ll definitely see results as you improve and start to catch yourself make better calls, but it’s not like a tournament when you can spring from pauper to princeling with a single win.
A Dream of Stream
What’s better for my stream? Let’s be real; either are good. People haven’t come to see your NASA microphone, and there’s a thousand other people streaming their grind, they’ve come to see your personality. Work on branding yourself, building a following and hosting/making friends in the community, then once you’ve established a core base you can ask them outright which they prefer.
There you have it. Another one in the bag. Prefer MTTs? Have any pros or cons we’ve missed? Leave them down below, we love to hear your opinions.
Until the next time. GG by name, GG by nature.
Mike at GGPoker