As part of the new Poker Central website, we’re happy to continue the ‘Strategy Series’. Each week, our team will bring you important strategy articles, highlighting a wide variety of poker topics. These articles will build off one another, creating an inventory of must read poker material. The third installment, piggy backs off a Poker Central video topic from this week, tournaments versus cash games.

Think of the ‘Strategy Series’ opener, ‘Setting the Right Goals’, as the first date. Think of the second, ‘Making Mental Preparation a Priority’, as the second. As my father would say, “Lot of getting ready going on.” Which means it’s time for the third date and time to make some moves.  

The big question, what kind of moves are you going to make? From a poker perspective, that means are we going to play tournaments or cash games?

If you’re looking for stability, look no further than the nearest cash game. While tournament buy-ins don’t guarantee a return, no matter how good of a player you are, cash games tend to see the cream rise to the top more often than not. Winning players, a la the cream, then should see their bankroll steadily grow relative to the hours they put in. Tournament players on the other hand, may find that their bankroll is constantly in flux. Unless you’re named Bryn Kenney, that’s usually a bad thing.

That doesn’t mean that cash games are free of variance. That fickle *expletive* will always be there in the short term but long run, the cash game grind is less volatile than tournament play where a small percentage, sometimes even less than 10% of the field, are winners.  

While tournament series are offered across the country every week of every year, poker is very alive by the way, the timeframes and schedules may not leave them accessible to everyone. Cash games on the other hand, run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That frequency, coupled with the fact that there is no set schedule, may make cash games more appealing for players that have to juggle work, family and play.

Tournaments have gotten a bad rap over the last few paragraphs but don’t let that fool you. If done right, just ask Tom Marchese, or more recently Jason Koon, the tournament grind can be just as stable as cash games. The only problem, as mentioned above, is that tournament payouts only cover close to 10% of the field. Couple that with some top-heavy payout structures and even if you do get yourself in to the money, it may not be for a sizable score.

Those sizable scores are why tournaments exist though. Sure, not every tournament is a satellite to a better life like the World Series of Poker Main Event but with a handful of tournament stops offering massive six-figure amounts for victors this weekend, a select few will be walking away with a lot of buy-ins.

The tournament circuit also travels across the globe. So far in 2017, the poker world has skipped from the Bahamas, to Australia, to Florida, to Oklahoma and New Jersey. The next month will see massive stops in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, London and a handful of other destinations. Aside from their big money potential, tournaments are a perfect excuse to travel as well.

Both cash games and tournaments have their pros and their cons. Some players are better suited for one, some can juggle a schedule that includes both. Only you know what is best for you, so make your move and hit the felt.