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For many poker players, participating in a major poker series like the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour is the highlight of their year, maybe even their career. Others players will regularly chase the circuit hoping to hit that potential “life changing score” that will launch their career.

However, there are players that will travel the tournament circuit but they seldom play in poker tournaments. Instead, they focus solely on cash games. Why would players choose to play in cash games when there are so many opportunities for a “big score?” We will look at a few of those.

Read More: Tournaments vs. Cash Games: Which One Is Right For You?

Play Whenever You Want (Provided Games Are Available)

You don’t have to worry about getting to the casino by 11 a.m. or getting to your seat before the end of a certain level. With cash games, you can come whenever you want and usually find a game to play. In larger events like the WSOP, there’s always plenty of action so come whenever you feel like playing.

Cash Games Require a Smaller Average Buy-In

On average, poker players can buy into a cash game for much less than a standard poker tournament, especially if they are going to locations offering higher buy-in events.

Depending on how deep you want to play, your standard buy-in for $1-$2 NL is between $100 to $400. For $2-$5, you are looking at $300 to $1,000. Those preferring to play $5-$10 can do so for $500 to $2,000.

If you are going to a series where the minimum buy-in is $1,500, you can buy-in to some cash games multiple times for the same amount. Instead of posting $10k for a single tournament, you can max out your buy-in at $5-$10.

Cash Games Are Not One and Done

One appeal of tournaments over cash games is that you have one buy-in and if you lose that, you’re done. Some players prefer to have the option to take multiple, or even unlimited, cracks at a game.

Cash games give you the option to buy back in whenever you wish. If you buy-in to $2-$5 and blow your $1k in 30 minutes, you can always come back an hour later and try again. If you lost your stack based on luck rather than poor play, you are probably going to buy back in and try to recoup your losses. That’s not an option for most tournaments.

Chance for Quicker Earnings Than in Tournaments

Most players will only make up to twice or three times their buy-in for 12 hours or more of play. Cash games give you a chance to make money much quicker. You can take $1,000, put it into a $2-$5 game and triple it in three or four hours versus playing all day and part of the night in a tournament in an attempt and do the same.
Why do you think that pros like Phil Ivey will stick with Bobby’s Room over playing for WSOP bracelets? If he can make $250k in a single pot, why play for three days to make the same money. The bracelet? They aren’t nearly as important as they used to be. Cash is king.


Cash Games Allow for More Control

When you sit down to a tournament, you are bound to the luck of the draw. If you draw a table that makes it tough to build chips, you are stuck with them for a while.

In a cash game, you can always get up and leave if the game is bad. You’re not stuck with the same players unless you want to be. This gives you a level of control that you do not have in tournaments.

You also have other areas that you can control, such as how much money you spend in the game, how long you stay in the game, etc.

More Variety Than Tournaments

Another advantage to playing cash over tournaments is that there’s often more variety on a daily basis than in tournaments. If you want to play Omaha Hi-Lo and the daily tournament is NL Hold’em, well sucks to be you.

However, if you head over to the cash game section, you will probably find Omaha Hi-Lo, PLO and perhaps other mixed games depending on your location, the demand and what the casino is willing to spread.

Less Variance than Tournaments

The goal of poker is to win money and let’s face it; tournament poker is very high variance. Sure, you can hit the big score on occasion but the majority of players have learned the hard way that those big scores are rare.

Cash game players tend to earn much more consistently than tournament players do. Sure, they may not hit the “one big score” like a tournament player but over the long term, they tend to win a lot more.

Let’s look at some simple math. Assume you’re a tournament player who cashes 20% of the time for an average of 2.5 times your buy-in. You play in ten tournaments with a buy-in of $1,000. You spent $10k and won back $5k. You’re down $5k for the trip.

A cash player just averaging a $300 a day win would walk away with $3k in profits over 10 days. While that’s not a huge score compare to someone that might win $50k or $100k in a tournament, it is more than the most tournaments players will walk away with from an average poker series.

Sometimes the Money is Better

Depending on how high you play, there’s a chance that you can make more money playing cash games than if you outright won one of the tournaments in the series you’re attending.
As alluded to earlier, during the WSOP there are so many high stakes games in town that some players will focus solely on those and win much more than they can hope to win in a tournament.

It all boils down to your goals. If it is about popularity, fame and winning titles, then you will chase tournaments. On the other hand, if you want to have a fat bank account, cash games might be the ticket.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.