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Poker cash games vs Poker tournaments – Key differences

Online poker is gaining massive popularity in India, emerging to be a popular choice amongst thousands of online games. This skill game is vast, featuring a diverse range of variants and formats, the most played formats being poker cash games and poker tournaments.

A frequently asked question by most novice poker players is whether to play cash games or tournaments. Essentially, both the formats have the same rules; however, they have subtle differences. Therefore, depending on the way you play and the strategies you use, you may be successful in one format and may fail in the other. So, let’s take a closer look at both these online poker formats to understand the key differences. Whether you are a new poker player or have tried a few games, these differences may help you make an informed decision about which format you should play and what you are getting into.

Here are a few things to be avoided by beginner poker players.

Key differences between poker cash games and poker tournaments

Cash Games:

  • You can join a cash game and leave at your convenience
  • You can rebuy chips whenever you want to
  • Generally played with static blinds, they stay the same throughout the session.
  • Cash games involve less variance.


  • You will have to be present during registration
  • You must play till you have the chips
  • Usually, rebuys aren’t permitted other than during rebuy tournaments (And you can’t rebuy after the rebuy period has ended)
  • Bling levels aren’t static and increase at set intervals
  • Tournaments involve a significant variance

The subtle differences in the structure of both formats have a substantial impact on your poker strategy and the style of the games. So, how should you decide which poker format is the best for you? Perhaps, the below factors may help you make an informed decision.

Experience and Skills

One of the significant factors that will help you decide whether to play cash games or tournaments is your skillset and experience. Usually, recreational online poker players prefer playing cash games to improve their skills in a casual space. If you are new to poker, it’s best, to begin with cash games. Poker tournaments offer a more professional space for poker experts and serious players looking to test their skills in a competitive environment. Therefore, the experience you have in playing poker and your skillset will be the key deciding factors while choosing between the two formats.

Here’s how you can bluff the right way in online NLH Poker.

Time Commitment

Online poker tournaments require a time commitment from players as they are pre-scheduled for a specific time. To play poker tournaments, you need to be there during registration and have to play until the tournament finishes or until you are eliminated. On the other hand, online cash games are ongoing, and you can find different cash tables running live 24 hours. You can start poker cash games and leave the table as you like, as there’s no requirement for a time commitment. So, if you find it difficult to commit in terms of your time, you can choose poker cash games over poker tournaments.

Blind Levels

The blind levels of both formats are opposite in structure – poker cash games have static blind levels while poker tournaments feature an increase in blind levels every few minutes. Static blind levels in cash games facilitate less variance and almost no pressure on the players. So, every hand that you play in cash games will have the same structure, which may make the game casual and monotonous. On the contrary, poker tournaments create immense pressure that evolves with time and affects players’ decisions. Depending on the blind level you want to play for, you can choose between the two formats accordingly.

Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is another factor you should consider while choosing between online poker cash games and poker tournaments. The reason behind this is that poker cash games offer flexibility to players to pick a minimum bankroll and play for a variety of stakes. Whereas, in a poker tournament, the players need to have 2-5 bullets/buy-ins for re-entries or re-buys.

New to poker? Learn more about Online NLH Poker Bet Sizing.


Poker variance implies the upswings and downswings involved while playing poker. As mentioned earlier, cash games involve less variance, while the variance is bigger in tournaments. Due to this reason, many players prefer cash games over poker tournaments while playing online poker. Based on the variance factor, you can choose poker cash games over poker tournaments.

Major Tournaments

Many players pride themselves while competing in poker tournaments. Moreover, if they win a tournament, they receive immense respect and value in the poker circuit, and the event itself is newsworthy. Another reason why players like participating in major poker tournaments is the excitement of playing at the final table, which also offers a big payout.


These factors will help you greatly while deciding whether to play cash games or poker tournaments. Your skills and experience matter the most, followed by other factors while making the decision. Now that your confusion has been sorted, you can visit MPL and experiment with online poker cash games and poker tournaments.

Vijaya Bharti
Vijaya Bharti is an experienced gaming writer fuelled by a passion for virtual worlds and interactive storytelling. Her profound understanding of game design and culture shines through her compelling content pieces captivating readers. She finds leisure in playing online games, writing about anything related to games, and watching web series.


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