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How to Choose Between MTTs, Sit-n-Goes, and Cash Games

February 11th, 2017 by Todd McGee

If your bankroll starts dropping like Lady Gaga, don’t panic. MTT players can experience droughts between cashes. Stick to your bankroll management plan and wait for that next big score. (Source:

Online tournament players have a wealth of options at their disposal at most sites. Cash games, sit-n-goes and multi-table tournaments are available in abundance at many different buy-ins and different formats (PLO, High-low, Bounty, etc.). This piece will look at the basic differences between cash games, sit-n-goes, and multi-table tournaments.

Multi-table tournaments: I prefer large, multi-table tournaments (MTTs). I like the idea of turning a $10 buy-in into a $556 first-place prize. You won’t get that kind of return on investment (ROI) in a cash game and certainly not in a sit-n-go.

MTTs take a significant time commitment. They usually last at least four hours and can take as long as 12 hours. Make sure you have the time to see it through before you pay the entry fee.

One of the challenges I like with MTTs is the different playing styles that are needed during various stages. You can’t just play the same all the way through. A successful MTT player adjusts his style as the tournament progresses.

You can be a little loose in the beginning and play more speculative hands, such as flush or straight draws. Aggression can be rewarded when the bubble draws near as players tighten up to ensure a min cash. Blind stealing and position take on added significance in the latter stages, and your push-fold game becomes extremely important when you reach the final two or three tables.

Along the way you’ll most likely encounter situations where you need to employ your short-stack strategy. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to experience being the table captain (i.e. big stack bully).

Drawbacks to MTTs are the time commitment and the uneven cash flow. Even the best MTT players only cash 20-25% of the time in MTTs, making bankroll management (BM) a key. If you’re a casual or recreational player who only plays once or twice a week, you may go a month without cashing, all the while watching your bankroll drop like Lady Gaga during the halftime show. This is when you need the discipline to stick with your BM guidelines.

Sit-n-Goes Offer Tournament Style with Less Time Commitment

Sit-n-goes: These single table tournaments (usually six or nine players) are good for a couple of reasons. The time commitment is not overwhelming. You’ll most likely be done in an hour, less if it’s a turbo event.

Another thing I like about them is it gives you a little taste of what it’s like if you make it to the final table of a multi-table tournament. Your push-fold game will come into play very quickly.

The typical online sit-n-go features a starting stack of 1,500 chips, an opening big blind of 20 and 10-minute levels. By the time you reach the third or fourth level, effective stack sizes can be down to about 25-30 BBs, and play tends to tighten considerably. These kinds of tourneys are great for practicing short-stack or big-stack play and blind stealing.

A drawback for sit-n-goes is that you won’t build a significant bankroll quickly, unless you’re playing high-stakes sit-n-goes. First place on a nine-man table will generally win half the prize pool, with second getting 30 percent and third getting 20 percent.

What to avoid: Hyper-turbo sit-n-goes. Unless you just like going all-in on every hand and relying on luck, these should be avoided at all costs.

Cash Games are Great Time Killers

Cash games: Cash games are the bread and butter of most online sites, with tables at an array of buy-ins. The key is to pick a level that fits your ability and bankroll. Don’t think about moving up to a higher level until you consistently win at your current level.

The good thing about cash games is the time commitment is totally up to you. If you’re stuck with an airport layover, fire up the laptop and open a cash table. You can play however long you want to and leave whenever you want to.

What to avoid: The auto top-up feature. I don’t like this at all, especially for newer players. What this does is keep your chips at the level you bought in for. So if you buy-in for $10 and then lose $1.50 on your first hand, the site tops you back up to $10 before the next hand begins

The reason I don’t think this is wise for new players is that it makes it difficult to keep track of how much you’ve won or, more important, lost in a session. New players should always know how they are doing.

Online sites have a variety of formats and events for you. Honor your BM guidelines and check your available time before deciding what kind of event to play.

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