Choosing Your Specialty: Cash Games or Tournaments?
Hey CC members, this is a question I get asked a lot by new DragTheBar members, "Should I play cash games or tournaments?" Its a good question, but ultimately isn't one that anyone can answer for you. You've got to figure that one out for yourself, but here are some factors I would recommend using as a basis for the decision. Personally, I started playing LHE back in 2004, then switched to NL, then after going pro, I played MTTs almost exclusively for 7 or 8 months, before coming back to NL cash exclusively in 2007. So I can give you a guys a little insight into the pros and cons of cash games versus tournaments, and hopefully help you decide whats right for you.
The first thing to think about, and this is by far the most important, is that whatever game you decide to specialize in, it HAS to be the game you enjoy the most. This is non-negotiable if you want to excel at poker and start making some real money
from it. I know that advice may sound overly simplistic, but think about why this is so important. When poker is as fun and interesting, you are much more likely to put the extra work in away from the table, think deeply about the game, and stay focused while playing. These are the things that really separate the players with huge potential from the ones that will struggle to move up the limits. If you aren't having a great time, then you are less likely to go the extra mile away from the tables, and bring your a-game at the tables.
Your personality and tastes will be big factors in what game you enjoy most. The professional poker lifestyle and freedom were very appealing to me, but early in my career after a couple big tournament scores, I started playing MTTs exclusively, 14 hours a day. Its very hard to play MTT sessions that are shorter than 7 hours because you generally need to play a bunch at once, and usually you end up going deep in at least one of them. After several months of that, that schedule started to feel like having a real job again. Now having said that, winning an MTT is quite possibly the most fun and rewarding experience in poker, and for the MTT players, those wins are well worth the tough schedule. MTTs are also full of casual players, so there's a lot of money to be made in them. But they weren't the right fit for me. I needed the flexible environment of cash games to really thrive in poker while keeping an enjoyable lifestyle, and in the first 6 months of playing cash games after I switched, I'd made a lot more money than I had in the prior 6 months playing MTTs.
If you are new to poker or aren't having a great time playing your current game, then I'd suggest trying out some new ones. Start with dropping down in stakes so you can get a feel for people's ranges and opponent types, and not pay a high price while you get some hands under your belt. You should also read the forums where winning players are discussing the game and watch videos on it to see if the thought process and strategies for that game appeal to you and seem interesting and challenging. As an example, my favorite game is heads-up No-Limit cash, because I love the psychological battle and how its an in-your-face personal fight at the table. It also allows for a ton of creativity because the ranges are so wide. Other guys really like Sit & Gos because they offer the flexibility of cash games but still involve the strategy and thought process of tournament poker.
So I'd encourage everyone to try out the different forms of poker to figure out your favorite game and how it fits into your lifestyle. Then dive in and start studying.