Tourney vs. cash game

Question by Sirlumpyius Posted

I have always been a cash game player... But have just started getting I to tourneys ...
I would like some advise on how to approach tourneys. There is such a huge difference to me between the two.

I know its a moranic question but I would like all the advise I can get.


  1. I think the biggest thing that cash game players miss in tournaments is how the blinds and antes affect your play. There is a concept called "M", which is the number of orbits that you can play at the current blind and ante levels. Some people use the number of big blinds you have, but I think M is better because it takes antes into account. Basically, an M of 10 or less is really short, 10-20 is in a danger zone, anything more than that is safe.

    But, whether you use M or big blinds, you need to realize that when you are short stacked or getting close to short stack, it should change how you play. A lot of players understand that when they are short, they should be in push or fold mode. But, it seems like many players don't realize that when they are getting close to short (in the danger zone), they also need to change their game. First off, you have to be more careful about calling preflop raises because you don't have enough chips to give you the right implied odds with hands like small pairs and suited connectors and calling a raise with those will really hurt your stack if you miss. Also, you have to take some chances to build up chips -- for instance, with a 3 bet shove instead of a cold call -- because the blinds and antes are really hurting your stack when you are in that danger zone.

    One other thing, if the blinds and antes are getting close to going up -- or if the levels are really short -- then you might want to consider what your M (or # of big blinds) will be on the next level. This can keep you from making a marginal decision now that will cripple you in a few minutes.


  2. Tourneys are more about playing against the time clock and diminishing chips than they are about the cards or hands. So unlike cash games where you can be a lot more patient since the blinds never go up (and you can pick up and leave anytime), in tournaments you are faced with being forced with each round getting more expensive, and not being able to add chips. So you really need to spend more time trying to create opportunities to get chips based on others weaknesses, rather than being too patient waiting for good hands. The deeper the stacks relative to blinds, the more patient you can be. Hopefully this helps. Good luck and take one down!

  3. Dap poker & game changer,
    Thank you for your insite, knowledge and advise! Makes perfect sence.

    Dap when my "M" is low, do you suggest considering pushing with low to medium pairs such as 88 and lower? I know position and villain make a difference also.

  4. @GameChanger Thanks!

  5. @Dap Poker Thank you very much! "M" makes sense.
    See my question below please

  6. Assuming the tourney has a decent structure I like to play the early stages like a cash game. Kind of tight and looking to see flops, make hands, and get value against worse hands. I'm in no rush to get the money in and gamble. As the tourney progresses and antes kick in, I tend to ramp up my aggression by open raising a wider range of hands, three betting more often preflop, and am more willing to accept marginal spots to get it all in preflop where I may be flipping (AK v 99 type spots) . I use the big blind method rather than M because that's just how I was taught 10 years ago. 15 blinds or less and I'm looking for a spot to shove. 15-22 big blinds and I'm looking to shove over an open raiser. 22-30 I'm looking to open raise mostly hands that I'm willing to go all in with along with a few hands that I will raise and then fold if the situation presents itself. 30-40 I will be rather aggressive but likely only three bet hands that's I'm ok getting it in with. 40+ I just play normal and try to make good decisions.

    Hope that "guideline" helps you. Also, going into the AVP section of this website and reading threads in the live Tourney section along with strategy articles there would likely be very very helpful.

  7. @BentonBlakeman Thank you very much Benton! That's kinda what I have done in the few I've played so far..
    Btw.. Your articles are outstanding! I can speak only for me by saying you have upped my game and I thank you!

  8. @Sirlumpyius I'm glad you've enjoyed the articles and found them helpful. When I am feeling "off" my game I often go back and re-read forum posts and articles. I think it's one of the most under used methods of learning but people don't take the proper time to do it. In fact, the night before the WSOP main event this year I re-read my three part series of "Play the WSOP Main Event with me" from 2013 and I think it really helped me to have such a good day one this year which led to a very deep run in the main. Good luck and keep posting questions!

  9. @zzjitterzz @zzjitterzz Thank you!
    So I have a little hard time believing that "higher" buy-ins the players play better. Meaning yes there will always be the loose cannon but I say that because as you being a cash game player know even if your playing 5-10 or 5-10-10 whatever the screwball villains are still there thinking ace rag off is a good starting hand. I know we all have heard the idiot "ATM players" in the 1-2 nlhe say well it was suited!
    I guess what I'm saying asking is in the middle of the road buy-ins (which I consider $500ish +\-) do majority of players have the mind set of the 1-2 nlhe csh game player or do they throw Away for the most part the range of A-2 thrus A- 10 off? Does this make sense or a. I rambling and thinking to much and reading to deep?

    The few tourneys I've played have been the lower buy ins right now as I'm learning and I run fairly deep but have only cash in I would say 30-40% and have only won a few due to the bad players.
    I've know only a couple people who have played in the WSOP main event and they have both been busted out day 1 and day 2 by someone thinking 8-10 off and I don't remember the other was good calling a healthy per flop raise.

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge! I am learning that patience is the key to running deep just as it is in a cash game


  10. @Sirlumpyius - when M is low, you need to find spots to pick up chips. So, if you are first in, then you generally need to push with smaller pairs. Just remember you can't call raises with them. Once the pot is raised, it really becomes push or fold with a low M.


  11. I play much tighter than I would in a cash game and get familiar with the rules. Patience and a big time commitment are key. I usually buy the maximum of chips possible meaning I usually do the add on, but I wait until the last minute, because I may not need if I have a deep stack. Play different places to see which type of tournaments you like best. If you are a local (Los Angeles), I highly recommend the Bike's Quantam Reload Tourney, which starts at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Your investment will be $75 for a $30k guarantee, which is the best deal in town. Hope that helps.