Cash games or tournaments or both?

Harry Truman's poker chips
Image via Wikipedia

Lately I have been having some discussions with other poker friends as to what type of poker games one should play in? Should a player concentrate on just cash games or play only in tournaments? Or should a player do both? Based on reading, talking and studying about the topic, it appears that there is no one correct answer.

There are two different mindsets for each type of game format. The actual game format is different as well. Generally, in a cash game, the size of the blinds and antes, if any, are fixed throughout the entire game. Whereas in a tourney, the blinds and antes increase at fixed intervals during the game.

In a cash game, you buy in for a certain amount which is usually based on a number of big blinds. You can play for as long as you have chips in front of you. If you run out of chips, you can buy more. You can leave whenever you want.

In a tourney, you buy in for a fixed amount and get a specific amount of chips for that buy in. You play until you either win all of the chips in the tourney or lose all of your chips. In some tourneys, you are allowed to rebuy chips for a certain time period or number of levels. Once that period is over, the only way to increase the number of chips is to win them. You cannot leave a tournament when you want to. You can leave when you no longer have any chips or have won them all.

In a cash game, it is easier to fold weak starting hands as the most you lose might be your big or small blind amount. It is fixed and does not change. In a tourney, your blinds increase at each level and you might be forced to play a hand you would not normally play because you are staring to run low of chips.

These are just some of the ways that cash games differ from tourneys and some players do better at one versus the other. There are only  a few that can play both formats successfully.

Are you a cash game specialist? Are you a tournament player? Do you play both? What is your preference?

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Nine SnG's at UB –

Poker After Dark
Image by supersolice via Flickr

Yesterday, I spent most of my down time playing on UltimateBet and watching “Poker after Dark” with my wife, Diane. On “PAD”, they had three young Internet players and Doyle Brunson, Gabe Kaplan and Eli Elezra at the table. We watched over five episodes while I played nine SnG’s.

My UB account was low on funds, not having made a deposit in a while and having lost most of my funds playing No Limit Hold ‘Em cash games that I am not good at. Strangely, I do reasonably well playing No Limit Hold ‘Em Sit n Go’s. I had only 40 cents left and could only play in the .25 Sit N Go’s, which is what I did. I played in nine games overall and the following are my results:

2: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.45
1: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $1.12
3: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.45
9: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.00
6: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.00
2: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.67
2: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.67
6: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.00
2: STEVIE_TREYS, payout $0.67

I had cashed in 6 of the nine games. I played tight for the most part, making an occasional bluff in position. I was able to build my account balance up to almost $2.00. When I hit $5.00, I will play in the .50c SnG’s. Instead of making a deposit, I intend to grow my account at UB and other sites as well.

I was doing this while watching the “Poker After Dark” players place a “live straddle bet” and also making prop bets while their game was going.  One of the prop bets was if any player won a hand with a 72, everyone else would pay that player $1,000, even if they were not in the hand and had folded pre-flop. In one hand, we saw Eli Elezra open and eventually raise the pot to almost $20,000 in an attempt to win an extra $5,000 while having a 72. That attempt failed as one of the players had a hand good enough that he was not folding to Eli’s attempt to steal. That was a very costly way to play 72. Wow! Three previous 72 steal attempts were successful before Eli’s hand.

I found it interesting to see what the pros do versus what they say to do in their books and blogs. But in their case, they have the experience and the money to back up their play.

Do you ever watch the pros play and wonder why they do what they do? You know the appropriate strategy, but see them play differently than they say you should? When you try what they do, what are your results?

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More thoughts on bankroll management.

Stacks of money
Image via Wikipedia

I am still playing at the micro and low levels at the online tables. My live play is done at a poker room in Seabrook NH, close to where I live. There, I play in the $2/4 Limit Hold ‘Em tables.

Many different people have many different ideas as to when to move up a level. As I play mostly Limit Hold ‘Em cash games,  I use a figure of 500 big blinds (BB) for my Limit Hold ‘Em bankroll and 2000 big blinds (BB) for No Limit. I also use a percentage figure of 2% of my bankroll to determine the maximum buy-in to tournaments.

Assuming that I have  a $2,500 bankroll, I can play in Limit Cash games with a maximum big blind of $5.00 (2500/500 = 5.00.)  In No Limit Games with big blinds of no more than $1.25 or rounded down to a $1.00. Using the 2% rule, I can play in a tourney of up to a $50 dollar buy in (2% times 2500 = $50.)  If my bankroll increases, I can move up using the same 500BB – 2000BB – 2% formula.

Depending on your success at the tables, your acceptable levels risk may vary. Just what percentages you use might be different than mine. If I were a great player, I might only need 150BB  for limit, 300BB for no limit and could play for buy-ins for up to 5% in tourneys.  If I were a worse, but still winning player, I might have to use 1000BB – 5000BB – .50% figures.

The idea behind bankroll management is to allow you to play without going broke during those times when you will run bad. However, if you are a losing player, no amount of bankroll mangement will keep you from going broke. Again, the guidelines that I use were culled from suggestions made by various “poker pros” in the many books and videos I have read and watched.

How do you manage your bankroll? What percentages do you use? Do you ever play in games above your level? Do you step down in levels when your bankroll goes down?

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Without cards – poker skills may not be enough

Image by Lewis Walsh via Flickr

Knowing how to raise, check-raise, value bet, continuation bet, all in raise may not be enough if you don’t catch cards to back up your play.

Last night I played “No Limit Hold ‘Em on the Twitter Poker Tour played on Full Tilt poker. I was a late registrant arriving at the table about three minutes after the tourney had started. Already one person had busted out having his Kings beaten by Aces in just the second hand dealt to him.

My first hand was AQ off-suit in the big blind.  There were three callers and I checked. The flop was 5 7 8, two spades and a heart. I checked, there was a small raise of 30 so three of us called. I am not sure why I did, having really missed the flop. The turn card was  9 of hearts, giving two spades and two hearts on the board with a straight draw as well. I folded to a pot size bet. There was one caller and two people saw the river which was a Jack of hearts. They both checked. One made a nine high straight while the other won with a flush, Jack high.

And so the evening went. My highest pocket pair were 10’s, folded pre-flop to a 6BB raise. I had AK three times, raised with two of them and limped in with one. All of the flops seen were small cards and I folded to large raises before the turn.  Most of the rest of my pocket pairs were folded pre-flop due to aggressive raising prior to my turn. My final play was an all-in bet with pocket fours when I was short-stacked, less than 10 times the big blind in chips. I was called by someone with QJ unsuited and he ended up with a straight on the river to bust me out in 22nd place after two plus hours of playing.

While I was not pleased with the results, I was satisfied with how I played. Skills aside, you do need some luck in the form of either good cards or great flops.

What do you do when you don’t catch premium cards? How does  that affect your game? Or do you try to force the action?

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Guest Post – using comments by Paul Ellis of

Description unavailable
Image by dno1967 via Flickr

On July 14, I wrote a post about “When to Move to the Next Level”. My twitter poker tour friend, Paul Ellis AKA @CoolWhipFlea of wrote a great comment. Here it is in its entirety.  Thank you Paul.


……. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Remember when Patrick Sebastian challenged us to the 10 to 250 challenge? It was somewhat of a wake up call for me about bankroll management. With respect to online play, I’ve basically been unable to play at the levels necessary to exercise proper bankroll management techniques and play the games that I wanted to play. For example, a $50 initial deposit is too little to play the TPT which is a $5 buy in event. Risking 10% of your bankroll on a single buy in is just well above what you should be doing. So I created a separate Full Tilt account for the sole purpose of the challenge, and have stuck to the bankroll management techniques recommended by Chris Ferguson in his $0 to $10k challenge. It’s been a real grind, but I’ve been able to move up in levels twice, and have run my bankroll from $10 to just about $100. I’m still a long way away from the $250 goal, but I’ve been steadily increasing the bankroll, and only moving up in payscale when my bankroll tells me that I’ve been running positive enough to take the risk. But here’s the more important thing, when I went through a rut, I moved down a level. I feel that it was VERY important to realize that when I wasn’t winning at the higher level, instead of jepordizing my bankroll on players that had a likely higher bankroll (especially since they now had my money ;)), that I needed to eat a slice of humble pie, stand up, and move to another table with lower limits. I think that this is the mark of a good player. Being able to recognize limits that are acceptable to play within so that you’re comfortable if you do lose. This is a game of skill, but it also has an element of chance/luck. And sometimes, the cards just don’t fall your way. When you’re on the one of the down swings, you have to know what you’re comfortable losing, and not jeopardize your entire bankroll with the swing. Moving up for me is just a simple matter of mathematics. If you’ve got the cash, you can take a swing at the bigger stakes for a percentage of your bankroll that you’re comfortable losing. But when you don’t have it, stay disciplined, and within the ranges that you’re comfortable playing at.


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Online note taking – some sites give you more.

visual note-taking conference call notes
Image by Austin Kleon via Flickr

All of the online poker sites that I play allow note taking on specific players. That helps me as I play on different sites and I don’t always remember how my opponent played the last time we met.  Not so much for the #TPT players as we have played dozens of times over the last few months. Just a few notes can make all the difference between losing and winning a hand. The following is a list of sites I have played and their note taking capabilities.

Absolute Poker allows notes only, no color coding available.

Bodog Poker offers notes only, no color coding available.

Carbon Poker has a very detailed graphics bot that allows you to type notes and choose a picture tag to represent the player, including shark, fish, on tilt and others.

Doyles Room and PokerHost allow you to take notes and categorize the players from “Unknown” to “Hot player” with a color assigned to each designation.

FullTiltPoker allows notes and you choose a color code. There are no pre-assigned meanings to the colors so you get to decide what they mean.

PokerStars offers notes only, no color coding available.

TruePoker allows you to label the person and write notes as well.

Ultimate Bet allows just note taking, no color coding available.

I am currently spending a lot of time on Doyles Room and PokerHost whose sites are part of the Cake Poker Network.

While on these sites I use the player notes once I have determined the type of opponent I am playing. I can choose from the following labels and add my own notes. Each label is color coded.

Unknown – white – I use when I am not sure. I may want to include a note that the player likes suited connectors or some other drawing hand.

Tight – purple – have seen only a few of these types

Easy Money – green – I use this label for the limpers, and callers that have a hand or a draw. Maybe they cannot value bet and just call, hoping that their hand is good enough to win.

Fair – brown – just a grade above Easy Money – they might raise entering in a pot but don’t know what to do after the flop.

Good – yellow – raises or calls pre-flop, raises or calls after the flop. Usually knows how to value bet and sometimes check raises as well.

Very Good – pink – plays very few hands, usually plays well, knows how to raise and re-raise to get the most value out of a hand.

Hot Player – red – sneaky player who can flop the nuts but will check to the rest. Usually bets on forth and fifth street, when the bets are double and also uses the check raise.

Do you have a site that you like best? How do you rate their note taking options? Do you even take notes?  If yes, do these notes help?


I had discussed this topic in a previous post, only I shared the why’s in more detail. See my previous post here.

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