A cash game is the classic form of poker, and overall, is still probably the most popular way to play poker around the world. In a cash game, every bet you make is made with real money. There’s no set length of time you need to play for, and no way to ultimately win or be eliminated from the game; as long as you can keep bringing money to the table and other opponents are willing to play with you, you’re welcome to continue playing.
When you find a cash game, you’ll notice that it is described by the types of stakes you’ll be playing for. However, a limit game will be described somewhat differently from a pot limit or no limit poker game. A $2/$4 limit game means that all bets on the first two betting rounds will be for $2, while later betting rounds will feature $4 bets. The blinds in that game would be $1 and $2. In a no limit game, the size of the blinds are what dictates the name the game goes by; a game with $1 and $2 blinds is a $1/$2 game.
Cash games are poker in its purest form. You don’t have to worry about any unusual considerations like the changing value of chips; every dollar is simply worth a dollar, and the only why to count whether you’re doing well is to count how much money you have at the end of a week, month, or year. If you just want to play pure poker, cash games are right for you.
Here, we’re talking about multi-table tournaments – the kinds of events that range from small freerolls to the Aussie Millions and the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. Tournament play is where legends are born, as tournaments allow for winners: players who emerge from a tournament field in first place, grabbing all of the glory (and a large chunk of the prize money).
In tournament play, all players pay a buy-in as well as an entry fee. This is usually expressed in a manner like $10 + $1 – with $10 being the buy-in, which goes into the prize pool, and $1 being the entry fee, which is collected by the poker room. In exchange, all entrants receive a number of chips that will be used in the tournament. You won’t be making bets for real money; instead, you’ll make bets with those chips. Lose all the chips, and you’re eliminated. Be one of the last players eliminated (usually the final 10% or so of players), and you’ll win a prize. Collect all the chips as the last player standing, and you’ll win first place. To ensure tournaments progress, the blinds (and later, antes) will progressively increase, forcing players to make decisions for all of their chips unless they increase the size of their stacks.
Tournaments come in a variety of styles. In some tournaments, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase chips more than once, building the prize pool and encouraging riskier play in the early stages. Other tournaments are known as satellites, and offer players the chance to qualify for larger events that they might not normally be able to afford playing in.
Since tournaments offer the best way to win a huge prize in poker – winners of major events can win millions of dollars – they’re great for dreamers or those looking to make a name for themselves. If poker excites you for the big wins and the potential for stardom, tournaments are definitely the way to go.
SNGs are a very special subcategory of tournaments that are particularly popular in online poker. In fact, although you can now find SNGs in live casinos, they were first popularized online, where they made a great spontaneous alternative to regular tournaments.
While a regular tournament is scheduled ahead of time and starts on that schedule, an SNG can begin whenever enough players – usually nine or ten, though both smaller tables and multi-table SNGs are fairly common – have signed up to play. Once enough players have signed up, everyone takes their seats, gets a stack of chips, and starts playing! At a typical one-table SNG, the top three finishers will win prize money. Just like in a standard tournament, the blinds will rise as you play, eventually forcing you to make moves to increase your stack or move all-in for the rest of your chips.
Because SNGs are quicker, involve fewer players, and are the same every time you play, there’s more of a science to the game than in other forms of poker. Plenty of tools exist that can guide you through the many situations in an SNG where there are indisputably correct mathematical plays to make, thanks to the rigid system and the well-known payout schemes. If you want to study up and feel like you know one form of poker inside and out, sit and go tournaments might be right for you.
Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t mix and match all three types of games. You might well find that there’s something in all of these game types that speak to you. All of these games are available at PartyPoker, Tiger Gaming and other great poker sites, so there’s no need to specialise unless you want to.