Cash vs Tournament vs SNG

When you first start out with poker, I recommend trying out various formats. You may have more interest in one type or find that you do better in one than another. In this article we’ll compare Cash vs Tournament vs SNG.

Which type will suit you best depends on a variety of criteria; I shall attempt to break down the benefits and cons of each type so you can choose for yourself.

Cash Games

Cash Games will only take as much time as you can spare. Whether this is a free lunch break or 30 minutes of free time in the evening. This makes cash games the most flexible option; start when you want, finish when you want. Furthermore, cash games will have some of the lowest bankroll requirements and highest efficiency of capital used. If you are a winning player, compared to the bankroll required to make the same earnings from tournaments and SNGs.

When playing cash games, it is often easy to obtain a statistically relevant sample on opponents. This will allow you to make decisions based on this information. You may not get the same sample from tournaments. However, cash games are often considered the most skill based format; since cash games are usually 100-250bb deep (dependent on table picked). Even stakes as low as $.10/$.25 or 25nl have professional players who make up a large proportion of the entire player pool.

Sit and Goes

Sit and Goes fall somewhere between cash games and tournaments. They will have a somewhat fixed average duration substantially lower than a tournament. Like with tournaments, once you registerm you have to play till either you bust or you cash. Because you will frequently be in situations of sub 30 bb’s the maths behind common spots in sit and goes are easy to reach a solution. Also given the fact that there is a set number of players the prize pool will be identical each time you play. Therefore, the ICM (Independent Chip Model) implications will be standard.

Like cash games, because of fixed player pool numbers, you will be able to obtain relevant sample sizes. This can give you an advantage regarding the information you have. Sit and goes at micro levels often have 10% rake. An excellent win rate for even bigger field sizes can mean that even after multi-tabling, the total money per hour made can fall short of the same capital being used to play cash games.

Cash vs Tournament vs SNG


Tournaments are the other end of the spectrum, expect to play up to 16 hours in one to reach a decent payday. Noting that hyper turbo tournaments might last 2 hours. Turbos might last 4 hours and standard to slow formats can last multiple days. Because of the nature of multiple thousand players in any tournament, you can sometimes go a long time before getting statistically relevant information on players. Making it harder to play versus them. Sometimes the first time you will see a player is on a final table. Unfortunately, this is the worst time you want to try and adapt to a new player.

ICM situations in tournaments can often be more complex. Often leading to situations where a call or jam that yields a net positive increase of chips can be detrimental to your overall profit due to jumps in the payout structure. Not including ICM implications, due to having an average lower stack size in bb’s, the shove or fold aspect of tournaments is practically solved, if you find this easy, then tournaments may be a good choice. Tournaments will require a much large bankroll regarding buy-ins than either SNGs or cash games. Sometimes you might go 100+ buy-ins in one downswing even as a solid winning player. Also, because of the top heavy payouts, you can get the thrills of having huge winning days that would never happen on SNGs or cash.

Cash vs Tournament vs SNG Summary

In summary, though you can play any combination of the three it is often best to stick to the format you either enjoy the most or the format that you make the most money in. This leads to you gaining skill in the format, which in turn will result in you winning in that format. It is hard to master all formats at the same time. A brilliant cash game player may poorly understand ICM and lose at tournaments. You may find a situation where you primarily play tournaments but have an afternoon that is too short to play them. Instead choose to play cash, providing you are correctly rolled and beat the stake level you choose, this is fine.

If you are considering playing any professionally, then you have to establish what money you have available for a roll and how safe that will be at the game you choose. Cash games are often a much lower variance option to guarantee a monthly income than SNGs or tournaments.

Whichever format you pick, make sure to follow correct bankroll guides, unless you can deposit again whenever you choose, or you are only playing or fun.

Greg has been playing poker for the last 7 years, you can currently find him on Cash Game tables from £20nl-£100nl under the username BarrattG1. He currently writes poker articles and does coaching of micro stakes Mtt and Cash players. He uses a generally sound mathematical approach to odds and poker and uses this in conjunction with meta-game to create spots to profit from.

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