Since we talked about the disadvantages of live poker versus online poker as far as winrate concerns, I’ll be comparing online poker tournaments with cash games today.
Poker players, who prefer playing cash games, have tried their luck at least once at an online poker tournament. That goes the other way around as well. Players, who spend most of their time at poker tournaments, will sit down at a cash game from time to time. Especially when there are no major tournaments available.
Tournaments and cash games: Two different worlds of poker
Although we play the same game at both tournaments and cash games – that is Texas Hold’em poker – the strategies involved are miles apart. For example, at cash games you have to avoid going to war with good players and focus on the bad players. You may even chase the latter down and sit at every table they are playing at.
At online tournaments you are stuck at the table you are drawn. Surely you should still target the weak and vulnerable players, but until you figure out who they are, you might be transferred to a new table and start from scratch.
Time to talk about the hourly winrate of tournaments and cash games
Avoiding a comparison between apples with oranges, we should calculate the same kind of winrate for both tournaments and cash games in poker. And because winrate at cash games can only be calculated in terms of dollars won per 100 hands or per hour, we would do the same thing at online tournaments.
Let’s assume a good poker player that registers at 1,000 tournaments per month with an average buy-in of $50. By the end of the month, they will have invested a total of $50,000. The average expected ROI for a good player specializing at online poker tournaments is anything between 25% and 50%, although top players manage even 100% ROI. But let’s just forget about the elite players, since I believe you are not one of them if you are reading this post!
The figures above lead to a winrate of about $12K to $25K monthly profit for the poker tournament player.
I will also assume they are playing on average 30 tournaments per day, with Sundays being the most active days. The longest tournaments last about 12 hours, but the bubble bursts a lot earlier, at about 4-hour mark. Our regular tournament poker player will reach the final table once every 3 days (1% of their tournaments) and will make it into the money at 6 tournaments per day (Into-The-Money (ITM): 20%).
According to the above assumptions, how many hours will they spend on a daily basis playing online tournaments? I am assuming around 14 hours per day. That equals with more than 400 hours per month, playing every day. So, if they are making about $20,000 during a month, their hourly winrate is 50 dollars.
Comparing that with average hourly winrate of cash games
Proper money management for the tournament player above dictates that they must have a bankroll worth at least 100 buy-ins. That is $5,000. With that kind of money a cash game player should be playing at $100NL max (50 buy-ins).
That particular cash game player is able to play at 5 tables simultaneously. Their options range from full ring and 6-max tables to heads-up tables. They are playing 500 hands per hour and they are winning at a pace of 3BB/100 or 6bb/100 hands. Combining all that, the cash game player is making 30 dollars per hour.
If they were to spend the same hours online as the tournament player, their bankroll will increase by $12K by the end of the month!
So, which is better, cash games or online poker tournaments?
It depends! Some players are best at playing online poker tournaments and totally suck at cash games, while others are having a blast at cash games but cannot stand the long playing hours of tournaments. Find the type of poker game you are enjoying the most, and try to improve your skills on that particular style of game. The worst thing you can do though, is going back and forth between cash games and tournaments while you are learning.