Difference Between MTT Strategy and Cash Games

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Trasition from Cash Games to Tournments

A lot of players that I know of suffer when playing MTTs because they’re more used to a slower cash game environment.  In cash games all you have to do is apply to basics, sit out your poor hands and play a tight agressive game in micro-low stakes games.  Everything becomes a bit more blurry in tournaments though, with M-zone calculations, more pre-flop shoving action and an overall faster type of game (particularly turbo SNG games at PokerStars).

MTT strategyTournaments Strategy is More Complicated than Cash Games

In my opinion multi-table tournament strategy is harder to master than cash games, and by master I am referring to a successful loose agressive style of poker which takes advantage of more positional situations and punishing weaker players more often.

Tournament strategy is not about making as many +EV decisions as it is in cash games.  In tournaments you have to be more agressive and apply more avanced concepts to your game such as the “M-ratio“, positional steals, hand shoving ranges, the antes, and different opponents each time you’re moved to a table.  End game tactics involving ICM concept, “tournament equity” and the the reduction in chip-vale  means there’s far more learning involved in tournament play.  Cash game players need to stretch their game far more if they want to compete in tournaments.  Phil Hellmuth is the world’s greatest poker tournament player and he utilises the a very loose agressive strategy, but when was the last time he dominated the online cash tables or Late Night Poker?  Coincidence?

More Loose Agressive Play in Tournaments

Playing tight will work most of the time in low limit cash games, but in tournaments you always need to play agressively and learn to double up fast.  To be a successful MTT player you should be overplaying sub-premium hands and taking way bigger risks.  You should be value shoving mid-pair in the late stages, 3betting with suited connectors, and regularly attacking and defending the blinds.  I also beleive economies of scale of much more evident in tournaments i.e. a big stack has ever-increasing advantages in a tournament as the blinds increase and small stack players tighten up.   

Differences in Bet Sizes Between Tournaments and Cash Games

Your bet-sizing should roughly be 25-35% less in tournaments.  The bet sizes are relatively smaller in tournaments because players are tighter, fold equity is greater, and the majority of weak/tight players are unwilling to get their hands caught in large pots considerin they only have one chip stack.  For more information read bet sizing in tournaments.

Typical Tournament Bet Sizes:

  • Pre-flop Raises: 2.25-3x BBs + 1BB for every limper
  • Re-raises should be 3x the initial range (for example, opening raise is 300, you re-raise to 900 – this is very standard)
  • cbetting should be about 50% – 70% of the pot

Tournaments Require More Patience than Cash Games

You need to think of multi-table tournaments as a journey rather than a single-event.  The results and big winnings normally won’t be seen until after maybe 20 or so games (depending on your ability and level). This means MTT players need way more patience than cash games who can their profitability each hour (BB/hr).  Large multi-table tournaments such as the UB Sunday $200k Gtd (950 opponents on average) can require several hours of concentration and consistent performance.  This makes the mental and physical side of tournaments much greater.  You need to be just as sharp at the final table as you were when the event began.  Unlike tournments, cash players can give up and walk anytime.

Blind Stealing is More Common in Tournaments 

Blinds are worth a hell of alot more in tournaments, especially in the mid-late stages where the antes come in.  Because of this you’ll need to not only master blind stealing as a crucial concept, but also blind defending and re-stealing.  In regular cash games the blinds are worth about 1% of your chipstack,  in regular freezeout MTTs however they can be up to 10% of your total chip stack – particularly at the final table.  

Your Chances of a Pay Day Are Much Less in MTTs

Because of the massive number involved in MTTs (5,000 entrants for large MTT events) the chances of making a payoff is much lower than in cash games.  Even Chris Moorman, the UK MTT champion has gone up to 20 games online without any return on investment.  Tournament bankroll management rules advise you to have a total bankroll of at least 100x buy-ins for your level of multi-tabe tournaments.  This is to combat the small probabilities of a successful pay day, the variance inherent in these games, and the minimise putting your bankroll at risk.  Grinding MTTs for profit is as much about volume and multi-tabling, as it is for strategy and skill.

One Stack – “One Shot Do Not Miss Your Chance to Blow” (Eminem)

You only have one shot in tournaments, under normal conditions you cannot re-buy or refresh your stack with the click of a button.  The risks are massively increased for shoving and overbetting in tournaments and getting into coinflip situations even when you’re a favourite can make you busto.  Especially during the run up to the buble you should be playing extremely tight, and never calling a deep stack’s overbet unless you have a massive holding.

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