Cash Games vs. Tournaments for Poker Beginners

It’s hard to know where to begin when you’re a beginner. There are so many different games to play at Bodog Poker, each with something different to offer. Are you interested in Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Omaha Hi/Lo? What betting structure is best for you: No-Limit, Pot-Limit or Fixed-Limit? How many players do you want at your table? And what stakes are you going to play at?

Then you have arguably the most important question for newcomers: Should you play the cash games at Bodog Poker, or should you play tournaments? In our latest collection of poker tips for beginners, we’ll take a closer look at what each format has to offer, and how you should approach each game type as a newer player.

Cash Games for Beginners

Cash poker is the original way to play The Beautiful Game. When you think back to the days of the Mississippi riverboats and the frontier saloons of the American Wild West, cash poker was the only format there was. Everyone sat down with a pile of poker chips (or actual money) and played until they had their fill, or until they ran out of chips – in which case they’d often buy some more and keep playing.

Things have changed surprisingly little since then. When you play cash games at Bodog Poker, you’re still using your Bodog account to purchase virtual poker chips, and you’ll play as many or as few hands as you like, hopefully with more chips than you started with at the end. As a beginner, we recommend you play the lowest stakes possible while you’re figuring out the rules and honing your poker strategy. At Bodog, that means 2c/5c stakes, where the small blind is two cents and the big blind is five cents.

When you choose to play one of these cash games, your next decision is how many chips to buy. It’s become common practice for players to bring 100 big blinds to the table; at a 2c/5c game, that means $5 worth of chips. You can buy more or fewer chips if you prefer, but 100 big blinds will give you enough stack depth to pull off most of the poker moves in your arsenal, such as 5-betting preflop or triple-barrel bluffing post-flop.

Because you can control how many hands of cash poker you play, this is the ideal choice for people who are on a somewhat tighter schedule. You can even speed things up at Bodog by playing Zone Poker, our fast-fold variant that allows you to play two to three times as many hands per hour as a cash game. And you can also play multiple tables at once – just don’t overdo it, or you’ll burn through your stack before you realize what’s happening.

Tournaments for Beginners

Tournaments might be the biggest change the poker world has seen since the 52-card “French” deck replaced the original 20-card deck 150 years ago. This format was popularized by the World Series of Poker, which switched from cash poker to tournaments in 1970 to determine the best players in the world. In a tournament, you play poker until you either lose all of your chips, or you win everyone else’s and are crowned the champion.

That can take a while. Most of the tournaments at Bodog Poker take several hours before a winner is declared; others are spread over two days or more. This can make scheduling a challenge, but if you don’t have enough free time on your hands, consider Sit-and-Go tournaments. Instead of starting at a set time, Sit-and-Gos begin once the required number of players have bought in. A standard full-ring, one-table Sit-and-Go will take about 45 minutes or so to complete.

As long as you have the time, the tournaments at Bodog Poker have so much to offer beginners. The competition level tends to be softer, since there are more starry-eyed newcomers to the game than you’ll find at the cash tables. The prizes can get really big, too, as high as six figures at Bodog. And during a tournament, you’ll be dealing with a wide range of stack sizes, from the tallest mountain of chips to the tiniest nub. Gaining that experience will be very important to your future success as a poker player.

Which is Best for Beginners?

Eventually, if you’re serious about poker, you’ll want to play both cash games and tournaments. But you have to start somewhere when you’re a beginner. Scheduling will be your most important criterion; you can’t play the game if you don’t have the time.

You also have to consider whether you’re playing poker for fun, or as a way to make money. This is a situation where the ideal answer is both, but especially as a beginner, the emphasis should always be on fun. Tournaments tend to be more fun for most players, in large part because of the massive prizes you can win. However, just like cash games, you should start with the lowest buy-in tournaments (freerolls being the lowest possible) and focus on learning your craft rather than the prize money.

There are some other, more subtle considerations to keep in mind when you’re choosing between cash games and tournaments. For example, if your preferred game is Omaha or Omaha Hi/Lo, you’ll be less likely to find a tournament that fits your schedule than you will if Texas Hold’em is your game of choice. Most beginners start out with Hold’em, though, so there’s no shortage of tournaments and Sit-and-Gos waiting for you in our poker lobby.

Whichever game you choose, remember that all types of poker are ultimately versions of the same game. Pick whichever one suits you the most at that given moment, and you’ll maximize your chances of success on your Bodog Poker journey.