SNG vs. Cash Game: What should I play?

SNG vs. Cash Game: What should I play?

The rules for Cash Games and Sit and Go’s are the same basic Texas Hold’em poker rules. Nonetheless, Cash Games and SNG are two completely different games. You will learn in this poker strategy article

  • the essential differences between Texas Hold’em Cash Cames (Limit and No Limit) vs. Sit and Go’s (SNG, STT)
  • the advantages and disadvantages of playing both poker variants
  • basic bankroll recommendations for Cash Games and Sit and Go’s

Differences Between Texas Hold’em Cash Game and SNG

The main differences between Cash Games and Sit and Go’s are:

Playing time and duration: you can join and leave a Cash Game anytime. In contrast to this, once you started a SNG, you should have enough time to play it to the end – until you won it or until you’ve lost all of your chips. Depending on the SNG (turbo, speed, regular), a single table tournament can between 20 and 90 minutes.

Rebuying and busting: in Cash Games, you can rebuy after each hand if you’ve lost your stack or if you are below the maximum buy-in (usually 100 big blinds). In tournaments (apart from Rebuy / Add-on tournaments), a player is eliminated as soon as he has lost all his chips.

Fixed vs. changing blinds: in cash games you play with fixed blinds. Usually you sit down with the maximum buy-in of 100 big blinds (BB) at the Cash Game table. In tournaments like Sit and Go / Double or Nothing you get a certain amount of chips for your buy-in. The blinds increase with each blind level. While you start with 40 to 100 BB in single table tournaments, the amount of big blinds you hold will quickly decrease over the course of the tournament. Due to the increasing blinds, the average stack on the bubble (just before reaching the in-the-money places) drops to about 10 BB. As a result, while strategies in cash games remain the same, the best poker tournament strategy completely changes during a single tournament.

Fixed vs. variable number of opponents: in Cash Games, you play against a constant number of opponents. Full-ring tables have nine or ten seats, and short-hand tables have five or six seats. At single table tournaments, you must be able to adapt your strategy to a changing number of players. You start with nine opponents and end the game heads-up.

Dollar vs. chips: in real money Cash Games, you play with real dollars at the table. You will always know how much these dollars are worth by just glancing at their value. In tournaments such as SNG’s, you exchange dollars for chips and play for chips. Once you bust from the tournament, you receive a certain amount of dollars for the placement you’ve achieved.

$EV vs. cEV: in Cash Games, you only have to think in terms of $EV (expected value of dollars) when making a decision. You will earn money in the long run if you make correct +$EV decisions (for example: calling a preflop all-in with QQ while knowing that your opponent has AK suited, giving you an equity of roughly 54%). In SNG’s, the value of chips won is lower than the value of chips lost. Each additional chip added to your stack has a lower value than the chips you already own. Consider this: at the end of a single table tournament, the winner has 100% of the chips, but only receives 50% of the total prize money. This difference between $EV and chip EV-chip must be taken into consideration when making decisions at the tournament table. The mathematical concept behind this is the Independent Chip Model ICM. The practical implication is that you should avoid risks, in particular you should call less and less all-ins the closer you are getting to the bubble. In a theoretical extreme situation, if six players have even stacks in a “Double or Nothing” tournament, a player with pocket kings makes the mathematical correct decision by folding them against an all-in bet. In a cash game, this would be an easy call.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Both Cash Games and SNG

We do not recommend to play both Cash Games and Sit and Go tournaments. The reason is that you have to specialize in order to gain the skills you need to beat successfully the higher stakes.

For poker beginners, the story is a different one. Learning to play poker also includes gaining an overview of the different poker variants. A beginner should play those poker games where he has the most fun. But then we recommend to opt for one variant (e.g. Sit and Go’s) and then to focus only on those games.

As an advanced player, it is of course possible to play different poker variants. In any case, you should not mix different variants while playing. Play only Cash Games in one session, and play only STT in another session. We also recommend to have one preferred game and to spend most of your time – both playing and learning – on that poker variation.

The Three Biggest Benefits When Playing Different Poker Variants

  • you have more variety, which in total increases the fun and you have when playing poker
  • learning and playing new versions expands your mental horizon; concepts from one variant can be transferred to other variants
  • only by trying out other poker variations you may discover a new form of poker which you enjoy and later completely specialize in it – something that cannot happen when you only play one variant

The Three Biggest Disadvantages When Mixing Poker Variants

  • The learning curve for each poker variant is flatter if you play multiple variations. You will accumulate much less experience in each variation, resulting in playing on lower limits and earning less
  • Successful strategies in one poker variation can be fatal another variant. For example, it is much easier to play draws in Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em than at the bubble of a Sit and Go tournament
  • Moving up the limits to financially interesting stakes (up to where you can make a living out of poker) takes much time. You will move up much faster if you specialize on one form of poker and become proficient in it

Bankroll Management When Mixing Poker Variants

We do not recommend playing more or less professionally both Cash Games and Sit and Go tournaments. If you consider yourself being an advanced poker player who is a winning player and absolutely wants to play more than one type of poker games, you can give the mixing of poker variants a try. In this case, you might be wondering what bankroll management (BRM) you should apply. The answer is simple. Assuming that you are a winning player, you should run the same BRM as if you would play only one variant. Therefore, you do not have to split your bankroll to a separate Cash Game and a Sit and Go bankroll. Consider the amount of money you have dedicated to playing poker as your whole poker bankroll. Bankroll management recommendations for No Limit Cash Games are that you should have at least 20, better 30 to 50 stacks. For Sit and Go’s, you should have at least 50, better 100 Buy-Ins.

The reason why you do not have to split your poker bankroll is the following: You assume that you are a winning player. Would you halve your bankroll if you would play only SNG? No. And would you split your bankroll into two parts if you would play both $11 and $22 SNG tournaments simultaneously? No. Exactly the same reasoning applies if you play different poker variants. Sticking to the proper bankroll management recommendations minimized the risk of going broke. But if you consider yourself being a winning player on more than one poker variant, you do not have to split your bankroll and you can play on both types of poker games at the highest limits set by your bankroll management.

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