Can Playing Cash Poker Games be More Profitable Than Playing Real Money Poker Tournaments?

Closeup of Poker Cards and Chips on a Table on Left and a Packed Poker Room on Right

The poker boom led to a lot of eyes focusing on the top players competing at the highest level, or so it would seem. The constant coverage of tournaments like the World Series of Poker had prize pools in the millions.

So, many novice poker fans naturally assumed that this was life-changing money for many of these poker sharks. However, many elite poker players will assure you that the tournaments are great for your prestige, but cash games fund their lavish lifestyle.

What about the average poker player who merely wants to turn a profit and has no plans of quitting their day job? Can playing cash poker games be more profitable than poker tournaments?

Take a look and see if you’ve been allocating your time and resources to the wrong areas of the game.

The Hardened Veterans Are Always Hammering Tournaments

Poker tournaments have a way of drawing out the best players in the region. The larger the event, the higher the level of players it will draw.

Players can often squeak by at the lower rung daily events because most of the competition is merely trying to kill some time in the casino. Still, the sharks are constantly circling, eating away at the weaker players.

That alone makes tournament life hard on many players. When you begin playing enough tournaments, you’ll see that the same players are consistently near the top, battling for the prize.

If you’re a relative rookie to playing tournaments, it can be tough to find your footing. You are always looking over your shoulder and watching the other players’ actions.

Even when you get to a final table with a chip lead, there’s additional pressure not to blow it. You have all eyes on you, and the other players will all be vying for a piece of your stack.

Skilled players can make a decent profit playing tournaments. But the buy-in can eat away at earnings if you’re not consistently in the money.

Playing Cash Games Frees You Up to Do More

When you play in a poker tournament, you must devote 100% of your attention to that event. In the case of larger tournaments, that could spell an investment of several days chipping away at the competition without much to show for the effort.

When that occurs, you miss other opportunities. I was in Florida with a buddy who invited me to a prestigious poker tournament in Tampa.

I lived in the area for a few years, so I was able to get us connections on lodging near the tournament venue and transportation. The plan was for my friend to back me in cash games while he played the event.

We’d split all winnings 60/40, with the lion’s share going to the player. I figured it was a can’t lose scenario for us and was excited about the trip.

Pai Gow Poker Table

On days one and two, things went well for each of us, and I was averaging about eleven big blinds an hour against the locals and a whole bunch of snowbirds.

However, things got kicked off on day three when I was invited to a private cash game. The game was set over two nights, and players could buy in or cash out at their leisure.

My friend was in the hunt for the tournament and was confined to the strict regiment of the event. So, I was on a solo mission to try and maintain the streak I was on in the poker room.

Over the next two nights, I cleaned the house. My friend made it to the final table and only earned about 70% of what I had in less than half the time.

When playing tournaments, you sometimes miss grander opportunities away from the casino. That can make cash poker games more lucrative.

Your Total Investment of Time Is Lower for Cash Games

One of the essential areas to look at as a poker player is your win rate. If you go to the casino and win $100, it’s important to weigh how much time you spent working for that money.

Going to the casino and cashing out with a $100 profit in three hours is solid. However, a ten-hour investment for a mere $100 isn’t worth much note.

Many players find cash games to be more beneficial because of the lower investment of time. A tournament could burn up hours of your day with little or nothing to show for it.

However, a cash game allows you to immediately get out if things went well or you see that there’s no opportunity.

Making a lower initial commitment of time can work in the player’s favor as they grind to make any profit they can.

You’ll Control Your Opponents in Cash Games

When you play tournament poker, the random seating can make for some horrible draws. There’s undoubtedly a table where several of the top players are seated together in any tournament.

For the average poker player, this can spell the kiss of death. In cash games, you’ll occasionally find yourself at tables where the competition is well above your skill level. However, you can merely request a move, and the casino will put you at a different table.

You can dial in your opponents, even more when you play regular cash games. The objective is to play against weaker opponents.

Full Poker Room on Left Empty Poker Room on Right

You have zero control over your opponents in tournament play. That means if you land at the wrong table, you’re going to see an early exit without some luck.

When poker players are relegated to depending on luck to make things work, there’s a low margin of success in their future.

You Aren’t Forced to Play with People Who Drive You Nuts

It sounds trivial, but there’s something that can eat away at you when you’re seated with a player you can’t stand. It’s different than merely being outmatched.

Poker seems more laborious when you play against someone who genuinely rubs you the wrong way. Every move the player makes feels like an opportunity to end the suffering and send them home.

I’ve watched as even the most seasoned poker player lost their cool in poker games. The results are usually catastrophic as the player knocks themselves out.

That leaves their arch-nemesis in the game and probably scratching their head about the boneheaded play. The truth is that the player that is the object of your angst likely has no clue that you can’t stand them.

So, gunning for them will only serve to hurt you. If you stick to playing cash poker games, you don’t have to endure players who drive you mad.

Ultimately, that allows you to focus on your cards and play better. Since you’re free of unnecessary distraction, you’ll see more profits.

As a bonus, you’ll enjoy your time at the poker table. It may seem trivial, but your profits will suffer if you stop having fun.

You’ll Have More Chances for Profitable Sessions

The leading factor in cash poker games being more profitable than poker tournaments is the number of chances you have for fruitful sessions.

Everything needs to go according to plan for the average poker player to win a tournament. Even cashing in an event is a feat that few recreational players ever enjoy.

Poker Room at Derby Lane

Players must dodge more skilled opponents, bad beats, and the mental strain of tournament poker. That’s if they want a chance at the cash; consistently pulling that off is a tall ask.

In cash games, players are free to operate much more loosely. You don’t have to account for the blinds stepping up or catching a table of pros.

The fish tend to avoid tournament play for those reasons. So, play where the fish are by sticking to the cash games.

Tournament Players Can Coast Through the Less Stressful Experience of Cash Games

The bottom line is that the cash game scene is far less stressful than trying to churn profits from tournament play consistently. For starters, the level of competition in cash games is much lower.

Even when you play a low buy-in event with plenty of fish, you may be making less per hour than if you were playing cash games. So, unless you are dead confident in your ability to make a final table at a major event, the cash games will generate more repeatable profits.

However, playing tournaments is a fantastic way to score significant wins on occasion, and they can help gauge your skill level.

Can Playing Cash Games Be More Profitable Than Poker Tournaments?

Yes, but the opposite could be valid for a few lucky players. Most average players are going to see more consistent success playing in cash games.

When you make a run at the massive tournament fields, you’ll have to get lucky too often for things to work in your favor.