You need to make adjustments to your game when switching between cash games and tournaments. One important adjustment relates to blind stealing – making a pre-flop raise with the intention of winning the blinds by inducing players in the blinds to fold.
In most No Limit Hold’em tournaments, antes are introduced at some level which makes blind stealing even more lucrative. In cash games without antes, trying to steal blinds is rarely the goal because when you get a good hand, you want action. Skilled tournament players, on the other hand, try to avoid confrontation as much as possible. They’re happy to increase their chip stacks with a steady diet of blind stealing and small pot wins.
In tournaments, players typically raise when they enter the pot. In cash games, though, players are more likely to limp in before the flop. That’s because cash games are usually deeper-stacked meaning that players will have a higher ratio of chips in relation to the blinds than they would in a tournament. This results in looser play with players calling raises with a wide range of hands.
Also, there is generally less reraising in cash games. As a rule, in cash games, you want to see the flop cheaply. You can’t do that in tournaments as players are often forced to gamble with their marginal hands as antes are introduced and blinds increase.
Let’s take a look at how a hand like pocket sixes plays differently in a cash game versus tournament play.
You’re in a big cash game and you and your opponent each have more than 30,000 chips. With blinds at 100-200, a player raises to 600 from early position. You’re sitting on the button. What’s the correct play?
In this situation, simply call the bet, see the flop, and hope that you get lucky and hit a set to win a big pot. Reraising pre-flop with 6-6 just isn’t much of an option. If you had raised and your opponent had a bigger pair, he’d likely make a strong reraise. In that scenario, it would cost you too much to see the flop and your raise would be wasted.
Okay, same hand but this time you’re in a tournament with a 25 ante from nine players and your chip stack is only 5,500. With pocket sixes, you really only have two options: move all-in or fold.
Calling the 600 raise would put ten percent of your chips at risk and that’s too much to gamble when you’re down to hoping for an unlikely third six. Folding your hand would be a better option.
Alternatively, you could push all-in and hope that everyone else folds, in which case you’d add more than twenty percent to your chip stack. If you do get called, you’d be a small favorite against two over cards like A-K or A-Q. In the worst case, you’d still have a twenty percent chance to win if your opponent had a higher pocket pair.
Another necessary adjustment relates to the size of your raises before the flop.
In tournaments, you want to steal the blinds as cheaply as possible without risking a high percentage of your chips. To do that, keep your pre-flop raises small – no more than 2 ½ to 3 times the size of the big blind.
In cash games, you’re apt to see more players staying in to see the flop. If you have a hand worth playing, your best options are to either limp in or make a slightly larger pre-flop raise to build the pot and narrow the competition. A raise of four times the big blind should do the trick.
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