Cash Games vs SNGs vs MTTs

John Mehaffey - January 31, 2012

There are three standard online poker games. These are cash games, single table tournaments (also known as sit and gos), and multi table tournaments. While all of these games involve poker, each is slightly different. Here I will go over the differences between the three games.

Cash Games

A cash game is the standard type of game that is played around kitchen tables in tens of thousands of homes every night. It involves buying in to the game with cash and receiving that amount of chips in return to play with in the game. Each hand is not dependent on another hand. After a hand ends a player can rebuy for more chips into the game for the next hand. This means that making one bad all in call or getting drawn out by a player chasing a draw does not ruin the night like it would for a player in a tournament. Players can leave the poker game at any time. There is typically a set ante or blind structure that does not change during the game. The game will run as long as there are players willing to play and the house is still open. If the game is played in a casino, there is typically a 10% up to $4 or $5 rake. If the game is played online, there is a 5% rake up to either $1 or $3, depending on the limit.

Single Table Tournaments

Single table tournaments have been given the slang term sit and gos. This is because as tournaments grew in size a sit and go can actually be more than one table. There is also not a scheduled time for these to start. As soon as there are enough entrants to the tournament it will start. Some poker rooms have sit and gos that run to as high as 180 players. Typically though, when someone says they are playing in a sit and go the tournament only has one table.

The tournament starts by dealing out one card to each player. The player with the highest card is the button, or the dealer’s position. The player to the left of the button is the small blind and the second player is the big blind. After each hand the button moves one position to the left and so do the blinds. After a pre determined time the blinds will go up. Typically the blind sizes will double when blinds go up. If the tournament has one table, the tournament will typically pay three players. If there is more than one table, the top 15% of players are usually paid. The rake in online sit and gos live is typically about 10% of the buyin.

Multi Table Tournaments

Multi table tournaments are scheduled events that start at a specific time. These tournaments often take a long period of time if a player runs deep towards the money. Big tournaments can take up to 18 hours to finish. Smaller multi table tournaments will still take as many as 8 hours. It is important to set aside enough time to play one of these tournaments if you enter one. There is nothing worse than getting a deep stack, only to have to go to work.

The button is determined by dealing the high card at one table. The seat number that is dealt the high card determines the button at all tables in the tournament. Just as with a sit and go, the small blind is to the left of the button and the big blind is the second to the left. Blinds will go up after a predetermined amount of time. In online tournaments there is a break once an hour, typically at the top of the hour. This way all multi table tournaments take breaks at the same time in case players are playing more than one tournament. Live tournaments will take a break once every 1-2 hours. The prize pool is typically divided among the top 10-15% of the places in the tournament.

Some multi table tournaments will have what are called rebuys. This means that a player will be able to receive a new entry size chip stack if they pay another entry fee. This entry fee will usually be free of any rake which is typically about 10% of the buyin. Some tournaments also have an addon. This means that after the first break a player can pay a set amount and receive a bigger chip stack. Addons tend to be 1-2 times the size of a starting stack.

Multi table tournaments are very high variance. This is because one small mistake or one big draw out by another player can lead to the end of a tournament for a player, regardless of how well they played. It takes a large sample size to determine how well a player performs in multi table tournaments just because of this variance.