How should your strategy change in a tournament versus a cash game?

Assume a tournament with no or one re-buy. And you have a sufficient bankroll.

2 Answers 2


Will not accept my own answer.

In a cash game a chip has a direct cash equivalent. If you double up you double up. If you go broke you can just re-buy. EV (expected value) is correct.

In a tournament the chip does not have a direct cash equivalent. In a tournament the objective is to survive. A chip you lose is worth more than a chip you win. Double up early does not double your chances to win. Lose your stack guarantees your chance to be out of the tournament.

A coin flip is not a good bet in a tournament. Unless you are up against a small stack.

You have more fold equity as a chip they lose worth more than a chip they win. Especially against smaller stack.

Avoid all-in unless you are pretty sure you have your opponent dominated. Add in speculative hands like suited connectors as when they hit you will typically have your opponent dominated. Go for pot control. Some opponents are not going to let you play for pot control. But you cannot auto fold or they will abuse you. Even if you are 2:1 not really looking to get all your chips in. If they put you all in then you should call if you think you are 2:1. Avoid bigger stacks unless you are on premium cards.

Range will play different unless you are small stacked. A hand like 78s is more valuable as if you hit a flush, straight, or trips then you are likely good. A one gapper is valuable as more disguised. So you play more hands if you can get in for the right price. A weak ace goes down in value as you can lose a big pot. Don't let your bet sizing telegraph your hand. Come in for like 2.5 BB.

Raise with 78s is where it gets expensive but that is also a spot were you can make some relatively safe money. If you are just going to call with 78s then you need to do that with some of your premium hands also.

If a fish opens for even 5 BB call with your whole range and stack them because they think 2 pair is good. Or call down middle pair when you have top pair.

You can still be aggressive if you have the chips but still play for pot control. Negreanu will typically bet out the flop even with a 4 outer draw to apply pressure. Even when he hits he smooth calls a lot. Seems like he checks the turn a lot.

As the blinds go up compared to your stack size you are going to need to play bigger pots and all-ins.

If you are the big stack you can abuse the small stacks with like a weak ace late. You can open from the button with almost any two cards. Start opening for little higher. But you don't need get crazy as your chips behind have fold equity. A draw hand like 78s is not worth playing against a small stack. If they are real small and you know they would be playing a wide range then adjust but be aware you can be raised behind.

If I get late in a tournament I totally flop it around and get aggressive pre as I am not going to be one of the better players at the table. They are not going to let me play pot control.

Not the only way to play a tournament. Some go aggressive early to build chips.


Stack to pot ratio and stack to blinds ratio are the biggest conceptual differences in the two forms. In a tournament, your opening hand range broadens as your stack to blind ratio becomes smaller. In a cash game, your opening range depends more on table dynamics than stack to blinds factor.

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