Monday, March 05, 2007

MATH Update, and Cash vs. Tournament Skill

OK so as I mentioned yesterday, the Hammer Family is on vacation this week in beautiful, sunny Florida, and as such I am not playing any poker during this time off. I have to say, as I always say in these situations, as much as I love getting my poker on most nights, taking a few nights away can be a really glorious thing, especially after a particularly bullshitty spate of bad beats such as I have been taking recently. Over the past few days, on at least three separate occasions I've had monkeyclowns call my pot-sized bet on the turn with nothing but a flush draw, and then hit the flush on the river. I've had Aces, Kings and Queens cracked far more often than they've won, and I've been losing with regularity with my two overs to my short stacked opponent's desperate two-unders pushes. Anyways, all this is just a long way of saying that I am loving the short break from online poker this week, and while I look forward to getting back to the grind, this time away is truly coming at a great time.

Unfortunately, my break also meant just the second Mondays at the Hoy tournament of the year without yours truly last night, which hurts doubly because I have the top spot on the 2007 MATH leaderboard to protect. Fortunately, it appears that my top honors and the concurrent bragging rights will persist for one more week, as last night saw only one player already on the 2007 leaderboard putting up another cash, and that player was bayne_s, who ended in 3rd place for $72. Second place was WPBT POY race progenitor Byron, for $108, and winning the event on Monday night was first-time bartonfa for the $180 first prize. I would love to post the details of how mr. bartonfa took down the 18-person tournament in his first ever appearance in the MATH, but since I wasn't there I just can't say. Maybe some of the other fine bloggers who participated on Monday night can let us know of any of the standout plays, but otherwise let me just say congratulations to our three cashers (including to bayne for advancing to 3rd place on the 2007 board), and I'll see you next week to further defend my record reign atop the Hoy leaderboard. Here are the updated MATH standings after this week's Hoy-less tournament:

1. Hoyazo $472
2. Fuel55 $458
3. Bayne_s $342
4. VinNay $310
5. Wigginx $288
6. Manik79 $252
7. bartonfa $180
8. Smokkee $162
9. Chad $120
9. Zeem $120
11. Ganton516 $114
12. Byron $108
12. Omega_man_99 $108
14. NewinNov $90
15. Columbo $80
15. PhinCity $80
15. jeciimd $80
18. l.e.s.ter000 $72
19. Julius Goat $60

Today, I have just one other quick question to ask of you all, and it is in response to a comment left by Wes to my post from yesterday. Wes made the statement in a comment that "cash game is of more skill than tournaments", and it was made in a very matter-of-fact way, as if it is obviously true. Now, let me start by saying that, although I am a tournament player almost exclusively (when it comes to nlh anyways), I take absolutely zero offense to this statement, and I am not raising it today because it bothers me and I want to shoot it down. Rather, I am interested in hearing from all of you whether or not you agree with the statement, purely for interest's sake. In other words, in my head tournament poker requires its own set of skills and talents that simply do not come up in a cash game context, and surely the opposite is also true about cash games, and I know of a great many players -- professionals and bloggers alike -- who are good in either type of poker but not in the other. But is it true generally speaking in your view that cash poker is more of a skill game than tournament poker? I was surprised by the matter of fact nature with which Wes made the comment, and I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment. So let me know your thoughts -- although I'm not playing any online poker this week, I am reading blogs with abandon so I'll be checking in to hear what you all have to say.

Suppoed to be sunny and 78 today where I'm at. Life is good.

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Blogger wigginx said...

I agree that both cash and tournaments require their own set of skills. I wonder if players who think tournaments are less skill-based often find themselves racing for all their chips. In my opinion, one of the trickiest tournament skills to master is stack management: picking your spots and making positional plays to keep your stack healthy and avoid getting into a situation where you need to race to stay above water.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Max said...

When I read Wes' comment I laughed and took it as a tongue-in-cheek shot at you because we all know you are primarily a tournament player.

That being said, I do think that there is a different set of skills you need to be good at each form. I tend to find cash games a little more challenging myself and would probably lean toward agreeing with that.

8:24 PM  
Blogger TechGuyTom said...

Here your going to have the cash game players say it's true, and the tournament players saying the skill set is different.

It's a futile argument in the long run but I will agree that cash game strategy can be vastly different from tournament strategy. I learned the game of poker by playing limit cash games and NL tournaments. I would consider myself a decent player at both versions of the game, yet NL Cash games continue to confound me.

Is that because cash games require more skill? No. It simply requires a skill set I don't have the patience to work on yet.

The game we learn in the beginning of our poker journey will almost always be looked upon like our first love. The view we have of it as we look back will always be clouded by the good times. The bad times... well they just fade away.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

You think Wes was joking me there? I didn't get that impression. Either way like I said I don't take any offense to the statement, but I do wonder in general whether people believe that. Certainly it's two different skill sets, but is one set of skills really "harder" than the other?

11:20 PM  
Blogger Astin said...

The argument could be made for cash games since a large aspect of tournaments is the blind:stack ratio. Since there's no blind increases in cash games, there never comes a point when skill becomes removed from the equation (as opposed to late stages of a tournament, when blinds can become overwhelming to average stacks).

That said, I agree with everyone that there are two different skill sets required. Stack management and the power of the all-in are far more important in a tournament (NL obviously) than cash.

But at the end of the day, where are the donkeys going to find more success in the long run? I'd argue that you want one at your cash table far more than in your tournament.

However, a tournament specialist will do poorly against a cash specialist at a cash game, and visa-versa.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I believe that players who play and excell at cash games AND tournaments are the ones with more skill. So, if you are a cash game player who can't win at tournaments, then you have cash game skills, but you lack tournament skills. I suppose this is part of the "different skill set" argument, but too often I have seen cash players act like tournament poker is the lottery, and to me, those cash game players are just not skilled at tournaments, and therefore assume that tournament play is not as skill-based. I don't take offense to Wes' comment, but I do think that the cash game players who think that tournament play is nothing but a lotto cannot see the Ted Forrest for the trees.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

I think was Wes is trying to say is that REQUIRED SKILL FOR SUCCESS is proportional to STACK DEPTH. Cash games are often very deep and as such require more subtle play to maximiaze value than shortstacked tourneys.

Additionally tournaments have so much more dead money in them than cash games. Lots of people fart around in $50 tourneys but very few fart around in$5/10NL cash games.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Lets just put it this way...

The best online tournament players can expect to make like 80k max a month. The best MIDSTAKES cash game player can make 80k+ a month. Talk about high stakes, and it's in another realm.

Also, a successful cash game player can easily morph into a successful tournament player, but not the other way around. Learning to devolve your game into only seeing preflop + the flop (if you are lucky enough to be that deep) is not too hard. But, a cash game player switching over doesn't happen often since there is so much more money made at cash games.

1:04 AM  
Blogger BigPirate said...

Weasley comment here but I will have to agree with the argument it is a completely different skill set. That being said, I feel tournamenr play is easier than cash game play as so much of tournament play is (pre)determined by the blind levels and stack sizes. The recognition of circumstances and the optimal play is a very advanced skill and is one that good tourney players have. Most of those decsions come pre-flop and flop though. Only early in tourney play are pots routinely decided after the turn or river as the stacks are still in a proportion to the blinds where play on those streets is still feasible. Felicia always said something along the lines that 7stud is a more difficult game than HE as there are more streets, therefore more decisions. The same argument can be made for cash NL games; you will probably have to make more tough decisions playing for cash on any particular hand than you would on the same hand in a tournament.

Tournament play is science, deep stack cash games an art. A tournament player is an architect drawing a skyscraper while the cash player is dabbing blobs of paint on canvas that eventually turn into a pond full of lillies.

2:06 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

Tournaments that are Deep Stack relative to the blinds require the same set of skills that a cash game requires.

Standard online tournaments (1500 starting chips 15/30 intial blinds) make set mining less possible as the raise to 3x BB, re-raise to 9x BB, that Fuel55 espouses as the easiest hands to play in Hold'em are not profitable during 1st level unless both players involved have increased starting stack.

Play in these is almost all pre-flop hand selection and single bet on flop. Ability to Float turn and steal on river is almost eliminated unless pre-flop pot is kept tiny.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Tournament plays can dissolve into making X play at Y time because of escalating blinds regardless of the other 2-9 people at your table.

That is where the "lol donkuments" come from. Would you push 29o pre-flop in a cash game? A good majority would say no.

Now give yourself 4BBs and folded to you in late position and you have two timid people in the blinds also with short stacks. What's the correct play?

Different values of risk between the two and many cash or tourney "specialists" don't mesh the two well enough to excel at both.

3:33 AM  
Blogger surflexus said...

I'll be in AC March 15-17th. If you are going to be around and want to play some poker let me know!!

4:14 AM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

Totally different skills in cash vs tourney -- especialy cash vs freezeout. I like freezeouts since everyone has that finite stack with which to work, you have to consider relative chip stacks, blinds, etc. It is a totally different mindset than cash games, especially when you know your opponents can just reload if you bust them.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

I dont thinks its a question at all. Firstly because in a tourney your not playing with REAL MONEY. Not to mention you have the saftey net of only losing that buy in. Now i dont care what you say there is HUGE difference between raising someone 1k in tourney chips and raising someone 1k of your own money. I mean look at most tourney players out there that are celeberites. Most of them are broke and get staked to play. The ones that do well grind in the cash games. A cash player can adjust to tourney player with ease while a tourney player adjusting to cash is quite another story....

5:50 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

The only people who say that are the ones who don't win tournaments.....

9:22 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Me being up +20k lifetime at tournaments would say otherwise.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I'm not gonna say that I'm an expert in either one but I believe I am a relatively good cash game player but a pretty shitty tournament player. I agree with the whole argument of two different skill sets because that's definitely true. Another thought here is that in a cash game, at least in the lower levels, you can wait for a big hand (whether it's a big starting hand or a big flop) and make a lot of money when you have the best of it. In other words, you can be totally patient and wait out a shitty run of cards because the blinds never go up. In a tournament, you can't do that. You can't just sit back and wait for a big hand because the blinds go up so if you're not managing your stack, you have to get yourself in a race situation and hope that you catch a card or hope that your pair holds up. In other words, in those instances, I can see people saying "see, more skill is required in cash compared to tournaments because in tournaments, I'm always in a race." Well, the people that say that I think are just not understanding the other strategy/skill required in tournament which is to build your stack so that your tournament life doesn't necessarily lie on a race. I think tournaments force you to switch gears because of the escalating blinds and when people aren't successfully switching gears, that's probably where they feel that the skill part is gone and now it's just a preflop crap shoot.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

The players with the best poker skills play cash games. It is where the $/Hr is at if you have the skills to make them. I would say this tends to make cash games tougher and harder to beat than tournaments. The skillset is quite different though.

I think the adjustments that you make for tournaments while difficult are straight forward (stack sizes, blind levels), while the adjustments for cash games are difficult and much more subtle. This makes cash games a tougher beast to master than tourneys IMO.

3:40 AM  

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