Are free poker tournaments better than cash games?

After sifting through forums there is are common questions like are free poker tournaments better than cash games? Are there too many donkeys playing in the live poker league freeroll tournaments? Can you learn how to become a better poker player by playing free tournaments instead of cash tournaments?

These are all valid questions and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

Every poker player needs to take into consideration their personal position and what they want to achieve from any form of the game. Whether it’s free poker or for cash, you will always find typical stereotypes at the poker tables. Strategies differ just like perspectives or the value of money or the desire to win or the need to gain information. Not even if you truly understand your opponent’s way of thinking can you possibly believe you know how they will act. Sure, you can guess based on experience, knowledge and previous behavior, but you can never for sure know anyone’s moves before they do. You might even suggest you don’t know for sure what your next move might be.

There is credit to suggest that when playing live poker for cash, poker players take it more serious and are conscious of the way they play, are less flippant and play more ‘primo’ hands.

Is this the case?

A riffle shuffle being performed during a game...
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Not really, as I suggested, it is all relative to the individual. There will still be monkeys that play in $10, $50, $200 games, any amount for that matter. You find these types of poker players everywhere. For example, I met a guy in a casino who was playing in a $1000 buy in 30 player tournament. He was down to the final 7, he re-raised all in post flop with mid pair. He was obviously behind and lost dismally to 2 pair. I managed to track him down to question why he played the way he did. His answer, he was in a Teams event starting soon and couldn’t let his partner down.

So by no means can you always predict why players do what they do. Money is relative to the beholder.

The big lesson is the professionals believe it is important playing poker tournaments with the mentality that money doesn’t matter. In other words, you should have your own strategies and stick to them. That doesn’t mean being stringent, you need to adapt to your table and play the live poker tournament accordingly. I have spoken with many poker professionals and they all seem to suggest, money plays a big part in how the small ‘fish’ make their decisions. Obvious poker tells are shown where a player in a poker freeroll may call or raise, whereas in cash games they find themselves not wanting to take the risk and end up making poor decisions based on their chips stack, or not wanting to get knocked out. Compare this to freerolls and players are obviously more flippant and play weaker hands more frequently as they don’t feel the pressure of losing.

You can obviously only pick this up by studying your opponents, watching for poker tells, looking for nerves, learning their body language signals. Play the player not the cards.

Our suggestion is, take advantage of what you can learn as there can be enormous amounts of knowledge to learn from freerolls. It is hard to gauge a lot from your opponents, but more importantly this time should be used to learn more about your own game. This is the place to try new strategies and try new plans. However, you must have the discipline to think like it was a real cash game situation. It is about embedding processes into your subconscious so you act regardless of the value of the game.

Something to think about – it is all relative to your situation. Poker freerolls are common ground for people playing hands, chasing flops and staying in too long because they have nothing to lose. Similarly, I believe this too may be relevant to a poker player that earns over $150k a year and is playing a $10 or $20 poker tournament. For them, $20 may mean nothing and are more than prepared lose it and are more likely to play poor hands. So, just because you’re playing in a cash game, doesn’t mean you will always get people playing a particular way. It is all about perspective, it’s all relevant!!

Just remember, if you work on a plan, it should not matter what amount you are playing for. You just have to play within your comfort zone. If you get nervous or feel you give off obvious poker tells in certain size pots, then maybe your stakes are too high. It comes down to knowing more about you and your opponents, this takes time and you need to be aware of what’s going on around you. It’s never only about the cards, it’s about knowing your game, your opposition and whether you can get on top of both.

At Poker Power, we are strong adversaries of sharing the wealth of knowledge. The internet is a great place to learn and teach and as much as we want to offer solutions, we appreciate there are others that can offer us just as much knowledge in return. If you have any particular techniques for playing in different situations, like freerolls and cash games we would love to hear them. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section below or even feel free to leave any questions also. Reciprocity is a relationship between people involving the exchange of goods, services, favors, or knowledge, especially a mutual exchange of privileges between trading nations. Share what you know with us now.

Keep fishing and land those big ones.

Remember, the Power is in Your Hands!

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