Is it Possible to be a Great Tournament and Cash Game Player?

One thing that always puzzles me about poker is how it seems that certain people in the game can dominate live cash games and/or online ring games but they can’t find their way off the first couple of tables in a big tournament.  The reverse can be true as well where great tournament players will get taken for all they’re worth in a good cash game.

The reason this puzzles me is because the Texas Hold’em rules don’t change just because there is a tournament or a cash game.  It’s still two hole cards to each player and a board of five cards.  But perhaps the only thing that truly changes is the way that successful players play in each situation.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the majority of of successful cash game players follow the tight/aggressive model that hauls in a decent amount of money.  Obviously some people are better at using the tight/aggressive style than others and thus they bring in more cash while they’re playing.

On the flip side, it often seems that aggressive players who are willing to go all-in at any given point (provided they have at least something in their hand) are the ones who double their stacks in tourneys and find themselves competing for spots at the final tables of a lot of tourneys they enter. 

These same players who compete in cash games will, in many cases, find their loose and reckless style to be detrimental to a bankroll.  At some tables, their loose play may scare super tight players away from pots but they’ll most likely be called with their all-in A-5 bets by someone at sometime.

Oftentimes in a tournament though, this all-in A-5 bet will turn out to be a winner because the tight players don’t want to risk their entire (or a large portion) of their stack by calling this bet.  And it is these tight players (who may excel at cash games) that are rarely ever found at the top of a tournament leaderboard.  They merely try to hang on and, in the process, never try to build their stack till it’s too late.

In my opinion, cash game players looking to play more tournaments and tourney players looking to get in on more cash games can learn something from one another.  It’s best to switch one’s style up when changing games.

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