Poker cash games have been around since the invention of the game. It makes sense, given that only one table of players was usually interested in playing. However, as poker became more popular, MTTs were invented, MTT meaning Multi-Table Tournaments. It’s what is played at the WSOP, WPT, and many of your local casinos. Learn more about MTT poker below.
What is MTT Poker?
As stated above, MTT poker is the tournament format of poker. In this, the starting field all buy-in for the same amount of money. At your local daily MTT event, the buy-in is likely anywhere from $40 to $400. The WSOP Main Event is a $10,000 MTT, and tournament officials have gone as high as a $1,000,000 buy-in on multiple occasions, the highest stakes MTT ever played.
MTTs kick off with every table playing the same blind levels, and with all players getting the same starting stack. Many players prefer tournaments over cash games because on paper it presents a more even playing field. In a cash game, a richer opponent can often buy in for a stack much higher than yours, automatically giving them a theoretical edge. In MTT poker, everyone starts at the same point, with the same stack. Sure richer opponents can play more aggressively, especially in events that allow multiple re-entries, but it still presents the most even playing field option for players of all stakes.
Most tournaments are played with nine or ten players at the table, though 6-max is also a popular format, especially online, and there are even 4-player MTTs online on sites like PokerStars and GGPoker. As players get eliminated, tables will be broken to help fill empty seats and narrow the field. This happens until we get to the point where all remaining players are at the same table. That, of course, is called the final table. The winner of that table wins the whole event.
Differences Between MTTs and Cash Games
We touched briefly on this in another article about cash games. There are several differences in the strategy one uses in cash games compared to tournaments, and it’s the main reason why a majority of players choose to focus on one discipline over the other.
|Make consistent money
|Big scores once in a while
|Flexibilty, you can leave or join when you want
|You are locked in for hours at a time
|More difficult to learn, need to play better post flop
|Easier to learn, smaller stacks, easier decisions
|More high stakes action, many fish
|Not as high stakes, but even more fish
One main difference is the varying importance of certain hands in MTT play as opposed to cash games. In a cash game, every pot is independent of the next, and it’s less often that the difference in stack sizes makes a massive difference in a player’s strategy.
This is not the case in MTT poker. In tournaments, a huge coin flip like Ace King vs pocket queens is far less important in the first few levels, and far more important in the later stages and final table, where ICM play is considered.
ICM means Independent Chip Module. It places a dollar value on every chip in your stack. Decisions at final tables are often worth thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, so of course it will affect how certain players play certain hands. In cash games, the hand six hours from now has the same importance as the one that was just played. It’s also easier for players to build massive stacks in MTTs, and if they are, they can greatly increase their aggression, changing the whole dynamic of the table in a way that doesn’t happen often in a cash game.
Another major difference is the amount of money you can win. Cash games are more of a marathon, while tournaments can be a sprint, at least when it comes to winning big money. It’s unlikely you will win life changing money by grinding $2/$5 cash games. To do that, you need to be playing at the stakes of top professionals, closer to $50/$100, and often much more. However, in MTTs, you can risk as little as $500-$1,000, and win six figures in just a couple of days in places like Los Angeles, Florida, and Las Vegas. The winner of the WSOP Main Event, for example, has turned $10,000 into at least $8,000,000 every year for the last decade. And if you are playing online, you can even play for free in order to gain valuable MTT experience.
- Increased first deposit bonus
- Increased rakeback and reloads
- Help with deposits and cashouts
- Access to closed freerolls
- Round-the-clock support
A Live MTT vs Online MTT
The next big difference to look at is live Multi-Table Tournaments vs Online Multi-Table Tournaments. Online poker is often considered live poker on speed, given how many more hands you get in per hour online than live, since you don’t have to wait for the dealers to shuffle the cards and handle the blinds and antes. As a result, you have to prepare for the variance of tournament poker to be amped up in online play.
Different websites offer different perks and rewards. PokerStars are famous for their WCOOP and SCOOP Poker Series, where players around the world come together to battle it out for some of the biggest prizes in all of poker, both live and online. It has been the most reputable name in online poker since the poker boom.
While Pokerstars and GGPoker are full of poker pros and online regulars, newer players might be happier with a site like 888poker. The fields are generally much softer there, and 888poker is known for its generous bonus program, which is not limited to first-time deposits like many of its competitors.
Lastly, AmericasCardRoom is one of the best websites for players who like to use HUDs, Heads up Displays, and trackers, in order to keep stats on your opponents to help them learn how they play. WPN also has the Venom Main Event, which has had a guarantee of $10,000,000 in the past.
In addition, reading your opponent’s physical reactions is clearly a massive part of the live game that is missing when you are playing behind a computer, and can’t see your opponents. Of course, the ICM implications are still in play in online tournaments, and they can also be amplified in some of the bigger events, especially since online events always have quicker blind levels compared to live poker that drags for hours at a time.