Poker isn’t just the greatest card game in the world: It’s several great games. When you’re playing at Ignition Poker, you have your choice of Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi/Lo. Go to a live casino that’s busy enough, and you also might find classic poker games like Razz, Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, Deuce-to-Seven, Ace-to-Five, Badugi – the list is practically endless. But no matter what online poker game you play, it must fall under one of two formats: cash games, or tournaments.

The differences between the two are big enough that you could be really good at one format, and awful at the other. Cash games (including Zone Poker), where each hand is its own discrete event, require a different approach than tournaments (including Sit-and-Gos), where you play a series of hands and try to outlast your opponents. Here are four of the key differences to watch out for when you’re deciding which games to play.
 

Time Requirements

When you sit down at a cash table, you can play as long as you like – one hand, 100 hands, it’s up to you. Then you can come back later and play some more. Tournaments go on until a winner is declared, so unless you want to forfeit, you have to stick around to claim your prize. This could take hours, or even days for a major tournament like the World Series of Poker Main Event.
 

Stack Sizes

In a cash game at Ignition Poker, you can buy in for the minimum of 30 big blinds, or the standard 100 big blinds, or anywhere in between. In tournaments, you start with however many chips they give you, and your stack goes up or down from there. You’ll be working with a lot of different stack sizes when you play tournaments; each size requires a different way of thinking.
 

Skill Level

Most recreational poker players prefer to play tournaments, looking for that big score at the end. Cash poker tends to draw higher-skilled players who want to “grind” out an hourly income. If you’re still learning the ropes, don’t completely ignore cash games – the microstakes are a great place to work on your skills. But you’ll probably find more success in tournaments early on.
 

Variance

On average, whatever your skill level, you’re only going to make the money once in every 5-7 tournaments you play. If you happen to go on a run of bad cards, it could be a while before you see any profit. The turnover is much quicker in cash poker; the next hand is just around the corner, giving you another opportunity to add something to your bankroll. Consider diversifying your portfolio and playing a blend of tournaments and cash games if you’re serious about making money at poker.