Tournaments or ring games?

Are you a tournament or ring game player?

This is such an interesting question to me that I felt it was necessary to write a column about it. Like the great majority of players, especially newer players to the game of poker, I used to say Both. However, over the past few years I have come to the understanding that I am far from both. I still play tournaments, and even do well occasionally in them, but I am a ring game player.

This is not to say that many players aren’t both. Many professional players are certainly equally good at both tournament and ring game poker. Here is the big difference. I am not a professional poker player. I may be one some day, but until that time, I have stopped answering the question in the title with Both.

I can hear it now from many of you. What’s the difference? A good poker player is a good poker player no matter what they are playing. While this is true, the point I am making is this: Beyond the basics, the skills necessary to be a consistent winner in tournaments and ring games are different. As you are learning to play poker and improving with experience, you should concentrate on one form or the other.

Poker is easy to play, but so hard to master, that all of your work should be concentrated early in your career on improving a certain area of your game. Once you master one area, then you should expand your selection and try to become a solid overall player.

I firmly believe that my growth as a poker player was stunted to some degree by jumping from format to format. When I started playing online, I would play ring games, sit-n-gos and multi table tournaments, often at the same time. I would even go so far as to play both Texas holdem and Omaha/8 at the same time. Talk about setting yourself up to struggle.

Of course my long-term goal of being a solid well-rounded player eventually was accomplished, it took a long time and was not as profitable as it could have been. By concentrating on one area, you will become more profitable and you will enter the next area with much more confidence in your abilities.

Give yourself an honest evaluation when you think about the above question and decide what type of player you are. Once you can give an honest answer, you will be able to work towards mastering your best area of play and then expanding your game.

Until next week, good luck at the tables.