Ring game players vs Tournament players

I have not played any MMT games just Ring games. I’ve noticed that a lot of Ring players with rankings better than 25,000 or so are often not very good Ring game players. I wonder if this is because they are primarily MMT players? Is there a different skill set that make someone a good MMT player and not such a good Ring game player? I would love to hear what other people think.

Forget the “rankings”. This is a free site and they mean almost nothing. In answer to your query about skill sets, yes, different skill sets are needed to play successfully in either format.

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I started out playing ring, but switched to tournaments, and haven’t really looked back.

Ring games tend to be wild. Players can come and go at any time, and can rebuy when they bust. These factors contribute to a riskier style of play. I’ll sit at a ring table and watch different players get all-in, hand after hand, not caring if they bust, rebuy when they must. It’s hard to play against opponents who don’t value their chips.

In tournament play, with no rebuy, you only get the chips you sat down with, or the chips you win. This forces players to play more like their chips have some value, because if they lose them, they can’t just go get more. So you can outplay them. I that makes it more of a skill game. Not that playing Ring games profitably doesn’t take skill. But there’s so much bingo play at the Ring tables I’ve seen that it’s tough for a skilled player to do well against players who just throw their chips around to get lucky at random.

I think that the main difference is that tournament players are smarter and better looking, while ring players tend to be goofy and have buck teeth. The “survival” aspects of MTTs make them a different beast.


Lol, I love you man!

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Also they are extremely shy and modest :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Thanks for the comment. Could you elaborate on the different skill sets needed to play on the different formats?


I don’t normally share what I’ve learned about poker, but given this is a free site, and that none of what I am going to share with you is anything more than SOME of the rudimentary basics. First, rather than talk about what is different, let’s talk about what is the same.

Most important to success in either venue is having at LEAST a minimal understanding of “odds”. Show me a player who doesn’t at least understand what pot odds are and I will sit down on his left every chance I can get.

Which brings me to my second major key, POSITION. It doesn’t matter if you are playing cash or tourney, overall position is the most important factor (aside from getting decent cards to play, which you have no control over). I can float for a while at either a cash table or tournament with bad cards IF I can occasionally get a hand in “good” position, until the deck warms to me. If the deck is stone cold position means little, unless you think you can make a living bluffing. NOT for long and certainly not on a free site!

If this all makes clear sense to you then perhaps the “next” step is appropriate. If what I have shared is Chinese to you, then you have a LONG way to go. The only solution there is time, time and more time, at the tables. Poker, perhaps more than any other competition I’ve ever seen, typically rewards the most experienced and patient (also critical to both) players. For the most part trying to learn skills here you can transfer to live play is minimal at best, once you exhausted learning the basics of poker. There is much that can be learned here (RP) along those lines.

How would you characterize your skill level? How old are you? How many times have you been to Vegas, if ever? What was that experience like (assuming you played)? How much time do you want to allot to learning, as a opposed to playing for “enjoyment” only? The two are mutually exclusive, IF you want to ever make real money playing poker. At the top level poker is very hard work, both physically and mentally, and rarely (check statistics) rewarded when you play others with the same skill sets. That is why the best players have taken to selling their action to each other, so as to balance out the highs and lows.


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@NickinAtlanta ,
The main difference between Rings and MTT/SnGs is simple, In Rings, you maximize risk/reward on a per hand basis with basically unlim rebuy potential should a player lose. In Tournaments, you maximize risk/reward over all the hands you see, with usually no rebuy potential. So yes, there will be different skillsets per say, but they only are different applications of the same skillsets. Mindset on the other hand, will be completely different. ( and the blinds NEVER increase, in Rings )

Think of it this way, for each “rebuy” an opponent can use, thats 1 more time there’s basically 0 risk for being agressive. Therefore an unlim rebuy situation, must be also treated as such… and why rings are so different.

Many players, myself included prefer no rebuys. This is the bulk of the MTTs here, and all SnGs are no rebuy either. If the main intent of the player is to Win the MTT/SnG, then they have to be the last one standing. They shouldn’t be taking undue risk, just because they can, but even in Tournys… anyone with sufficient Bankroll, can just go all out, trying to get an early lead, or there’s another one starting in 15 minutes, or sooner. So you do have to watch out for this exception.

Tournaments cannot be won, cannot… without some bluffing and some luck. If the cards are cold, you still have to somehow stay ahead of the blinds until the cards get better. It forces you to learn to play bad cards , well… Big stacks are worth thier weight in gold, you have to earn them. You also need to know they come with responcebilities, just like the far left player on a BlackJack table. Its a Mindset, not a skillset persay ( to me ).

Because here @ Replay, there are so many different Leaderboards/Promotions, for both MTTs and SnGs, always remember … Leaderboard/Promotions strategy =/= a single Tourn strategy. Where there are differences, the two usually clash at times. Be ready for, and watch out for that possibility, or you will be mad, broke, or both.

Because alot of poker is just repitition, many skills can be practiced here while playing. So that when you are live, things won’t phase you and you can just play. I am ONLY talking about logging thousands of hands, and getting used to what the right play is in different situations, not necesssarilly the outcomes. Online poker plays differently then live poker, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice “your” favorite check-raise hundreds of times here 1st.

My suggestion for learning Tournament play is a 9max SnG. It pays 1:3 , bigger MTTs just have more ppl to beat, less ppl paid, but bigger payouts. Its still a Mindset, last person standing.


Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll definitely look further into 9max SnG .

@Sassy_Sarah gives great advice, here and everywhere. Great insights here, Sassy!

I can’t stand tournaments. I’ve played in a few and got 2nd in one, but something about playing super accurately for over an hour and then losing it all with QQ vs AK just annoys the crap out of me.

The thing about tournaments is you are just going to lose like at least 90% of the time and you have to just be okay with that. For me entering a tournament live makes no sense because I have crazy bills and often have to hustle cash games with the couple hundred or so I have at a time. You can win consistent money by being a good cash game player, but being a tournament player, you will probably lose consistent money and very occasionally when you get super lucky on multiple occasions you make it big. Maybe if I had thousands laying around to gamble with I would play in tournaments sometimes, but I have 0 interest in them right now.


I have a lifetime in-the-money win rate of 34% on this site in SNG/MTT play, and many weeks lately I’m between 40-60% ITM, playing 9-seat SNGs exclusively. So, it depends. But if I only took chips 10% of the time, I would have to say it’d be a lot less enjoyable for me. I don’t like losing 2/3 of the time, lol, but I put up with it since it’s profitable.

@stassneyk hit the nail on the head with his response. The biggest difference between the two formats is variance. While variance certainly exists in ring games, the swings are much bigger with tournaments. You’re probably not going to win more than 10 buy-ins in a single ring game session, but 10+ buy-in prizes for top spots in a tournament are fairly common. On the flip side, it’s unlikely you’ll get felted 10 sessions in a row at ring games unless you’re really bad, while regular tournament players will often go 10 tournaments in a row without cashing.

The other major difference is changing stack sizes. In tournaments, blinds will continually increase, and sometimes antes will be introduced. Strategy changes significantly when average stacks are 15BB deep and there’s nearly a full big blind of antes in the middle, compared to being 100BB deep with no ante. Different stages of a single tournament could encompass both situations, and you need to be able to rapidly adjust to that changing dynamic. Similarly, there’s a big difference between playing 9-handed and playing 5-handed, and if you don’t adjust your ranges when two tables of 5 players consolidate down to the final 9-handed table, expect to get crushed.

Finally, there’s ICM, or the Independent Chip Model. In ring games, one chip at the table equals one chip off the table. In tourneys (after any rebuy period has expired), a chip at the table has more value than a chip in your bankroll, and the relationship between your stack at the table and its value in off-the-table chips is known as ICM. One of the neat outputs of ICM is that doubling the size of your stack is generally worth less than double the ICM value of your bankroll chips. As a result, you should be less willing to go all-in, particularly with similarly-stacked competitors. Solid understanding of ICM and its implications (e.g. preflop push-fold decisions) is critical for taking tournament play to the next level.

Long story short: Tournament play is much more complex than ring game play. The rewards can be much larger, but you also need to expect to lose much more often.

In MTT, yes, chip wins come less frequently.

Could you elaborate on ICM? I have not thought about it in this way before.

ICM is basically the weighted average “cash” value of your tournament stack.

Consider the following situation: Blinds are at 1K-2K, with no ante. Payouts are 120K for first, 82.5K for second, and 60K for third place. You (BB) have 100K, the big stack (SB) has 200K, and the button has just 100 chips. Button goes all in, and SB overjams. You’re sitting on 22. What do you do?

The correct answer is to fold. The short stack is going to be all-in for the next two hands regardless of the other action. Chances are high s/he will bust, and you’ll be guaranteed at least 82.5K. That 22.5K gap in chip value between third-place cash and second-place cash is larger than the change in ICM value between having a 200K stack and a 100K stack (about 12.5K, according to this tool). At best, you’re looking at a coin flip to beat either player if they have unpaired overcards; at worst, they could have a pocket pair and you’re way behind. Much better to let the big stack pick on the little guy than to risk losing to both players and ending up with a third-place cash.

For your reference, here’s a decent primer on ICM - what it is, some limitations, and how it can influence decisions.


In that example, I would make the same decision, using similar reasoning, but not explicitly working out an ICM calculation. 22 is an easy fold for me in this situation.

If the Button wins the main pot, and I bust to the big stack on the side pot, I’m out 3rd, where I had every right to expect 2nd place if i’m just patient and fold hands until the cripple-stack busts out. That’s basically what you said, but I didn’t need to do any arithmetic to reason it out. I can just eyeball the stacks and know that I’m covered, and that 22 isn’t a very good hand.

Hmm, what about other adjacent situations? Same as above, but I’m holding 99. Or AA. Should I call there? I’m thinking yes with AA, I’m likely to cut the big stack in half and take the lead, and I don’t care if the small-stack ends up winning the main pot for 300 chips. How about AK? Or KQs? I guess at some point it goes from being a no brainer to a hard choice, and that’s probably where ICM probably helps you make a decision.

I guess it all comes down to how likely I think I am to beat the big stack calling a shove here, which has entirely to do with the cards in my hand, plus whatever read I might have on what the big stack is likely to be shoving with.

What if the small stack shoves his 100 chips, and the big stack just limps, or raises 3BB? Should I be calling even a small raise with 22? Should I re-raise back, or jam myself? I think it depends a lot on how likely I think the big stack is to fold here. If I can steal some chips with a big raise, it might be worth it, but if I get caught here and give up 4-5BB, when he 4-bets me, I’m probably better off not going for it. And if I think he’d ever call me jamming him here, I’m not taking a risk of being all-in with just 22. But again, we can re-think with all the different hands, and at some point probably yeah it makes sense to play the hand, and other times it doesn’t, and some math will probably help you get it right more often than not.

maybe not better looking, but definitely smarter

Ugly MTT player

Really in any situation where a player is about to go out, there is no point giving that player the chance to triple up by joining the party, unless you have something like AA.

It annoys the ■■■■ out of me in tournaments when a player is down to one BB and three or four players limp in and give him/her the chance to get up to 5BB and come alive in the tournament again. If one player is on their knees, they should not be allowed to play without being all-in and it is best for them to be taken out by one player, the one with the best hand, and not surrounded by a crowd of limpers.

My tactic in the final stages of a tournament is always to look to attack the smallest stack and grind them down until they are forced to call all in when their stack is too small to hurt anyone.

I was the small stack in a 1/4 million chip buy-in last night with 10 players left, but finished in second place because the opponents allowed me to. Starting with this hand I won six out of seven hands preflop


and ended up like this:


See this hand for a demonstration of weak play a little later in the tournament that allowed me to seize the chip lead. This was on the bubble with 6 players seeking 5 prize places. Here you want to keep attacking the small stack and don’t let them play unless they are playing for their tournament life. Hopefully they will fold themselves into the floor.


This opponent was a tougher proposition, but I got lucky.


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Literally any hand I go all in on, I’m about 98% to lose.

If it’s a hand where I have the opponent covered, I’m about 70% to lose.

I like eliminating opponents when my stack is about 10x theirs, and they’re the only one left on the table.

Everything else is just asking to leave the game early.