Cash games offer certain advantages that tournaments and sit-n-gos lack.
If you happen to have gotten started playing online poker by jumping into tourneys and SNGs and have never given cash games a try - do check them out, too, as you might find them more enjoyable and/or profitable.
While tournaments and sit-n-gos have become tremendously popular when it comes to online poker, cash games are favoured by many players for a variety of reasons.
For many a preference develops according playing style or personality, with the steady rhythm of cash games working for certain types while others find the ups and downs of tournament poker more to their liking. There are a few advantages to cash games, however, that tend to attract many.
By "cash games" I'm of course referring to regular full-ring, short-handed ("six-max."), or heads-up games such as you'd find ongoing in live poker rooms. These are games where you buy chips when taking a seat at the table, with the chips representing real money. That is, a $1 chip is worth exactly $1, unlike in tournament poker where you buy and play with tournament chips that usually do not represent cash value (e.g., you might pay $5 to play a tourney and start with 1,500 chips).
Come and Go as You Please
One great advantage to playing cash games - especially online - is the ability to jump into a game at any time that suits you, and leave the game whenever you please as well.
Although tournaments happen around the clock at Betfair Poker, players have to play them at scheduled times. Sit-n-go's, too, happen constantly, although even there a player wanting to join a SNG may have to wait a while for the table to fill up with entrants and the event to get started.
With cash games there is no such wait. You can start playing within seconds of buying in, getting dealt into the very next hand if you wish. Perhaps even better, you can also leave the game whenever you like, whereas in large-field multi-table tournaments you might find yourself locked into a very long session. Thus while playing tournaments often requires some time management, with cash games you can play for as long or as little as you like - even just a hand or two.
Buying Back In
A second advantage of cash games is the ability to rebuy into the game if you happen to lose your initial stack of chips. In other words, even when you "bust," you still can decide whether or not you will continue to play, whereas in tournaments and sit-n-gos when you lose your stack you also lose your seat.
There are "rebuy" tournaments which feature a period at the start when players are allowed to buy their way back into the event after busting out. However, usually that period only lasts for the first few levels of the tournament, at which point the tournament then becomes like other "freezeout" tournaments in which you must preserve your stack in order to keep playing.
Again, unlike with cash games when you get to decide when you want to stop playing, the tournaments are such that you have to accept the fact that you'll be playing until you either bust out or win.
The Thrill of Victory
In truth, when it comes to tournaments it is inevitable that you are going to be busting out more often than winning. After all, if you enter a tournament with 100 players, 99 of them are necessarily going to see their tourneys end shy of the ultimate goal. This brings up a third advantage of cash games, which is perhaps more psychological than anything - in cash games, players get to experience the satisfaction of winning more often and more consistently than in tournaments.
Even the best tournament players only make the cash a relatively small percentage of the times they play, and make final tables or win tournaments even less. Thus more often than not, the tourney experience technically ends with a "loss," although that loss may come with a handsome consolation prize if you happen to finish deep and earn a nice cash.
Meanwhile in cash games you can win hands and receive a kind of immediate satisfaction coming in the form of the reward of winning a pot - a direct profit made right on the spot.
Of course, experienced players will point out that what really matters is the overall "ROI" (return on investment) you realise in a session or over a long term of playing, and thus you shouldn't get too wrapped up in winning or losing individual hands. Even so, for certain types of players this kind of immediate gratification is a big attraction when it comes to poker, something cash games can provide.
Finally, if you happen to have gotten started playing online poker in the cash games, do explore sit-n-gos and tournaments at some point, too, if only to see if they better suit either your playing style or personality. The same goes for the player who began by jumping into tourneys and SNGs and has never given cash games a try - do check them out, too, as you might find them more enjoyable and/or profitable.