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Over the last few years the popularity of poker has really taken off. This is mainly the result of the poker tournaments that are now being constantly shown on television. However long before there were poker tournaments there were cash games. A lot of people believe that cash games are the truest form of poker and that they are much preferable to tournament play. There are even people who know show up to watch the top players play in cash games. The poker websites will also include accounts of cash games because of the popularity amongst a certain group of fans.
The main reason that most true poker fans think that cash games are better than tournaments is that skill is usually more of a factor in a cash game than it is in a tournament. When you play in a tournament there is much bigger element of luck involved. This is because there is time factor in a tournament, you can't really just bide your time and wait for the perfect hand to come along like you can in a cash game. This tends to force people to make decisions that they wouldn't otherwise make. It also introduces a much bigger element of luck into the game.
The other issue with tournament play is that you will have to make decisions based on a lot of factors besides which cards you have. When betting in a tournament you need to think about how many chips you have left and how many chips your opponent has left. You are also going to think about which positions receive a payout in a tournament. You may very well devise a strategy to finish in fourth place just so that you can make some money. In a cash game each hand is independent of the others so you don't have to worry too much about anything other than your cards.
The professional players have been quick to recognize that skill counts for more in a cash game than it does in a tournament. While they still enter tournaments they tend to earn the bulk of their income from cash games. The money tends to be more reliable in a cash game than it is in a tournament, mainly because of the element of luck that comes into play in a tournament. That being said winning a tournament can lead to a major payday so they are still well worth entering.
In general the best way to improve your skills as a player is to play cash games whenever you get the chance. There is a very different mindset than there is for a tournament and this will help to make you a better player. Almost all of the top pros learned to play in cash games and this is a large part of what made them the players that they are today.