Here's a question/discussion I hear quite often: Is it better to play cash or tournaments? Sometimes the question/assertion is stated in more concrete terms: Either "tournaments take too long for a possible and unlikely eventual payout" or "cash games are a trap because you can't get the idiots to fold to your better hand", sometimes stated "they will chase you down to the river every time and, more often than not, catch you".
I don't actually "know" the answer to the above question. I suspect there isn't an actual "correct" answer. As with so many decisions in poker, "it depends".
If you're a beginner poker player I would suggest playing in some small tournaments first. My reasoning for this is that the buy-in for some of the small tournaments is $40 or $50 as opposed to the $200 or $300 buy-in for a typical cash game at a casino. In short, you will be risking less of your hard earned money. And, let's face it, you're probably going to lose whatever you risk so you might as well make the learning process a little less expensive. So, try to last as long as you can to enhance and lengthen your learning experience. Fold a lot. Only play premium hands. Last as long as you can. Watch every move by every person involved in every hand. Learn as much as you can.
I personally play mostly tournaments myself. My personal reasoning isn't based on some highly technical mathematical assessment of "return on investment" or "equity". The reason I feel tournaments are best for me is pretty much the same as why I think tournaments are the best route for a beginner: low risk. The most I can lose in a tournament is the entry fee (and maybe a last longer bet). That's it. No matter how badly I play (and I sometimes do some pretty stupid things at the poker table) I can only lose what I invest up front.
I personally don't even like re-buy tournaments for pretty much the same reasoning. I like to know what my risk or investment is going to be up front.
So far, one could easily and reasonably come to the conclusion that I am an extremely conservative person and poker player. While that may be true about my personality, anyone who has played at the same poker table with me will tell you that I am anything but conservative when it comes to playing poker. In fact, I'm a bit of a river boat gambler. I hate folding. I feel like it's admitting defeat--giving up. I know that is the wrong attitude but fight it constantly. I like winning. I want to win each and every hand I play. Sometimes at all costs. I'm one of those people that would pull out the deed to the ranch and raise you with it.
That's why I stick mostly to tournaments--to limit how much I can lose. I have promised myself that I will never gamble with grocery money and, at the same time, fear that I may actually pull out the grocery money to gamble with at the cash table.
Until next time.