Cashout Tournament Strategies by Eric Froehlich

Full Tilt Poker’s Cashout Tournaments provide players the option to leave the tournament at any time before the final table and get the cash value of what their stack is worth. With the options of cashing out part of your chip stack or your entire stack and exiting a tournament, we players are presented with a whole new variety of options to consider.

In Cashout Tournaments, half of the buy-in goes into the Cashout prize pool, and the other half into the tournament prize pool. The ability to cash out in 10% increments of the starting stack (for example, if you start with 3,000 chips, you can cash out as little as 300 chips and keep cashing out in increments of 300) can drastically alter the way you approach these tournaments. With most pros, the goal in a tournament is first place. Cashing in a tournament or lowering variance is not a major concern the vast majority of the time. If that’s your only goal, removing chips from your stack is not going to be an option you employ very often. For most players, however, while first place is certainly always going to be the number one goal, there are other factors involved.

Often times, the best opportunity to cash out is going to be early in the tournament. You can get back some of the money you put up in the buy-in and navigate a slightly shorter stack while the blinds are still small and chip away to get back to where you started and beyond. The real key to knowing when to implement the Cashout option is how much the money means to you. There’s certainly a real advantage in a poker tournament when you triple up very early and have that bigger stack, but for a lot of players, securing that automatic Freeroll in a tournament is going to be even more advantageous (remember that with the 3,000 chip starting stack, should you increase your stack to 9,000, each 300 chips will allow you to cash out for 10% of what you put into the Cashout pool – 6,000 chips will get your full buy-in back and still leave you with a starting stack!). The ability to give peace of mind, guaranteeing that you can’t lose any money in the tournament, might allow you to play a stronger game as you go on.

The Cashout Tournaments also provide a few other opportunities poker players have never seen before. There isn’t a player out there who hasn’t been playing their tournament and just had something “come up” or something they absolutely had to do. Maybe you were already on a time crunch with just a few free hours to spare and were looking to play a little poker. I would advise any player in this position to join a Cashout Tournament rather than risk running out of time in another MTT. The full Cashout option allows you to play and still get money out of the work you did, even if you can’t complete the whole thing!

My strategy going into Cashout Tournaments would be to cash out little by little. I might take a little off the top here and there, while trying to retain a relatively decent stack. I always like to have the biggest stack at the table so I can get maximum value out of my hands, but in the cases where I have quite a bit more chips than anyone else, getting a little bit of money for my chips becomes quite appealing. Later on in the tournament, I would consider cashing out a little bit here and there, while still trying to keep my stack above 15 big blinds, and preferably above 20 big blinds. Maintaining this stack size makes sure that I’m not so short that my hand is forced while still having enough chips to re-raise all-in and have enough chips that someone can fold.

The full Cashout option is one I would reserve for mostly emergencies and other such events that come up unexpectedly. Tournament life is such a valuable thing that I would never give up my last chip in a Cashout Tournament unless I had to leave, but cashing down to a shorter stack and trying to double up can be highly effective and fun as well. Many people like to start with short stacks in cash games and take away a lot of the decision work. Cashing out to 10 big blinds or less and beginning to play shove or fold poker is something many people hate, but many others love.

One final tip to keep in mind is that you will also have the ability to practice valuable tournament skills by utilizing the Cashout option. If you need more experience playing a shorter stack effectively, you can cash out a portion of your stack. This allows you to make additional money without having to actually dump off chips, and you can work on improving that portion of your poker game, as well.

Eric Froehlich