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The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 5 votes and with 14 points ahead, the winner is...

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Two days
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Contender / Con

Pro waives round 1 and con posts a topic and definitions. Pro will CHOOSE HIS SIDE in round 2 (he can become con on the topic, and then con will argue pro side) and then they will debate the resolution. Have fun.

Round 1
Resolved: That, if no neutral stance on the topic is allowed, poker tournaments are a superior display of skill at poker and game theory, than cash/ring game format.

Round 2
I Pick CON, arguing that cash game shows skill better than tournaments.

I personally have no experience in poker games, so I will leave it up to anecdotes and other people's ideas. One such person proclaims: "First off tournaments tend to attract a lot more fish... This is great for marketing and drawing in the weaker players with huge guarantees. Cash games can't compete.

Secondly, from a structural point of view, in cash games we use the later streets (turn and river) a lot more often than tournament players do because the average stacks are often much deeper.

These two streets in particular are much more complex than preflop and the flop and a skilled player is going to be able to push his edge all the more due to this.

In tournaments on the other hand you have a lot more shallow play especially by the middle to later stages. This means that a lot more hands simply turn into preflop all ins where there is not nearly as much skill involved and there is a much better chance of getting lucky.

Because the blinds do not increase in cash games though, there is never any need to get desperate and shove all your chips in the middle.

This means that the better players will simply take their time and surgically dismantle their weaker opposition. The bad regulars and the fish therefore have far less chance of getting lucky and winning in the long run."

PokerStar also seems to support these ideas: "You can choose what stakes you want to play and how much to buy-in for, meaning that there is a game available for all levels of player. You can sit down and leave whenever you like, giving you lots of flexibility to play for just a few minutes or hours on end, depending on what you want to do. This is very different to a multi-table tournament, for example, where you are locked in to playing until either you get knocked out or you win the entire thing. Best of all, small-stakes cash games are very beatable – here are some of the strategies you should employ to make sure you are a winner in the games."

The statistics help support the con position as well. If there were a reliable strategy, then the more games you play, the better off you'll be right? After all, Magnus Carlsen who is the best chess player in the world has far more games than your average amateur player, and displays his skill profoundly. The more he plays, the more he learns about Chess and the better he gets (even if marginally against worse opponents). Looking at this image (from, it's clear that after 1000 games in Tournaments, you get stuck in anywhere from 32,000 to 45,000 without improving all that much. The variance is difficult to sway after you reach a certain skill level. The other graph, cash games, displays very well that your big blind just goes up and up and up, as you have more hands, thus showing the ability to show off your skill objectively. 

The same site even admits that Tournament is more helpful for beginner players just to have fun (rather than show off skills): Pro #2) Play against recs, not regs. Tournaments, being a staple of Poker TV shows, attract recreational players more than any other poker format. Recreational players think of poker more as an experience and less as a profitable venture.

Even scholarly research supports a similar idea. Online poker games are very similar to Cash games, in that you can go in whatever you want, play however long you want, etc, etc. No tournament. "To inform this debate we present an analysis into the role of skill in the performance of online poker players, using a large database with hundreds of millions of player-hand observations from real money ring games at three different stakes levels... Regression analyses of performance on historical performance and other skill-related proxies provide further evidence for persistence and predictability. Simulations point out that skill dominates chance when performance is measured over 1,500 or more hands of play."

Conclusion: As you can see, cash games clearly show off more skill than tournaments. The tournaments were made to draw in players and as such has weaker opponents in general. Within statistics, Tournament grows wildly unpredictable after 1,000 plays compared to Cash Game's consistent outcome. Scholarly research notes that the online play displays skill defeats chance over 1,500 hands of play. If we were talking about top poker player versus average poker player, there is a clear difference in Tournament, but as all the "professional/experienced" (>1000 games) Cannot be differentiated, then cash game clearly displays skills better than Tournament games.
Since Seldiora chose Con, 'Con' refers to the person who appears as 'Pro'.

This is about 'superior display' not simply of the game itself.

Something Con has avoided entirely is to discuss the display elements of the game and how it is to view each. On top of this, Con has left completely vague what 'superior' entails and the only factor that seems to be explored is how difficult the average player is to play against.

Poker tournaments are the main event that occurs in the World Series of Poker annual mass event, with millions viewing, yet it's the tournaments that both attract people to play it and keep spectators hooked to their seats, because while there is luck involved (just as much as in a cash game in a physical card sense) the psychology and aspects that make poker so different to most other gambling games (as you're against other players, not the house itself) are at the pinnacle in a high stakes tournament.

Today, the legacy Benny Binion left the poker community ranks as the oldest, largest, most prestigious, and most media-hyped gaming competition in the world, and no doubt it holds the promise of an even brighter future. But equally important, The World Series of Poker has touched thousands of lives over the years, affording talented players the opportunity to follow their dreams, reach for the stars, and perhaps one day achieve greatness in their chosen endeavor.

If worse players turn up to tournament format, then where do the best players turn up to?

The answer is the same format. Poker isn't like some competitive environments where you always want to refine your craft against the best opponents out there, instead you will rake in far more winnings by heading to the formats of poker which attract the most fish. This doesn't even begin to mean that tournament format/s is/are worse than ring-game format. Instead, the ring games simply let fish run away from you once they begin to lose hope and of course automatically make the game format more prone to have stronger players left behind after a few losses.

The reason that luck can short-term influence tournaments more than cash games is because stronger players will just keep constantly folding while having bad hands in cash games, especially if against aggressive amateurs/beginners. Conversely, in tournaments the better players are forced to optimally play hands that they'd rarely bother playing with in the ring-game format due to the fact that there are theoretically infinite hands without any big blind increase whatsoever. The reason it's 'theoretically' infinite is because in actuality you are not at the table forever and there's also no guarantee that others will remain at it even if you are. Tournaments forcing players to play looser as they progress isn't proof that it's an inferior display of poker ability and most certainly not that it's a worse example of game theory. Instead, it means the opponents are all forced to play under extreme pressure and this can break the psychological resistance of some weaker-minded but otherwise strong players in ways that the perpetually deep-stacked mentality of cash games never can or will. If stronger players are forced to play looser, what do you think amateurs who are so excited about having gotten that far in the tournament start to do? They play even looser and weaker than the sharks do, or alternatively play timid and tight when it's no longer optimal to do so. Either way, they make more errors when the game progresses to a stage where loosening up is mandatory. It's not like the pros suddenly are 'equally bad' to the newer or more casual players. Instead, they are very tactically loosening up due to their stack getting shallower and it becoming better to bet more vs what the hands are.

Con mentions that it can come down to everyone going allin on the flop but this is not stupid or against game theory, in fact this element of strategy happens a lot in cash games too but the difference is that in a cash game you can keep buying back in after your flop goes wrong (until you're bankrupt).

The real question here is whether or not you think the display is superior, as well as how exactly things are strategically expressed.

Tournaments don't have 'infinity' like cash games do. It is actually curious why Con said that cash games have big blind increase... They never do. The idea is that it's a tournament where you go onto infinity at the same level, no progress, no changing elements, everything is rigid. This is why it's possible to play so many cash games at once online, but not the same for tournaments (meaning possible for your brain to handle).

Cash games are more prone to be broken by robots and even humans who play it convinced poker sites to allow, in their rules, the use of software to use AI memory of people's aggression frequency, voluntary putting of chips in pot etc. The Heads-Up Display was invented for cash games, not tournaments and no HUD provider on the planet will suggest that it's as efficient and helpful in a tournament format as in a cash game (

With cash games, you remain very rigid overall, altering at very specifics ways to players who repeatedly have certain frequencies and habits, with a HUD to help you can play 10 tables at ones (or more) and essentially roboticise your mentality in the poker table to the point where you are not thinking laterally at all about the situations, since it's almost a waste of time to. This is just ruining what game theory is and the human element of poker.

In tournaments however, there is so much more to comprehend and players who play in the robotic way (as happens in cash games) get thwarted not because there's more luck, but because there's more chaotic elements and this is not quite the same thing. If you think about it, the actual chips you have in a tournament are worth less, the longer that the tournament goes on, in terms of how much they are vs the big blinds (that increase at a set rate). This adds not only another layer of mathematics (independent chip model) but also a beautiful fact of life and poker; you can't simply cower away from competent opponents and solely prey on the weak ones, instead you are forced to make the competent players make mistakes and capitalise on what the shallow-stack does to the game and to people's psychology as well.

This enables short-term flukes, sure. However, where real poker strategy and game theory is applied is over many tournaments. Players like Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu don't sit and complain about the luck of tournaments (okay, Hellmuth complains even in cash games), the fact of the matter is that if you want to make it in poker and truly be regarded as an MVP, you need to enter a tournement where you're pitted against the greats, not selectively show up to a cash game and walk away when the skilled players are around.
Round 3
I don't understand how exactly, "loose" correlates to display of skill, so I will need RM to elaborate a little more on that. In the mean time, I will tackle RM's most important argument:

With cash games, you remain very rigid overall, altering at very specifics ways to players who repeatedly have certain frequencies and habits, with a HUD to help you can play 10 tables at ones (or more) and essentially roboticise your mentality in the poker table to the point where you are not thinking laterally at all about the situations, since it's almost a waste of time to. This is just ruining what game theory is and the human element of poker.
So Con is thinking that the addition of luck and the variance adds to game theory and the ideals of poker. However, a top level poker player should be able to bluff and vary their ability while adapting to the situation. Consider this, Con thinks because robot play it means you are not thinking. But Chess, one of the most strategic games in the world, based on 0% luck, has robots that mastered the game. This implies that robots are better suited towards pure strategy where it is clear black and white. E4, D4, and Nf3 are all very solid openings and almost robotically easy to play, but this does not mean that you are worse player if you begin with E4 compared to randomly selecting an opening move and going for it. After 20 or so moves, games go into a new unforeseen world where openings do not apply.

The random element of poker does bring up an interesting question, if you are better in Chess960 do you display superior ability in Chess? Well... yes and no. A site does note, "In recent tournaments and matches, e.g. the one a fortnight ago between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, the strongest players tend to win, using only playing skill and general understanding of the game — as opposed to openings preparation and tricks." But in a way, you could argue that openings is also equally display of skill and ideas. It would be like comparing, debating with only 30 minutes of research on a debate you have never seen before, or one month of research on a topic you are an expert about. Granted, the 30 min of research can greater show your ability to adapt on the fly and "quick debating", but generally the expert can greater flex his scholarly opinion and deep statistics he is able to gain within one month of research. Plus, after you breach past the opening you still have to win the midgame and the late game.

Now, back to poker. The solid and consistent play of HUD robotic infers that the top level of poker has been established at a certain level with little room for variance. Even the top chess player Magnus will probably open up with one of the three most popular openings due to their level of solidity. But the fact that Magnus can still win games with spicier openings like C4, F4, G3, etc. proves that he is one of the best players in the world, if not the best. Even though Chess960 the strong players can win, a lot of different chess styles, similar to different poker styles (loose, or whatever), unusual openings in normal chess can still prove strong skill and ability to play an uncanny game. 

At high levels of poker, it is near impossible to predict who will win, and if it's due to skill or luck. The shuffling of cards, the state of emotion of opponent, countless variables are in Tournament that level even the best players and cannot show who truly knows how to play poker. On the other hand, Chess in contrast, despite being robotic like Cash poker, has displayed concrete complexity and consistently has a good measure for guessing who is going to win, based on knowledge/intuition of the game, opening preparation and experience. My statistics support this similar idea. Cash poker is comparable to Chess as you are just going to play 1 to 3 games if you want, however many you want, and then you can leave. Tournament forces you to stay in and keeps raising the stakes. The bluffing and aggressive players encourage more hands that shut down, and not playing means you don't really know their skill at all. As such, tournament poker shows less skill than cash poker.
Round 4

Poker may have unknown depth overall, but cash game manages to replicate Chess's clear cut win/loss strategies (such that even a robot can master it). Top players if feeling up to it, can play risky cards/folds/moves analogous to G3, F4, C4 type of openings and still win the overall game. Tournament games are unclear, even though more tense and stressful, no top player can consistently win, unlike Magnus Carlsen's showings in Chess. It's clear that Cash Game shows skills and game theory better than Tournament.