If you are like many new poker players, you likely got your interest piqued by Poker TV; either you watched the artificial drama of the World Poker Tour or the down home competition of the World Series of Poker, or even the shenanigans of the crew on the Celebrity Poker Showdown show. Either way your first introduction to online poker may have been the online poker tournament. In a tournament you buy in and then you get around a thousand dollars of tournament chips. The top so many players get paid. Then you might have thought you would try a hand at cash games, and found yourself crying yourself to sleep a few hours later as your entire bankroll was depleted; what happened? You fell prey to the Cash Game Sieve.
Have you ever tried to hold water in a sieve? It can't be done. Oh, sure, for a moment it looks like you are holding water in it; then it starts to drain, and slowly but inexorably the water empties and you left with just the sieve. This is a real danger in a cash game.
In a tournament you buy in, say for $2, and get $1,000 in chips to play with. You will get an hour, perhaps two, of play in if you make it to the final table. You are really getting your $2 worth, and if you cash, so much the better. In a cash game it is a different story.
Lets say you stick with something real small, such as a $0.05/$0.10 game, and you bring $5 to the table. Unless you play very tight, you will likely try out a few hands pretty early, regardless of what you are holding; it only costs a nickel to play, right?
Before you know it you call and raise your way to the showdown on half a dozen hands and, if you are not on your game, you are looking at the $0.30 you have left and wondering "What Happened?"
Obviously good poker play can keep you from zeroing out, but the fact is that in a cash game the potential is there for you to burn through your bankroll in a matter of minutes. If you are a loose player or just like to "See what happens" when you play poker, stick to the small buy in tournaments: your bank roll will thank you.