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Poker Streamer Johnnie ‘Vibes’ Moreno’s Tips For Jumping From Cash Games To Tournaments

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Feb 08, 2023


Johnnie Moreno picked up the game from his younger brother Andrew, following him to Las Vegas while eventually leaving his corporate job to try his hand at poker full time. The two brothers spent more than a decade grinding cash games while Johnnie built his brands in the fashion and social media spaces, ultimately launching a successful Johnnie Vibes YouTube channel.

When Andrew switched to tournaments, he found success with a massive $1.5 million score at the Wynn Summer Classic. Johnnie decided to play more events as well, documenting the experience in his popular vlogs.

In February of 2022, he finished runner-up in the Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza MSPT event for $124,675. Then in November, he returned to the Venetian for the Card Player Poker Tour main event, and remarkably made the final table alongside his brother. While Andrew had to settle for sixth place, Johnnie took third for $84,416.

Card Player caught up with Johnnie to discuss his transition from cash games to tournaments, and what he’s learned along the way.

Craig Tapscott: What was the most difficult part for you when you started playing more tournaments? 

Johnnie Moreno: I had to get used to losing. Over the course of 15 years of playing cash games, I’ve won roughly 65 percent of the sessions I play. In tournaments the opposite is true. The best players are only going to win money 15-20 percent of the sessions they play.

Logically I knew this, but without practice, it can take a toll emotionally. The 2022 WSOP was the first time I didn’t primarily play cash games. I played a tournament every day and with that came a lot of losing in a short amount of time. When it was all said and done, I broke even over those six weeks, but more importantly, it helped me get used to having things not go my way over and over.

Prior to switching to tournaments, I couldn’t imagine going to the casino 10 days in a row and coming home with less money on all 10 of those days. There’s no way to get used to that without experiencing it firsthand. I’ll never be fully immune to the emotional torture of tournament poker but I’m already getting better at entering each session with a fresh mindset.

Craig Tapscott: What do you feel were the three main advantages you brought over to MTTs from your extensive cash game background?

Johnnie Moreno: Being a cash game player has really helped me out in the early levels of tournaments. In cash games, so much of our hourly comes from playing the later streets well. Think about it logically. By the time we get to the river in a cash game oftentimes there’s already a good amount of chips in the pot. So naturally, bets on the river are going to be larger than on the flop and turn.

But so often I see people checking back hands on the river that are obvious bets because they’re just happy to win the chips already in the middle without any more risk. Those extra chips can come in very handy later in the tournament when you’re card dead and trying to stay ahead of the blinds.

A term we never really use in cash games is “pot-control.” It does have some merit in tournaments in the later stages when every chip is so important, and mistakes are magnified, but in the early stages, I believe it’s overused out of fear. Basically, in cash games having a max value mindset is so important for maximizing our win-rate and that translates well to the early stages of tournaments

Also, having the ability to hop back into the cash game streets to make consistent money if I go through a big slump at the tournament tables is comforting. Having this deep-rooted confidence in my cash game abilities allows me to play with less fear at the tournament tables.

Lastly, even though I’m a relative novice at poker tournaments in terms of sample size, I’m actually quite seasoned at being at a poker table in general. With over 12,000 hours of sitting at live cash game tables, it’s impossible to not feel at home, even if the variant of poker is different. 

Craig Tapscott: What are some of the disadvantages or struggles you’ve dealt with during this learning curve when playing MTTs? And how have you worked to overcome them?

Johnnie Moreno: I really love the beauty and creativity of deep-stacked cash games. With so many big blinds in play, it’s very much a multi-street game. In tournaments, since there aren’t as many blinds in play, it’s much more of a technical game. I thought inherently this made the game simpler, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. In actuality, it’s much more complex.

In a cash game, my preflop ranges are relatively static as everyone at the table will likely have over 100 big blinds, which only happens in the early stages of a tournament. In the later stages, the stack sizes vary wildly around the table, creating infinite unique configurations. I really have to factor in so many things before making a “standard” open.

One of the first things I did was subscribe to RangeConverter so that I could start learning optimal ranges for all the various stack sizes. With that said, it’s more or less impossible to memorize these ranges and implement them in real time. Also, even if I’m studying ranges for 25 big blinds, for example, this is assuming that every person at the table has 25 big blinds. That’s obviously not the case, so you still need to be a poker player and not a memorizer. Even if you could memorize them, it would be more beneficial to know which flops to continuation bet and how big to bet. Missing a flop bet, or betting when I shouldn’t, is so much more detrimental in a tournament where every chip matters. 

So with memorization not being feasible, I really just try to study spots that come up often. For example, I’ll drill the small blind when it folds to me, and I have 25 big blinds. Spots that have wide ranges and aren’t overly intuitive. Button versus big blind is another spot that happens a ton. To add even more complexity, none of these ranges factor in ICM.

As you can see, my initial thoughts on the complexity of tournament poker were so far off base. The switch has reinvigorated my passion for study and brought back some of my passion for the game of poker. Not to mention the success my brother has had over the past few years as a result of switching to tournaments. I used to say he was a bad influence on me switching to tournaments because I was losing money those first few months. Now that I’ve put together a few deep runs and am comfortably sitting in profitland, I’ll go ahead and say he’s been a good influence.

Craig Tapscott: What have you learned from Andrew? It’s clear you both are cheerleaders for each other.

Johnnie Moreno: He’s been everything to me in terms of my poker career. He’s mentored me from the very beginning and had my back every step of the way. He’s been playing for a living for nearly 20 years, so he’s really paved the way for me. He was crushing cash games before I decided to leave corporate America 15 years ago. Then he started crushing tournaments a few years before I decided to make the switch.

Now that we’re both primarily playing tournaments this is actually the first time since the beginning of my poker career that we’re together in a poker room. We’ve always avoided playing with each other in cash games in the past. If he played at Aria, I would go to Bellagio, for example. But in tournaments now we’re playing the same events. So, I get to see him on breaks, and sometimes we’ve even been sat at the same table.

While I hate playing with him, it’s really an opportunity to watch a master at work. I’m watching his opening/three-betting frequencies, his timing post-flop, his sizings, his posture, everything. Since he’s my little brother and I love him so much, I’m not only interested in getting value from his mentorship and strategy, but I’m also hoping he wins the hand.

We actually final tabled a tournament together recently and that was the most fun I’ve ever had playing poker. It’s crazy. I get more rattled when something bad happens to Andrew at the poker table, versus when I take a tough beat. I can’t overstate how much I love sharing this poker tournament grind with him. I get to play a game for a living, and I get to share it with my best friend. (This is not even factoring in how much of a blessing it is to have free access to Andrew’s poker tournament mind. A player whose ROI has been insane since making the switch to tournaments.)

Craig Tapscott: Where would you recommend someone start if they’re considering making the transition from cash to tournaments?

Johnnie Moreno: The first thing I would do is head over to Twitch and start watching tournament pros who stream their poker sessions. Most of the tournament Twitch streamers that have an audience are good players, so you can’t really go wrong with whom you pick. (I recommend Kevin Martin or Ben “Spraggy” Spragg.) Also, you’ll end up liking and following a few players, so you’ll get to see different approaches stylistically. Since you get to see every hand they play, it really is such a valuable free tool.

The next thing I would do is subscribe to a tool like RangeConverter (check out @JohnnieVibes for a discount) and follow along with the action of the streamer. You can see when they deviate from standard plays and sometimes even chat and ask why they decided to do what they did. It makes the stream more interactive and more memorable since you are more of an active participant. You’ll be gaining a ton of experience without having to actually invest in tournament buy-ins.

Once you feel comfortable with the overall strategy and approach to tournaments and you’re ready to start investing your own money, I’d recommend starting with small buy-in, large field tournaments that run on weekends, and continue to play cash games outside of that. Those particular tournaments will be the highest value and offer the biggest payoffs should you run deep. After a while you’ll not only have a nice score, but you’ll also feel more confident in your tournament game.

Find Moreno on Twitter and Instagram @JohnnieVibes, or check out his YouTube channel. Also look out for him soon on Twitch. You can find more at