Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ring Turbo SNG Strategy -- Part 1

OK so here it is. After numerous requests in the comments and over girly and email, today I will post the first part of my long-ago written strategy post on turbo sng's. I never actually finished this series of posts, though I had made an outline, so I guess it remains to be seen how far I take this series and exactly when. But tonight I am feeling like firing up a good old strategy post, and this is one that I wrote a while ago and frankly one that I have promised here on the blog for several months. Such is the life of the everyday blogger though, at least this everyday blogger. I basically never know what I'm going to write about when I get up in the morning. I probably have a hundred half-written (or completely written) posts saved in draft form on my server at blogspot. I think of something one day at 9pm, and I write it down and save it in draft. Maybe I get back to it a few days later, or a few weeks later, and maybe not for a year or more. That's what happened for example with my "Credit Card Mania" post from last week. I probably wrote that badboy 18 months ago, the first time anyways. I've gone back to it a few times since then, refined, added some more details that seemed to make the story better. And then one day out of the blue it suddenly seemed like the time. Who knows why. All I know is, today is the time for the beginning of the long-awaited and long-promised turbo sng strategy post. Enjoy.

Part I of this post will deal with starting card strategy. Before I start it is important to cover what I affectionately call "the disclaimer". Why I do this, I don't know, but it just feels like the right thing to point out at the beginning whenever I do a strategy post like this. So please understand, this post and any others that I do in this series are for me. They are by me, for me. It is me writing down my strategy that I like to take when I play turbo sngs. This strategy has worked well for me as a rule. I go through losing streaks in sngs just like anyone does. I get bored of them, make impatient plays and lose just as much as the next guy. But over time this strategy has worked for me. For me. This does not mean that it will or may work for you. I'm not trying to say it should or will work for you. In fact I'm saying it may not, or more accurately that I don't really care because, again, I am writing this post for me. Whenever I do a nice strategy post, I get better at the game of poker and better at the specific topic of the post I am writing. Every time. It's great, and I enjoy doing it. Just the act of analyzing the situations, thinking through hand ranges and possible results, and especially putting it all into some kind of structured presentation in a way that flows easily from simpler, more common concepts to the rarer and more complex ones, it all gives me a much better and clearer understanding of the topic of the post and makes me a better player overall.

So that's why I write a post like this. Now as my readers know, I am all about hand analysis and objective analysis of given hands. And I would be more than happy to do that here with these turbo sng posts. But please don't write me all pissy saying that you are following my system and losing money, and what an idiot I am. I'm not the idiot in that scenario. You're the idiot. I'm not posting a strategy for you to copy and try to use without regard to your own personal strengths and weaknesses as a player. I'm just posting my strategy, for myself to read, and doing so in a public forum where you are finding it and for some reason are insisting on trying to duplicate it yourself. Your bad, not mine. For me, writing this down helps my game immensely, I secretly enjoy doing it when I can find the time, and if it helps some of you too then that is a great outcome. But I'm not suggesting that this is how you should do or play anything. I am merely stating how I usually play the game. That is all.

OK with that out of the way, a few other opening points. Most important is to keep in mind that the strategy I will be describing in this post or posts is my own strategy and my own strategy alone. While I do believe that most sng pros play the game very similarly to how I play it, I do not know that to be the case and I'm not trying to say otherwise here. Again, this is just how I play the game, not how you do nor how anyone does or should.

Second, notice from the title of this post, this is my strategy for turbo sngs only. Make no mistake, the strategy in a non-turbo format is similar, but certainly different at the margins than the one I espouse in this post. In a turbo format, the entire 1-table sng is going to be over with in 40, 45 minutes in most cases, 50 minutes tops, so you simply cannot sit around and wait for premium cards. You're probably only going to see 100 hands or fewer in this thing even if you run all the way to the end and win, so it's not like you can just wait for the AA or KK which together only come once every couple hours or so. So this is a turbo sng strategy, not a regular sng strategy which would have to be tighter with fewer starting hands played.

Lastly, notice also from the title, this is for ring game turbo sng strategy. When you cut it down to a 6-max sng -- something which I love to play btw -- again the strategy tends to change, this time becoming even more aggressive and opening things up even further as far as perflop starting cards and similar issues. But again, this post is the strategy that I tend to use in ring game (typically 9-player) turbo format nlh sitngos.

OK, now finally on to the actual post. The first thing that I always keep in mind about starting hand selection is to always be very careful what I play from early position, because the turbo format leads to a very pusy-y game. In other words, with the turbo action working, and thus the blinds moving up literally every three minutes, it is often that a preflop reraise is an allin move, or at least an amount that basically commits the reraiser to get it allin on that play. After more than 15 or 20 minutes in, this will be the case for all but the top stacks remaining in the tournament. So, when I am in early position in the turbo sngs, I tend to be very, very careful -- even moreso than in a standard mtt or a cash table where I might have the chips and/or the structure to play a few speculative hands from up front.

All that said, in the turbo ring sng's, I tend to open with AJo or better from early position, including utg. Sometimes I will even do this with ATo, but really I have my doubts about the long-term profitability of playing even AT from this position. Even AJo utg is not a strong hand generally speaking, especially to play from out of position all through the hand, but I find that the turbo nature of the sitngo dictates that I can't just throw away AJ every time I see it or else I might end up allin in a worse spot not too much later on. So from early position, I will open-raise with AJo or better. From middle position in an unopened pot, I will ratchet that down a little bit, maybe to the A8/A9 range plus KQ. And from the cutoff, button or small blind, I will generally open-raise with any Ace and most strong Kings, and some of the higher soooted connectors as well.

Just a quick bit about bet sizing. The turbo sngs will start you off with 1500 chips, blinds of 10-20, and 3-minute blind rounds. In other words, it is not a deep tournament, and within 15 minutes or so as I mentioned above, you're basically committed if you call a single raise either before or after the flop, or very close to committed. As a result of all this, I personally do not believe in over-raising before the flop to really narrow the field to one or at most two players. I know some of the cardrunners guys advocate this and I saw some bloggers having the discussion a couple of months back, but for me, I just to 3x raises all the time in the turbo ring sitngos. I find this to be the easiest method to implement, requiring next to no thought, and since there are never antes in the turbo sngs on full tilt, I never feel the need to adjust up my standard raises above the 3x threshhold. 3x basically gets me to the 1.6 or 1.7 to 1 pot odds I want to offer to the other players at the table, so I tend to just make 3x raises all the time before the flop, and again this strategy has worked well for me.

Now a word about being reraised. Again, given the general opening strategy I described above -- open-raising AJ+ from early position, A8+ from middle and any Ace from late position, this dictates a certain amount of discretion early in the sitngo if I do get caught raising on the light side. Thus, I will lay down the lower part of all of those ranges to reraises early. So, if I open-raise the 30-chip blind to 90 eight minutes in to the turbo sng when I am holding A8o, and then the cutoff reraises me 3 or 4x my raise, I am usually going to fold. If I know I can't or won't have this kind of discipline, that is ok but then I need to tighten up my playable hand ranges even more than what I descibed above. If I'm going to raise A8 or A7 as a rule with several players still to act behind me, personally I will only ever follow that strategy if I know I can follow the second part of it, which is folding to reraises early, when my original raise has not yet committed me and when my opponents' hand ranges likely trump mine. Similarly, if I open-raise KQo from third position and then the button repops up another 3x my preflop raise, I am likely going to lay it down. I am probably up against an Ace, AQ or a pair a heck of a lot more often than I'm not, and why take a flop where I am taking the worst of it going on and where I will have no idea where I'm at almost no matter what actually falls on the flop.

As far as what I will call a reraise with early in a turbo ring sng, that is only the hands at the very top of the range I described above. AK is almost always good for a reraise or for calling a reraise, again only because we are talking about turbo here, and even AQ is often (but not always) worthy of calling a standard-sized (not allin) reraise with early in the sng. Otherwise, it is AK, maybe AQ, and the big pairs, down to maybe JJ or so. In a turbo format I think folding JJ to a preflop reraiser is a tough decision to make -- again in a regular-speed event I can lay this down much easier -- but when I'm facing an allin for 50 big blinds (1500 chips) very early in a turbo sng, a pocket pair like TT or certainly 99 or lower is not looking too strong at all. At that point I will typically want to fold, unless I can discern some read from my opponent that he may be holding a lower pocket pair. But that early in the tournament, with that little invested in the pot so far, I think it becomes very hard to justify taking an 80% chance of a race plus a 20% chance of being dominated by a higher pair. Later on in the sng you don't always have much choice as far as whether you can / should commit in this spot, but early in the sitngo I try to only call preflop reraises with the top four or five pocket pairs but the top one or two unpaired cards. Otherwise I would rather pass and wait for either better cards or a better spot to get my money in than that.

Lastly for today, as far as when to go allin with my own raises, I tend to follow the rule of 10x. I saw this somewhere in a book or online somewhere, and as a general rule I have found it to be a very useful guideline for when a standard-sized raise is likely to commit a player for his or her entire stack, and thus should just move allin instead of making the more usual, 3x type of raise. So, for example, if blinds have just moved up to 50-100, and I have AJo in middle position in an unopened pot with a stack of 980 chips, I'm not bumping that badboy up to 300. It's all in for the first move there. What do I want to push in 300 for, leaving me with a paltry 680 chips remaining in my stack in a pot where, even if I am called by just one other player, will likely have 750 chips in it by the time the flop is dealt. Obviously I am pushing with ATC on that flop, and obviously I am calling with my AJ before the flop if any opponent reraises me allin, rather than me folding there and leaving myself with just 680 chips and a big blind of 100. So since with fewer than 10 big blinds I know I will be pot-committed on the flop basically no matter what, or even before the flop if my opponent reraises me, I tend to just move allin myself whenever I want to raise and have fewer than 10 big blinds to play with.

Also, if I have fewer than 5x the big blind, then not only do I play the sitngo hand as an allin-or-fold situation, but I am significantly widening the range of cards that I will push allin with given my short stack. Basically, if the blinds are up to 75-150 and I am holding 650 chips, then my stack is so short that, for me, I want to move allin preflop into any unopened pot from any position with any kind of playable hand. Certainly I am allin with any Ace (completely regardless of my kicker) with such a short stack, and frankly, with fewer than 5 big blinds, I might be tempted to push allin with ATC from anything in middle or late position overall.

OK this seems like a good place to stop for the beginning to my ring turbo sitngo strategy post. There is a ton more content on this topic that I've already pulled together and written in many instances, but this should serve as a good general introduction to the turbo sng game that I like to play, when it comes to early-tournament, preflop decisions. Of course all of this changes once the sng wears on a little bit and the Ms begin their dramatic drop -- much more quickly in turbo than you might think -- but for a general guideline this is how I tend to play the turbo ring sitngos during the first few blind rounds when the stacks are still relatively deep compared to the blinds. My general approach, even in the turbos, is that there is no excuse for busting in those first few rounds out without a strong hand, period. As I said, that mantra changes quite dramatically fairly quickly in turbo sng land, but for starting off with the first few rounds, I try to raise with a fairly defined range, and I do not call off my chips in situations where my hand range is clearly behind that of my opponent.

I will try to get up Part 2 -- or really, Part 1(a) -- with a number of screenshots and other examples and discussion of my early sitngo approach before the flop, as soon as I can. If I'm a man, I will do it for my Thursday post. But, I guess that might be a little difficult to do here, what with me winning the Mookie tonight and all.

Don't forget the Mook, 10pm ET tonight on full tilt. Password as always is "vegas1". I am already registered and will be there for my weekly waste of time donation.

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Blogger Instant Tragedy said...


Very nice.

I can't wait to see your followup.

Will you address bubble play using this full ring turbo sng example?


Thanks for your insight. You don't have to and that's what makes you the man!

12:33 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

So far 1 cash following strategy post.

But I flopped 3 sets.

When do you get to part about how to vary play on flopped sets for deception?

3:17 AM  
Blogger StB said...

Good stuff. But is your use of calling it a "ring" game correct? I always considered a ring game to be a cash game; non-tournament. Sounds like you are talking about a full table as opposed to 6max.

Or is this an East Coast thing?

3:40 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Nah stb maybe you're right, maybe "ring" is not the exact right usage. I mean full table as opposed to a shorthanded or 6-max table.

Bayne, I think you might have to take the reins with respect to the varying play when flopping three sets in one 40-minute turbo tournament. My posts are more likely to focus on how to make it seem like I've flopped a set even one time in one of these things.

4:02 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Good stuff as usual Hoy. I like playing the turbos too, in fact we've wound up more than once at the same table. I'm pretty mechanical to my approach. Given the starting stacks and blind structure, you can be successful implementing a system, which seems what you have done, and stick to it. I've watched many of the really successful guys, and some play 10+ turbo's simultaneously, and if you notice, their decision making is exactly the same all the time. But it works, and they make a ton of $$$, which after factoring Rakeback can be fairly lucrative. I heard that Fiery Justice ( Jonathan Little)was cleaning up with the turbo's prior to getting banned for having other's playing on his account. And again, very mechanical approach, which gets broken down by stages..early, middle and bubble. Knowing when your playing against a someone using this kind of strategy is obv very helpful, as you can win more than your normal share of pots. However, when they play back, they almost always have it, and of course late, it's just employing perfect push/fold strategy.

12:04 AM  
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