Super Turbo Heads Up SNGs
That's right, folks. As I've gradually started getting back in to online poker as my son has started sleeping a good portion of the night, I noticed something brand new last night that I had not noticed before on full tilt -- the presence of heads-up sitngos in a super turbo format. Now, for those of you who don't konw, the super turbos are the satellites that start each player with just 300 chips, and 15-30 blinds, and the blinds escalate every three minutes. Basically, the structure in super turbo formats more or less forces you to play allin preflop poker almost every single time a flop is seen, certainly in the early part of the tournament. If you think you can bump the 30-chip big blind to 90 chips with a preflop raise, but then fold when reraised from late position, you're nuts because with 90 chips already invested, you have already committed around 30% of your stack in a tournament with very quick blind escalation. So it's either allin-or-fold right from the getgo in these things, and it's been well documented among several bloggers over the past year or so since the super turbo format first appeared in limited instances on full tilt that playing in the large super turbo's is basically just a crapshoot, at any level of buyin.
So it would stand to reason, then, that the heads-up flavor of these things would also be a total and complete crapshoot, right?
Not so fast. As I have written about here myself, and as I recall some others have chipped in as well, there actually is some strategy that can be used in the super turbo structure. Ultimately, there is little you can do to prevent yourself from taking your AQs up against someone else's 77 in the third hand of the tournament for all of your respective stacks, but there is a general way of approaching these hyper-quick tournament structures that can give you an advantage over others at your table who don't get it. And what I found last night is that, in the heads-up context, if you can get up against someone who doesn't have the same feel for the super-turbo game as you do, you can actually make some decent, albeit extremely high-variance, profits.
I was lucky last night. I ran into a guy sitting at one of these $160 + $4 super turbo heads-up sitngos who really had no clue how to play them. And more than that, either he was some sick points whore or he had wayyyyyyy too much money for his own good, because whether he won or lost, the guy immediately accepted a rematch offer within seconds of the last sng ending. Although I stopped counting maybe around 20, we must have played at least 25 of these super-turbo heads-up sngs, and in the end I think I won maybe five more than I lost by the time this guy had finally had enough. And more than that, net of any suckouts I foisted on my opponent during the session, he won three or four of our battles on hardcore dominated suckouts, situations where we got allin preflop with my AJ vs. his QJ, or my K9 vs his 97, etc. Plus he won another two or so on what I would call mild suckouts, like allin preflop my AK vs his T9 and hands like that where my preflop odds were probably not more than 60% but where I still had a nice lead when all the money went into the middle.
How did I play this such that I ended up +5 in sngs won, plus another 5 or so where my opponent sucked out but where really I was the odds-on favorite to win maybe 2/3 of the super-turbo contests we played? Given the speed, there are really just a few tricks I employed:
1. Push! Whenever I get relatively short and I am first to act preflop. With any two cards. So when he won the first couple of pots and the chip stacks were 390 for him to 210 for me, I would push in preflop automatically with my 30-chip big blind and his 15 already in the pot, even if I'm holding 34o, a hand I pushed with many a time through our 30- or 40-sng session last night. Almost every time he folded, and the couple of times he does call, I am generally only a 55-60% dog or so, which means I am winning more than 4 times out of 10 in any event even when he does call.
2. Read! My opponent. Yes it is hard to read too much into my opponent's actions when we are playing super-turbo which by definition forces the action quite a bit as it is. But there are still variations in the players who get mixed up in these things, and generally speaking you only have a few short minutes to figure out which kind of guy you are up against. Is he, like me, a push-n-pray guy every time he gets a little short, so that when he is short and moves in before the flop I do not necessarily have to fear being up against a monster. Or, is he one of these guys who only auto-pushes with any Ace or with any two face cards? Will he move in with that 34o if he is first to act and has already put big blind money into the pot, or will he try to wait for a better spot? Does a pause before he bets generally indicate that he has a big hand and wants to bait me into calling, or that he has a horrible hand and needs to psyche himself up into raising with it? These are the things I attune myself to right away in the super turbo structure tournaments, and in heads-up play it becomes significantly more important given that you're up against the same guy every single hand for all the marbles.
3. Know! My preflop pushing odds. This is the last key I used last night in abusing this guy in the super-turbo heads up sngs, and it really goes hand in hand with item #2 above. Once I can put some reasonable limitation on his hand range when he moves in in a given spot at a given speed, I need to know whether it makes sense for me to call given my own hole cards. So, for example, once I determined in our first 10 matches or so that this guy was pushing in with any two cards on the first hand of every tournament, then suddenly that K7o I was dealt becomes a calling hand and not a folding hand. And when I know for sure that this guy autopushes with any Ace or any King at all, that A6 or A7 I am holding once again becomes a caller instead of a possible folder. The key is understanding the math behind the allin preflop decisions, at least on a categorical level, for any reasonable two-card hands he and I might be holding.
Still, in the end as I mentioned above, the variance on these super-turbo badboys is more than anyone should have to deal with in trying to amass some quality results. As I pointed out, although I did end the 40-sng-or-so session 4 or 5 wins ahead of my opponent, these results did include a good 5 or 6 net suckouts on my opponent's part that severely hampered my ability to really lay a smackdown on him, but the fact remains that I got in good position to win his $160 buyin in a good two-thirds of the sngs we played simply by following the three keys above and executing my game plan without making rash calls or bad plays. I'm not sure I want to make a habit of playing heads-up super-turbo poker, but when a profitable situation presents itself I feel good knowing I am prepared with a plan that should work against most lesser-experienced opponents.