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Turbocharged

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or simply looking to make a quick buck on the go, turbo tournaments are a great way to make a speedy return on your initial investment. However, approach them with the same attitude as a regular tournament and you could find yourself left at the wayside. Gambling’s Duncan Wilkie explains

While there are certainly few feelings in poker as satisfying as taking down a multi-table tournament (MTT), taking down three turbo MTTs in the same space of time is undoubtedly far more lucrative. Whether you’re finding a normal-paced game of poker just isn’t as exciting as it used to be or you’re simply looking to maximise your profits by playing a greater volume of games, turbo MTTs are a great to make lightening-quick cash.

While a turbo MTT is essentially the same game as a conventional MTT – indeed, on most sites you will receive the same starting stack in both – the major difference is that the time between blind increases is significantly cut. This means that a greater emphasis is placed on your short-stacked game as you will approach the <15 big blinds (bb) stage far quicker and there will be less room for complex post-flop play.

This can be a great thing if you already have a strong sit-n-go game as the skills you will have honed in the later stages of a sit-n-go will come in very handy in a turbo MTT. However, another advantage to turbo MTTs is that they can be a great leveller if you feel that your post-flop game isn’t the best or that you are generally not one of the strongest players in the field as there is far less scope for you to be outplayed.

Stage 1: Opening stages (50bb-30bb) As with most other MTTs, you will generally want to start the opening levels of a turbo tournament playing much tighter than you would once the antes have kicked in. The reason for this is that risking a significant portion of your stack early on can be hugely detrimental as you will have fewer chips to work with in the middle-to-late stages, losing you valuable fold equity and making you more prone to blinding away.

While in the first few levels the temptation is to see a lot of flops with speculative holdings in the hope of hitting a massive hand and doubling up, this is a strategy that will leak more chips than it gains. It shouldn’t take you long to identify which players are adopting this strategy and limping into pots regularly, but rather than following suit behind, you should be looking to isolate these opponents in position by betting.

Getting heads-up in a pot will make your life infinitely easier as you will encounter fewer drawing hands and won’t have to be as cautious when a scare-card arrives on the turn or river. The problem with limping is that it will let a lot of suited or connected hands see a cheap flop, so even if you hit a hand like a set you will often be forced to get all the chips in on the flop against an opponent who has around 30% equity.

The caveat to this is that in a turbo tournament you should be more willing to gamble when you are a small favourite as the advantages of doubling up early far outweigh the ignominy of an early exit. However, in order to ensure that you really have the edge that you suspect you will need to thin the field so you do not find yourself facing multiple all-ins; be sure to keep raising and force out those speculative holdings.

Stage 2: Middle Stages (30bb-15bb) After four or five levels you will find that the blinds have risen to such a point that there is very little room for pre-flop play. At this stage antes will usually have been introduced and the average stack will typically be around 20bb, meaning that you’ll have to be very careful how you proceed as players will be looking to get their stacks in pre-flop. It is at this point that re-shoving will become your most valuable weapon.

Providing you have not been moved tables since the tournament began, hopefully by now you will have gained some idea as to who the competent players are and where you can pick up the easiest money. This will be vital to your chances as now is the time to really put pressure on the bad players who continue to habitually limp into pots and move all-in over the top of the decent players stealing the blinds and antes.

If you find yourself in 15bb territory on the button after a player who has previously shown they are willing to limp-fold to a bet enters the pot without a raise, you should be willing to shove with a very wide range of hands. Providing their stack and the stacks of the two blinds are such that they are not pot-committed to calling, your shove should get through and you will be boosting your own stack by around 20%.

If your stack is closer to the 20bb mark, your focus should instead be on the players who are frequently stealing the blinds and antes from late position. Generally speaking, these players will be easy to spot as they will have optimised their bet sizing and will typically be opening for around 2.5bb. As such, if a player you suspect is stealing opens you should consider shoving with any hand that has decent equity.

Stage 3: Late Stages (<15bb) In the late stages of a turbo tournament you will by-and-large only have two major decisions to make; namely when to move all-in and when to call an opponent’s all-in. As you know, with a stack of 10bb you will need to constantly be on the look out for decent spots to get your stack in and this means that your shoving range from late position or blind-on-blind should be huge – especially if the blinds are overly tight.

Though your stack will have hardly any manoeuvrability at this stage, the good news is that as the majority of players will be in the same position you can actually afford to dwindle to around 7bb and still have decent fold equity. However, with a stack this precarious you will have to be very careful about picking your targets as big stacks will be able to call you with a wide range of hands and survive the hit if they lose.

If the shoe is on the other foot, however, and you find that you have become one of the chip leaders, you are in prime position to make the final table. With the luxury of a stack that is not under any immediate pressure from the blinds and antes you will be able to sit back and wait for the short stacks to make their move, while also stealing from the medium stacked players who are laddering up the pay-out places.

The beauty of this is that as the short-stacked players are forced to start moving in, you will be able to pick them off by either calling or moving all-in yourself. By looking at their position at the table and stack size, you should be able to accurately gauge the range of hands that they will be moving in with, allowing you to make the correct decision a high percentage of the time and add more invaluable chips to your stack.

Though, at a glance, turbo tournaments may seem like a format that favours those who don’t really want to play proper deep-stacked poker, there is actually a wealth of different skills involved in winning them regularly. While many people you encounter in a turbo MTT will simply be adrenaline junkies playing for the rush, learn to master them and you will have a significant edge over the field in your quest for quick cash.
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