Regular vs. Turbo Tournament Play
Regular tournaments and turbo tournaments aren't one in the same. The majority of tournaments will have normal blind structures whereas turbo events move much faster. For example, many live poker tournaments have blind levels that last around 45 minutes to an hour. In a turbo event, however, these same levels are shorted to 15-30 minutes. Needless to say, the game is going to be much more fast paced and your decision making is going to be directly affected. Whether you are looking at the strategy for the beginning of an event or as a whole, changes are going to be made.
The attraction to turbo tournaments is that they don't take a long time to play. The tradeoff to this is the fact that there will be less opportunity to play and there will be a heavier emphasis on the luck dynamic. You may just not be cut out to play in turbo tournaments at all. There's going to be much higher levels of aggression in a turbo tournament than what you will normally find in regular events. The types of players that you face are going to be different as well. There are so many variables that need to be accounted for when you go from one type of tournament to the next.
You may or may not realize it, but the general type of player that you'll face in these events is going to be quite different. In normal tournaments, most players are going to be very passive and will lean towards the more amateur end of the poker playing demographic. The reason for this is that many poker players are only in the game for the recreational value. They don't have any interest in being competitive to the point where they are failing to have fun with the game. This is the primary reason for why tournament poker is profitable for so many.
When you move into the turbo tournaments, you are still going to be running into many weak players. The difference is that these players tend to be more well-adjusted to their game of type and will usually have a more diverse skill set. Turbo tournaments are much like any variation of any game in that its uniqueness creates more specialized players.
The standard strategy to turbo tournaments should not be drastically different than what you would find in any other event. The primary difference is also the most noticeable, with the speed of play definitely being at a faster pace. You aren't going to have as many people who sit around and wait for hands as the structure just won't allow for this to work. You'll need to widen your hand ranges right from the beginning so as to allow yourself the opportunity to get involved before you cripple yourself through the blinds alone.
Aggression is going to be met with more opposition in turbo tournaments than in regular tournaments. In a regular event, there will be a lot of people who just back down to pressure so that they can last another hand and pick another spot. Because your odds of lasting longer are greatly decreased by the speed of the blinds, players in turbo events are more inclined to fight back. This doesn't mean that you should be backing down on your own levels of aggression, not by any means. All that it means is that you'll need to be more willing to play in raised and re-raised pots. The play in turbo events is going to be much more aggressive as a whole from start to finish and you need to adjust your play accordingly.
The amount of luck involved in tournaments is hard to overstate. When you consider turbo events, you'll be subjecting yourself to even more volatility than normal. Earlier it was mentioned that the play is much faster, which in turn leaves less opportunity for anyone to really play a ton of hands over a long period of time. Instead, you'll be playing in few pots for greater amounts of chips. There's nothing you can do to change this dynamic of the game, but you can still work towards minimizing the extent to which luck personally affects you.
One of the most optimal ways to reduce the role that luck plays in turbo tournaments is to be the aggressor whenever possible. As a general rule of thumb, the person doing the betting is going to be more likely to win a hand than the person calling down the bets. You should be trying to win all of the uncontested and unraised pots that you possibly can.
Even though players are going to be more active in turbo events, it doesn't mean that there won't be a fair share of dead money floating around. Make open raises, bet the flops, and use your aggression to force your opponents into a corner. There's no better environment in which to use aggression to your advantage than in a turbo tournament.
A deep run in these events is going to mean two very different things. Again with luck, you are going to need things to go your way in a turbo tournament. Not to say that this isn't true in any poker tournament, but the lack of actual play is going to create an even greater need for bigger hands that can win on their own. In the bulk of normal poker tournaments, even players at the final table will have 50 or more big blinds to work with. In a turbo event, the number of big blinds could easily be closer to the range of 5-20 big blinds. This will inevitably create a storm of all-ins where ultimately players become handcuffed.
In a turbo tournament, you'll need to have the will power and determination to take down pots and make plays when you are running low. You can't fold and wait for hands. Sure, your life is going to be on the line over and over again, but this is the only way that you can really expect to win.
Learn to play your opponents as much as you can because the cards can only help you so much. Turbo tournament poker is much more about picking the correct spots than it is about having good hands. If you can successfully control your opponents, it won't always matter whether you are being dealt the best of hands.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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