See if this sounds familiar…
You haven’t played Turbo Series before. You might even have dodged all turbo events full stop.
Why? Because they’re stupidly fast, the blind levels fly by, and at times it feels like there’s no time to think. Especially if you’re a new player.
But imagine being able to manage that change of pace, and thrive in it too?
What if you could learn a few pointers about Turbo events turned it from a high speed nightmare into a profitable joyride?
Well that’s what this guide to Turbo Series is all about.
Here you’ll learn what you need to know from those who know it.
You’ll learn things like…
The tips you need to take advantage of the format.
How to get the most value from Turbo events.
What to prioritise from the very first hand
What you can look forward to when Turbo Series gets started.
And these tips will work even if you’ve never played a single Turbo event before. Or, if you tried it and didn’t last very long.
Keep reading to learn more…
Why you should get started with Turbo Series
Well for one thing this year’s Turbo Series has a combined guarantee of $25 million.
That’s a crazy amount of money, spread out across a series of 134 tournaments of different shapes and sizes.
So not only does it make for some great prizes, but it also means there’s a lot of competition for it too.
Turbo Series attracts all sorts of players for all these reasons. The best of them will approach with a strategy and will know what to expect.
That’s what you need to do too.
But you might have played turbo events before, perhaps because they fit the time to have better. Nothing too long, all over in a few hours.
That’s great in theory.
But in practice you can bust out before you’ve even got started.
But with these tips we’re going to help you stop that happening.
So let’s get started.
1. In Turbo tournaments, patience is not a virtue
In any regular speed tournament patience is a good idea.
But in turbo tournaments the blinds and antes increase in value much faster. Meanwhile your stack, and those of your more passive opponents, get shorter faster too.
So your basic strategy needs a rethink. Starting with…
2. Be Aggressive
Turbo tournaments are about winning chips without a fight and building your stack from the very start. You need to keep ahead of structure as much as possible.
As Dave Roemer puts it on PokerStars School: “The players who take aggressive postures in pots will have a natural edge built into their strategy.”
So that takes the two forms you might find familiar:
Getting players to fold and give you their chips.
Or making the best hand.
So how to turn off the patience and switch on the aggression. That’s what the rest of these tips are about.
3. Start seizing the initiative: Raise don’t call
There are times when calling is the best play.
But any time you’re thinking about calling, ask yourself if a raise might be a better option.
Sometimes seizing the betting initiative in a hand can make things happen.
We build pots for when we make good hands, and we put ourselves in the driving seat when no one has much of anything.
These pots where no one has much happen a lot, and the spoils typically end up going to the aggressor when everyone else folds.
Which leads to the next tip…
4. Be ready from the very first hand
Linked to the idea that you should be much less patient is the companion strategy: gamble early.
For regular MTT players this will seem the opposite of what you’re used to – which is staying in a tournament long enough to matter.
But like it or not (and this guide is about your liking it) Turbo events don’t work in the same way.
Patience and caution are a mistake and will leave you short stacked or worse before you get a chance to play.
Put the opposite theories to work and you’ll start to see a difference.
One thing before we expand on that…
5. A word of caution before you start gambling early
We don’t mean throw caution to the wind and hope for the best.
We mean introducing calculated risks.
It’s poker, so there will always be a risk involved. But it’s about spotting when the rewards are at their greatest.
That means not shying away from calculated risks and taking advantage of any edge you can get. It’s a point that will keep cropping up among these tips.
Remember, your stack will quickly start to lose value given the speed of those early levels and the increased size of the blinds.
So think about the small risks you can take to stay ahead and keep building your stack.
Which leads to this next point…
6. These small risks are your priority from the start
Your plan should be to let others do the sitting back and waiting.
So how do you do that?
7. Winning chips with weak hands
As Roemer writes, one of the first steps up you can make as a player is to realise that to win tournaments, or to go deep in a tournament, you need to accumulate chips without depending on strong hands.
In a turbo event this is even more important, because…
8. The rapid structure forces all players into short stack situations
This happens much sooner than in a regular speed tournament. Players will find themselves all-in much quicker.
So what does that mean for you?
It reduces the number of hands you’ll see before you too are in a push or fold situation. You can’t sit and wait for one that looks nice.
9. Your job then is to find and leverage good re-steal opportunities
Take this example:
“Facing an open raise that we suspect may be lighter than normal, 3-bet shoving over the top when we hold 8-20bb’s is a very viable play that, when successful, nets you not only the blinds and antes, but the open raise as well.”
You can take this example a step further.
“When you’ve open raised yourself and an aggressive opponent has 3-bet you, a 4-bet bluff shove of up to 35 big blinds can be a very viable play that shows massive strength and nets you a nice return and chip up when your light 3-betting opponent folds.”
So your mission is to…
10. Make those edges work in your favour
To make those edges work in your favour. So back to the earlier tip – if you get involved in a pot, consider raising not calling.
If the pot reaches a stage where an all-in is likely it’s best to be the last one making the aggressive action – betting or raising all in.
You’ll leverage fold equity, and maybe even win the pot without a fight, or the risk of being knocked out completely.
You might also notice a side benefit of doing this…
11. Keep turbo events fun
Turbo tournaments are fun.
Playing in this exceptional way of aggression rather than patience and looking to capitalise on any small edges that come your way can be an exciting way to play poker.
It’s not without risk (but this is poker, you knew that).
But the players who skip turbos because of their speed miss this point, and the opportunity to get big wins in an event like Turbo Series.
Back to the next tip…
12. Knowing push fold ranges will give you an edge
“While the fast pace does increase the variance of an individual event, forcing players all in more frequently with marginal hands as they get short, make no mistake about it: The skilful and knowledgeable players will have a distinct edge by a better understanding of push/fold ranges and utilizing aggression to their advantage.
“Make sure you are putting these edges to work for you!”
And one of those big edges is Expected Value…
13. How to quickly work out Expected Value (EV) and use it:
There’s plenty you can read on Expected Value, like this, and this, but start with this below…
EV is the measure of your overall monetary expectation from taking a certain action. You calculate it by considering all possible outcomes and their frequencies.
You might have spotted this means you won’t come up with a fool proof definitive answer.
EV may be worked out exactly in simple cases or, more commonly, just estimated to be good or bad. Or perhaps higher or lower than the EV of taking some other action.
Take this example from Pete Clarke on PokerStars School…
“We call a pot-sized river-bet with second pair in a heads-up pot and believe that we will win around half of the time.
“Our EV is as follows:
“When we win our outcome is +2 units (we win the pot and our opponent’s pot-sized bet. We multiply this +2 units by the frequency of occurrence which is 50% to arrive at +1 unit.
“When we lose, our outcome is -1 unit (we lose our call). Again, we multiply this by its predicted frequency, which is again 50%, to arrive at -0.5 units.
“Our total EV then is 1 unit + (-0.5 units) = +0.5 units from making this call and so we should get those chips in the middle as fast as possible.”
There are two types of EV, one of them is more useful to you in Turbo events…
14. A note on Short-Term EV
The calculation above is about Short-Term EV. It focuses on the monetary outcome of this one hand. It doesn’t make any prediction about how our play will affect hands against this opponent later in the tournament, or against opponents who watched the hand play out.
What’s important to us is the present. Don’t try to estimate what the strategic impact will be of playing this way in the long-term.
Why skip long term thinking in turbos?
15. Prioritise short term thinking
In turbo tournaments, tables break all the time. Players switch tables and are moved to fill the gaps in tables. Remember, these are fast events and seats become open all the time.
There are also fewer hands played at each blind level.
Pete Clark explains…
“This means that even if we are liable to be punished in the long-term for an action that is profitable in the short-term, there may not be enough time for our opponents to gather their reads and then make good adjustments to our unbalanced play.”
Put another way, your opponent is unlikely to have time to use this intelligence against you.
From that we can prioritise short-term EV and make all the unbalanced players that might help us win chips right away. There will be fewer repercussions than in regular tournaments.
Basically you’re more likely to get away with it.
Here’s another example from Pete Clarke…
“In the mid-stages as the antes and blinds are beginning to ramp up, we find ourselves on the BU with 23BB, holding A4o. An 18BB stack opens to 2.5BB in the CO.
“Villain has been quite ABC so far and has yet to show much of a bluffing frequency nor any calling-station tendencies. He has folded to 3/3 3-Bets this far.
“If we were to 3-Bet this type of holding over 1,000,000 hands, we would expect to lose a lot of the fold equity we currently have because our 3-Bet frequency would be obviously too high.
“This might force us to later fold ATo in the same spot and we would call the first 3-Bet with A4o a long-term mistake.”
But let’s not by-pass longer-term EV completely…
16. How to estimate long-term EV
Long-Term EV is estimated by factoring in how our decisions and the information we give away about our strategy by making them impact our future opportunities to make money.
To make sense of why and how this might be relevant consider a very common situation such as 3-Betting an opponent pre-flop. Moreover, let us imagine that we are playing in a slow-paced deep stacked tournament.
We might think that the opponent in question folds too often to 3-Bets. We might look down at 94o after this opponent opens the small blind and we are in the big blind. It is entirely possible that we can 3-Bet this hand profitably in terms of Short-Term EV.
If Villain folds enough to our 3-Bet, we can make a profitable re-raise regardless of how bad our hand is.
17. One snag in estimating long-term EV
Pete Clarke continues…
“The problem lies in the fact that if we continuously 3-Bet 94o and similar terrible hands against this same player and at this same table, it will not be long before we lose fold equity due to our opponents correctly realising that they should not fold to our 3-Bets.
“In other words, by 3-betting such a bad hand for a very small short-term gain, and by doing so on a regular basis, we have caused Villain to play a better long-term strategy.
“In a few orbits time, we may wake up in the same spot with 86s, a far better hand, and decide that we cannot profitably re-steal due to our image being damaged by our reckless recent aggression. 3-betting 94o forced us to fold 86s later.
“We could say that despite being profitable in the short-term, the 3-Bet with 94o was Negative Long-Term EV.
“Note that this was only so because we were playing at the same table for a long time with the same opponents and were taking an unbalanced and overly aggressive action in a spot that will arise very frequently, presenting plenty of opportunity for the gathering and utilization of information by the rest of the table.”
That’s a lot to absorb but takes us back to the original point why short term EV is more useful in turbo tournaments.
But while that’s specific to Turbo Series, it’s worth remembering you already know a lot…
18. Don’t forget general tournament advice will help you
Regular tournament knowledge isn’t wasted in turbo events just because they’re quicker. Take some of the examples below.
19. Isolate weaker players
In any tournament you should try to identify who the strong players are, and who counts among the weaker.
Obviously, you should pay particularly attention the weaker ones and try to play pots with them. Look to isolate them.
When to pounce.
Look for when the weaker player limps into the pot or opens for a raise without anyone else yet joining the pot.
It might also be when the weaker player is in the blind and no one has entered the pot yet.
If your hand is playable ask yourself whether it’s an opportunity to isolate with a raise or re-raise. And if it’s early in the tournament, with stacks still deep, you could raise big.
With the nature of stacks in turbo events, isolating might not always work. Sometimes you’ll be making a decision whether to push all in.
But while that puts your tournament at risk, it asks a big question of your opponents.
As Clarke says…
“What if you make it something crazy like 8x? Most players will look at you incredulously, shake their heads, and fold all but their strongest holdings. Who calls 8x in an unraised pot anyway?
“Typically, it’s the weakest player(s) at the table, that’s who.”
Alright then, so…
20. Identify folders and pounce
So to win without cards we need to find opponents who’ll fold.
That’s not hard when they have nothing – some will do this more than others.
As Dave Roemer points out…
They fold gut shots instead of floating with them.
They fold pairs in the face of overcards.
They fold facing aggression without a strong hand.
And they politely fold when they miss the flop.
So you can see how you could target players who do this when you’re dealt less than optimal hands.
“They are susceptible to bluffs and will communicate clearly through their actions when they hit a hand.
“Since it’s hard to make a hand, they’ll be yielding more than they really should. Someone’s going to get those chips they abandon… make sure you get your turn at them.”
Which brings us back to that key tip from earlier…
21. Seize that short-term EV while you can
It’s worth saying this again: do what is profitable now. Worry less about balance.
It’s not about being reckless with a hand like 94 off suit.
It’s more about playing when you spot what could be a positive result. In those cases be ready to be less cautious.
That’s how to make money, but what about saving some…
22. Take advantage of satellites to win seats for a fraction of the buy-in
Like all tournaments Series on PokerStars there will be satellites running around the clock helping players win their seats into all Turbo Series events for a fraction of the buy in.
It’s an obvious one, but this is great for any player, especially those with smaller bankrolls, or who lack the Turbo experience… like players reading these tips for instance.
So before you jump straight in, check out satellite details on the Turbo Series homepage.
And one last bonus tip…
23. Talking of the schedule, play later than you think.
A common issue in a tournament series is that it’s not always easy to spare the time to play deep into the early hours.
Real life takes priority.
That usually means ruling out any tournament that starts early evening for example.
But Turbo events are played much faster, and in much less time. That includes when you go all the way to the final table (although we always say it’s easier to survive a sleepy morning after with a big payout).
Tournaments that start in the early evening will often be over before midnight.
So don’t rule out events that start later in the day than you might usually play. Go deep, and still have time for a good night’s sleep.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Turbo events are not for you. Either because you’re new to the game, or don’t believe your more cautious style of play suits the speedier format.
But hopefully some of these tips have dismantled any myths you thought true.
Turbos are different, but the tips here show that a few changes to your game get you up to speed.
Getting the hand of things like short term EV give you an advantage over most opponents, as does aggression from the very first hand.
So pick your spots, follow the advice here, and above all have fun. That’s what Turbo Series is all about.