Turbo tournaments are a very unique form of poker. In normal tournaments, players will find long blind levels and a rigorous test of endurance. In turbo events, however, everything is the exact opposite. Most turbo tournaments have blind levels that don’t last any longer than 5 or so minutes. Needless to say, this creates a lot of action and changes the dynamics of tournament play completely. You can’t profitably sit back and wait for strong hands to play when your chip stack is rapidly being eaten away by the blinds alone. Adjusting to the faster style of play is not only important in turbo tournaments, it is an absolute necessity.
There are varying degrees of turbo tournaments. The most popular and commonplace turbo events are generic turbos which carry 5 minute blind levels. On some poker sites, a standard turbo event will have slightly longer than 5 minute levels, but you will rarely find anything over 10 minutes. The next step up from a turbo event is a ultra turbo. Ultra turbos come in a variety of different names, but they all mean the same thing: faster than a regular turbo. If a standard turbo was 8 minutes, an ultra would be closer to 4 or 5. If the regular turbo is 5 minutes, get ready for 3 minute blind levels. There is no doubting that the gambling element goes through the roof with these super fast events, but this isn’t as fast as they come. The absolute fastest form of tournament poker is found in hyper turbo events. Hyper turbo events hardly give players a second to think, let alone the time to make well thought out decisions. The hyper turbo tournaments run with just one minute blind levels. In other words, the blinds will be climbing with every couple of hands that you play. These events are certainly not for the faint of heart and require an extremely high tolerance for variance.
Early Stage Turbo Strategy
The early stages of a turbo tournament, along with the last stages, are not wildly different than those in normal speed tournaments. With that said, they definitely are not the same, either. The first few blind levels will allow players to sit back and play their hands selectively. Though hand selection is still an actual option at this stage in the game, you will still need to widen up your range a bit. If JJ was a fold against a three bet in a normal tournament, it can easily be transformed into an all in shove when playing a turbo. With decreased blind levels comes less opportunity to be selective with your big moves.
The faster your particular event is moving, the more plays that you should be making. There is very little time between when the tournament starts and when you will be reaching the money. As a result, you need to play each hand like it could be the difference between winning and losing. Tight, passive play is a sound strategy for the early stages of a normal tournament, but it is absolutely deadly in turbo or ultra turbo tournaments.
Middle Stage Turbo Strategy
The bridge between the middle stages of a turbo tournament and the final stages is often times undecipherable. One second you are battling to survive past the bubble, and the next you are flipping a coin at the final table. Though blinds are a major factor throughout all stages of turbo (or even regular) tournaments, they are most pertinent in the middle stages of an event. Once you reach the latter stages, the dynamic quickly shifts into all in or fold mode, but this isn’t the case in the middle stages. As you approach the money, the blinds will be big enough for some people to shove, some people to fold, and some people to go all in when they are forced to act.
Your ability to decipher between a shove, a raise, or a fold will be the difference between whether you make it any further. Not only do you have to make the right decisions, though, but you also have to be super consistent about it. Due to the fast moving blinds, every turbo tournament player is going to encounter their fair share of variance. To counter this, the winning strategy is to make the right decisions over and over again. If you shove and get called by a worse hand five times in a row, the odds are that you will eventually be set up for a deep run, even if you lose a handful of the times. The key to poker is always consistency, but the importance of steady play can not be stressed enough near the money in turbo events.
Identifying hand ranges in the middle stages is difficult to do because each situation is so different from the next. It would be impossible to say that shoving A9 off suit is right in this spot, but correct in another. Looking at shoving and folding ranges in a vacuum will get any poker player into a lot of trouble. Instead, rely on your experience and the context clues available to you in order to make the best decisions possible. Yes, this sounds like incredibly generic and basic advice, but it is the only way to really capitalize on your opportunity for a deep run. Stay calm, fend off tilt, and play fearlessly. These are the essential keys to profitability in the middle stages of a turbo tournament.
Late Stage Turbo Tournament Strategy
The late stages of turbo tournaments are when things shift to pure gambling. There really is no way around being forced into a ton of coin flips and sub par situations once you begin to approach the final table. The only way that you might be able to elude the necessity to gamble is to have an absolutely massive chip advantage over your opponents. The inherent flaw with this, though, is that your stack can easily be crippled by the blinds alone. Even the big chip leaders will need to make plays near the end of tournaments in order to maintain their position at the top. There is no shortage of players who had big stacks, thought they could wait it out, then ended up having their stack dwindled away. Aggression always pays off in the end, even if you are already in first place.
In almost any turbo event, a random ace or tiny pocket pair is going to have an advantage over the competition as the field dwindles down. The chances are that you will wind up getting a caller on any given shove that you make, so all you can do is look for late position spots with above average hands. One of the keys to winning any turbo tournament is being able to run moderately well. If you get your money in good, that is all that you can do. You are going to have plenty of situations where you get unlucky, so playing for the long run is the only plausible strategy. Remember, turbo tournaments carry a lot of variance and a ton of ups and downs, so be prepared for a long ride.