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3 Top Tips for Turbo Poker Tournaments

October 29, 2019
by Pete Clarke

What are the three most important poker tips for the aspiring turbo player? We’ll find out in this poker strategy article.

It’s time to start getting your turbo game into shape. What are the main differences between turbo tournaments and regular paced ones, and how do we adjust to the ever-increasing blind levels?

Tip 1: Big Stacks Are King – Use them with Patience

The number of Big Blinds (BBs) remaining in your stack and your current edge in the games are directly proportionate. The deeper your stack, the greater the extent to which you can maximize EV (expected value) by outplaying your opponents. This is true due to the combination of:

1. Reduced Time Pressure
2. Increased Manoeuvrability

The former allows us to avoid very marginal high variance situations that could threaten our tournament life for minimal gain. By having more big blinds, we can wait for more favourable situations to make investments, dramatically decreasing our risk of busting.

The latter leads to there being more decision points and more meaningful decision points, increasing the scope for our opponents to make errors and our ability to capitalize on such mistakes.

What I’m getting at here is that when we have a large stack, we gain EV exponentially, meaning that as our stack increases, our edge increases even more as we escape the desperate rat race for chips and can take our time carefully choosing spots in which to outplay the competition. If you are lucky enough to double up early on and enjoy the luxury of extra chip cushioning, it is time to slow down and make use of the privilege of not worrying about the next very marginal investment you will have to make simply to stay alive. One of the biggest leaks I see in turbos is large stacks gambling unnecessarily. This negates a lot of the edge that their early fortune has provided and plunges their fate back into the volatile hands of variance. Steal wide and apply pressure with a large stack, but do not take the same fruitless risks that the shorter stacks are forced to endure.

Tip 2: Gamble Aggressively Early On

As we have just learned, the big stack is the mop that absorbs the spillage from the frantic short-stacks, who throw their last chips in the pot through necessity, not choice. It follows from this that becoming that big stack at an early stage of the tournament is incredibly powerful and we should willingly risk our tournament life in order to get into such a commanding position.

The fact of the matter is that our tournament life is simply not worth a great deal at the beginning of a turbo. Our edge is small, even when we are more skilled than the field, and so risking our life on a slightly favourable coin-flop is a much more lucrative proposition than in a normal speed tournament. The reason for this is that, if we double up, we shall make better use of the big stack than the field (being dedicated PokerStars School members.) Therefore, we should be willing to take a few punts early on as long as they are not clearly negative chip EV (meaning that they cost us chips in the long run). Essentially, we want to get on the big stack train before is has departed with our opponents on board instead of us.

Further justification for gambling aggressively in the early stages of a turbo comes form the time vs. money relationship that is so integral to the success of the poker player in general. Do we really want to spend a long time grinding with the minimal edge that comes from having a normal sized stack in a turbo, where that stack is always threatened and uncomfortable? No, we would much rather bust one time in two in order to get into a commanding position where our edge is magnified exponentially the other half of the time. This will save us time and make our poker time more profitable over the long-term.

Again, do not make poor plays for the sake of gambling, but do gamble fearlessly in the early stages when prospects are reasonable to give yourself a chance of massively boosting your edge. Wasting time being risk adverse and inevitably meeting a feeble end by being blinded down is one of the more common turbo mistakes.

Tip 3: Long-Term Focus is Key

The stormy seas of the turbo format bring the skill level of amateur and professional closer together. If you expect to be a winning player in the games, it may be a very long time before your results start to mirror your edge. You might start off in your turbo career with a few big cashes and realize your edge right away, or you may be on a cold spell for a long time before your breakthrough comes. Many of the players we hear about who have won one massive tournament are not skilled and even have a negative expectation in the fields they compete in. The bad players will bust you time and time again and this is something that should become an expectation rather than a painful blow.

What will make or break your chances of success over the long run is not how often these unfortunate bust-outs happen, but how you react to them and what quality of game you manage to bring to the table on a losing day where every card seems to be falling in the wrong place. Successful turbo tournament players are ones who can keep their emotions on a relatively stable platform through good times and bad. When running deep into an event, it is a categorical error to let your excitement build uniformly with your chip-stack. Equally, it is self-sabotage to develop frustration on bad days and then vent it by making inferior poker decisions. As you bust event after event, you must remember that this a part of the earnings graph that every good player endures on a regular basis. Turbos are all about long periods of bleeding buy-in after buy-in followed by sudden bursts of positive results. Those successes may never come if your game collapses in the downswing period.


The three ingredients of capitalizing on early stack growth; gambling to earn a big stack in the first place; and being able to see the bigger picture, are perhaps the three most important pieces of general advice for the aspiring turbo player. Just by understanding this article you have grasped a big part of the nature of these events. You already have an advantage on players who are unfamiliar with these points. Good luck at the tables.

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