How to crush six-max hyper turbo sit-and-gos

Are you looking to win in a hurry? There’s plenty of money to be made in six-max hyper turbos – Christy Keenan reveals all

For those unfamiliar with the format, hypers are like six-max turbos on amphetamines. Rather than the traditional 50BB or 75BB starting stacks, entrants start with 25BB and the blinds increase more frequently. Tournament duration frequently stays in the single-digits, and edges are lower than Kerry Katona’s credit rating. For the recreational player, the thrill of the end-game is never far away. Furthermore, hypers offer a quick fix of action and a shot at making some fast money. In the short-term at least, Hypers are
variance-heavy gamble-fests.

Hyper turbos are not for the faint-hearted, but neither are they the crapshoots that some naysayers would have you believe. There are edges to be found and a lot of money to be made for those who can circumvent tilt and endure the short-term swings. Learn to embrace variance. A sit-and-go player who can’t handle swings is like being a surgeon who’s afraid of blood.

Finding an edge

Such a large part of a good player’s edge in a standard SNG comes postflop. The more streets a fish plays, the more errors they are liable to make. In hyper turbos, with no likelihood of deep-stacked play and little by way of postflop play, the good player’s edge will be limited. Certain advanced moves such as isolating, floating and barrelling are pretty much redundant.

Why, then, would the format attract the top regs? Simply put, where there are fish, so too there will be sharks. As the popularity of hypers has increased, the standard of play is less impressive than in more standard SNG formats. Edges might not be massive, but they still exist.

One of the great misconceptions is that small edges equate to small profits. Any edge, however slim, is immensely valuable in sit-and-gos, especially when volume is not an issue. With fewer postflop decisions, a good player can play many more tables. As such, the oft-misunderstood ‘long run’ can be reached very quickly.

Think of it this way: a player with a 2% edge at the table in a hyper will yield significantly more profit in a week than one with a 5% edge in a turbo, assuming an easily-attainable target of 1,000 hypers versus 350 turbos. Given that the average hyper duration is around nine minutes, these figures seem reasonable. In the short-term, variance may be huge, but the long-term and subsequent evening-out of variance will arrive a lot quicker.

Rake, too, is a consideration, for it typically amounts to around 4% of the buy-in rather than the usual 10%. When the lower rake is factored in, it is easy to understand the appeal of the hyper for good players.

Early game strategy

It would be easy to infer that robotic, push-or-pass poker is the optimal strategy, given that mass multi-tabling is encouraged. After all, staying ahead of the ever-increasing blinds and antes in order to preserve your fold equity is a challenge in itself. However, a 25BB starting stack does have some manoeuvrability and early accumulation of chips will enable you to wail on your opponents when the endgame draws near, as opposed to trying to nurse a short stack into a second-place finish.

Logic dictates that weaker opponents will make more errors than regs. As such, put yourself in a position that will enable you to exploit them and claim their chips before the other sharks do. The beauty of hypers is that, with the lower rake and permanently-shallow effective stacks, jeopardising your tournament life in the early levels is not the same kind of tactical mistake as with more traditional sit-and-go formats.

Calculated risks should be taken in order to chip up quickly. Here’s a quick example: Hero is dealt 7-7 in the cutoff with the blinds at 15/30 ante 3. All six players have around their starting stack of 500. The UTG player folds and the hijack open-shoves.

Ordinarily, the hero would fold to a 15BB shove from early/middle position without much consideration. However, in a hyper, ranges must widen and aggressive play in the early stages is rewarded. If the hijack is shoving a range of 20% (3-3+, A-2s+, A-4o+, K-10s+, K-Qo) and the stacks behind will only overcall with around 5.5% (9-9+, A-Qo+), then the hero must be prepared to stack off.

What you need in the early stages is a kind of adapted small-ball approach where you take lots of little stabs with min-raises and continuation bets. And don’t be afraid to get it in when you spy a good spot.

Bubble strategy

In an earlier PokerPlayer article on standard six-max SNG bubble strategy, I extolled the virtues of locking up a cash. After all, in order to take home the same amount of money in a 65-35% structure, the ratio of second places to first place finishes lies at 2.8:1.

In a hyper, once an allowance has been made for the rake, this ratio decreases to 2.7: 1. In other words, the payout is flatter and this increases the importance of successfully navigating your way past the bubble. The difference might appear negligible, but in a format that is all about exploiting small edges and putting in a lot of volume, there is no greater certainty than the repeated passing up of +EV spots (be they shoves or folds) will have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Things change further still when playing another popular form of sit-and-go: the hyper satellite. With a 50-50% payout structure, calling a shove on the bubble involves paying an enormous ICM tax. After all, in a satellite, the prize for finishing second is equal to finishing first.

Making the final two with 2,999 chips or one chip makes no difference as the payout is the same. The following hand, played recently by one of my students, underlines this point: The hero has 1,480 chips and looks down at A-Q in the big blind with blinds of 50/100 ante 20. The button, with 475, folds, and the small blind open-shoves his stack of 1,045. In a standard hyper, with the villain shoving 33% of the time, the hero will call with his A-Qs after high-fiving the monitor.

His calling range will be along the lines of 6-6+, A-9s+, A-10+. A call here is worth 3.69% of the total prize pool in equity and is an absolutely massively +EV spot that cannot be missed. The hero is far ahead of the villain’s shoving range, and has a great opportunity to knockout the middle stack and go heads-up with a massive chip lead. If he calls and loses, he joins the short-stack in the fight to make the money.

Now let’s take the exact same scenario but apply it to a hyper satellite. Versus the same shoving range of 33%, A-Qs is a mandatory fold. The hero may only call with J-J+, A-Ks+ and even then, this range looks to be on the loose side. Calling with A-Qs here would mean losing 0.50% of the prize pool in equity, and jeopardising what appears to be a straightforward passage into the (evenly-distributed) money.

Only when the hero knows that the villain is shoving wider than 50% does it become a call, and at no point is the positive expectation any more than 0.25%. In short, it can never be a truly great call, but it can certainly be a catastrophic one. Remember; when playing a satellite with equally valuable prizes, it is not the big stack’s duty to burst the bubble. He should play extremely tightly and allow the two others to tangle.

Being aware of how the payout structure informs ICM, and how ICM informs your decision-making, is absolutely vital in hypers.

Heads-up strategy

By the heads-up stage, stacks are usually so shallow that large edges are unlikely. However, ICM is no longer a concern. With both players already having locked up 35% of the prize-pool, heads-up is a straight freezeout for the remaining 30%. As such, Chip EV = Dollar EV and any move that has a positive expectation should be taken.

It’s a massive error to open-fold your button with anything but the absolute trashiest of holdings, as forfeiting your small blind is akin to setting fire to a relatively large chunk of your stack. With position, absolutely everything is worth at least a limp. Remember that, with effective stacks being so short, every pot is worth winning and should be scrapped for.

Let’s look at one final example: heads-up with blinds of 75/150 a15, The hero has a stack of 1,300 chips and looks down at 7-4♠. Many would open-fold here. It is a junk hand, but the 255 chips in the middle amount to around 20% of the hero’s stack. This spot is too good to pass up.

Unencumbered by ICM considerations, the hero can jam it in with any two here if the villain has a calling range of 35% (any pair, any Ace, any suited King, K-5o+. Q-8s+, Q-10o+, J-9s+). And with a hand as (relatively) strong as 7-4o, the villain would need to be calling with over 41% of holdings in order for a shove to be -EV. Even then, a limp would be preferable to an open-fold due to the postflop benefits of having position.

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