Figuring out spin and go strategy to beat the new PokerStars tournaments is the tabu subject that’s on everyone’s mind these days, but it seems like no one has the courage to step forward and say “Alright boys, let’s have a broad discussion on this type of game and figure out how to beat it!”
Luckily, you don’t have to right now, because I have analysed the whole back-end of this new tournament type, and I've come to some conclusions that are both insightful and helpful. First off, let’s start with the math behind the Spin & Go’s, to give you a better understanding on how these tournaments actually work.
PokerStars Spin and Go Strategy - The Maths
Not knowing this mantra of math stuff behind Spin & Go’s is like playing poker without knowing what’s the chance to make a pair on the flop. You might get lucky at the start, maybe even hit some big ones, but if you want to keep playing these mini-tournaments, variance
will eventually get you.
‘Why learn the math behind this?’ you could ask. Isn’t playing well enough ? In this case it isn't, because you have to understand the volume that you have to put into these tournaments, how swingy they can get and also the fact that you’ll lose a lot of money until you hit a big one, and then lose some more, and then hit a big one again, and so on.
Ideally if you would be investing 1$ every time you play one, let’s say that there would only be 2$ returns on Spin & Go’s. This means that to break even, you have to win 1 time out of 2. That’s winning half of the time, a 3-man tournament. I agree that if the blinds were a little smaller and the game had somewhat slower pace, combined with your great poker playing abilities (this we cannot doubt!), it could work in your favor and you could maybe win half of them, with the bigger ones just being an added bonus.
You have to understand the volume that you have to put into these tournaments, how swingy they can get and also the fact that you’ll lose a lot of money until you hit a big one!
The problem here is that you start out with a shallow stack of 25 blinds, and that they go up so fast that you barely have any room for postflop poker where you have the biggest advantage over weaker players. This makes it almost impossible to win these tournaments half of the time.
Even if you know when to push or fold perfectly preflop (which becomes compulsory when you get to under 13 blinds, the 3rd level usually), it would still be questionable if you could have enough of an advantage to win 50% of all the Spin & Go’s you play. The good news is that you don’t have to!
Let’s examine the following table and see what the chances of hitting bigger Spin & Go prizes are. This is the official table of the Spin & Go prize distribution.
Becoming a Winner at Spin & Go Format
As you can see, you have about 73.5% chance to hit a normal 2$ one, 18.3% chance to hit a 4$ one, 7.5% to hit a 6$ one, 0.5% chance to hit a 10$ one and 0.1% to hit a 25$ one. We’ll exclude the other ones for now and come back to them later.
We leave these other tournaments out because we want to take into consideration the fact that you might not get lucky in the long run and just consider these tournaments as bonuses along your way.
Summing all these percentages up, you get to about 99.9%. So let’s see what’s the median win for Spin & Go tournaments without the biggest ones (which you will not get to if you’re not a high volume player or just extremely lucky).
The formula is this: (73.5%*2$ + 18.3%*4$ + 7.5%*6$ + 0.5% * 10$ + 0.1% * 25%)/99.9% = 2.729$, which almost adds up to the full 3 buyins (the rake is 7% so the full 3 buyins add up to a prizepool of 2.79$ so it’s really, really close; that’s exactly why the big ones are almost negligible).
So let’s see how many times you have to win the Spin & Go tournaments to be break even then.
The formula is (1 / 2.729) * 100 = 36.6%
. That’s pretty close to the 33.3% mark, which is the win percentage if you win one time out of three, isn’t it?
Kind of amazing, right? What you can actually learn from this is if you win 1 in 3 Spin & Go tournaments, you’re still going to be losing money in the long run, if you play only 1000 of them (0.1% chance of getting a 25$ Spin & Go which means you have to play 1000 for the probability to be close to 100% to get one).
Variance in PokerStars Spin & Go tournaments
This is the point that I wanted to get to.
The answer to this whole mathematical calculus and equation. The answer is VOLUME
(of course) and BANKROLL
(even more so). As proven, the variance in these games is so high that a normal SNG bankroll
of 100 buy-ins won’t cut it. You’ll keep bleeding money until you get to play some big ones unless you win more than ~40% of the time, which is probably not going to happen because of the quickly raising blinds system and the nature of shallow stack poker.
It might even happen, if you’re really good at the format and learn to exploit opponents that you see for your first time, but you have only a few hands worth of information until you get to the push or shove phase. We’ll work on this in the advanced strategy section of this article.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is: when starting to play these tournaments, you need a BIG Bankroll. Yes, capital B. Playing these tournaments is like being a TAG
in the old days, you lose some small pots and take in big ones. But unless you’re extremely lucky (and few of us are), you’ll bleed a lot of your bankroll until you hit some larger ones. The good thing is that the moment you win the big one, that’s when you know your discipline, hard work and dedication have paid off.
I’m going to call it right now, the Bankroll for this type of tournament should be at least 300-500 entries
, to give you a chance to play at least 2000-4000 Spin & Go tournaments, so you can have loads of chances to hit bigger ones and actually win them.
You need big bankroll (with a capital B) to play these tournaments; it is like being a TAG in the old days.
The next thing I want to talk about is volume volume volume. This is the next most important thing in Spin and Gos. If you don’t play a lot of these, you won’t get to that glory point, you won’t reach that amazing moment when you get a super big one, and you’ll just say that you’re unlucky.
The key to overcoming variance in these games is putting a ton of volume
in so you can outlast the luck factor, and this format makes it so that you have to play a whole lot (2000-4000 games at least) to prove that you’re a good player and show a consistent profit. And guess what? Your Bankroll is there to assist you! Are you up for the challenge?
More Advanced Spin and Go Strategy Tips
Don’t play the 5$ Spin & Go’sThe 5$ Spin & Go’s as we all know have the million dollar promotion. The problem is that if you want to profit constantly and have a good ROI from Spin & Go tournaments, you cannot play this promotion, because most tournaments will be 10$ prize-pool, so you have to win a bigger percentage of these to breakeven in the long run.
Honestly, that percentage is not even doable, even if your opponents have no idea what they’re doing, the format is made so that you can’t win more than 40% of these tournaments. You might win more if you’re an incredible player, but your reads are limited since the player pool for these tournaments is immense, so you’re rarely going to see the same face even if you play 5000 of them. And also if you’re an incredible player, your name is probably Mercier or Negreanu and you’re not reading this article.
But the best thing about these games I have yet to unravel:
90% of opponents in PokerStars Spin & Go's are recreational players, even at the higher limits
YEP. You got it. It’s a new type of tournament, and the format makes it so that if you’re lucky you can win a big sum by investing a minimum amount, in a very short time, and you can take shots every once in a while for fun. This means that it’s a perfect format for recreational players. The blind levels minimize the edge that good players have on them, so they will win more than in regular Sit & Gos or MTTs and that’s more fun for them obviously.
I have played a lot of Spin & Go tournaments and I can guarantee that only one player in 10 Spin & Go tournaments is actually decent. This is an encouragement for you guys to start playing these tournaments, because there’s a lot of money to be made if you play right and understand the system. Let’s now move to the more advanced strategy part!
Learn to exploit your opponents in Spin & Go's
This is the way you
win at poker: by exploiting your opponents
. In every poker game you have different ways you can exploit your opponents, but their flaws can for the most part either be playing too loose, or playing too tight.
In these tournaments, playing tight is the worst thing that you can do, because you will get blinded out super-fast. Waiting for 15% top range type hands is just a no-no. You have to be raising all the time and trying to steal them blinds because that’s just the essence of under-25 blind game. You can’t expect to get a big pair every Spin & Go you play, so you have to keep repping good hands.
In these tournaments, playing tight is the worst thing that you can do, because you will get blinded out super-fast. Waiting for 15% top range type hands is just a no-no.
Here’s some moves that you have to make to be successful:
- Never 3x pre. 2x is enough because your opponent is so short that he’s making the same decisions if you raise smaller than the usual 3x/2.5x raise. Even if it’s folded to you in the small blind, 2.5 is the max you want to raise. I’d go with the trusty min-raise tho.
- Raise/fold a lot against tight players. There are still a lot of players that are tight in these games so they fold a lot and re-steal only with a small amount of their range. You can exploit these players by raising 100% of your range against them when you’re heads up and folding to his re-shoves unless you’re at the top 15% of your range. This way you will win in the long run against this type of opponent.
- Train your ICM muscle. When you get under 8-9 blinds(in normal tournaments like SnG or MTT it’s 13 blinds), you can’t ever raise/fold so you’re pushing every time to steal the blinds or get it in with a decent amount of equity. You’re behind and if you stick to a tight range, you’re going to be blinded out. Knowing exactly when to push or fold is almost always non-dependant on your opponent so that’s a really good skill to have. There are a lot of tools for this on the Internet, so get searching and be sure that your ICM shove percentage is about at least 90% before playing another Spin & Go!
- Top pair even no kicker is always good, mid pair good kicker (MPGK) is almost always good but you can put it to better use by checking back a lot of flops with it and using it as a bluff catcher / value bet on the turn. Flops like AT2r or K93r are perfect for this because you don’t have a lot of overcards to your mid pair and most players will bet the turn when the flop is checked back as a bluff.
- Don’t do crazy moves like check-raising boards as a total bluff, because you’re bound to get called by a second pair. The players are not that good so don’t catch the Fancy Play Syndrome. Straight-forward poker wins these tournaments and there’s no reason you should play otherwise.
- Play your strong draws aggressively. If you have at least 30% equity on the flop (open-ended straight draw), it is imperative that you put all your money in as fast as you can, either by check/shoving or bet pot/calling because you want to max out your fold equity, that’s one of the secrets to winning in the long run.
If you stick to these simple tactics and play a lot of these tournaments, you will be printing money and climbing the Spin & Go ladder in no time. Just skip the 5$ ones.
Stick to these simple guidelines and you should have no problems beating Spin & Go's, as long as you ride out the variance.
Good luck at the tables!