Should I Play Regular or Speed/Turbo Tournaments?

Should I Play Regular or Speed/Turbo Tournaments?

Playing regular versus playing speed/turbo tournaments is one of the most asked questions among online poker tournament players. In this article, we are discussing the advantages of playing Sit and Go (SNG, STT) tournaments at different speeds. When talking about the strategies and advantages of various speeds, we mean the duration of the blind levels. The shorter the time of a blind level, the faster the blinds increase and the quicker a tournament will be finished.  For this poker strategy article, we will define regular and turbo as follows:

  • regular: SNG/STT tournaments with blind levels of six or more minutes
  • turbo: SNG/STT tournaments with blind levels of five or less minutes

Some poker sites offer besides turbo other, even faster single table tournaments, named “speed”, “mad” or “super turbo”. These super-fast tournaments have blind levels which last three or less minutes; or the starting stacks are only 25% or less than the normal starting stacks (e.g. the super turbos at Full Tilt Poker start with only 300 chips per player). Our recommendations and strategies for the turbo SNG/STT are also valid for these very fast tournaments.

Even though this article is placed in the SNG poker strategy section, the findings presented here apply to Multi Table Tournaments (MTT) and other variations of SNG games such as Double or Nothing Tournaments (DON).

Main Difference Between Regular and Turbo SNG

The main difference between regular and turbo SNG is that the push-or-fold phase in turbos is reached much quicker. The push-or-fold phase is reached once the effective stacks are down to 15 or less big blinds. With only few chips left compared to the blinds, you usually only have one prefolp decision to make: should I push all-in or should I fold?

Basically, everyone should play that kind of tournaments which he enjoys most. However, if you enjoy both speed variations, then reading this article might give you some helpful guidance on which tournaments you should focus.

Advantages Regular SNG/STT

Higher ROI with regular SNG: for a strong player, ROI (return on investment) at regular SNGs will be higher than at turbo SNGs. A very rough estimate is that the ROI at regular SNG tournaments is about 5% higher than at turbo tournaments. Because of the longer blind levels, regular SNGs take more time to finish. Strong players have therefore more time to use their skills to outplay their opponents. This should easily be understandable with the following example: imagine an ultra-turbo SNG with starting stacks of only one chip and with ante of 1 chip. All players are all-in in the first hand. Such an SNG becomes a pure game of luck. Even the best SNG player of the world will have no edge (skill advantage) against his opponents.

Higher share of winning players: because the expected ROI at regular SNGs is higher than at turbo SNGs, the probability of beating this kind of SNGs in the long run is also higher. Let’s get back to the previous example with the ultra-turbo SNG. If the buy-in is 10+1$, every player will have a ROI of -9.1% (-1/11 x 100%). The share of losing players in that STT variation is 100%. The slower the blinds increase, the less luck is factor defining the outcome of the game and the more skill becomes important. Therefore the share of winning players is higher at regular SNGs.

Play more „real“ poker at regular SNGs: because it takes longer until the effective stacks are down to 15 or less big blinds, you can play „real“ poker for a longer time. Moving all-in in the push or fold phase is of course “real” poker as well, but a regular SNG will include more different poker moves for a longer time period than a turbo SNG. During the first 20 minutes of play in a regular SNG, you will still be able to make advanced moves such as “double barrels” or “continuation bets”.

Skill is more important than luck: your results in regular STT will be more based on your skill than on your luck. Playing regular SNGs can therefore be more satisfying than playing the high-variance turbo STTs variation.

More similar to MTT: many tournament players do not only play Sit and Go’s, but also play multi table tournaments. The best strategy to win MTTs is similar to the one for playing regular Sit and Go’s during the first two to three blind levels. For this reason, SNGs and in particular regular SNGs are a good playground to practice the early phases of MTTs with a high buy-in. However, do not overestimate the advantage of regular to turbo SNGs. Players of the faster variation are usually stronger when blinds are high in relation to the stacks, as they are very used to the push-or-fold phase. And the tournament bubble phase is often played with a low blind-to-stack ratio (a low Harrington “M”), and is the phase where aggressive players gain most in equity by pushing all-in in the right spots.

Lower probability of downswings: under the assumption that the ROI of a good player is higher at regular than at turbo SNG tournaments, the risk of moving break-even or even having a large downswing is lower at regular Sit and Go’s. Of course this positive effect, known by poker players as “variance”, only materializes if you are a winning player and if your ROI really is higher at regular STTs. Two players (one playing regular, the other playing turbo SNG), both with the same expected ROI, will face the same up and downs playing tournaments. The risk of experiencing a downswing is driven by the expected ROI and the distribution of the finishing places in tournaments, not by its speed. But as mentioned above, the faster a tournament is, the lower the expected ROI generally is and therefore the higher the risk of a downswing is.

Advantages Turbo SNG/STT

Higher hourly rate: winning poker players can achieve a higher hourly rate by playing turbo Sit and Go’s than by playing regular SNGs. Even though the ROI is lower at turbos, a good player will earn more money per hour with these fast tournaments, because he can play much more games per hour. This usually more than compensates for the lower ROI.

Quicker build-up of bankroll and quicker moving-up in limits: if the above assumption is true (higher hourly rate with turbo SNG), you will earn money quicker and your bankroll will grow faster by playing turbo SNGs. Therefore, you will be able to move up quicker in limits by playing fast-paced sit and go’s. This will again lead to a higher hourly rate and more total profits. Moving up in limits is furthermore very motivating.

Turbos don’t last too long: for many players, this is one of the big advantages of playing turbos. Turbo Sit and Go’s take only 15 to 40 minutes to complete, while regular Sit and Go’s last between 30 and 90 minutes. For recreational players who just have one hour to spare for playing poker, turbo SNG are the preferred choice.

Quicker sample size: as you can play more turbo tournaments per hour, you will increase your sample size (the number of tournaments on one specific buy-in) quicker than by playing regular SNGs. You will therefore be able to determine if you are a successful poker player at your buy-in earlier than by playing regular sit and go’s.

Lower rake: rake is an important factor defining your total ROI. In a 10+1$ tournament, rake reduces your ROI by 9%. Turbo tournaments usually have the same rake as regular tournaments. However, some poker rooms have lowered the rake for the harder-to-beat tournaments, such as turbo Sit and Go’s or Double or Nothing STTs. With lower rake, the expected ROI increases. One of the poker rooms with particularly low rake for Double or Nothing tournaments is PokerStars.

Faster clearing of bonus: Because you can play more tournaments per hour, you will be faster in clearing your bonus if the rake is the same for both speeds. The faster you clear your bonus, the higher your hourly rate will be, and this is what matters. If you just cleared your first-deposit bonus and are looking for a new great bonus offering, have a look at our table with exclusive bonus codes for poker rooms.