Should You Play Turbo or Regular SNG’s?

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One of the most frequently asked questions in Poker Discussion has to do with a player wondering if Turbo (Speed) SNGs or Regular SNGs are more profitable. I also get this question a lot from my students. In this article, I will address the most typical response given to this age-old question and give you a different look. I will then show, comprehensively, why the answer is different for everybody, and why the ever-changing climate of poker might make tomorrow’s decision on this topic different than it is today, even for more experienced players.

The most common answer from experienced players is this one:

– You can expect a better ROI at regular SNGs, but your hourly rate will be greater playing turbo SNGs.

This answer is given based on the fact that it takes approximately 1.5-2 times as long to play a regular speed SNG than it does a turbo. The theory is that if a player can play more SNGs in a shorter period of time, he can make more money per hour, and since profit is the name of the game, turbo is the way to go.

There is one big problem with this theory. The average ROI of all players in a SNG is about -10%, figuring in the rake. The faster the blind structure is (turbo), the closer everybody’s true ROI gravitates towards that number. A good study that I did of my stats as well the stats of several different players who have played many SNG’s of each style gave me an interesting result.

The average SNG player will lose 1/5 of however much their ROI is over the -10% average at the faster game. What this means is that a player with a 10% ROI (20% over the average) in the regular games will drop to 6% ROI (16% over the average or 20% x 4/5) in the turbos.

What this means to you is that if you are not beating (or barely beating) regular SNGs, your hourly rate will actually drop into the negative if you switch to the turbos. The break-even point in turbos is approximately equivalent to a 7.14% ROI in regular SNG’s.

Heres a chart as it relates to this, assuming $10 SNGs, an average regular SNG time of 54 minutes, and an average turbo SNG time of 30 minutes (these figures vary slightly by site and your ability to play poker):

ROI in reg/hourly rateExpected Turbo ROI/hourlyBest game
-20%/-$2.20-18%/-$3.60Regular
-10%/-$1.10-10%/-$2Regular
0%/$0-2%/-$.40Regular*
5%/$0.552%/$.40Regular*
7.14%/$.7423.74%/$.742Break-Even*
10%/$1.106%/$1.20Turbo*
15%/$1.6510%/$2Turbo*
20%/$2.2014%/$2.80Turbo+
30%/$3.3022%/$4.20Turbo+
40%/$4.4030%/$6Turbo+

*If your ROI in regular SNGs falls within 0% to 15%, or your ROI in turbo SNGs falls within -2% to 10%, it’s too close to tell which game is best for your hourly rate without looking at the other factors below.

+There is no question about it. Turbos are better for your overall hourly rate. Even if the other factors involved show that you are a better regular SNG player, if you play regular SNGs, you are just burning money.

The great majority of winning players out there who ask this question fall into the “*” category. If they are players who fall into the “+” category, they are accomplished players and would generally know that turbos are better for them on an hourly basis. So my argument is that for most people who pose this question, the answer given so far is not yet an appropriate response!

Other factors to consider:

– Rake reduction on some sites for turbos.

Some sites have a reduced rake for turbo SNGs. PokerStars charges between 6.67% and 9.38% rake for turbos, whereas the comparable regular SNG rake is 10% of the buy in. Full Tilt Poker charges 9.09%, generally. Depending on the reduction, if you are close to the break-even point, you should generally switch to turbo.

– Are you good at playing with high blinds?

In a turbo SNG, you will often find seven players remaining at the 75-150 blind level, all with a low “M.” If you understand how to play in this situation, lean toward turbos. Some players get desperate out of position or tighten up too much in this spot. If you have a good feel for who’s who, when to shove to preserve fold equity, and the appropriate level of aggression needed when you consider your stack size, lean towards playing turbos.

– Are you a good deepstack player?

Regular SNGs, especially at the lower limits, are rife with opportunities to double up with not-so-great starting hands and minimal risk. If you are good at speculating with a wide variety of starting hands to take advantage of these opportunities, or you’re a good set miner, lean towards regular SNG play.

– Are you a better preflop or postflop player?

Turbo SNGs put an emphasis on stealing blinds at the right times, where regular SNGs have a greater focus on postflop play. If you are a better preflop player, lean toward turbos. If not, lean toward regular.

– Which type of fish is easier for you to catch?

Fish who are older (and weak-tight) generally prefer regulars, where loose young players who are in it for the action tend to prefer turbos.

– Playing against experienced multitablers.

Experienced Multitablers play turbos for the most part, as their hourly rate depends on it. If you know how to locate and exploit this type of player, you are better off playing in the turbos. If not, lean towards playing regulars.

– Bankroll considerations and variance.

Turbo SNGs have slightly more variance than regular SNGs. If your bankroll is close to exactly the minimum of what you need for the level you are playing (30-40 buyins), you should really consider playing regulars to reduce this variable.

– Do you multitable?

If so, you want to be able to make as many of your decisions as possible automatic. Since there is less postflop play in turbos, more of your decisions are no-brainers. Strongly consider playing turbos. If you can’t maintain a positive ROI playing turbos, you shouldn’t be multitabling anyway.

The future of SNGs:

One of the biggest changes to the online poker climate has been a sharp increase in the quality of play in the low-limit games. The mainstream poker boom appears to be nearing it’s end. The sheer number of new people playing in the online game has dropped significantly. TV advertising in the United States is down, so people are less aware of where to go to get involved. The average recreational player in the United States has found it more difficult to deposit, and, more importantly, to quickly redeposit after he goes broke. People who once found a bigger game profitable have been forced to drop a level. If you are a good player, this has probably already shown you a drop in ROI, and if not, it will likely contribute to a significant ROI drop over the next few months.

For instance, I have an ROI of over 40% in low-limit SNGs over a 10,000 SNG sample size. The truth is that since the passage of the UIGEA, I don’t believe I could maintain that rate over my next 10,000, even though my game has improved. My opponents are much better than they used to be, and they are getting better daily.

A lot of players who have had double-digit ROIs will now become single-digit ROIers, and this may affect the game they should be playing. Without dropping a level, the next best option for these players may be to make a move to regulars or move up to two-table or five-table turbo SNGs to maintain a good hourly rate. If you fall into this category, be sure to keep good records so that you will know if and when to move.

I hope this guide helps you decide where you should be, especially if it’s something you’ve wondered about. Hope you all make big bucks at the tables!

Jennifear

Jennifear is a proud Contributing Writer for Pocketfives.com and a Presto Award Winner for 2006’s Most Valuable Poster, as voted by the readers of PocketFives. She teaches private poker lessons, and you can find the details at Jennifear.com. A discount on these lessons is available by supporting pocketfives.com by joining a poker site through one of their links.

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