Structure Adjustments

With the Tournament of Champions coming up at Running Aces, and the incredibly good structure that they offer for this event, I thought I would talk a little bit about adjusting to different structures. The structure is awesome, the juice is very reasonable, and if you are a serious player in Minnesota, you can not miss this tournament. There are qualifiers running all week, and more information available HERE.

I’ve been asked the question so many times that I developed a stock answer to it. The question?

“How do I need to adjust to a fast structure /turbo?”

My answer is usually –

“Not at all. The cards don’t know when the blinds go up next. You have X number of big blinds, and that doesn’t change because of the structure.”

I answer it this way most of the time because the people asking it are fairly basic players looking for a basic answer. They want a solution to their problem, not an in depth strategy lesson that they won’t remember two hands after it’s finished, and it wouldn’t do them any good. It’s also mostly true and it probably does them a lot of good because most beginning players feel way too much pressure when the blinds are going up fast and it helps them stay calm and just play the right way according to their stack and their hand. But it’s not really true, there is a little more to it.

If you read my blog with any regularity, then you probably know about my love for numbered lists. Want to see another one? Sure ya do. Here it is. Presented as a scientific paper because that’s the mood I’m in.


Adjustments for Varied Structure Speeds in Multi-Table Poker Tournaments

Chris Wallace, PHD: Poker Analysis, Grinder University

1. The primary differences between a fast and slow structure have to do with the amount of time you will spend with a specific set of opponents. In a faster structure it can be less profitable to establish a table image because players will be busting faster, tables will break sooner, and the subject or some of their opponents will be moved to another table or busted and replaced with others quickly. In a very slow structure, offering more opportunities for strong players, setting up a table image and paying close attention to opponents is of significantly more importance than it would be in a similar situation with a faster structure.

2. In a slow structure, the subject should worry less about their chip stack as it compares to average and concentrate on patience and making plays based on the number of big blinds in their stack. When the structure is faster it is appropriate to base one’s decision on stack size compared to average stack, though this adjustment is very small and should rarely be used as a deciding factor.

3. In a faster structure, some moves which the advanced player uses to take advantage of fold equity may not be as profitable. Players in a faster structure tend to be more desperate and feel more pressure to chip up, so they may be less willing to fold a hand. Conversely, some players will feel pressure to raise a large number of hands preflop and may fold to resteals more often. Taking note of how desperate an opponent may feel is of utmost importance in a fast structure, while in a slower structure it is more important to pay attention to the table and establish range assumptions which will help an expert player come up with accurate assumptions of fold equity.

4. In a faster structure, an expert player must remain poised with a shorter stack and be comfortable with the moves that are available with both push/fold and resteal stacks because more time will be spent in those zones. Looking for opportunities to use these plays will be important in a faster structure, while in the slower structure deep stacked play will be more important because stacks will remain deep throughout the tournament.

5. In events with a faster structure the strong player may have a lower ROI (Return On Investment), and higher variance, therefore requiring a higher bankroll for professional play, but these faster events can in fact yield a higher hourly rate because less hours will be spent in each event. Research has shown that most poker tournaments of $200 or more yield a similar hourly rate regardless of structure, though this can be heavily influenced by playing style.

6. Paying attention to table break order is important in both fast and slow structures. Time spent establishing a table image in a slow structure could be wasted in an event with a slow structure if the table will be breaking soon.

While most players will adjust far too much to different structures based on perceived pressure or lack thereof, there are clearly adjustments to be made and an expert player will benefit from a slightly higher ROI by implementing these and similar strategies.

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  1. #1 by robowolfman on August 11, 2013 - 4:16 pm

    I know this might be a silly question but Do they usually have a list in a tournament on which tables are going to break first?

    • #2 by Fox on August 11, 2013 - 4:48 pm

      In major tournaments the break order will usually be scrolling along the bottom of the tournament clock.

    • #3 by Fox on August 11, 2013 - 8:20 pm

      You can also usually figure it out by watching tables break either in rows or by table number if there is no scrolling break order on the clock.

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