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Learn a winning Spin & Go PokerStars tournament strategy in ICMIZER

by Q.

Learn a winning Spin & Go PokerStars tournament strategy in ICMIZER 2

October 1 PokerStars introduced a new exciting poker tournament format called Spin and Go PokerStars tournaments. Part of the buy-in goes into the jackpot prize pool which can get randomly added to any Spin & Go tournament and result in much higher prizes. The jackpot can reach up to 3000x the buy-in if someone gets very lucky.

Despite this being a new format and despite the fact that luck plays a much bigger role, Spin & Go tournament hands can be easily reviewed in ICMIZER 2.

In this article, I will share my thoughts about this format and their attractiveness for professional poker players. You will also find a short spin and go strategy video.

Contents

  1. What is a Spin & Go tournament?
  2. Video: pro poker coach Aze Gallo shows how to learn Spin and Go strategy with ICMIZER 2
  3. Spin and Go rake size
  4. How to review hands from Spin & Go tournaments in ICMIZER 2
  5. Spin & Go – where hyper Sit & Go players will meet HUSNG players
  6. Considerations about Spin & Go tournaments for professional poker players
  7. Spin & Go rake size when we ignore 16 extremely lucky tournament outcomes
  8. Spin and Go rake contribution percentages before November 3, 2014
  9. Spin and Go rake contribution percentages after PokerStars changed the rake on November 3, 2014
  10. EV line in Spin & Go's vs EV line in Sit & Go's
  11. Conclusions

What is a Spin and Go tournament?

In essence, Spin & Go tournaments are Sit & Go's (they begin when there are 3 players ready to play) with the following characteristics:

  • 3 players with 500 chips each.
  • 3 minute levels, so they are paced like hyper turbo Sit and Go's.
  • No antes.
  • Rake varies from 7% in $1 games to 5% in higher stakes. Spin and Go rake of 7% (plus 1.2% as you will see in Spin and Go rake contribution part) in $1 dollar games is very high of-course, but 5% at $7 and up to $30 is more reasonable.
  • Payout format is winner takes all in all but the most rare 100x, 200x and 3000x buy-in tournaments where payouts are 1x for finishing first, 0.1x for second and 0.1x for third.
  • The typical payout for the winner is only 2 buy-ins. The 3rd buy-in goes towards the lottery-type bonus prize pools. Before the tourney begins, the buy-in multiplier is determined and players immediately know if they are playing for an enhanced prize pool. To attract recreational players, the enhancement can be very large in insanely rare cases.

Spin & Go blinds levels

10 / 20

15 / 30

20 / 40

30 / 60

40 / 80

50 / 100

60 / 120

75 / 150

90 / 180

105 / 210

125 / 250

There is a 30/100,000 chance that the prize pool will be 100 buy-ins or more, instead of the default 2 buy-ins. There is a 1/100,000 chance that the prize pool will reach 3000x buy-ins, and this is what recreation players will think about when they hear about Spin and Go tournaments.

This tournament type is bound to attract a lot of new players who are more interested in the lottery aspect of tournament than anything else, so we can expect that they won’t be as strong as typical players in standard SNG play.

Pro poker coach Aze Gallo shows how to learn Spin and Go strategy with ICMIZER 2

In this coaching Spin & Go strategy video Aze teaches you how to use ICMIZER 2 to choose the best preflop decisions in the 3-way and 2-way situations of the all new PokerStars Spin & Go format.

There is no ICM effect or bubble factor considerations in Spin & Go tournaments so the analysis can be performed in Chip EV mode.

PokerStars Spin and Go rake size

Buy-in

Rake

1$ (0,93$ + 0,7$)

7%

3$ (2,82$ + 0,18$)

6%

5$ (4,65$ + 0,35$)

7%

7$ (6,58$ + 0,42$)

6%

15$ (14,25$ + 0,75$)

5%

30$ (28,5$ + 1,5$)

5%

60$ (57$ + 3$)

5%

How to review hands from Spin & Go tournaments in ICMIZER 2

As mentioned earlier, Spin & Go tournaments are essentially 3-max, winner-take-all, hyper turbos. The spin at the beginning that determines the prize pool essentially has no effect on your spin and go strategy.

To review hands using ICMIZER 2, you can just select "Chip EV" mode - this automatically adjusts the payout structure to be "winner-take-all". You can cut and paste individual hand histories into ICMIZER 2 or import hand history files, the same as you would with any other Sit & Go tournament.

Reviewing Spin and Go tournament hands in ICMIZER 2

ICMIZER 2 is ready to review your Spin and Go tournament hands!

In addition, you can use all the unique tools of ICMIZER 2, such as adjustable ranges, calculating Nash equilibrium and the various charts that can be produced. Remember that ICMIZER 2 is designed to help you make optimal EV decisions, and ICMIZER 2 will also help you maximize your ROI and profits in the new Spin & Go format.

Spin & Go – where hyper Sit & Go players will meet HUSNG players

A lot of recreational players will move to Spin and Go's. Experienced HUSNG (heads up SNG) players and 6-max and 9-max hyper players will see a decrease in volume of their standard games and probably move to this new format.

Spin and Go's share similarities with both formats, but they will offer both groups of players a new type of challenge.

HUSNG players will find themselves playing 3 way — an area where ICMIZER 2 helps them to quickly build effective pushing, calling and resteal ranges. You can also analyze squeeze spots, where someone raises on the button, SB calls and BB chooses to push into two players.

I think that HU SNG players will feel more in control of this new format and for them adaptation to spin and go strategy will be easier than for of 6-max and 9-max hyper players. For them finding an effective spin and go strategy will present a lot of new challenges.

First of all, there is no bubble, so having a big stack isn't really that advantageous and doesn't warrant a lot of wide and profitable pushes. There also are no antes, so this changes the pot size and dynamic a lot.

There also will be much more complex postflop decisions compared to 6-max hyper turbo and 9-max hyper turbo Sit & Go format.

The typical strategy of 6-max hyper or 9-max hyper is heavily focused on preflop pushes and players typically develop good understanding of relative stack value. However, HUSNG players spend a lot of time in postflop so I would say they may have an advantage in this structure.

It should also be noted that once there are 2 players left in Spin & Go, absence of antes will change typical pushing/calling strategy compared to 6-max and 9-max hyper structures with antes. The pot size is smaller, so ranges will be a little tighter.

Considerations about Spin & Go tournaments for professional poker players

As a coach, I always recommend to my students to focus on a single buy-in level for a given tournament structure when possible. It can be very difficult to cope with bad swings on higher stakes, especially when your lower stake results are looking good. Losses at higher stakes can eat up all your profits from lower stakes, and the net result can be negative, both from the perspectives of bankroll and from heavy psychological pressure.

When you opt to play Spin and Go's, you willingly breach this principle and participate in tournaments with varying prize pools. This means that your results will heavily depend on your luck in participating in tournaments where the buy-in gets boosted. In my opinion, it appears that there is a heavier dependence on luck and lesser dependence on skill.

The challenge is to get lucky enough to win the big lottery and get into a 100x or more tournament. The chance of 16 out of 100,000 tournaments is extremely low, so while Expected Value is the same, there is a ((99,984 / 100,000) ^ 10,000 ) × 100% = 20% chance that out of 10,000 tournaments (a pretty big sample) you will get none of those lucky tournaments. However, each time you participate in a Spin & Go, a large percentage of your buy-in (after rake) goes into the prize pool for those lucky tournaments.

For you it means that the theoretical rake will remain 5% at the $30 level, but practically speaking the rake will be much higher since you have paid a lot of buy-ins for tournaments where you never played.

Spin and Go tournament with 1000 buy-in prize

To illustrate this point let's say you play a $30 Spin and Go tournament, don't get lucky and only end up with a 2x buy-in prize pool.

You pay $30, 5% goes to rake so the expected amount of your buy-in going towards the prize pool is $28.5. However, the total prize pool for the tournament is only 2x, or $60. So your contribution to the prize pool is ⅓ of that, or $20. The $8.50 + 5% rake of $1.50 mean that in this sample your actual "rake" is a whopping 33%!

Regardless of your skill level, it is impossible to show expected profit in tournaments with such rake. So your real, non-theoretical results will heavily depend on

  • Your luck in participating in those 100x+ buy-in Spin & Go's
  • Your luck (actual performance) in other tournaments where the payout is bigger than usual 2x.

Spin & Go rake size when we ignore 16 extremely lucky tournament outcomes

Let's see what the rake size will look like if we play 100,000 tournaments, but never get into any of those 16 extremely lucky outcomes with prize pools of 100x, 200x or 3000x buy-in prize pools.

Prize pool

Actual

Buy-in % contribution

Probability

3000

3600

1.200

1 of 100 000

200

240

0.400

5 of 100 000

100

120

0.400

10 of 100 000

25

25

0.833

100 of 100 000

10

10

1.667

500 of 100 000

6

6

15.000

7 500 of 100 000

4

4

28.488

21 366 of 100 000

2

2

47.012

70 518 of 100 000

Total: 95.000

Each of the first 3 structures includes an additional 2nd and 3rd place payout of 1/10 of the prize pool. Therefore, if your tournament is one with a 3000x buy-in for first place finish, it will also have 300 buy-in payouts for second and third places.

Let's say we are playing at the $30 buy-in level with 5% nominal rake. $20 goes to the normal prize pool, $1.5 to rake and $8.5 goes towards the enhanced prize pools.

Let's also say you play 100,000 tournaments, and therefore $850,000 will go towards the jackpot prize pools, but let's assume you never get to play in any of those 16 tournaments which you expect to play according to a probability distribution.

Those 16 tournaments will have a total of:

1 × (3000 + 300 + 300) + 5 × (200 + 20 + 20) + 10 × (100 + 10 + 10) = 6000 buy-ins in them!

You are paying a third of that (as one of 3 players), or 2000 buy-ins total.

That would be $30 × 2000 = $60,000

So if you don’t play in any of them, your actual rake becomes

5% + $60,000 / 100,000 / $30 × 100% = 5% + 2% = 7%

If we also exclude the 100 tournaments with 25 buy-ins, then another $25,000 has been wasted, and rake becomes 7% + $25,000 / 100,000 / $30 × %100 = 7% + 0.833% or 7.833%.

Rake of 7% or more doesn’t sound like the lowest rake you’ve ever seen in Sit & Go's anymore, but in fact the rake is still 5%. It's just that you will have to be very lucky for it to reach this 5% value, as so much of your money is going to form the enhanced prize pools.

Spin and Go rake contribution percentages before November 3, 2014

This table shows how Spin & Go buy-ins were distributed after this poker tournament format was launched.

Prize pool

Actual

Buy-in % contribution

Probability

1000

1200

2.000

5 of 100,000

200

240

0.800

10 of 100,000

100

120

0.600

15 of 100,000

25

25

0.667

80 of 100,000

10

10

3.333

1,000 of 100,000

6

6

16.000

8,000 of 100,000

4

4

24.013

18,010 of 100,000

2

2

48.587

72,880 of 100,000

Total: 96.000

Spin and Go rake contribution percentages after PokerStars changed the rake on November 3, 2014

Players reported that they weren't happy with the rake in Spin & Go tournaments. In return PokerStars replied that rake is in line with 6 max hypers rake.

That wasn't received very well, because comparing Spin and Go's with 6 max tournaments sounds like a stretch. They are much closer to the size of HUSNG hypers where rake is much smaller, so the expected "fair" rake size for Spin & Go lies between HUSNG and 6 max hyper SNG rake.

Later PokerStars have released a huge update about upcoming rake changes where they simply raise the rake in Spin and Go tournaments even more.

After November 3 the Spin & Go rake contribution table for $30 tournaments looks like:

Prize pool

Actual

Buy-in % contribution

Probability

3000

3600

1.200

1 of 100,000

200

240

0.400

5 of 100,000

100

120

0.400

10 of 100,000

25

25

0.833

100 of 100,000

10

10

1.667

500 of 100,000

6

6

15.000

7,500 of 100,000

4

4

28.488

21,366 of 100,000

2

2

47.012

70,518 of 100,000

Total: 95.000

There is a single insane 3600 buy-in jackpot once in every 100,000 tournaments.

You will not want to get a second or third finish position there.

However chances to get one are insanely low,and I think we can safely say that this 1.2 rake which goes into prize pool for this tournament can be considered as something you personally will never see again.

The second column explains how many buy-ins actually are distributed in specified tournament. Top 3 most lucky tournaments have a 100% prize for the first place and pay 10% to players who place second and third.

This table shows how your buy-in contributes to each of those different potential prize pools.

The most important line here is the first one. 2% of buy-in goes to form a prize pool of the tournament, which will only happen in 5 out of 100,000 cases.

If you play 10,000 Spin & Go'es there is a huge ((99,999 / 100,000) ^ 10,000 ) × 100% = 90% chance that you will not be lucky and will never play in the 3000 buy-in tournament.

It would mean that your actual rake will be 6%. For many players their net result would be negative, because their ROI could beat a 5% rake, but couldn't beat a 6.2% rake.

Also, when you actually are lucky enough to participate in such a tournament, your results will heavily depend on your finish position, if you win it can turn a long negative streak into a positive result.

Second and third (with 100 buy-ins each) finishes will definitely keep you very unsatisfied.

So with this change rake is now quite large, 6.2% for fast 3 way hyper turbo speed tournament with starting stack of 25 blinds.

The rake in smaller buy-in Spin & Go's is higher. This is achieved by increasing the number of 2x buy-in tournaments and decreasing the number of 4x tournaments. The jackpot percentages for the remaining 3600, 240, 120, 25, 10 and 6 buy-in Spin and Go's is the same on all stakes.

Buy in

$1

$3

$7

$15

$30

Rake

7%

6%

6%

5%

5%

Top Prize

$3,000

$9,000

$21,000

$45,000

$90,000

Max prize pool

$3,600

$10,800

$25,200

$54,000

$108,000

EV line in Spin & Go's vs EV line in Sit & Go's

2x prize pool games will be the majority (70,51%) of Spin and Go's you will play, and rake in them is unbeatable 33%. So you are not expected to show profits in them. The goal in this games is to lose the minimum. But the EV of them will be negative.

This is something new in the history of poker tournaments I think. In SNG's good players with positive ROI usually only can have a game with negative expectation if too many regulars join the same Sit & Go.

When you are a pro MTT player and you play in MTT your expected result is always positive, you can clearly beat the rake. The actual finish position can be either first place with huge prize or the last place with no payout.

However, in Spin and Go's majority of games will have negative Expected Value but a minority of games will have insanely high expected value. This will be known from the start of tournament, after the spin. If your tournaments wins a 3600x jackpot your initial stack is worth 1200x buy-ins.

This leads to the following interesting chart.

EV line in Spin & Go tournaments

The Spin & Go EV chart shape looks similar to typical MTT players actual winnings chart shape. There is a big difference, however: MTT players EV line has a positive angle and they always expect to show a profit when they participate in MTT tournament.

The actual variance may dramatically change the shape of Spin and Go player results chart and luck or absence of it in key tournaments will play a dominating role in the end bottom line.

Personally, I always prefer SNGs to MTTs because I feel less dependent on luck and the "saw" results shape is psychologically more difficult for me. Even when you know that you are a great MTT player, it may take a long time to see your actual ROI or for actual winnings to become the same as the expected value.

By playing Spin & Go tournaments you opt in for the same kind of a rollercoaster ride.

Conclusions

On the surface Spin & Go tournaments appear to be really fun and they are being heavily marketed, so they will attract a lot of recreational players. The theoretical Spin and Go rake of 5% or 6.2% (if we ignore 3600 buy-in jackpot once every 100,000 tournaments) is large, so it is not clear whether or not it can be beaten by pro poker players.

However, you will need to play an infinite number of Spin & Go tournaments for your rake to truly reach 5%. In practical terms, you will need to be lucky for your rake not to be bigger than this. It can take an insanely long time to actually see your expected winnings line and actual winnings line meet as they should in theory.

Plus, ICMIZER 2 is already set up to allow you to study your Spin and Go tournaments and to optimize your results!

What do you think about all this? Where is poker going with all those jackpot SNG tournaments and raised rake?

See also at icmpoker.com

Video: Pro poker player and coach Aze Gallo reviews 5 SNG hands in ICMIZER 2

Article: Short stack strategy on the bubble by pro poker player MikeyMcD45

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