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Beginners Guide To Beating Fast Fold Poker Tournaments Including PokerStars' Zoom, 888's 'SNAP' and iPoker's 'Speed Holdem'
Fast Fold Poker has gone from being a novelty, to being an established part of the online poker setup - with more and more sites hosting variations with names like Speed Holdem, Strobe, Zoom and of course the softest of them all - SNAP poker at 888. Whenever I play tournaments in these formats there are people making simple errors. Some of these are just inexperienced people splashing around, but most of the time they are failures to adjust to the fast-fold format. This article covers the many different types of Fast Fold poker tournaments and highlights the key differences in strategy compared to regular format games (and of course the parts which remain the same).
After the strategy you'll find a short section comparing what is on offer in these games at different sites side-by-side. There are some huge differences in the experience levels of the typical opponents at different sites. 888 and iPoker are the softest in 2019, with Stars generally much tougher.
Though fast fold poker has the same rules and betting as normal Texas Holdem, the difference in dynamics of the game means that a player must adapt their playing style to two key factors. These are that it is easy to fold junk, and most players will do so. Secondly, the feeling of anonymity leads many players into playing very predictably. This makes any notes you take (or HUD Stats you collect) extremely valuable in fast fold tourneys.
Early Stage Fast Fold Poker Tournament Strategy:
Due to the ability of players to quickly fold their hand instantly Fast Fold tournaments and multi-table sit and goes are a lot tighter than normal tournaments, with one important early stage difference. A small but significant number of opponents will raise almost every hand, thinking they are taking advantage of the ‘Quick Fold’ tendencies of opponents. This might not be a bad strategy if the same players understood position or post flop play – the fact that when they are called they often spew huge amounts of chips, negating the effectiveness of the aggressive start. On average, the hands you see shown down in Fast Fold MTTs are stonger than in a slower format game. If you are constantly trying to overcome this card-strength disadvantage with post-flop play then you are fighting an uphill battle. You need to stay tight from early position and wait for spots against known opponents to make big moves before the flop without the goods.
I recommend you fold non-premium unpaired high-card hands to any raise from early position while in the early stages, and restrict your calling ranges to pairs and suited connectors / suited aces when deep enough. Remember you will often be facing a big hand, and stand to win a big pot those times your small pair hits a concealed set. Remember to take notes on any usual bet sizes, do not wait until the end of the hand, click while in action and fill in the details when you have a moment. Since your opponent is proportionally more likely to have a value hand when they are raising, you should 3 bet bigger for value when you hold a premium hand yourself - if you are more likely to get called then why not extract the maximum value?
A solid 'ABC' approach, emphasizing position and making sure you are the raiser rather than the caller, will work wonders in the early stages of a Fast Fold Poker tournament – you will get to take advantage not only of the ‘raisy-crazy’ types, but the ‘fold all but premiums’ nits too while you accumulate chips.
Mid Stage Fast Fold Poker Tournament Strategy:
In the mid stages you have hopefully picked up a decent stack to work with. If you haven’t you must keep to rather standard play with a push / fold strategy sooner rather than later, the blinds will be going up fast in Zoom / SNAP Poker – and passive players will quickly get left behind. For me there are very few circumstances where it would be better to blind away any fold equity (ability to get opponents to fold) before getting those chips in - take a reasonable hand, a reasonable position and take a shot at getting back into the game before it is too late!
During the middle stages the ‘menace of mini-raisers’ can become apparent. With many opponents deliberately doubling the big blind with a wide range of hands to take advantage of the fact that opponents with ‘tricky stack sizes’ will often fold even strong hands rather than risk calling. My tip is to take notes, you will start to see the same players raising (or 3-betting) again and again as you get to the middle stages, and knowing who is a ‘serial mini-raiser’ can give you the opportunity to re-steal for some nice pre-flop pots. This same 'notes' tactic works will bet sizing too. So many players get suckered into feeling that their play is not being watched, if you spot someone who (for example) bets 2/3rds of pot when they missed the flop and half-pot when they are strong you take take massive advantage. The best thing about this tactic is that your opponent might never know that you have a read on them.
Staying aggressive and picking up blinds and antes is also important during the middle stages. Being aware of your stack size and the number of chips held by opponents will also help you decide on a play – remember very big stacks and extra small stacks are the ones most likely to call you as you approach the bubble.
Final Stage Fast Fold Poker Strategy:
Fast blinds mean that the majority of players will be in push / fold mode as the tables become short-handed towards the end of the game. This gives thinking players a great advantage, since the type of players who play Speed Holdem / SNAP tournaments are not the ‘grinders’ who will be aware of prize pool equity models such as ICM.
One of the biggest mistakes I saw in the late stages of Fast Fold tournaments is to fold too often. That is to say there are many opportunities due to specific opponents, stack to blind ratios and even pure desire for more chips where any two cards can be profitably pushed from the button or small blind. Failing to do this is simply giving away equity. Your notes will be a big help at this stage, an opponent who over-valued Ace-Eight (for example) in the early stages is likely to call on the final table bubble with exactly this type of hand – so beware!
Once you are down to 9 players the play returns to a ‘normal’ final table format, with the seats fixed. With shallow stacks compared to the blinds play is likely to be aggressive and fast. You should focus again on the mid-stacks and try to work out who is playing to move up the payout scale and who is going for the win. Check my article on Tournament Final Table Strategy for more on the specific strategies for this this part of the game.
Fast Fold Poker Tournaments - What Are The Differences And Which Is The Best?
PokerStars introduced Zoom tournaments for their MicroMillions Event a few years ago. These games are now available as part of their regular schedule with buy-ins of between $2.20c and $16,50c. These games have a red 'Z' next to them in the tournament lobby and Guaranteed prize pools of between $500 and $5k. Blinds go up every 5 minutes, a similar schedule to their normal 'Turbo' tournaments and fairly slow when you consider the number of hands it is possible to play in Zoom games. There are sure to be some bigger buy-in events added, and already some huge guarantees in place for the next online poker event (the SCOOP). You can currently play Zoom tournaments in Pot Limit Omaha and NL Holdem format. With the merger of the player pools of Full Tilt to PokerStars, the old Rush Poker tournaments are no more... its Zoom all the way. While you'll get bigger fields and bigger guarantees in PokerStars' games, in general your opponents will be better / more experienced and more likely to understand the strategy adjustments... other, more recreational, sites are a better bet.
iPoker has Speed Holdem in tournament format. These are smaller buy-in games (€10 and under) and rarely attract fields of more than around 150 players. You will find some players who know what they are doing - though on the whole the fields are noticably more recreational than at PokerStars. This would be my top pick (via Titan Poker), if it was not for one site which has a really soft alternative.
Planet Mark's 2018 Pick: 888 Poker's SNAP Poker Tournaments
888 went 'all-in' on creating a site for recreational / amateur type players - and you can tell the difference when you play. Their fast fold poker game is called 'SNAP' and like elsewhere you'll find it in cash game and tournament format. The tournaments are crazy, the fields manageable (up to 200 typically) and the buy-ins are on the smaller end of the scale. These games are a great place to get started, you'll have to dodge some suckouts from people who call with crazy hands - though there are rarely better opportunities to build a stack. I recommend you play a Stars and 888 Poker fast fold tournament side-by-side - the difference is a real eye opener.
You can get $88 free to try out the real money games (no deposit or credit card needed), which includes SNAP tournaments. See www.888poker.com for details.