heads up hyper turbo strategy

Beginner’s Guide to Heads-Up Hyper Turbo Sit & Gos

Even if you’re married to cash games and tournaments, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Heads Up Hyper Turbo (HUHT) Sit & Gos every now and again.

What’s not to love? 1-on-1 competition, lots of action and fast enough that you can always manage to get a few games in, regardless of what else you have going on.

If you’ve never dabbled in these games, each player begins with 500 chips or, more importantly, 25 big blinds, with blinds increasing every 2 minutes.

Within 6 minutes of the sit & go your starting stack is worth 10 big blinds and if you last a full 12 minutes (an eternity in these games, and maybe elsewhere too) your starting stack will be equivalent to just 5 big blinds. This means the action is always hot and heavy with every single pot making a huge impact to a player’s bottom-line.

It is, however, the one format that can allow a player to really hone in on a critical aspect of every player’s game, sub 25bb poker. If you’re not sure how important, or common, this scenario is, pay attention during your next tournament session and notice how often you fall into this stack depth. The great thing about sub 25bb, as opposed to 100BB+ poker is that the number of game-tree possibilities are much lower meaning it takes a whole lot less play and study, comparatively speaking, to become familiar with many of the most common scenarios and situation.

poker gametree

Gametree illustration from a module in the Upswing Lab

This reduced game-tree size is ideal for someone just starting out in a new game-format as it enables them to develop their game relatively quickly, often through simple brute force.  

zig ziglar quote

As this Zig Ziglar quote alludes to, repetition gives birth to success. Applying this to HUHTs, the fact that we get to experience so many hands in a such a short amount of time is a HUGE advantage for us as students of the game.

Experience is valuable in any field of course, but particularly so in poker, where the exact same scenarios can present themselves, dozens,  hundreds, even thousands of times over a player’s career with each one having a direct impact on their bottom-line. When paired with solid study practices, the work of repetition is a stepping-stone to mastery. It’s no accident that last person to hold the title of “He won again?” before current champ Fedor Holz’s impressive reign, was Daniel “mrGR33N13” Coleman, arguably the most dominant Heads-Up Hyper-Turbo SNG player of all time.

So let’s explore the anatomy of this exciting poker format and explore its pros, cons, and two most common myths.

Stakes + Rake (PokerStars)pokerstars heads up hyper turbo rake

Take away: Do NOT, for the love of all that is holy, begin your HUHT career at the $1.50 limit if you can help it!

Although your edge in these games is likely going to be huge, it’s not a fun life trying to overcome 4% rake. So whether you’re an aspiring Heads-Up Hyperturbo pro or a tournament player looking to work on your short-stack game, you should definitely consider starting your journey at either the $3.50 limit or, ideally, the $7 games where the rake really flattens out.

Are You More Interested in Deep Stack HU Strategy?

If deep stacked play is more your speed, check out Doug Polk’s FREE video series on heads-up no limit strategy. Discover the secrets that propelled Doug to the top of the heads-up food chain. Click here to access!

Pros of the Heads-Up Hyper Turbo SNG Format

  1. Duration

With each game lasting mere minutes (at most!) it means that unlike multi-table tournament poker, you’re never forced to clear your schedule for an entire day just to get a little grind in. Heck, you barely even have to clear your lunch hour! This makes Heads-Up Hyperturbos an ideal choice for part-time or non-professional poker players.

  1. Action

Directly impacted by its duration, the action in HUHTs tends to be loose and fast. With only a small window of time to  maximize their edge in each individual game, players are highly incentivized to play more hands from both positions and defend more liberally post-flop. So if you’re like Jennifer Tilly and need better than jacks-full to bet your hand, perhaps reconsider your interest in these games to avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of the dreaded Stunned Ivey expression. 

phil ivey stunned

“I thought you had pocket Kings! I was like what?” -Jenn Tilly

  1. Shorter Learning Curve

As discussed above, the vastly reduced game-tree possibilities allow anyone willing to commit to focused study with a much more direct path to competency, relatively speaking, than some other deeper-stacked formats.

  1. Edge Potential

To paint an extreme example, imagine a scenario where you’re in a 9-handed poker game, be it a tournament or cash-game, and you notice that the player to your direct right is not calling nearly wide enough in pretty much every preflop situation, a real “nit”, as they say. How often can you use this information to your advantage? How much equity can you extract from it?

Well, you know to tighten up your ranges versus their aggression while really attacking their passivity (playing aggressively against their blind-versus-blind limps, for example), and you can definitely consider widening your UTG raising range slightly to target their BB, but even combined these adjustments are unlikely to make a significant impact to your bottom-line, relatively speaking.

Imagine now, however, if this same player is sitting across from you in a Heads-Up Hyperturbo SNG. Does that image cause you to instantly begin to salivate? Because it should!

Suddenly you get to transform into the wild poker beast that you are and really begin exploiting your opponent by pressuring them with (nearly) reckless abandon. In this scenario, uncovering a “leak” that would have only offered you only a slight direct edge-advantage in another format can significantly, and immediately, impact the size of your bankroll.

Cons of the Heads-Up Hyper Turbo SNG Format

  1. Exploitative Potential

The flip side to the last item in the Pros list is that each of our own mistakes is equally magnified. Therefore it is imperative that we continuously work on improving our game to uncover and correct as many leaks as quickly as possible.

  1. Short Term Variance

Although Heads-Up Hypers have historically offered relatively low long-term variance and high-hourly, it is not uncommon for players to experience a 50 or 100 Buy-in downswing, or more! This is why bankroll management is a massive aspect of succeeding in these games.

  1. Fierce Competition

Although needing to beat the best to be the best is not a quality unique to the HUHT games, since PokerStars operates on a “King Of The Hill” system, the higher-staked games on PS require investing a lot of work in reg-versus-reg game before earning the luxury of sitting in the lobby waiting for a shot at the fun players. Many people disagree with or dislike this system, but our job as poker professionals is not to resist what is, but rather to adapt and execute as best we can.  This is why it is critical to start laying the foundation for a cohesive game-plan from the get-go, even when only playing at the micros.

The Two Heads-Up Hyper Turbo Myths

When discussing hyper-turbo SNGs with recreational players who primarily play deep-stack poker, it is a near certainty to hear one of two sentiments (and often both!):

  1. Luck-Based Poker

If you’re reading this and have an adequate understanding of variance, you likely don’t put weight in such a silly notion, but if you do still maintain some reservations about the long-term profitability of these games, perhaps it would be helpful to consider that for the past few years, the Sharkscope leader-boards have consistently been dominated by Heads-Up Hyperturbo players, which makes the notion that luck is its defining feature absolutely ludicrous.

  1. Preflop All-In Or Fold Poker

The most common misconception among recreational and inexperienced players who are not used to such a consistently shallow stack-depth, is that the game is primarily a preflop game that involves nothing but open-shoving and rehoving. The reality, however, is that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the majority of professional HUHT players will likely tell you that they have a much greater edge postflop than they do pre. One reason for this is that, as can be inferred by the game-tree image above, there are a fairly set number of ways to “screw up” a hand preflop at such shallow stack-depths, but an almost infinite number of ways to do so postflop. For this reason (among others), some of the most common strategies in today’s games are particularly focused on utilizing wide limping and calling ranges in an effort to see as many flops as possible and maximize edge.

The Verdict

Although HU hyperturbos are a game with small edges and tough competition in the mid to high buyin levels, they also provide a unique opportunity to improve a skill-set that will pay heavy dividends in the future regardless of what poker format you primarily play.

That wraps up the first part of our Introduction to Heads-Up Hyperturbo SNGs. Check out the next part in our heads up hyper turbo series here!

(Note: Learn how to play Heads Up No Limit Hold’em from the best- Doug Polk! Check out Doug’s FREE video series on Heads Up strategy by clicking HERE or below!)heads up

Yaniv Son, known online by the poker moniker Sentin7, is a professional player and author with over a decade of poker experience who owns and operates the poker strategy site spinandgostrategy.com

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