How to Beat the Spin N Go Games at PokerStars
PokerStars introduced Spin N Go in 2014. These games turned into an instant success – appealing to many recreational players thanks to the chance of winning a jackpot of up to 10,000x your buy-in. They are 3-handed, super-turbo and the prize pay out is only known after the game begins.
This page is a strategy guide for Spin N Go tournaments. I’ll show you how these games work, and the specific adjustments to your poker game required to consistently beat them. Here is what you will find below:
Note that these games are now available in Omaha format. This guide focuses on the popular Texas Hold’em versions.
PokerStars have created a fast and entertaining poker variant with Spin N Goes. You start with 500 chips, and blinds go up every 3 minutes. This keeps the format short, making it ideal for a quick poker session. Spin N Go tournaments only have 3 players. Most of the time, only the winner will get a prize – this rewards aggressive, positive play.
These games start with low buy-ins of 25c – and go up to $100. The prize pool is a multiplier of the buy-in level. The best prize is a huge 10,000 times the buy-in. You will not know what the prize pool is before the game starts. Here are the buy-in levels with the maximum prize pool for each:
Most of the time, the prize is 2x your buy-in. This is how PokerStars takes cash to make it possible for the bigger buy-ins. Sometimes this will be 4x, 6x or more. Only when you get to the bigger prizes of 100x your buy-in or more will more than one player collect prizes. When this happens, additional strategy considerations come into play. These concern making decisions based on prize pool equity.
While you do get some pro grinders in these games, they are more popular among recreational players. There is definitely a skill element to them – though for the most part, they feel like a gambling game!
Blind levels are only 3 minutes long. This means only a few hands are possible per level. With starting stacks at only 25x the initial blinds (and getting shallower fast), you don’t have time to wait for good hands. By the time you have climbed 4 blind levels, these games are all-in or fold – so you’ll need to know the math to succeed.
Compared to regular poker formats, these games are quick, and the variance is high. Despite this, they are popular – you will never have to wait long for one (or more if you are multi-tabling) to kick off. Here are the pros and cons of Spin N Goes:
Before I get into the types of hands to play while the blinds are small, there is another step you should take. This is to make a quick assessment of the players you are up against. During those first 4 or 5 hands, you should look to collect information on your opponents. You won’t have too much to go on, though anything you can spot can translate into a big advantage.
Look for the following:
3-handed, the criteria in terms of hand strength for raising a pot first-in go way down. Any ace, suited king, pair or 2 high cards is enough to open a pot. When you are on the button, you have last position in the betting for the rest of the hand. This is a big advantage.
During the early blind levels, you have enough chips to play post-flop poker. I don’t recommend slow playing; selective aggression will get you more chips. At 25x the big blind in your stack, be careful not to commit yourself to a pot with a marginal hand. Betting pre-flop and on the flop will often mean that the pot is the size of the average stack – creating tricky turn situations. Since these games are so fast, you can’t hang around – selective aggression will get you the chips.
As the blinds reach 100 / 50, the average stack plummets to 10x the big blind. Here you have 2 main weapons in your arsenal – steals and resteals. When only a single player gets paid, you don’t have prize-pool equity maths to consider. If you think your hand is better than the range an opponent would shove with (taking the dead money of the blinds into account), then go ahead and make the call.
Against tighter players, you should steal with a wide-range, going all-in. If you do get passive opponents who limp, or raise to 2x the blind often, then a resteal can be a better option. With a playable hand it makes little sense to call. The pot will be so big, that hitting any part of the flop means you will call a bet anyway. In this case you should go all-in over an opponent’s shove. Here you can win a welcome number of chips if they do fold.
Look out for players who shove all-in a lot, then suddenly limp or make it 2x the big blind. This can be a sign of a trap with a big hand – that player may be worried that they will not get value from their big hand. If you see this happen, make a note. You will know that next time that player opens with an all-in, they don’t have a monster hand!
You really don’t have much option once the blinds get to 200 / 100 and above (if the game lasts that long). Any hand you want to play is an automatic all-in. The type of player you are up against will show what percentage of hands you can shove with. Most of the time, you’ll be heads-up here, and post-flop poker will be impossible.
If you are up against a tighter player, then you need to shove every hand. They will fold so often that you can pick up enough dead chips to boost your stack for when they do wake up with a hand. Against looser players you will also need to loosen your calling range. With ranges as wide as 70%, there are very few hands that you could call with which do not have the required equity against their range.
For more advanced strategy here, use the SAGE system or study Nash Equilibrium. This covers those scenarios where opponents are adjusting to your expected calling range, and how you can re-adjust to beat their new all-in range from there.
This is infrequent, though an important part of winning Spin N Go tournaments is maximizing your profits when you are lucky enough to get a 100x prize (or bigger!).
Many small stakes players will be intimidated by the big money. Even a fairly experienced player will not want to make mistakes – and will tighten up as a result. You can take advantage of this by upping your aggression, especially from the dealer button position.
When 2 people get paid, prize pool equity comes into play. This is complex, though the idea behind it is not. The chips you win will have a decreasing value when more than one player gets paid, compared to the chips you lose. This means you need to not only have the best hand to call an all-in. You need to factor in that the ‘equity’ in the overall prize pool you gain is lower than the equity you risk.
For this reason, you need to tighten up your calling range for all-ins. If an opponent is experienced enough to understand this – you can go all-in ‘lighter’ than you would otherwise. At the lowest buy-in levels, you can assume that the vast majority of players will not understand this concept. For further reading, look up the Independent Chip Model.
While Spin N Go tournaments at PokerStars are the most popular of this type of game – you’ll find them at a lot of different poker sites. Some have slightly different formats, though the random prize pool and super-fast structure is a common theme.
The first of this type of game came from the iPoker Network. They produced ‘Twister’ Sit N Goes. This was followed by Blast! Poker at 888 and ‘Jackpots’ at America’s Cardroom. An interesting alternative is the SNG Hero games at Party Poker. These have 4 players. As well as the random prize pool, one player gets a bounty on their head – awarded to whichever player knocks them out. This creates an interesting dynamic, as everyone guns for the player with the bounty!
You will find these games at PokerStars and elsewhere can be adapted to award prizes of entries into bigger buy-in multi table tournaments. This includes specials for live events, as well as entry into online championships.
There is little doubt that the ‘Lottery Jackpot Sit N Goes’ format which Spin N Go tournaments are a part of has been a huge success. The big appeal for recreational players is the shot at winning up to 10,000 times your buy-in. That attraction to players with little or no poker experience in turn makes them profitable for more experienced players.
While you won’t have long for your skill edge to show – there are steps you can take to maximize your expectation over the long-run. This includes a quick assessment of what types of opponent you are up against, and aggressive, positive play.