Arnold Snyder: The Poker Tournament Formula

Since my last big tournament win, I have been playing like a dog and not even got into the money in a single tournament and have lost something like 12 million chips in tournament fees over the last couple of weeks. I thought I would soon be waiting for midnight to get my 2500 chips so as to get a game.

However, I flipped through the above-named book in which I had invested $5 and picked up a few ideas on where I was going wrong and tried to implement them. For three tournaments in a row, I played quite well but was just eliminated on the bubble when going for the double up.

Finally tonight it all came right again and I played in a 1-million chip buy-in tournament and seized the tournament lead in the first few minutes and led from pillar to post nearly all the way, winning back most of the lost chips. I was pretty lucky with some flops, but then again I never had any hand better than AQ unsuited (one time) and TT one time.

Definitely recommend this book for tournament strategy, though the system is really for live tournaments, where it is assumed that players will not call pot-sized bets on flush and straight draws–which is not the case on RP.

This is the early hand that set me on my career as table bully. Flopping a straight is always nice. Would you have called my shove on the flop in my opponent’s place with the overpair and open ended straight draw? I think his first mistake was the miniraise before the flop allowing me to play the hand from position

Here is an interesting hand where I flopped a full house, and then opponent made a flush. I was sorry not to eliminate him on this hand as he was a very tough opponent and fought back to finish in the money, though I eventually eliminated him with a lucky flush on the final table.

Here is another hand that crippled a very tough opponent, but I have to think he would have won the pot had he bet his hand more strongly on the flop.

I used a number of concepts from Snyder’s book, which explains why I was playing some hands that I might not normally have played. His basic formula is to get a very big stack and then bully the table, which is easier said than done, but on this occasion it worked out well and on the final table I was able to steadily build my stack until opponents fell away. I have not yet mastered his book, but I think further study will help me to improve more.


In a word, no, I probably wouldn’t have called your way-over-shove. There are so many better hands that he could have than JJ, which you heavily block - knowing you have one of the jacks, 12 combinations of QJ, or 9 sets that have about 35% equity against a made straight. He probably doesn’t open 76, so the bottom end of the straight is out.

Speaking of your shove, what were you thinking? Is this a move that Snyder recommends in his book? You’re risking 4000 chips to win a pot of just 700. What bluffs might you have here? Which worse hands could he have that you expect him to call? You’ll be in really rough shape if he does happen to have QJ, and you risk getting crippled if he calls with a set and boats up.

If you 3-bet to a more reasonable size on the flop - say, around 800 chips facing his min-raise to 280 - you’ll have a better chance of getting paid off when he has a hand like AT, two pair, JJ, or QQ in the future, and it’ll also give you room to get away if the board pairs on a later street.

I’m also not a fan of flatting with J7s in the small blind - sure, you might flop yahtzee like you did with this hand, but it’s generally going to be tough to get paid off when you’re out of position. Save yourself the 1.5BB by not playing weak hands out of position, whether in tournaments or ring games.

1 Like

Thanks for the comments.

Early going in tournament, all the stacks about equal, I think you need to see as many cheap pots as possible. Here I am putting 60 chips into a pot of 180 chips, which becomes more a moment later. Obviously this is speculative and you throw it away if you don’t dig the flop, but that is what happens when someone slow plays a high pair. It lets other hands join the pot.

Regarding the shove, since the opponent was combative at the flop, I really wanted to force him to fold a set or two pairs, although if he did call with a set I was 2:1 to beat him. QJ was a danger, obviously, but those are the risks one takes. At the start of a tournament, you only have so many shots at a large pot, before you are crippled.

Not a specifically Snyder move, but Snyder does recommend taking some risks to go for a big stack early on when the stacks are more or less equal and says: “If a fast tournament starts out with all the players having big chip stacks, then you want to take more risks while the relative cost to you is small.”

This hand more than any other set me on the road to winning the tournament, because I had a double stack a few minutes into the tournament, which is very Snyderian. He argues that in turbo tournaments, which is basically what all these RP tournaments are, the blinds creep up very quickly and that most players underestimate the number of chips needed to stay competitive until the stage is reached when there are a number of desperate players, and it becomes a crapshoot.

How does one get a double stack without an element of risk and without getting all one’s chips in the middle?

If opponent had folded on the flop, then I was in a good position chip wise, and if he called then I was a favorite to beat most hands in his range other than QJ. His minraise on the flop did not suggest to me that he had QJ as he seemed to be encouraging me to call and if I had two pairs, that would give me a shot at a boat.

1 Like

I don’t think the math supports your decision to jam, unless you can reasonably expect JJ to call in this spot. If @vemmaleader chose to only call with QJ or a set, here’s how your odds break down:

57% of the time, V will have QJ. You’ll have just 3.6%-4.5% chance of winning outright (basically, if you make a backdoor flush, with the difference in odds being if V has the queen of spades), and about a 12% chance to tie.

The other 43% of the time, V will have a set. You’ll have a 63.5% chance to win outright, and a 2.1% chance to split.

Multiply and add the chance of winning together with half the chance you’ll split with V, and you end up with about 34% equity. However, you raised 3720 to win a total pot of 8280, requiring 45% equity in order to be a profitable move. You’re falling pretty short of that. Against a stronger set of players (and for the love of Pete why don’t we have a stronger set of players in our 1M buy-in tourneys???), that’s a move that’ll lose you chips in the long run when you’re called…and I’m willing to wager that you didn’t think you were bluffing with the second nuts.

Betting means something very different from 3-betting, particularly postflop. If this is a move you have in your arsenal, that’s fine, but I’d recommend being much more careful about deploying it in the future.


If $500 buyin live tournaments are super-soft, how can we reasonably expect any play chip poker tournaments to be strong? The average tournament player approaches the game much like a 16-year old boy approaches prom night. Either they are too cautious for fear of making a fool of themselves or they are so excited that they go all spazy and hope something good happens. Carry on the analogy for chuckles if you wish :wink:

BTW, min raising JJ over 1 limper and then overvaluing the hand postflop is beyond terrible. Of all the hands I see misplayed here, the biggest mistakes are with overpairs, by far.


While I agree that min-raising (both preflop and postflop) with JJ is pretty terrible, I don’t hate the called 3-bet. JJ does block straights very heavily, could be up against an overvalued single-pair hand (AT, JT), and has a fair bit of equity against hands that currently beat it due to the open-ended straight draw. I’d much rather call with JJ here than any of the other overpairs.

I could see poker amateurs with cash to burn (business executives, degenerate gamblers) buying into a $500 live tournament, resulting in a very soft game.

On the other hand, to have enough chips to enter a 1M tournament on RP, you either need to drop a fair bit of real-world cash, or beat enough lower-stakes games to accumulate the play chips. In other words, unlike real cash tournaments, I’d think you should have some idea of what you’re doing at the tables in order to enter.

Or not. :man_shrugging:

And I’d much rather have a snowcone shoved down my pants than an angry, rabid weasel. Still, I try to avoid either :slight_smile:

Of the overpairs, JJ is the least bad call but they would all be bad. You could make a good case for JT with a backdoor flush draw being a better call than JJ as you block at least 1 set. The blocking power of JJ here is strong but the pot is multiway and people will be playing the offsuit connected combos. That leaves 8 combos of QJ, 2 of J7s, 16 of 7/6 and 9 of all the sets that you are in dire straits against. You are only in decent shape against 2-pair or worse hands. Would people really 3-bet shove these multiway on this board? I honestly have no idea. As a good rule of thumb, find the worst hand that you’d think villain takes the action with that you beat. If you aren’t crushing that hand, chances are you are screwed vs his range (since most players wildly under-bluff).

Spend some time watching the higher buyin tournaments and/or 20K/40K or 50K/100K rings. You will see the same glaring errors being made over and over and over again. IMO, you do not even need to have a decent ABC game to do very well here. In fact, there are many players in the top 100 who do not have remotely solid fundamentals. It is what it is and its not a whole lot different than what you’d see in many 1/2 rings or daily casino tournaments.


This is a strategy that will work if the players are mostly passive and let you get away with it. It falls apart once you have players capable of 3-betting/squeezing. As soon as those types of players enter the picture, flatting small pairs and highly speculative hands OOP becomes unprofitable. Flatting easily dominated hands becomes suicidal.


This is true, you always have to mix it up, though. As Snyder says, it is really important to get going fast in these tournaments to get a decent stack any way you can, and that will vary depending on how the others on your table are playing.

Snyder has definitely helped my game. Last night I finished second in a tournament and won 5 milliion, and tonight I won one and picked up another 8 million chips, but the price is horrible. I was playing from 10:30 pm to 1 am as finishing off the last two contestants was almost impossible and the final one to one was a marathon.

Apart from the math and stuff, the real key to winning is to really concentrate on the game, which I tend not to do very much as I tend to multitask when playing. I think I might have to take a break from this for my mental health. Or just play badly! Playing for fun is relaxing after a day at work. Playing to win on my day off is taking it to a whole different level and is more stressful. Playing for real money must be hell.


There are different ways to approach the game. Snyder has a point and there is huge utility in getting a big stack early, if you know how to use it and won’t just spew it off. There are other viewpoints that “tight is right and tighter is righter” early in tournaments. I think this is true for deeper/slower formats than it is for turbos and the like.

You always need to be cognizant of what the table will give you before you can choose the correct strategy. If you are on a table filed with loose passives who all limp in, there’s a strategy to deal with that. If you have a few fish on the table and the rest are tight passives, then your strategy must be to play as many pots heads-up with the fish. Someone is going to get their chips and it might as well be you. No one strategy is going to work every time or on every table. The ability to recognize how the format is structured and what the table dynamics will be are important skills to develop. Evaluate and adjust - repeat as necessary.

Well done on the recent results. Also well done recognizing when you’ve become a little burned out.


:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

1 Like

Snyder says get going fast, and tonight I had a tournament that went that way. My table had a bully with a large stack and I saw him a few times exploit a play in which he limped from early position and then when someone from late position raised, he would reraise all in and everyone would fold. He was seated to my right.

I bided my time and then chopped him down first with KK vs AK and then again with AA vs AQ.

Then the leaderboard looked like this, as Snyder says it should:

This made me the official table bully and in general when I wanted to play a hand, no one wanted to play it with me, so the leaderboard soon looked like this:

Then came the final table and the opposition just melted away. At the final three I had about half the chips in play and the two opponents shared the rest. They gradually fell away and I nailed one, then the other.

And that is how Snyder says it should be done. Lead from the front all the way. However, and this was a big however, this was just a small tournament of 40 players with a small buy-in of 50K chips that I entered while waiting for a bigger tournament, and the cards ran in my favor and I did not encounter any tough opponents.

1 Like

Another Snyderian tournament tonight. I million buy-in, managed to grab the lead early and hold it all the way to the end.

I had a run since my last tournament win in which I thought I was playing well and was making the final tables and bubbles, but obstinately finishing just out of the money. The force was not with me, and I kept running into Aces or Kings when I was on the steal, or raising into a big blind with a small stack and getting intercepted by a big stack late position player with a monster.

This time the luck was definitely with me every time.

This was the hand that really set me on my way. Did the large bet on the river signify that opponent was holding the 6 he needed for the straight? I had put him as most likely on a flush draw so it seemed unlikely, so I called and won with my two pairs and that put me into a really good position where I was able to boss the table and players were very deferential in folding their hands to my small bets.

Played the same tournament again last night and won again, two wins in a row in the 1-million chip buy in Frozen Comet tournament that starts at 10:30 pm Eastern US time.

Totally different story. I was never in command, constantly struggled to stay alive, and after losing a big pot early on never went over the starting 5000 chips in the first hour of play.

Finally I was lucky enough to double up and after that point was able to move up to top of the leader board. This was the turnaround hand.

On the final table it seemed like stalemate for a while. This tournament lasted 2 1/2 hours due to the final table stalemate. I and one other player were switching the lead while three other players were hanging in. Suddenly the player who had for a long time been the other leading stack , but had recently lost a large potshoved at my Big Blind, when I was holding 88. Up to this point the other big stack and myself had respected each other’s Big Blinds as we were on the bubble with 5 players left in and only 4 to share the spoils. At this point probably all would have been willing to chop the pot as it was well after midnight already.

When he turned over his hand I was shocked, and you will be too. Anyway I flopped a boat, so that was that.

After this it should have been a cinch to finish off the tournament, except that there was a prolonged session of heads up after I went behind and then had to fight back to get the lead and knock out the remaining opponent. This was the hand that destroyed my opponent’s hopes of victory. Lucky, I know.

But how good is the quality of the opposition in these 1-million tournaments? I have won two in a row against the best tournament players on RP, and yet I am a poker dummy compared to some of the people who post here with advanced ideas on playing poker and analysing hands.

When I started out a year and a half ago and was ranked a million and something, I was under the impression that there were 1 1/2 million players here, which is clearly not the case, given that many of the registered players are defunct names with a tiny number of chips. So I never dreamed that I could make the top 300. Even the players in the top 5000 seemed like poker gods to me, given that there are players from all over the world here.

Obviously the number of active players is only a fraction of that 1 1/2 million, and the number of players who are actually interested in improving their poker skills and playing better and winning more is tiny, versus the number of players who just play any hand for the excitement of seeing a flop.

1 Like