A Quick Guide to Poker Formats (part 2)

21 Jan

Progressive Knockouts

Progressive Knockouts are a relatively new and very popular twist on normal MTTs, in which each player has a portion of their buy-in placed not into the overall prize pool but onto their own head as a bounty. When another player eliminates this player, they gain half of the bounty immediately to their bankroll, and the other half is added to their own bounty. The final winner of a Progressive Knockout (PKO) MTT will keep their own bounty as well as the 2nd place finisher’s bounty, making for a big difference in payout. 

PKOs limit your overall potential ROI as they spread funds out more widely across the player pool, as a result they also lower variance somewhat (as you can cash before getting in the money (ITM)). They are not worth registering after about 20% of the field has busted, since there is too much money already missing from the prize pool and bounties combined. If you’re still buying in for a lot of bbs, the playability of your stack may offset this rule slightly. 

PKOs are highly popular, and very common in today’s game.

PKOs require special focus in study, as the bounties at risk in a given hand will distort the range you need to play with, and that range will need further adjustment based on your awareness of how your opponent understands PKO effects in-game. There is quite a lot of nuance to this, but overall it makes for a more aggressive game where players are willing (and sometimes justified) in stacking off much lighter than they would in a normal tournament. 

Sit and Gos (SNGs)

Sit and Gos are smaller tournaments, where the tournament begins not at a fixed start time, but when the required number of players are registered. These tend to run between 2 (Heads-up SNGs) and 9 players for single table tournaments (STTs) and between 18 and 360 players for larger SNGs. 

SNGs have got somewhat tougher over the years, especially the single table format. They are still beatable for a small ROI but tend to be reg-infested above about $11 level on some of the larger sites. They are still pretty soft on some lesser known sites. Some variants exist such as double-or-nothing, which has a really weird ICM structure similar to satellites, and jackpot SNGs which offer some kind of prize for certain randomly drawn tables. 

Some popular forms of SNG include 6-max turbo STTs, 18-man turbo SNGs, 180-man turbo SNGs, and heads-up hyper-turbos. 

SNGs are a good choice for anyone who is concerned to keep their grind time down to increments of a few hours and that wants to intensively study ICM and payjump effects on ranges, and who is comfortable playing at a wide range of stack depths especially very short-stacked. They are a great preparation for getting better at ICM for MTTs as well. 

Spin and Gos

Spins and Gos are a newer cousin to Sit and Gos, offering action which is usually three-handed and very short-stacked. Depending on the site you might sit with between 10bbs and 25bbs to start, with a fast blind structure. The strategy required involves detailed study of ranges for a variety of short-stacked lines, including limp/calling, limp/shoving, min/folding, min/shoving etc. 

Spin and Gos are unique in offering huge randomly selected jackpots for certain table draws, and commonly paying out less than the total buy-ins combined to more frequently drawn tables. This means that you must play high volume to hit multipliers in order to book your profit, since many of the more regular tables you play will offer, for example, $20 for 1st place where three players bought in for $10 each.

Spin and Gos are great for anyone who loves playing short-stacked, having a ton of all-ins, grinding it out ‘til you hit your bigger multipliers and getting into the thrill of those bigger, more rare payouts, and for anyone who is very limited on time, as a single one of these might take under 10 minutes. What’s not so great about them is the potential stress on players when they do hit that big jackpot table, and the tedium of grinding out smaller payout tables without tilting or misplaying in some way. 


We can’t close out this article without giving some guidance on satellites, as these do present an awesome way to get into bigger events without spending a ton. Satellites allow you to register a small event with the hope of winning not a cash prize but a tournament ticket to a larger event, and these are sometimes stacked so that one can enter in steps or ladders, for example, a $1 event yielding tickets to a $10 event which yields tickets to a $100 event which yields tickets to a major $1k event with a normal guaranteed prize pool. Players can fire multiple efforts at the $1 ticket (or any other) level and try to bink that big seat for cheap. 

Satellites have very extreme ICM effects since the bubble is all that stands between winning nothing and winning the same as all the other winners. Therefore there is no incentive to build a big stack, and many weird spots come up when relatively safe for a ticket, such as opportunities to correctly fold pocket aces preflop, which never come up in most poker formats. 

One really nice feature of some of the bigger sites such as Pokerstars, Partypoker, 888 and sites on the Winning Network is that they offer players the chance to win entry via satellite to big live events, including European Poker Tour Main Events and even the World Series Main Event itself, for a very modest investment, if they can only run good enough to bink a ticket! In some cases the prize won includes an entry to the main event as well as hotel and travel / incidental expenses. That’s really a prize worth battling for!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this PokerDeals round-up of the most popular poker formats online today. Good luck out there!

Now you’re spoilt for choice, what will you go for? Be sure to tell us over at our PokerDeals Discord!


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