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Cooperative Play in Hyper Turbos

Knowing how to use it in your own best interests

by Matt Lessinger |  Published: Oct 15, 2010


Matt LessingerOne of the traits of a winning hyperturbo sit-and-go (HT) player is knowing when and how to play cooperatively. Just so that there are no misunderstandings, let me make a distinction here.

Collusion is when two or more players begin an HT as partners. They have a financial stake in one another, and therefore take actions to maximize each partner’s chances of winning. It’s a clear form of cheating, and you can expect to have your online account frozen if you’re dumb enough to attempt it.

On the other hand, cooperation is when it’s in your own best interests to avoid a confrontation with a particular opponent. Instead, you both have the common goal of going after someone else. Cooperative play might not sound kosher at first, but it’s a completely legal and accepted practice.

For example, you’re playing a WSOP super satellite in which the top eight finishers receive a main-event seat. You’re down to nine players, and the shortest stack goes all in from under the gun for slightly more than the big blind. The correct play is for every deep stack to call in a cooperative effort to knock out the short stack. In a sense, you all are working together against him, but each of you is doing it only to advance your own best interests. If someone were to raise and isolate the all-in player, not only would it be poor strategy, but he probably would be reprimanded by the other players. Cooperating against the short stack is clearly the right action to take, and it is well within the rules.

In a six-handed HT, you have the same phenomenon, but on a smaller scale. The first- and second-place finishers receive an equal top prize, while third place gets roughly his money back. You’re equally happy in finishing first or second, and you don’t care who the other winner is. But if your chances of winning increase as a particular opponent’s chances of winning increase, you want to take maximum advantage of that symbiotic relationship. The idea is to recognize when you’re in that situation.

Everyone starts with 500 in chips. If you and another player both manage to double up by eliminating an opponent, you’re now in a four-handed situation in which you and he have about 1,000 each, while the other two have about 500 each. That is the most common situation for a cooperative effort to come into play. You don’t want to take on the other big stack without a monster hand, because the reward is typically not worth the risk, since you are already a favorite to be one of the two winners.

Therefore, you want to keep the pressure on the two shorter stacks, while hoping the other big stack has that same mentality. In a perfect scenario, you both can whittle the two short stacks down to the point where they are competing for third place, while the two of you can effectively secure the top spots.

The question is, how do you know when the other big stack can be counted on to have that cooperative mentality? The primary indicator should be his level of experience. The more HTs that he’s played, the more you can expect that he will correctly avoid a fellow big stack and go after the shorter ones. Equally important is whether or not he is a winning player. Maybe he’s played 10,000 HTs, but that doesn’t mean much if he consistently loses! Only winning players can be counted on to fully understand the importance of stack sizes.

At a given buy-in level, you will see the same opponents frequently. As long as you’ve played a decent number of HTs, you should have a fairly good idea of who your knowledgeable opponents are. As long as they can be trusted to generally make smart plays, they are the ones you want to use cooperatively.

Let’s say that I’m playing four-handed. One short stack is in the big blind (BB), and the other is under the gun (UTG). I have a large stack on the button, and the other big stack is in the small blind (SB). The UTG player folds, and I have a weak hand, such as 9-7 offsuit. I am comfortable with folding my button if I can count on the SB to raise at least 90 percent of his hands. I want to know that if I don’t keep the
pressure on the short stacks, he will. I don’t mind if he increases his stack, even though his chances of winning go up, because as long as the short stacks are getting shorter, my chances improve, too.

On the other hand, if he’s going to incorrectly focus more on his cards than on stack sizes, I have to take it upon myself to raise from the button, to make sure that someone is pressuring the short stacks. I wouldn’t do it with a total garbage hand like 7-2, but 9-7 should have decent enough equity against many hands with which the BB would take a stand. Again, I’d much rather be able to fold and count on a cooperative SB to do the raising, but if I get the sense that he’s not that savvy, the next-best thing is for me to do the raising myself.

So, how can you tell when a player is not likely to be savvy? As a rule of thumb, if it’s my first time playing with a particular opponent, I won’t assume intelligence.

Once I see some evidence that he knows what he’s doing, I’ll start trusting him to make the right play. Another indicator is how he got to be one of the chip leaders.
Let’s say that in the first hand of the HT, a solid player went all in from under the gun with K-K, and the player in the big blind made a terrible call with A-2 and got lucky and won. Since the big blind won his chips through an unintelligent play, I can’t assume that he will use those chips intelligently. If I manage to double up, such that he and I are the two big stacks, I would probably assume that I’m flying solo. The best I can hope for is that my other opponents were observant enough to take note of his bad play the same way that I did. That way, they’ll be more likely to take a stand against him than me.

Unfortunately, I have only enough space to scratch the surface of this topic, but hopefully the basic message is clear. In most situations, you can increase your chances of winning only by decreasing your opponents’ chances. But when you have equal top prizes, such as in a super satellite or HT, you can cooperate with a knowledgeable chip leader to increase both of your chances of success. The key word, though, is knowledgeable. You need to have similar levels of awareness in order to help one another. Otherwise, you should assume that you’re on your own. ♠

Matt Lessinger is the author of The Book of Bluffs: How to Bluff and Win at Poker, available everywhere. You can find other articles of his at