“The Poker Tournament Formula 2” Review

[LL] “In 2008, Arnold Snyder followed up with The Poker Tournament Formula 2, one of the most controversial poker books ever written”, Leroy the Lion opened. “Where The Poker Tournament Formula focused mostly on fast-paced tournaments, PTF2 turns to longer, slower events (40+ minute blind levels). The central premise of PTF2 is that in poker tournaments, each chip you gain is worth more than the one before it.”

[RR] “Wait, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what guys like Sklansky and Harrington say?” Roderick the Rock contested.

[LL] “It is. Snyder’s Fundamental Law of Chip Utility is: ‘The more chips you have, the more each of your chips is worth.’ (Corollary: ‘The fewer chips you have, the less each of your chips is worth.’) Unfortunately for Snyder, his ‘law’ fails at the edge case. It’s undeniable that having one chip is worth infinitely more than having zero chips.”

[RR] “A chip and a chair.”

[LL] “But otherwise, Snyder’s logic mostly makes sense given the top-heavy payout structure of most tournaments. He wants you to build your stack at the expense of busting out more frequently.1

Snyder himself stoked the flames of the controversy by posting several articles online, but the reality is that the combatants can mostly just be viewed as the Loose Aggressive camp (Snyder) vs. the Tight Aggressive (Sklansky, Malmuth, Harrington, et al.) camps. A decade later, Snyder’s style is certainly more popular, but both are still completely playable.”

[RR] “I thought you were supposed to mix up how you play. Not that I know from personal experience.”

[LL] “There’s plenty of room for both Harringbots like you and Snyderites like Carlos the Crazy to succeed, but yes, it might be ideal to be a chameleon and tighten up just when your opponents think you’re loose (and vice versa). But you’ve only played in small, fast tournaments, which is not what Chip Utility really applies to. Snyder believes that you need to have over 100 big blinds for ‘Full Utility’. The range goes down to 15, under which you have ‘No Utility’.

Utility Chip Stack % Utility
Full Utility Over 100 BB 100% Utility
Competitive Utility 60-100 BB 75% Utility2
Moderate Utility 30-60 BB 50% Utility
Low Utility 15-30 BB 10-15% Utility
No Utility Under 15 BB 0% Utility

Your first goal is to have Full Utility. But beyond that, you strive for ‘Dominant Utility’, which is when your Full Utility stack is also double the second biggest stack at your table and at least four times the average. Then you can bully the table.”

[RR] “You don’t even start our tournaments with Full Utility, so I guess I’d have to try this out somewhere else.”

[LL] “The second major section of TPF2 gives a formula for the Tournament Utility Factor, which is the Patience Factor (see TPF1) times the Starting Competitive Factor, which is your starting stack divided by the initial big blind divided by 60. This lets your rate tournaments on how deep they are:

Tournament Utility Factor Rank Notes
0 to 5 Rank 0 Crapshoot
6 to 20 Rank 1 Need to build big stack early or bust trying; crapshoot by midpoint
21 to 40 Rank 2 Full Utility allows Small Ball early only
41 to 60 Rank 3 Small Ball early but ideal for Long Ball
61 to 100 Rank 4 Deep stacked, speeding up about halfway through
101 to 200 Rank 5 Full Utility; Small Ball until final table
201+ Rank 6 Full Utility throughout.”

[RR] “So our tournaments are about… Rank 2?”

[LL] “Yes, that’s what I calculated. It’s not bad for an evening tournament, since we can’t play all night…, at least most of you can’t.”

[LL] “The other main section of the book is ‘Five Phases of a Poker Tournament’, which shows you how to apply his utility factor to the Stack Building, Minefield, Bubble, Money, and Final Table parts of long tournaments. It’s a very long section because for each of the five phases he covers what you should be trying to do with various stack sizes. In summary though, try to get back to full utility or die trying!

[RR] “I take it you liked the book though.”

[LL] “Yes, I think it’ll be good for my game. The main weakness of PTF2 though is that Snyder didn’t put enough into the mathematical foundation of his system. He might have found a way around its zero-chip paradox and come up with a more accurate way to calculate utility. Otherwise, it’s a lot of interesting material to think about. It would certainly help you open up your game a couple notches.”

Title The Poker Tournament Formula 2
Author Arnold Snyder
Year 2008
Skill Level Advanced
Pros Thought-provoking, alternative view on how to play deep-stacked tournaments.
Cons Controversial premise. If you agree with it, this is a great book. If not, you should still read the book to see how some of your opponents might be thinking. Not mathematically grounded with few hand examples.
Rating 3.5


  1. Snyder strongly believes that quadrupling your stack early in a tournament is worth busting out three out of four times for. This is one of his many points in his rebuttal of his critics.
  2. This number is interpolated. Snyder’s numbers in general are vague. He adjusts his utility percent up or down by as much as 25% for circumstances like having an aggressive player on his left or a weak player on his right.

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