“The Poker Tournament Formula” Review

[LL] “In 2006, Arnold Snyder’s The Poker Tournament Formula brought a novel approach to poker tournaments: design your playing strategy around the speed of the tournament. Start by looking at the blind schedule and figuring out how long you would last if you simply folded every hand.”

[RR] “That sounds like M.”1

[LL] “Well, yes, but apparently Snyder hadn’t read Dan Harrington’s book yet. It had only come out a couple years earlier.

Anyway, he converts that to a ‘Patience Factor’ to tell you how much skill the tournament requires (the lower the Patience Factor, the more luck matters as players get short-stacked earlier).”

[RR] “So, if you suck at poker, you want to play in low-patience crapshoot tournaments, and if you’re a pro, you want two-hour blind levels and multi-day tournaments?”

[LL] “That about sums it up. But the precision with which he categorizes tournaments is impressive. And since this is homework you do before you buy into a tournament, doing the math isn’t a problem.”

[LL] “The book proceeds to spell out how you should play in faster tournaments by introducing ‘Texas Rochambeau’. Use your cards (paper) to beat your opponents’ chips (rock). Use your chips to beat your opponents’ position (scissors). Use your position to beat your opponents’ cards. Despite the cycle, Snyder considers position to be the most important, since you’re guaranteed to get it regularly, and cards the least important since you can go long stretches without getting anything playable. Snyder claims, ‘The reason basic position strategy works irregardless of your cards is that you don’t win a fast tournament by betting on your strong hands so much as by betting against your opponents’ weak hands.’2

Snyder wants you to play very aggressively in position against opponents who are just limping, checking, and calling, betting almost regardless of your cards preflop, continuation betting on the flop, and firing again on the turn and river if necessary. ‘All postflop position play is very high-risk, but if you do not make occasional high-risk plays, you’ll never make it into the big money.’3 You need to slow down in multiway pots, however.

Snyder wants you to play fewer hands in early position but still fairly loose: any pair of Sevens or higher and Ace-Jack or better. You should raise when first in and with the better pairs (Jacks plus) and Ace-King with limpers in front, otherwise just call.

In middle position, you can add King-Queen suited down to Jack-Ten suited to the mix. In late position, you can also play the rest of the pairs, Ace-Ten, Ace-Nine suited, and Ten-Nine to Eight-Seven suited.

You should follow Snyder’s position strategy first, then if that would indicate a fold, look at your cards and follow the card strategy.

After the flop, you need to read the board and bet your strong hands, making a pot-sized bet if there are likely draws. Value bet your made hands when you have a straight or better; you can mostly ignore the possibility of full houses in fast tournaments. Don’t slowplay as the best way to win the most chips is to play your good hands fast.”

[LL] “Snyder also talks about player types. Instead of Hellmuth’s animal types (which he says originated with Ken Buntjer), Snyder proposes a slew of categories:

  • Ace Masters: will play any Ace, no matter how bad the kicker
  • Flush Masters: will play any two suited cards, hoping for a flush but willing to bet just a draw
  • Pair Masters: will play any pair
  • Cagey Codgers: mostly play ring games to socialize; like to limp to see a flop
  • Canasta Ladies: most play low-limit ring games; very tight and straightforward
  • Boat People: smart, aggressive and fearless
  • Show ‘N’ Tellers: love to show their cards even when they don’t have to
  • Ball Cap Kids: young, smart, aggressive, and bluff-loving
  • Wimps: tight and fearful of whatever hand fits the board
  • Oafs: weak players, especially tourists.”

[RR] “Not exactly politically correct and way too many. Most players are going to belong to multiple categories.”

[LL] “Other topics covered include rebuys, add-ons, bounties, additional types of bluffs, showing your cards, table image, common mistakes, chopping prizes, satellites, luck, and cheating. And then after all of that, Snyder titles Part Four: ‘The Most Important Chapters in This Book If You Want to Make Money’. This includes bankroll management, estimating chips in rebuy events, crunch time, and ‘What I Can’t Teach You’.

This is a very comprehensive book. It’s also well-written and mostly well-edited, a good read for any tournament player.”

Title The Poker Tournament Formula
Author Arnold Snyder
Year 2006
Skill Level Advanced
Pros Provides a detailed strategy for winning fast-paced No-Limit Hold ‘Em tournaments after giving you a formula for determining a tournament’s speed.
Cons Complicated math with no attempt to provide shortcuts.
Rating 4.0


  1. Snyder’s chip strategy is to similar to Harrington’s color-coded M strategy but goes into much greater detail about what you should be doing with a big, medium, short, very short, or desperate stack. Unfortunately, he talks in terms of big blinds, meaning that he has to give ranges with and without antes, the latter of which is still inaccurate as ante sizes relative to the blinds can vary greatly.
  2. Page 74.
  3. Page 83.

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