• Styr
      Joined: 11.03.2009 Posts: 408
      Suffering beat after beat made me think about the variance in poker, and finding a tournament format with less of it.

      Now, I consider myself an above average player (if not better), yet I have been breakeven at best for the last year or so. Also, I am about $2600 below EV in total. I don't even know if it is because of bad luck, or perhaps I am not that good at all as I would like to think.

      I was under the assumption that hyper turboes are the most variance prone while the normal ones should be... well... normal.

      After suffering yet another gayswing on top of the regular downwards spiral I decided to try out normal speed Fifty50'es. Thought that they should have the least variance of them all. Surely, I recuperated around $400 in a few days playing the $7 and $15 + the odd $30 games. Thought I had finally found a way to profit from online poker, but did not realise the joke was on me. It is almost impossible after the initial upswing.

      So I thought as to what constitutes to variance?

      Is it:

        Blind levels
        Number of hands per tournament
        Number of entrants
        Tournament structure
        Skill level pre-flop
        Skill level post-flop

      There might be more.

      So hyper turboes should be most variance heavy because of the high speed levels? Yet because of its speed one gets dealt quite a lot of hands during a game.

      On the other hand, normal speed games should have less variance? I believe you get actually dealt fewer hands in a normal speed game than in a hyper turbo.

      In the end it comes down to the push or fold phase. Surely, knowing ones ICM helps. That is true for games of any speed.

      The difference is that playing hypers gets one to the push or fold phase quite quickly, while it takes a lot of time of folding (or making fancy plays... you should really try it against donks) before getting there. And once there, it is basically the same. Does my QQ hold vs the villains AK or not?

      One could then argue that DoN's are better variance wise. Well, a certain room I am playing at does not offer them, and those rooms that do, offer no meaningful traffic. So that leaves Fifty50. Yes, the games where I could cash 6-7 out of 10 and still lose money.

      I'd appreciate any and all opinions. :)
  • 5 replies
    • Harrier88
      Joined: 01.05.2012 Posts: 1,970
      When it comes to tournaments, I think one of the most important factors is the size of the field. If we were to order all the formats from highest variance to lowest it would look somewhat like this:

      Scheduled MTTs > MTSnGs > STTs > HUSnGs

      Not sure where DoNs fit in, but I'd think they are more or less on par with HUSnGs, maybe even lower.
      Interestingly, the order is reversed for cash games:

      Heads Up > Shorthanded > Full ring

      The blind levels certainly play an important role as well. The higher the blinds and the faster they climb, the more pressure is on you to risk your tournament with marginal hands. You have more time to carefully pick your spots when the blinds are low and rising slowly.

      I think a good way to determine the variance of a format is to imagine what happens if you stack an opponent:

      HUSnGs: You win, end of story.
      STTs: Big advantage, but you have to keep using your stack to win, and risk losing or crippling it.
      MTTs: You still have a long way to go, and will run into many situations where you have to risk your stack all over again.

      Btw, cash games are always less variance-heavy than tourneys, so you might want to consider switching to those if you are looking for a low variance game. That was actually one of the reasons I made the switch a few months ago.
    • Styr
      Joined: 11.03.2009 Posts: 408
      Never thought that HU's would offer the least variance of tournaments. I might be wrong, but I can't agree with that. Good analysis, though. :)

      As for the factors influencing variance - that I forgot in the first post... multitabling is somewhere near the top.
    • Harrier88
      Joined: 01.05.2012 Posts: 1,970
      Originally posted by Styr
      Never thought that HU's would offer the least variance of tournaments. I might be wrong, but I can't agree with that.
      I'm not entirely sure about that either, since I'm not really a HUSnGs player, but it seems to be the general consensus. It is also suggested in our article The 6 Keys to Winning Heads-Up Sit ‘n Go Play:
      With only two players and 50% of the field paid, heads-up is a less swingy game compared to many other formats.

      That makes sense to me, but then again, HUSnGs are quite loose and aggressive, so there is a big element of chance in individual hands (which is the reason HU cash games are more variance-heavy than full ring games).

      You might also want to check out this blog: It deals with variance in different poker formats in great detail.

      Originally posted by Styr
      As for the factors influencing variance - that I forgot in the first post... multitabling is somewhere near the top.
      I don't see what multitabling has to do with variance. Could you explain?
      It's true that it makes you play more tourneys in a shorter time, but shouldn't 1000 multitabled tournaments have the same variance as 1000 singletabled ones?
    • pitabread189
      Joined: 30.12.2013 Posts: 195
      Harrier88's list is right but you need to consider winrates too since a high winrate game with high variance could leave you with less swings than a low winrate game with low variance.
    • PriscoInline
      Joined: 05.05.2012 Posts: 326
      I think the only way to deal with variance is volume.
      For example, I play HU Hyper-turbo SNGs.
      They are known to have big swings due to the hyper-turbo structure and small winrates.
      But one is able to play at the very least 100 games a day, which makes it easy to reach a realistic Roi and expectation values. So I'm able to find out if I'm beating them or not quickly, instead of when I play a slow format that I can't put much volume in.

      Also, the winrate is an interesting factor.
      It does not change the variance or swings of a game, but the higher your winrate, less likely you are going to have a negative profit, which makes it easier to cope with the swings.

      IMO, what should matter the most is finding a game you are willing to play and work at a lot.
      If you are happy to put volume and study a specific game, why wouldn't you get past the swings and get profit?