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Learn to win ZOOM tournaments with Steve O'Dwyer
There is a new way of playing tournaments on PokerStars. It's fast. It's fun. It's Zoom Poker for tournaments!

From our Zoom Poker Strategy Introduction article you already know how this works. You know that you can play many more hands per hour, that the average play is tighter and that there is very little short-term history. Compared to Zoom cash games there is one difference though: as soon as there are only 3 tables left, play goes to normal table balancing.

Zoom Poker Tournaments arrived

But how does it affect your tournament strategy? Should you give it a try at all? We got someone who can help you.

We met with Poker Pro Steve O'Dwyer, who now hails from Dublin, Ireland, one of the hottest tournament players in poker.

In the last two years he earned live cashes of more than $2 million, and he currently is ranked in the top 20 of the Global Poker Index. Steve spends much of his downtime between live tournaments grinding on the Internet.

Steve O'Dwyer in action at EPT London 2013

Hi Steve, have you played much Zoom or Rush poker?

Steve: Yes, for example during FTOPS I would play all the major Rush tournaments. And if you include cash games, I've played more than 350,000 hands of Rush and Zoom poker.

Would you advise people who normally play MTT tournaments to give Zoom tournaments a try? Even if they don't usually play turbo tournaments?

Steve: Yes, it's just a slightly different format which takes a little more focus because you are getting so many hands. I won't usually add Zoom tournaments to my daily grind schedule unless it's towards the end of the day when I'm not playing as many tournaments, or in the beginning of the day when I haven't yet registered for too many. I'm very excited to see them now on PokerStars.

If you are a player who normally plays a single table at a time, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to play Zoom tournaments. Many of the regular tournament grinders will stay away from Zoom tournaments because they require so much extra focus. The fields are likely to be easier to get through, so if you're used to one tabling tournaments then Zoom is for you.

Tell me about the strategy adjustments that differ from a normal MTT specifically regarding the early stages?

Steve: In the early stages of a Zoom tournament, you have a lot less information to go off of. You're not developing an image with your table mates and you are not able to make reads. You should be playing a very basic form of poker early on. I play really tight during the early levels of these tournaments because I'm waiting around for the antes to kick in; then I play looser, significantly looser.

Tell me about the Quick Fold button.

Steve: Of course you should use Quick Fold when you have a really bad hand, but be careful not to over use it when you are on the button, cutoff, or small blind positions. In those three positions you generally shouldn't Quick Fold too wide a percentage, but rather only the very worst of your hands.

You don't know what situation might come up that it might be profitable for you to take advantage of if you just immediately Quick Fold in the cutoff, for example. It might just fold to you and then you'll get to raise the blinds. Or if it is folded to you in the small blind and you have a pretty bad hand, you still might realize the big blind is a tight player and you can just try and steal the big blind.

Generally people will fold way too much in late position and the small blind with hands they could be either stealing the blinds or making a profitable 3-bet against a loose player with. And sometimes you can just limp and see a flop from the small blind. In all forms of Zoom poker people are generally playing the small blind several deviations away from how loose they are supposed to play.

It's easy to get in a mindset where you are thinking, "I don't have aces," and just folding to try and get a premium hand where you could instead be picking up a chip or two by playing a pretty poor hand that still has value.

Should you 3-bet as often in Zoom tournaments as you do regular MTT's?

Steve: I'm definitely 3-betting a lot less in Zoom tournaments because I think there are so many profitable pre-flop spots that have a lot lower variance. There are so many more opportunities to be the first raiser in a Zoom tournament instead of 3-better, and you should concentrate on taking advantage of these.

What about short stack play in Zoom tournaments? It's different isn't it?

Steve: Of course you can just sit there and try to find your hand, but remember you are still paying the blinds every once in a while. Again, don't Quick Fold too much because you might miss a profitable re-shove or re-steal opportunity. The main thing is to be patient, don't just sit there jamming on the Quick Fold button. Analyze each hand before you Quick Fold it and make sure you are not missing out on an opportunity.

At the end of the day that is the biggest difference between normal MTT tournaments and Zoom tournaments. People are looking for aces so frantically that they are passing up a lot of good spots.

I've played 350,000 hands of Rush and Zoom poker and I don't think I could tell you one specific hand, they all just kind of meld together. But one thing I will tell you is that during the 350,000 hands I've played, I have received a walk in the big blind 18% of the time, won 18% of my big blind hands for free. Now much of this was at six-max tables, but it is still insane. I knew I was getting too many walks, but then when I saw 18% I couldn't believe it.

Thanks Steve!

Steve: Good Luck at the tables.

Check our Forums and Live Training Sessions for further questions, thoughts and discussions about Zoom Poker tournaments.

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